Reform rent supplement scheme
16 March 2016
Need to go beyond anti-discrimination legislation and reform rent supplement scheme
Tuesday, 15th March 2016
According to the national housing charity Threshold, recent legislation making it illegal to discriminate against tenants in receipt of rent supplement is not a cure-all and will not make it easier for vulnerable tenants to secure rented homes. The State needs to accept responsibility for the reality of tenant’s situations by addressing soaring marketing rents, higher than those seen during boom times, and inadequate rent supplement limits.
Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said that the State needs to go significantly further to protect tenants who cannot afford current rents. Threshold is also calling on the new Government to reform the seriously flawed rent supplement scheme contributing to rising levels of homelessness.
“While the new equality legislation in relation to those in receipt of housing support and assistance is welcomed, it is simply not good enough.
“The State can’t pat itself on the back and claim it has addressed the issue through legislation when the reality on the ground is quite different. Market rents are surpassing the maximum rent supplement limits, making it almost impossible for tenants to secure adequate accommodation and remain in their homes, resulting in increasing numbers of individuals and families becoming homeless.
“In Threshold’s experience, landlords are reluctant to engage with the rent supplement scheme for a wide variety of reasons, including the inadequacy of rent supplement limits, payment in arrears and bureaucratic delays. As we have been saying for a number of years now, the rent supplement scheme is seriously flawed: rent supplement tenants are not pre-approved, and payments are made in arrears not in advance. This means landlords can be left waiting for their rent payments.
“The new Government must reform how the scheme operates and provide a lasting solution for rent supplement tenants, ensuring landlords feel secure in accepting rent supplement. This can happen by: increasing rent supplement limits to bring them in line with market rents; introducing a pre-approval mechanism for rent supplement claimants, similar to mortgage pre-approval; and ensuring payments are made directly to landlords in advance.
“On a daily basis, Threshold receives calls from tenants who face discrimination because they rely on rent supplement. As we come across notices that we believe breach the new law, we are highlighting them to advertisers. Threshold met with the Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission this week [15.3.16] to discuss the challenges faced by our clients.
“However,” Senator Hayden continued, “there is no point pretending that landlords will take less than market rent because someone is on rent supplement. The new Government must increase rent supplement limits to bring them into line with market rents and remove the administrative flaws and payment delays inherent in the scheme. A system should be developed that is responsive to market realities, so that families do not risk losing their homes when rents rise.”
Threshold wishes to acknowledge funding received from the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.