Minister Eoghan Murphy
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said that rent differences in an estate on the Carlow/Laois border may be "unusual" but it is not "different from other situations where tenants on the same income pay different rents".
Fianna Fáil Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor previously raised the issue and said that inconsistencies in rent caps between counties Carlow and Laois is leading to "farcical situations" whereby one family pays twice as much as another family living next door to them but across the county boundary.
"Residents in this shared estate under the Laois authority have their rent capped at €93 per week, but if they are a resident under the Carlow authority the cap is €180," she added.
The Minister was responding to a Parliamentary Question from Labour TD Sean Sherlock who asked the Minister if his attention has been drawn to an issue of rent discrepancy on the Laois and Carlow border.
In a written response, the Minster said: "The housing to which the Deputy refers is leased by an Approved Housing Body (AHB).
"Payment and Availability Agreements in respect of each dwelling have been signed between the AHB and the particular local authority making the tenant allocation in respect of that dwelling.
"There are two local authorities involved in the referenced development.
"It is a term of the agreement between the AHB and the local authorities involved that the AHB agrees to charge, collect and retain from the occupants of the dwellings the rent calculated in accordance with the relevant local authority’s Differential Rent Scheme.
"The two local authorities involved have different differential rent schemes and the calculation of rent is therefore different."
Local authorities have been able to make their own rent schemes since 1986 and different approaches have been taken to rent charging and setting across the country.
There are currently 36 differential rents schemes in operation nationwide. This may result in a situation where housing authority tenants living quite close to each other, and having similar incomes, are paying different rents because they reside in different administrative areas.
This is a feature of the local government system and of the fact that rent setting is currently a matter for each housing authority.
The Minister added: "While the case of one development straddling a county border may be unusual, it is not, in principle, different from other situations where tenants on the same income pay different rents.
"Considerable work has been carried out by my Department in developing a draft national differential rents framework for the purposes of section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.
"Such a framework has as its main aim the harmonisation of local authority rents, including a set of standardised income disregards, whilst retaining the general principle of rents relating to household income.
"This work is now being examined further in the light of the broader commitment given in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, to review the disparate systems of differential rent for social housing in place across local authorities.
"The overall objective is to ensure that housing supports are fair and sustainable and prioritise those on lowest incomes. I expect that the review will be completed in the near future."
Speaking previously, Senator Murnane O'Connnor said: "In the townland of Graiguecullen, both local authorities share an estate at the end of Carlow and borders Laois.
"The estate is one to be proud of and has so far represented a very good arrangement and proof that working together achieves great results.
"However, the difference between what some families are paying in local authority rents and what their neighbours are paying is ridiculous.
"Residents in this shared estate under the Laois authority have their rent capped at €93 per week, but if they are a resident under the Carlow authority the cap is €180.
"This isn’t the only anomaly in this area."
"There are also several private houses for rent. Some of the private homes are actually co-operative homes yet tenants in these cannot receive HAP.
"Co-operative Housing Ireland is a Government body, so why can a tenant in a Co-operative Housing Ireland house not qualify for HAP?
"As a member of the Housing Committee I will continue to raise this matter at every available opportunity. Through these nonsensical measures the Government are ensuring people are kept out of reach from the housing market," she added.