ALMOST 2,500 families across Co. Wexford who are on rent allowance from the Department of Social Protection, are faced with renegotiating their agreed rent with their landlord, and will have to face finding somewhere new to live if the landlord doesn't agree to rent reductions of up to €20.77 per week.
The Department of Social Protection confirmed this week that 2,416 recipients in the Wexford area will need to have their rent supplements reviewed, and that as existing claims come up for review, or when existing leases expire, the supplement application will be assessed using new lower limits.
To date, 538 cases have been reviewed in Wexford, and locals have reacted angrily at news that over 200 letters were sent out in the Gorey area in November, meaning some families were faced with finding a new place to live shortly after Christmas, if they couldn't renegotiate a lower rent within eight weeks.
In a statement issued to this newspaper last week, the Department of Social Protection said that as it currently funds approximately 30 per cent of the private rented sector, 'it is essential that State support for rents are kept under review and reflect current market conditions'. The Government provided €436 million for Rent Supplements nationally in 2012.
Revised rent supplements came into force on January 1 last. The Department has emphasised there will be no incidence of homelessness due to these changes, but said that the emphasis of the review was to ensure maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer, while ensuring people on Rent Supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.
It said that each case is assessed on its merits and 'exceptional' circumstances will be taken into account.
The new limits are as follows, with the old limits in brackets: Single shared accommodation €53.08 (€60); Couple shared accommodation €57.69 (69.23); Single €90 (€108); Couple with no children €99.23 (€120); Couple/Lone parent with one child €124.62 (€138.46); Couple/Lone parent with two children €130.38 (€150); Couple/Lone parent with three or more children €136.15 (€152.31).
Spokesperson for North Wexford Sinn Féin FIonntán O'Suilleabáin slammed the Department of Social Protection for sending out the letters to families just weeks before Christmas. 'I have been contacted by many worried people who have received letters from the Department of Social Protection informing them their rent supplement entitlement is up for review,' he said. 'In some cases families will have to renegotiate their rent with the landlord immediately, and if unsuccessful, look for alternative accommodation just weeks before Christmas.'