Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea has welcomed an agreement between the four Dublin local authorities to have rent supplement payments increased to prevent families losing their private rented accommodation. However Deputy O’Dea noted that although this move may ease the problem in the short term, the Government is continuing to drag its heels in implementing long term measures to address the chronic housing crisis.
Deputy O’Dea commented, “Thousands of families the length and breadth of this country are at risk of losing their homes because rent supplement payments are no longer enough to cover their rent. Huge increases in rents, particularly in Dublin and larger urban areas, brought about because of a shortage of housing, are forcing families out of their homes. There are around 76,000 people in receipt of rent supplement; however in many cases these payments are far less than the asking rents.
“While I welcome the changes agreed between the Dublin local authorities, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, Threshold and the Department of Social Protection, the Government needs to realise that this is not a Dublin exclusive problem. Families in Cork, Limerick and Galway are facing the same crisis situation. The changes allow the State to pay increase rent supplement for an initial 13 weeks, with the possibility of a further 13 week extension if the family is still at risk of becoming homeless.
“What we need is decisive action from the Housing Minister and not piecemeal measures designed to put the crisis on hold. It’s taken the Minister O’Sullivan more than three years to come up with a housing strategy which remarkably contains no details on how the shortage of new housing units will be tackled. The policy, launched less than two weeks before the local and European elections, was nothing more than a stunt designed to appease an angry electorate, which was saw it for what it was.
“The severe shortage of available housing has led to rental costs spiralling out of control and the threat of eviction becoming ever more real for many families who can no longer afford the extortionate prices. Those on rent supplement are severely hampered when it comes to rent security because of the cap on payments.
“There are 76,000 people receiving rent allowance but there are thousands more on social housing waiting lists. Fianna Fáil has put forward its own plan designed to address the crisis in housing. It takes a two-pronged approach dealing with private residential and social housing. The policy includes a new home building programme, which is drawn up by the Department of Environment in consultation with each local authority, the development of a housing association sector; and a vacant home refurbishment scheme, which will open up a large number of vacant houses to families on housing lists.
“I’m calling on the Minister to examine our suite of proposals and to take a more sustainable and long term approach to tackling and finding real solutions to this ongoing crisis”.