Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (451)

Patrick O'Donovan


451. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the recent announcement by the British Prime Minister to introduce changes to UK housing benefit rules for inward migrants into the UK, if he has examined the proposals; his plans to introduce changes to rules governing the payments of rent allowances and the allocation of houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4842/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The General Scheme of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions ) Bill was approved by Government on 17 December 2013, and will provide a legislative basis for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

HAP is being designed so as to bring all of the social housing services provided by the State together under the local authority system, with local authorities being responsible for all households with an established housing need and ensuring significant efficiencies in the provision of rental assistance. HAP will provide a new framework for the provision of rental assistance, and will, in as much as it can, facilitate the removal of existing barriers to employment by allowing HAP recipients to remain in the scheme if they gain full-time employment. My Department and the Department of Social Protection, who have responsibility for rent supplement, continue to work closely on the legal, policy and operational issues involved in developing and introducing HAP.

While I am reviewing the existing rules in relation to the eligibility for social housing support of non-Irish citizens living, or coming to live, in Ireland in the context of the preparation of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions ) Bill, I have no proposals to make changes along the lines of those contemplated in respect of housing benefit in the United Kingdom.

Under Section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 all housing authorities are required to make an allocation scheme (in place of a scheme of letting priorities) for social housing. The making and amendment of such an allocation scheme is a reserved function of the elected members of each housing authority. The Social Housing Allocation Regulations 2011, which came into effect on 1 May 2011, set out the conditions that housing authorities must take into account when making their allocation schemes. Guidance on the making of allocation schemes has been provided both by my Department and the Housing Agency. This guidance is available on the Housing Agency’s website (www.housing.ie).