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Government bailing out private landlords while closing revenue streams for local authorities

26 May, 2010 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has received a response to a parliamentary question (detailed below) which has revealed that the number of people in receipt of rent supplement is up nearly 15% since this time last year, rising from 83,000 to 95,000 recipients.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh has accused the Government of bailing out private landlords while closing revenue streams for local authorities.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The number of people in receipt of rent supplement is up nearly 15% since this time last year, rising from 83,000 to 95,000 recipients. Government are bailing out private landlords while local authorities don’t have the money to fix up and make ready for allocation the empty dwellings in their own housing stocks.

“Dublin City Council alone has 824 empty dwellings which if allocated could remove hundreds of families from the housing waiting list and generate rental incomes for the state.

“The government policy makes no sense. At a time when estates are sitting empty, wouldn't it be better if the 95,000 households on rent supplement were paying rent to cash starved local authorities for these empty houses.” ENDS

Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s Parliamentary Question and response from the Minister follow:

To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of households in receipt of rent supplement and mortgage interest relief in 2009 and 2010 broken down by quarter
- Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
* For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 25th May, 2010.

I propose to take question numbers 48, 60 & 67 together.
The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short-term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the State.

Similarly the purpose of the mortgage interest supplement scheme is to provide short term support to people who have difficulty meeting their mortgage repayments due to changes in their employment circumstances and whose means are now inadequate to meet their basic day to day needs. The aim of the scheme, working within the overall social welfare framework, is to ensure that people do not suffer unnecessary hardship due to loss of employment and that in the short term they can maintain their sole place of residence whilst being unemployed.

Mortgage interest supplement only covers the mortgage interest payments in respect of an eligible person’s sole place of residence. It is a means tested payment and other qualifying criteria apply.

Information in relation to the number of recipients of rent supplement and mortgage interest supplement is shown in the attached tabular statement. Over 37,800 rent supplement recipients have been in payment for 18 months or more. There are currently over 16,500 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement with expenditure on this scheme expected to be in the region of €64 million in 2010.

Mortgage interest supplement claim details should be electronically recorded where entitlement to mortgage interest supplement is refused. However, as the practice can vary from community welfare area to area, statistics for the number of people who applied for and were refused mortgage interest supplement without an appeal, are not available. This failure to maintain accurate records should be viewed in the context of the increased demands being placed on community welfare officers in the current economic environment.

Number of Recipients of Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement by Quarter 2009 and 2010
Rent Supplement Mortgage Interest Supplement
Quarter Recipients Recipients
Q1 2009 82,986 10,872
Q2 2009 89,710 13,036
Q3 2009 90,825 14,136
End 2009 93,030 15,101
Q1 2010 95,037 16,129

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