General | 12 Nov 2018

The Rental Crisis: Benefit Traps & Effects on the Workforce

Pamela DoyleDirector & Ideation Manager

During our "Rental Crisis" are we forcing skilled workers to remain on benefits as we near full employment?

It's a no brainer, when you look at the complexity and structure of our benefits system and realise how scared people really are in relation to the escalating crisis around our rental property market, as costs reach an all-time high.

Being on the frontline in job advertising, we're hearing over and over again from employers encountering real fear from potential employees. Just when they think they've found the right candidate and make an offer to an unemployed person, at the last minute they cannot accept the job. Either because they cannot work over 35 hours for fear of losing rent supplements or having done the maths - they just can't afford to take up the position!

Maybe it's not the system, maybe it's confusion? But either way, the result is the same. I'm not surprised at all that people would be concerned and confused, while researching for this article, I have seen first-hand how complicated the whole process is.

For example, if you are in receipt of Rent Supplement and find full-time work i.e. 30 hours or more, you may not be entitled to retain your Rent Supplement and if this happens it will cease after 30 days or until you are paid, whichever is earlier. If you get part-time work (defined as less than 30 hours a week) you can keep your Rent Supplement but your income from work will be assessed against your Rent Supplement and it may be reduced. Now if you live in an expensive rental area 10 additional hours a week is not going to pay that rent!

So, here's the dilemma you have to find work under 30 hours and ensure that you are not paid an hourly rate that will push you over certain thresholds! And God forbid that you might be asked to work overtime during the busy festive season because you could lose more than you gain.

There is of course HAP, Housing Assistance Payment, a form of social housing support and under this scheme you can take up full time employment but there are again complicated guidelines/criteria that you must meet in order to receive this assistance. For example; The rent being charged for the accommodation must be within the limits set down for the household type in that local authority's area 'Rent limits', but sure how can you control what you are being charged for your rent?

And you must not earn over a certain amount according to a Table of Maximum net income limited in Social Housing Assessment Regulations:

For example

Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Donegal, Galway County, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan & Offaly – The Maximum Net Income Threshold is €25,000.

Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Wexford and Waterford; €30,000 and Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow €35,000.

I can't say I blame the people from being cautious – it's just so difficult to understand the process and structure inside out, so one can see why they wouldn't want to "rock the boat"! I suppose it's understandable when taking up a job runs the risk of losing the security you have, during extremely uncertain times. When more and more families are finding themselves homeless. We're not at all suggesting that people who are working are not feeling the pain and fear either, they certainly are and employers are feeling the pressure to raise hourly rates to retain their core people as living costs rise. It's a very worrying situation all round.

In the meantime we have jobs both skilled and unskilled that need to be filled and businesses suffering.

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