Rent supplement system failing the most vulnerable

A new report by the Simon Communities of Ireland has found that 95% of advertised rental properties are out of reach of people receiving rent supplement. The charity is once again urging the government to increase the payment.

The report, conducted over three consecutive days last November and titled ‘Locked Out of the Market III: The Gap Between Rent Supplement/HAP Limits and Market Rents’ highlights the extent of the shrinking private rented market as the ever increasing gap between rising rents and rent supplement/ housing assistance payments (HAP) limits.

The Simon Communities also undertook the study in May and August 2015. Rents have increase by 32.3% since April 2012 while rent limits have remained unchanged since June 2013.

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said the figures show that there is no end in sight to the housing and homeless crisis and the Government still has the opportunity and power to address these urgent issues.

“This is the third time the Simon Communities have undertaken the Locked Out study and each time we can see the crisis escalating further. Now a staggering 95% of properties are out of reach for people receiving state housing support. Rent Supplement/HAP limits are simply too low as rents continue to escalate and this is pushing people into homelessness as well as preventing people from leaving homelessness behind. We are still in the midst of a housing and homeless crisis. It requires political will to introduce the measures necessary to bring relief to those people who are severely affected. This Government still has the power to make the changes needed and they must take decisive action to address these issues now.”

The report comes as Environment Minister Alan Kelly is set to bring proposed schemes on affordable rent and social housing before the Cabinet today.

Kelly’s plans would provide support for low income workers and construction companies. Under one scheme the government would pay 30% of the rent for low earners.

To qualify people would have to be spending 30% of their net income on rent, but not be eligible for social housing.

Niamh Randall said the Simon Communities have the following recommendations to address the crisis.

“We need an immediate increase on RS/HAP payment limits, enhanced prevention and early intervention responses to ensure people remain in their homes where possible and a plan for the Private Rented Sector to ensure greater stability and security of tenure. Better use must be made of existing empty properties, houses and local authority homes. We badly need more social housing, just 28 units were built by Local Authorities in 2015 according to the Department of the Environment figures to date. Local Authorities must get back into the business of building and delivering social housing. NAMA could also pay a role in building and providing social housing.”