CORK County Council housing tenants are facing up to 40 percent increases in rents due to a means test that takes into account new welfare payments in this year’s budget, heard this week’s meeting of the local authority.
Councillor Bernard Moynihan said there had been increases in social welfare payments to get people through the winter, but that extra income “looks to me like it’s been factored in to determining their rent going forwards.”
Cllr Moynihan said the increases in social welfare should not be taken into account in determining council house rents. Some tenants have had a €13 increase, or a €16 increase, “a significant amount in some households.”
“It means the difference between a piece of meat at the weekend or not. They are budgeting very tightly.”
Cllr Moynihan called on the county council, in carrying out rent reviews, to take into account that a lot of people are “stretched to the limit at the moment.”
While the budget allowances from Minister Michael MacGrath were “excellent,” the extra money should not be taken into account as income into a house.
“That money is meant specifically to get them over the winter period, and to get them over the energy crisis, which is a worldwide crisis.”
Cllr William O’Leary said he had raised the issue at a recent Northern Committee meeting of Cork County Council.
“A week has passed and the calls have kept coming,” he said.
Cork County Council agreed a 3% increase in rents last year. While rent increases were sometimes necessary, “it’s the wrong time to be doing it.”
The rent assessments, focused in the Northern division, are due to go countywide, division by division. In some instances, there have been 30 to 40 percent increases added to rents following the assessment of means in a particular household, said Cllr O’Leary.
Increases in electricity, food and heating, mean that any increase people saw in the budget, has “been wiped out now”.
Councillor O’Leary asked the council to show compassion heading into “an extremely tough winter and into next spring.” He called on the council to suspend all rent increase assessments before next summer.
Cllr Frank O’Flynn said the perception is that Cork County Council has increased council rents this year. “They are the phone calls I’m getting. We did increase them last year by three percent, but I’m led to believe we did not increase them this year.”
Cllr O’Flynn proposed that the council writes to all tenants who have experienced an assessed increase, and outline in detail to them how and why there was an increase. “It’s very upsetting. They’re getting the gas bill, and the oil bill.”
Cllr O’Flynn asked that a complete breakdown in the rent increases be explained to tenants. “I think we owe it to the tenants out there whose rents seem to have risen.”
Tenants have the opportunity to appeal decisions to Cork county and city councils.