Almost 1,200 council tenants in Cork city are facing rent hikes as work continues on a major city-wide rent review.
The increased rents will, in some cases, be backdated to last January, with one householder facing the equivalent increase of €34 a week backdated some nine months.
Councillors warned last night that most tenants will not be able to afford to pay the higher rent rates — let alone pay off the backdated amount.
Sinn Féin councillor Henry Cremin called on officials to devise a scheme to allow those facing higher rent to make staged payments.
“This isn’t something they were envisaging coming up to Christmas,” he said.
The news emerged during a wide-ranging debate on the council’s social housing programme 2015-2017 last night.
Figures were released on the progress of a controversial rent review process which began earlier this year.
Valerie O’Sullivan, the council’s head of housing, said that, as of the end of September, 28% of households have had rent reviews.
As a result, 1,200 households have had their rent increased, with 452 households having their rent cut.
Ms O’Sullivan said the rents have been increased in households only where there has been an improvement in financial circumstances.
“We completely accept if a backdating to January is posing a difficulty in terms of payment, we will talk to every single one and will come to an arrangement,” she said.
However, she said the council’s rent rates are still extremely cheap compared to the private rental sector.
The rent review sparked controversy earlier this year and prompted calls for the process to be scrapped.
As part of the first rent review in Cork City in seven years, the council issued 5,790 letters to its tenants in May or June requesting details of those living in council-owned homes, and their incomes.
It asked for PPS numbers, for employment details, copies of three of the most recent payslips, a set of accounts from the self-employed, and details of social welfare payments where applicable.
It also threatened a €25-a-week rent increase unless full and accurate information was submitted.
Campaigners such as People’s Convention spokesman Diarmaid Ó Cadhla criticised the tone of the letter, which he said was heavy handed and caused offence, and he called for the process to be scrapped.
However, city officials insisted the process would go ahead. It is due to be completed by the end of the year.
Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon said the council had helped eradicate homelessness in the city up to five years ago.
He said that since Fianna Gael and Labour came to power, councils have been starved of funding.
“What we want from the minister is less talk and more work,” he said.
“Give us the finance and we’ll do the work.”
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