Sunday 22 April 2018

Focus Cork call for increase in rent supplement rates

FOCUS Ireland Cork has called for more urgent Government action to raise rent supplement rates to prevent more families and other households from losing their homes as they can't afford to pay the rent.

The housing charity said that rent supplement payments in Cork are too low and make it very difficult for people to keep up with paying their rent – while also making it nearly impossible for people who are homeless to find a place they can afford to live.

Focus Ireland has made a submission to the Department of Social Protection's 'Review of Rent Supplement Levels'. The charity's submission calls for rent supplement payments to match real rent levels to help prevent families and individuals from losing their homes in the first place. The housing charity called for the review to be completed promptly and the decision implemented on Budget day.

"The simple fact is that Government policy on rent supplement is one of the immediate causes of the sharp rise of households who are homeless or at serious risk of losing their home," Focus Ireland Cork manager Ger Spillane said. "The Government could stop many families and single people from losing their homes with a stroke of a pen.

"It is not credible for the Government to accept homelessness is at crisis point yet not take this straightforward action to prevent it."

Focus Ireland also warned that the Department of Social Protection review itself is fatally flawed and will end up perpetuating the problem unless a different approach is taken.

"We believe that this review should be trying to set a fair rent level based on real average rents in an area. But instead they have decided to base the rent levels on the cheapest third of the market," Mr. Spillane said.

"Essentially, the Government is trying to push the 30% of households who rely on rent supplement into the bottom third of the rental market. Many of these homes are already rented to people on low wages or students so the numbers just don't add up."

The charity has called for rent caps to be based on the real average rent for each area and not for the lowest third of the market.

"We cannot escape from the fact that there are not enough homes to rent in the lowest third of the market for everyone who is seeking a home to secure a roof over their heads. The Government must open its eyes to this fact. They have a responsibility and a duty to do so to protect families and individuals who are being priced out of the market," Mr. Spillane said.

Focus Ireland has been working in Cork since 2008 providing homes for people who were homeless or at risk, and combating homelessness in Cork. The charity expanded its work in Cork last year as a direct response to the growing needs in the area as more people are getting into difficulties with their mortgages or rents due to the on-going impact of the recession.

"We made the Advice & Information service full time last year in response to rising demand for support in Cork.

"The number of enquiries doubled from 20 to 40 each month from families and individuals and we are able to advise and support people in serious difficulties," said Mr Spillane.

Focus Ireland said that If people are in difficulties with their rent, mortgage or housing situation in Cork they should contact Focus Ireland at 021 427 3646 or they can drop in to meet staff at our the charity's offices beside the Imperial Hotel at 80A South Mall in the city.