STATEMENT BY CIARAN LYNCH TD
Labour Party Spokesperson on Housing
Thursday, 14 October 2010
GOVERNMENT SPENDS HALF A BILLION A YEAR ON RENT SUPPLEMENT
Figures released to me indicate that the government is set to spend more than half a billion euro on rent supplement this year.
In a reply to a PQ, (see below) Minister O’Cuiv told me this week that there were over 96,000 claimants on 1 October. We know from a previous PQ that the average weekly payment is €104, which amounts to a total of almost €520m over the year.
This seems to me to be huge sum of money and I have a number of concerns in this regard.
First of all, the level of expenditure in this area is a direct function of the number of families who have found themselves in financial difficulty as a result of losing a job or having to take a pay cut. The fact of the matter is that the more that there are over 400,000 people on the live register currently, and other than making grandiose announcements every few months about some half-baked plan to tackle joblessness, this government has done nothing about unemployment.
Until there is a genuine plan of action, the numbers of people unemployed, and the number of people who need rent support, will continue to spiral upward.
I am also concerned that the expenditure of half a billion euro on rent does not represent good value for money, and I believe that this has come about as a result of a lack of an overall housing strategy. The rent supplement scheme was supposed to provide short-term support for people who find themselves under financial pressure, but it has gradually morphed out of all recognition, into a mainstream measure. In fact half of all beneficiaries have been receiving payment for over a year, and many have been receiving payment for five years or more. There is clearly no strategy in place.
At a time when property prices are at their lowest level for years, we should be looking to housing solutions that are sustainable and provide a better of security of tenure in the long term, and which do more than bank-roll private sector landlords.
Expenditure of half a billion a year, could be used for example to fund robust social and affordable housing scheme, which would provide a decent and more long term solution for thousands of families around the country, on a sustainable basis.