The Dublin government has been accused of acting only on behalf of large-scale property owners in Ireland as it emerged that a substantial number of TDs identify themselves as professional landlords.
This week, the government decided to ignore out-of-control rent increases and said it would not raise rent supplement payments for those dependent on state housing support.
Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry warned that the combination is a “disaster” that will “lock people into homelessness”.
“The refusal to increase the rent allowance means that that [the private rented sector] is shut off to homeless people and to others who are dependent on the rent supplement,” he said.
The government’s assertion that increasing the supplement caps would push up rents was “nonsense” he said.
“The government are saying if we increase the rent allowance landlords will put up the rent even further. I don’t buy that because so few landlords are taking rent allowance.”
In the Dublin area less than one per cent of landlords were now accepting rent allowance tenants he said.
“So I don’t see how putting up rent allowance is going to influence the private rented market.”
He said there were only three exits out of homelessness: social housing, of which there was so little available it was effectively out of reach; housing charities, which were very limited in what they could offer; and the private rented sector, which the government was now blocking off.
“The announcement about the rent allowance is a disaster, it’s going to lock people into homelessness and it’s going to lock people into hopelessness.”
Fr McVerry was speaking at a the Right2Housing conference in Dublin organised by People Before Profit.
Party TD Richard Boyd Barrett said a campaign along the lines of the Right2Water campaign was needed to “put thousands of people on the streets to demand housing, rent controls and an end to evictions”.
There are concerns that the government is determined to allow rents to continue to increase in order to maintain property price increases before the next general election.
Sinn Fein Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD said a major block to change in housing is the “self-interest” of members of the Dublin parliament who describe themselves as landlords. Nineteen TDs list their occupation as “landlord”, and altogether more than one in ten Dail TDs profit from rental properties.
“The government must decide whose side they are on,” Mr Ellis said.
“Is it the side of those who would evict a family who cannot afford yet another rent rise or the unemployed families and low earners who are struggling to keep a roof over their head.
“The choice is that simple, it is between fair controls on rent levels or more homelessness. On a social and economic level we cannot afford to allow homelessness to increase.”
Figures show that the average rent price for a home was up by nearly 1200 euro in Dublin and nearly 300 euro across the state since last year.
“Minister Alan Kelly recently admitted that rents were out of control but has so far done nothing to help,” he said. “People have already lost their homes because of rent increases. We need to stop this from happening in the future.”
Meanwhile, those fortunate to have mortgages are now also being exploited -- by the banks who are refusing to pass on lower interest rates for those on ‘variable rate’ mortgages. And up to half of those now in arrears as a result of the financial crisis are facing repossession, it is being reported.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said an “aversion to equality” had been a consistent feature of the Fine Gael/Labour Government.
“It is as if the government didn’t know that the State actually owns some of these banks,” he said. “It’s as if they are spectators.”