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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 24 November, 2014

Homeless family to stage protest outside Joan Burton’s office today

Minister Burton told the family to ‘think anew about your family’s many needs’ and how they can be met within the housing market as it exists at the moment.

A FAMILY WHO say they are in danger of being made homeless are to stage a protest outside the Department of Social Protection tomorrow.

They said that recent cuts to rent allowance by Joan Burton and rent increases by their landlord has put them in this situation, with then stating they have been told that Fingal County Council have no houses at present.

Family

The family from Blanchardstown want to hold their protest outside Joan Burton’s office as they have placed a photo of themselves on social media, with a message to Joan Burton. The photo has had over 51,000 views and reads:

You don’t know us. We’re the Connell family. We’re homeless, thanks to your rent allowance cuts and no laws on rent hikes. The council have no houses. We are split up as a family.

You’re also our TD but won’t take out calls. This nightmare could happen to anyone. Joan – where is our social protection.

The local Anti-Austerity Alliance and local councillor Ruth Coppinger will also attend the protest.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Coppinger said that “Gwen Connell and her three daughters have been without a home for two weeks now. There rent was raised from €900 to €1,300 by their landlord. They were living in the house for about three years, when the were informed around Christmas that their rent would rise. The maximum rent supplement for the Fingal area is €950, but it is impossible to get a house for that rent”.

She said that rents in Dublin are going through the roof, and that landlords are looking to the private market as they will get more rents, but that it is pushing people on rent supplement out of their homes.

Minister Joan Burton

“The Connell family had a 40 per cent increase on their rent. I have been in touch with Fingal council as well as Focus Ireland. The family have tried to get in touch with Burton’s office, who is also their TD. Unsurprisingly they received a reply today after they got wind of our protest,” said Coppinger.

The email from Minister Burton said:

Thank you for your email to my office regarding rent supplement. I am most concerned with the substance of your email, and I am very sorry indeed to hear of your difficulties with the rent supplement scheme.

Rent supplement is a means tested payment under section 198 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005. It is intended to assist qualified applicants in the private rental market.

Maximum rent levels are set for this scheme. These rent levels are designed to ensure both availability of housing for claimants, and value for money for taxpayers.

My Department and I undertake periodic reviews of the housing market to ensure that existing maximum rent levels are appropriate. The last review was in early 2013, only a year ago. Criteria similar to those used in earlier, successful reviews were used to set new maximum rent levels. These new rent levels were, in some cases, well in excess of the old levels.  As in previous reviews, the results of this exercise were then compared to actual asking prices to ensure availability.

I am concerned that you are finding it difficult to find housing at or below the current maximum rent levels. I asked my office to contact the rents unit in Dublin 15 about this. The feedback from them is that, while some categories of housing are becoming harder to find, there is still availability. Applications for rent supplement are received on a daily basis that are at or below the Department’s maximum levels.

I am not aware of your particular circumstances, and your email does not provide much identifying information. However, I gather that you have three children. In Dublin 15, the maximum rent level for a family of three dependent children is €950.00; in the rest of Dublin, that limit is €1000.00. These are the highest in the country.

While the rent supplement scheme can ensure the general availability of housing for qualified claimants, it is not possible to guarantee housing within any particular locale within the Department’s maximum levels.

Generally speaking, I would ask you to consider that access to affordable housing is a chronic challenge for many people, including people who are in work and not eligible for rent supplement.

This leads to people having to make some very, very difficult choices.  To ensure that you and your family can live together again in housing that you can afford, you may have to think anew about your family’s many needs, and how those needs can be met within the housing market as it exists at the moment.

If I can be of further assistance to you in this matter, I trust you will not hesitate to contact my office.

Yours faithfully,

Joan Burton, T.D.

Minister for Social Protection

She said the family are now split up. The mother is staying with a friend, while the eldest is staying with her grandmother. The youngest are with their father.

Split up

Coppinger said it has been suggested they go to stay in a Bed and Breakfast, but she said the eldest girl is in 5th year and studying for her Leaving Certificate and it would not be conducive for a young family.

She said she has received numerous calls to her office from people in similar situations, adding that the Connell family are giving a human face to the numerous other families out there that find themselves in difficultly.

Coppinger added that that the issue is not about empty housing, but said that there needs to be rent control laws implemented.

The protest will take place at 11am outside the Department of Social Protection.

Read: Woman sleeping in TD’s office accommodated after a Facebook appeal>

Read: Dublin council blames tenants for drop in rent collection>

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