Saturday 21 April 2018

Housing: Taking rent from welfare payment could save €25m

Louise Hogan

REMOVING rent for social housing directly from tenants' welfare payments could result in savings of €25m.

This is among several measures outlined to help slice €30m a year off the hefty €778.7m bill local authorities face in providing housing services.

However, the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) last night questioned the viability of the proposal.

The report claimed the move would achieve savings of around €25m in more efficient rent-collection services, as 70pc of local authority tenants receive some form of payment from the Department of Social Protection.

The body described the current situation as "inefficient", with one State department paying social welfare recipients only for another public body to try recover some of the monies in local authority rents.

"Direct deductions of rents at source would streamline processes for local authority tenants, reduce the time they have to spend dealing with rent collectors and avert the danger of falling into arrears," the report stated.

In 2008, social housing rent arrears amounted to €40m.

John Stewart, the co-ordinator for INOU, said they did not believe the plan would work. He queried whether the report had taken into account the extra cost it might place on the department. The situation in which a person moves off a social welfare payment and into employment would need to be explored, he added.

A spokesman for the St Vincent de Paul said they had "mixed views" on the proposal. He said the charity often alerted people to a service offered by An Post to remove regular amounts from social welfare payments to pay bills.

Just under 4,000 staff -- or 12pc of all local authority staff -- are involved in the housing area. The report said some staff could be reassigned to concentrate on housing maintenance, as more than half of social housing now came through private lease agreements.

It also said that utilising staff within the local authority rather than employing outside consultants for building projects could result in savings of €2m on every €100m spent on housing construction.

Irish Independent

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