Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Rent supplement changes reckless and short-sighted

8 July, 2004

Sinn Fein spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan TD has said that his party has very serious concerns regarding the changes to rent supplement announced by the Government . He described the changes as "reckless and short-sighted"

Deputy Morgan said:

"The changes announced by the Government in relation to the rent supplement scheme are not designed to address the needs of those who currently receive housing assistance in the form of rent supplement. The plan announced by Minister Coughlan and Minister of State Noel Ahern is merely designed to transfer responsibility for the housing needs of these people to underfunded local authorities. Why is the Government not announcing a major Social Housing Building Programme to address the needs of these people and the needs of all those currently on local authority social housing waiting lists? This measure is designed to take the heat off Noel Ahern and Mary Coughlan, both of whom have shown gross incompetence in their handling of the housing issue. They have shown complete disregard for the fact that changes brought in relation to rent supplement in the last 2 years have already contributed to the increasing levels of homelessness and have forced vulnerable people to remain in dangerous and unsuitable housing situations.

"The implications of the announcement is that people will be denied rent supplement after 18 months on the misleading basis that local authorities, which simply do not have the funds, will be able to address their housing needs. It is only logical to assume that If local authorities were in a position to address the housing needs of these people they would surely have done so before now. These changes will lead to increase levels of homelessness.

"The Minister spoke of •332m being spent on rent supplement payment to landlords in 2003 with no assets accruing to the state. Let us be clear, there is nothing in the plan outlined by the government that will change that situation. Under this scheme local authorities will be renting accommodation from private landlords. The Government is well aware that the best solution to the housing crisis in this state, as demonstrated in other jurisdictions, is investment in the construction of social housing with the aim of increasing significantly the percentage of social housing rental stock. The majority of the people currently in receipt of rent supplement should by right be accommodated in social housing. The reason they are not is because the government has failed to invest in social housing.

"The plans announced by the Government are reckless and short-sighted and will ultimately do nothing to address the housing needs of the people of this state."ENDS

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