Burton dampens hopes of rise in rent supports
TANAISTE Joan Burton has dampened hopes of an increase in rent supplement limits in the Budget, suggesting it would only lead to rent inflation.
Her stance has been criticised by campaigners, who say it will cause more people to become homeless. It comes as new figures show 74,000 individuals, couples and families are getting Government help to keep a roof over their head.
The Social Protection Minister made the remarks in response to a question posed by Fine Gael backbencher Fergus O'Dowd, who has voiced concerns that people are struggling to get accommodation because of existing caps.
Under the scheme, people whose only source of income is social welfare can seek a monthly rent supplement to help cover the cost of their accommodation.
The maximum size of the supplement varies from area to area.
The highest rate for a family with three children is €950 in Dublin, while Cavan has the lowest rate, at €450.
The Government has been coming under mounting pressure from outside and within its own ranks to increase the caps amid concern rising rents are putting accommodation outside the reach of many people who qualify for scheme.
Mr O'Dowd said: "Rent allowances are a very serious issue. I am encountering increasing numbers of people who cannot get suitable accommodation because of the caps."
Maximum rent limits were increased last year in Dublin, Galway and north Kildare to reflect higher rental costs in those areas.
However, Ms Burton said that while her department was again reviewing the limits ahead of the Budget, she was not in favour or increasing them.
"I would be concerned that raising rent limits is not the solution to the problem as it is likely to add to further rental inflation and impact, not alone on rent supplement recipients, but also on many lower income workers and students," she said.
Her comments have drawn criticism from homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry.
"The rent allowance is ridiculously low, particularly in Dublin," he said.
The department is supposed to protect people from poverty and homelessness, but is simply increasing the problem by not increasing allowances."