Homeless over €1.15
A pregnant single mother in Cork city is facing homelessness after her Rent Supplement was found to be €1.15 over the maximum weekly limit.
The woman, in her late 20s, didn’t wish to be named, but fears that she and her 14 month old son will become homeless at the end of September after receiving a letter from the Department of Social Protection
“My landlord won’t cut the rent any more,” said Mary*, who lives in the Northside of the city.
“I have to find alternative accommodation before 29 September but I can’t afford a deposit and the first month's rent up front. Apart from a hostel I will have nowhere to live at all with my son. I wouldn't hassle friends or family which isn’t a solution.”
Mary fears that her former partner will take away their son if she ends up homeless, leaving her without custody.
“We have a good relationship and I have never stopped him from seeing his son," explained Mary, who is left with €9 per week after all her outgoings.
"He said that if I end up in a hostel he will take him away from me and we’ll have to go through the courts for custody.”
The letter Mary received from the Department of Social Protection explained that she was in excess of the maximum weekly limit of €161.55 by €1.15. The letter also advised her she has time to renegotiate or find alternative accommodation within the rent limit.
“In this current economic climate, rents are decreasing and there is rented accommodation within the current rent limit,” said the letter.
“I just want a house that my family can call a home,” said Mary, who has been on the waiting list for social housing since November 2009 and is appealing to the Department.
“I’m just not being listened to. It’s fine for people to say there are houses out there but they are not suitable for children, or anyone. I looked at one house that was manky. It had dirt on the walls and everything.”
She explained that she used to live near Youghal at a lower rate but became isolated from friends and family because she doesn’t have a car, forcing her to move back into the city.
A motion this week by Sinn Féin Cllr Michael Nugent calling for Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, to negotiate directly with landlords, to make further use of NAMA properties and to direct Community Welfare Officers (CWO) to ensure tenants have appropriate accommodation was defeated heavily in Cork City Council.
“The Government’s plan is ill thought out,” said Cllr Nugent.
“Although the cut was announced in the Budget, it is only now that families and individuals are receiving their review letters informing them of these new limits. The length of the housing lists mean that people stand a very real chance of losing their homes or living in houses of less quality.”
“This is an issue that will increase.”
Diarmuid O’Sullivan of Threshold, the National Housing Charity, warned that the cut was exacerbating the problem that many people are already facing with rent and landlords.
“We found that the cut is having a real knock-on effect with Threshold clients as they try to top up their rent from their other social welfare payments, leading to a serious reduction in quality of life,” said Diarmuid.
“It is unfair for the Department to expect tenants can renegotiate with landlords and having people break tenant agreements can lead to people losing their deposits and causing more hardship.”
The Department of Social Protection in a statement yesterday said that the overall aim of Rent Supplement is to “provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.”
“There are currently approximately 94,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.”
“It should be stressed, however, that these new limits will not cause or create homelessness for anyone in receipt of rent supplement.”
* Mary is not the woman's real name. Her identity is known to the Cork Independent.