By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
The €600-worth of energy credits announced by Government to help with soaring energy bills is not enough to help people survive the winter ahead, two renters have said.
Three energy credits worth €200 each are to be paid out as part of the Government’s cost-of-living package, with one being issued before Christmas and two at the start of 2023.
Friends Ali Stone (36) and Brian Shanahan (32), who have a council tenancy in a rural part of Co Tipperary, said that the measure is not enough to get through the winter months, and that their most recent monthly energy bill was worth €660.
“You’re going into a winter like this, it’s going to be hard enough,” Mr Shanahan said.
“We’re here and we’ve every heating system off, wrapped up in duvets. And we’re in a nice home at the minute, and we’re actually afraid to even turn on the shower. You know, we’re in and out in five minutes,” he said, adding that he sometimes leaves with shampoo still in his hair.
Ms Stone says the price of groceries has become “ridiculous”, and the three energy credits worth €200 each for both before and after Christmas was a “joke” and not enough to help people trying to survive the winter period.
She said she would have liked to see something in the budget to stop rents increasing further during the energy crisis to help ease the pressure on people.
“I’d like to see the Government open their eyes and help families by getting a cap on how much landlords can charge per property,” Ms Stone said.
“That is going to save a lot of families from being homeless because they can’t afford to pay ridiculous amounts per week, on top of them trying to pay ridiculous amounts of electricity and then feed their families.
“It’s unsure for a lot of people right now. And the uncertainty going into Christmas for a lot of families who are terrified that they’re not going to be able to put the turkeys on the table.”
Ms Stone and Mr Shanahan had rented a previous property privately that had mould and pest issues, and entered into mediation through housing charity Threshold and the Residential Tenancies Board to resolve the issue.
“The housing situation at the moment is scary,” Ms Stone said.
“This time last year, we didn’t have any security. Neither of us. And it was terrifying. So I can’t imagine [how other renters] feel right now going into the winter with no security.
“Homelessness is not just in the big cities, it’s all over the country. It’s nationwide.”
Mr Shanahan added: “There’s not enough consideration for small towns and, to be honest, landlords are running riot in small towns.”
They also welcomed the introduction of a Vacant Homes Tax, which was confirmed in the Budget announcement with the aim of increasing the supply of homes for rent or purchase to meet demand, according to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.
“Putting the tax on them is the right job,” Mr Shanahan said.
It comes after three energy companies announced price hikes this month alone.
Electric Ireland said gas and electricity bills would increase from October 1st, Bord Gáis Energy said its price hikes would equate to an extra €50 a month on gas and electricity bills, while Flogas Energy announced its third cost increase of the year last week.