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Use NAMA to reduce social welfare spend on rent – Ó Snodaigh

26 October, 2011 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Officials from the Departments of Social Protection and from Environment, Community and Local Government are appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education this morning at 9.30 to discuss the rates of transfer from the Rent Supplement Scheme to the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection and Committee member Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said rent supplement is being used as a weapon in the war on welfare recipients. He called for NAMA properties to be used to double the rate of transfer off rent supplement.

Speaking at the Committee Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Both rent supplement and RAS constitute a significant and ongoing transfer of public funds into the pockets of private landlords. Given current unemployment projections this situation is unsustainable and undesirable.

“Despite an average rate of transfer off the scheme of just over 5,000 claimants per year since 2005 the number of long-term rent supplement recipients has actually doubled. The government must now at least double the annual targets for transfer off rent supplement if we are to make any dent in spending at all.

“More of the same, public money for private landlords whether via rent supplement or RAS, is what I would expect from the developers and speculators’ party Fianna Fáil. It’s not what voters expected the Labour party to deliver. Social welfare spending on rent must be reformed. It is being used as a weapon in the war on welfare recipients is being waged. There are more cost-effective options open to government that both protect families who are struggling to afford accommodation and make long-term economic sense.

“If the government was to bring forward legislation releasing 10,000 NAMA properties onto housing waiting lists next year this would save approximately €51.6 million on rent supplement spending and raise approximately €15 million in differential rents in addition. So a total benefit to the exchequer of €66.6 million could accrue.

“This money could be ring-fenced to initially make the NAMA properties ready for tenancy and subsequently to purchase further houses from the vacant housing stock each year.” ENDS

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