Concerns of local authority tenants allayed as rent scheme to be revised

RONAN FAGAN

A proposed increase to rent payments to tenants of local authority housing will not be implemented from Monday.

Following formal and in-depth discussion between local authority representatives and members of the relevant management executive, Westmeath County Council will now revise the Council Differential Rent Scheme, easing the financial concerns of those residing in Council housing properties.

Welcoming the positive outcome, Independent Councillor, Paul Hogan, who spoke vehemently on the issue at the recent Athlone Municipal District meeting, noted the decision to revise the existing scheme would allay the fears of those residents of local authority housing.

“I have contested the implementation of this differential rent scheme since I became aware of it in November. The rent scheme was due for implementation from February 4, but this is no longer the case. The revision today presents very positive news for the majority of Council tenants and I would like to express my gratitude to the Westmeath County Council executive for listening to my concerns and those of all of the members,” Cllr. Hogan reflected.

Detailing the positive outcome of the elected representatives and executive interaction, Cllr. Hogan noted the finer points of the meeting.

“Any rent reductions will be implemented in full, while rent caps for those living in an Older Persons Dwelling (OPD ) will be reinstated. The maximum rent increase for 2019 will be €20 per week or 25 percent of the current rent, whichever is the lesser, with an annual review to be conducted from 2020 onwards,” the Independent Councillor commented.

The Independent Councillor stated that a communication channel will be open between the local authority and tenants with a walk-in clinic at Athlone civic offices.

“The determining basis for all rents will be included in correspondence which will be issued to all tenants advising them of the changes. Some households may experience a small increase and I would appeal to the 92 households who failed to return their rent review forms to submit them to the Council as soon as possible or the maximum rent will continue to be applied,” Cllr. Hogan continued.

Noting that an additional €50,000 will be ringfenced for housing maintenance, Cllr. Hogan welcomed the revision which received unanimous support from his political colleagues.

Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, further welcomed the amendments to the rent differential scheme.

“This discussion originated at Athlone Municipal District level where we, as members, highlighted the strong concerns of council tenants regarding the increased rent payments. As a result two meetings were held subsequently, the outcome of which shows a significant reduction on what was initially proposed.

Outlining specifics of the amendments, the Town Mayor emphasised that all rent reductions would be implemented in full covering 270 households, while 504 households will see no changes in the rent currently being paid.

“All tenants will receive revised letters which will detail the various income thresholds and the subsequent level of rent payable. There will also be an opportunity for the tenants to attend a clinic to speak directly to a council staff member on their personal circumstances.

“This has been a very distressing period for tenants and while the outcome is not a full elimination of the differential rent scheme, it has lessened the impact on residents,” the Town Mayor concluded.

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