Friday 28 October 2016

Rent measures 'no silver bullet' to solve housing crisis, says Varadkar

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins

Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted that the Government's decision to increase rent supplement limits is not the "silver bullet" needed to solve the housing crisis.

But he and Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the move, which will cost the taxpayer €55m-a-year, will help prevent families slipping into homelessness.

The Cabinet yesterday agreed to increase the limits for the rent supplement and the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) across the board.

In Dublin, where the rental crisis is at its most serious, limits will be increased by around 29pc.

Charities and opposition TDs have been calling for such a measure for several years.

While the move will come as a relief to many families on low incomes, the long delay in introducing the measure has been slammed as "inexcusable".

It is hoped the plan will tackle the situation whereby families fall into debt or homelessness because their rent has steadily increased beyond the level of financial support they receive from the State.


It is also hoped that the move will address the scenario where many households receiving rent supplement have been forced to engage in the "illegal" practice of top-ups, using savings or borrowed money to make up the difference.

Charities, including Threshold, have warned that in some cases families engaging in this practice have gone without food to satisfy their landlord's demands.

At yesterday's announcement of the new limits, Mr Coveney denied that Fine Gael had sought to block the measures during the government formation talks, but said Fianna Fail could take "some credit".

"That's politics. Fianna Fail can take credit, they did input into this decision, but I think both parties agreed this was right," Mr Coveney said.

"However, we are the Government who have to make sure the numbers add up in terms of the €55m this will cost."

Experts have warned that increasing rent supplement alone will fail to have a sufficient impact in terms of addressing the housing supply crisis.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged this fact.

"It won't in itself create additional houses, it's not a silver bullet," the Social Protection Minister said.

"It's just part of the Government's response to the housing crisis and to the homelessness problem."

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