THERE are fears of a new housing crisis in Limerick following changes to State support for people in private rented accommodation.
One young Limerick family say they are facing homelessness in the new year after changes to the housing assistance payment (HAP).
Tenants across the city are discovering that landlords, who have accepted rent allowance in the past, are not accepting the new payment.
The new payment is paid by the local authority directly to the landlord whereas rent allowance had been paid by the Department of Social Protection to the tenant.
But amid growing concern that Limerick landlords are turning their noses up at HAP, the St Vincent de Paul’s regional vice president Barry Tobin has called for an “urgent review” of the situation.
The Simon Community, meanwhile, is to offer financial support.
Polish national Chris Luszczki has lived with wife Anna and children Robert, 1, and Julia, 6, in the Mount Kennett Apartments in the city since 2007.
But he is now facing eviction after his landlord refused to sign up to the HAP scheme, with the apartment in the process of being sold.
A letter from his management company, Aviary Estates, seen by the Leader, states that although Chris requested his landlord sign up to HAP, “(she) has informed us she does not wish to participate in this scheme, and will not be signing the form.”
It means Chris - who has been unemployed since 2010 - must pay the full rate, or find another place to live.
“I don’t have the money to pay the full rent, or even a deposit. We are very scared, very depressed, and feel quite threatened. I feel suspended right now,” he said.
Chris has tried to find alternative accommodation, but says he has been unable to because landlords he approached declined to accept HAP tenants. He has also written to Environment Minister Alan Kelly to raise concerns.
A city landlord, who did not wish to be identified, said there is a big problem with supports from the State, with rent supplements much lower than market value.
Cllr Cian Prendiville, Anti-Austerity Alliance, said: “HAP is being used to get tenants out and new ones in on higher rent. If landlords do not sign up to HAP, the tenants will be made homeless. All they can do is seek accommodation elsewhere. But the reality is there is not accommodation elsewhere within the rent allowance caps.”
The Mid-West Simon community has started a deposit loan scheme due to the number of people struggling to afford rent. To help people, they are offering to pay a deposit, and those who avail of it can repay at €10 per week.
A spokesperson for Aviary Estates said it could not comment on individual cases.