CLOSE TO €700 million was spent last year on rent subsidy schemes paid to private landlords by the state.
Figures obtained by Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin show that in total, €695,346,000 was spent on rent subsidy schemes throughout the course of the year in 2018.
The spending comes from both the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Housing, and shows the millions that is put into the private rental sector to support tenants in housing.
Construction of housing has been ramping up from a low base over the past three years since the launch the government’s Rebuilding Ireland Housing Action Plan in July 2016.
The plan set targets to combat spiralling rents and a growing homelessness problem by building more general and social housing, coming up with ways to keep people in their homes and improving rights in the private rental sector.
Last week, it was revealed that 4,251 new social houses were built in 2018, slightly below government targets for the year. The target for new-build social housing builds for 2018 was 4,409.
As well as new builds, the government in its housing plan places a large emphasis on providing “social housing solutions” to households via the private rental sector by paying subsidies to landlords on behalf of renters.
In recent years, this payment has come in the form of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), which is paid the landlords via the Department of Housing.
Last year – according to Ó Broin’s figures – €276,600,000 was paid in HAP to landlords to support 43,443 tenancies.
As well as this, further hundreds of millions of euros were paid to private landlords for other rent subsidies, including rent supplement, the Rental Accommodation Scheme and long-term leasing.
The total in the year was €695,346,000 an increase on last year. Ó Broin predicts that the figures will continue to rise over the next number of years and eventually top €1 billon.
“This is a massive transfer of public money to private landlords,” said Ó Broin.
It represents bad value for money for the taxpayer as well as the ‘casualisation’ of social housing into short term insecure tenancies that are bad for tenants and for communities.
Ó Broin said that while rent subsidies for low income households were important, the government was relying too much on the private rental sector to meet people’s housing needs.
“This policy must be urgently reviewed and a plan put in place to reduce the number of subsidised social housing tenancies in the private rental sector,” he said.
Separately, the Central Statistics Office reported this week that 18,072 brand new dwellings were built in Ireland last year.