#### LOCKED AT OP'S REQUEST ####
I'm probably going to get slated for this,but we simply cannot afford to
continue with the present system.
By Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday July 28 2009
THE number of people receiving State rent support has jumped by nearly a quarter in just six months -- with one-third of claimants foreign nationals.
New figures supplied to the Irish Independent show that the recession has caused a huge increase in the numbers unable to meet housing costs on their own.
At the end of last year, just over 74,000 people were in receipt of rent supplement from the State. Now the figure has jumped by 23pc and stands at a record 91,000, the Department of Social Welfare confirmed yesterday.
Recent figures, compiled when there were 89,000 claimants, show that 32,000 -- more than one third -- are non-nationals.
They show 7,638 Poles, 2,886 Nigerians, 2,108 Lithuanians, 1,512 Romanians and 1,318 Latvians among the highest categories of non-nationals being paid the benefit. People from 163 countries and territories, excluding Ireland, get the rent supplement.
A Dail committee will today discuss the problems of poverty-stricken households living in private rented accommodation -- with the Government having slashed the maximum rent support payable since the beginning of June.
Social Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin has told tenants who had to take an 8pc reduction in their support to negotiate lower rent with their landlord. She pointed out that rents have fallen by 11pc in the last year, and by more in cities.
State spending on the scheme was over â‚¬440m during 2008. The department yesterday said that an estimated â‚¬490m will be spent on rent supplement this year, or an average of â‚¬500 per claimant.
The department said : "Rent supplement is now restricted to individuals who have held an existing tenancy for six months or who are in homeless accommodation, or who have a local authority assessment which indicates that they are eligible.
"All other claimants must have been placed on a housing list following a full needs assessment by the local authority before they are eligible."
The department accepted that tenants may be contractually obliged to pay the rent agreed to in their lease, even though their support payments have been cut by 8pc.
But it added: "It is expected that landlords will decrease the rent in recognition of the fact that rents have fallen generally and that there are now a large number of vacant rental properties nationally."
Recent data from the CSO shows that rents in the private sector have fallen by almost 20pc in the past year. A leading property website reported recently that rents had fallen by almost 16pc in the 12 months to March 2009, with falls of 10pc in Galway, 15pc in Cork and 12pc-18pc in Dublin.
- Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor