Hous­ing chief says benef it is fu­elling rents but he in­sists it’s city’s only hope

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Craig Hughes [email protected]­sun­day.ie

GOV­ERN­MENT pol­icy is driv­ing up rental prices and dis­tort­ing the mar­ket ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s largest hous­ing man­ager – but it’s the only op­tion avail­able.

Bren­dan Kenny, deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive of Dublin City Coun­cil, told the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day there is no doubt the 45,000 Hous­ing As­sis­tant Pay­ments (HAP), are ‘dis­tort­ing’ the mar­ket.

How­ever, he says there is sim­ply no al­ter­na­tive to the rent re­lief-style ben­e­fit be­cause of the num­ber of peo­ple in need of emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion, cou­pled with the slow pace of con­struc­tion.

‘There’s no doubt about it, we are dis­tort­ing the mar­ket and af­fect­ing or­di­nary peo­ple in the pri­vate rental sec­tor, but there’s no al­ter­na­tive,’ he said.

‘We have be­come too re­liant on the pri­vate sec­tor and we shouldn’t be so re­liant on HAP,

‘With­out HAP we’d be re­ally knack­ered’

‘A third of rentals are sub­sidised by State’

but with­out it we would be re­ally knack­ered.’

The Gov­ern­ment plans to in­crease the num­ber of HAP pay­ments to 83,760 by 2021 as they phase out other rental sup­ports, such as the Rental Ac­com­mo­da­tion Scheme.

‘In our view, it’s been re­ally suc­cess­ful – 45,000 HAP te­nan­cies now in the coun­try, about 10,000 of them in Dublin, 4,000 in Dublin city, and the re­al­ity is that with the cri­sis that’s been there, we’d be far worse off with­out it; there would be no hope at all,’ Mr Kenny added.

His view is at odds with that of the De­part­ment of Hous­ing, with a spokesman in­sist­ing: ‘There is no ev­i­dence to sup­port the as­ser­tion that HAP is dis­tort­ing the rental mar­ket.’

He added: ‘HAP rates were care­fully re­viewed in 2016 and the rent lim­its took into very care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion mar­ket rents in each lo­cal au­thor­ity area. The cur­rent bench­mark for es­tab­lish­ing ap­pro­pri­ate lim­its is the 35th per­centile of agreed rental val­ues in place for lo­cal mar­kets.’ Some cam­paign­ers have urged that fund­ing for HAP should not be in­creased and in­stead, the funds put into cap­i­tal in­vest­ment. But Mr Kenny ar­gues that there is no short­age of money and HAP can de­liver a so­lu­tion quickly. ‘You’ll hear some peo­ple say­ing: “Oh, you should take the money, do no more with HAP, and use it for build­ing” but we have the money for build­ing,’ he said. ‘There’s no prob­lem; there’s plenty of money around these days. It’s not one or the other, it’s just HAP is there, it’s de­liv­er­able much quicker and we’re do­ing 200300 HAP new te­nan­cies ev­ery month in Dublin.’

In ad­di­tion to the HAP te­nan­cies, there were 29,825 rent sup­ple­ment and 19,388 Rental Ac­com­mo­da­tion Scheme pay­ments in June last year, mean­ing that close to 100,000 rental homes are cur­rently in re­ceipt of some form of State aid.

Sinn Féin hous­ing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin, has said the Gov­ern­ment’s con­tin­u­ous re­liance on short-term so­lu­tions has led to the cur­rent cri­sis. ‘A third of rental prop­er­ties are sub­sidised by the State then that ob­vi­ously has a huge im­pact on de­mand and price,’ he in­sisted. ‘So if you’re a mod­est in­come worker, a cou­ple or young pro­fes­sional not el­i­gi­ble for so­cial hous­ing sup­port, one of the rea­sons why you can’t get a rental prop­erty or the rea­son rents are so high is be­cause of the high vol­ume of rent-sub­sidised so­cial hous­ing tenants in the pri­vate rental sec­tor.’

Mr Kenny re­it­er­ated his be­lief that it will be three years be­fore real progress is felt in the hous­ing mar­ket. He con­ceded that the coun­cil is un­likely to meet its so­cial hous­ing tar­gets this year, but claimed a new rapid-build frame­work will see the de­liv­ery time for apart­ment build­ing halved, with 1,000 new so­cial hous­ing apart­ments due to be com­pleted by 2020.

n0 choice: Bren­dan Kenny

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