The three current expenditure funded social housing schemes, which include the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP), are critical components of the accelerated delivery of social housing envisaged under Rebuilding Ireland. It is anticipated that more than 111,000 households will have their housing need met by one of these schemes in the period to 2021. A specific budgetary allocation is not made on a county by county basis under these schemes; rather, in order to ensure that the maximum output can be achieved, funding is available on the basis of performance and capacity to deliver new social homes using these schemes.
SHCEP supports the delivery of social housing by providing financial support to local authorities for the long term leasing of houses and apartments from private owners, developers and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs). Properties made available under the programme are used to accommodate households from local authority waiting lists. Leased properties are allocated to tenants in accordance with the relevant local authority’s allocation scheme. My Department recoups the cost of the agreements that are made with private property owners, including AHBs, to the local authorities. Expenditure includes the ongoing cost of contractual arrangements and relevant cost of new contracts made within the year.
Total Exchequer funding for SHCEP in 2017 was €83.947m; of this amount, a total of €1,714,383 was recouped to Westmeath County Council. This supported the ongoing contractual commitments of 341 dwellings, operational at end 2017.
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a flexible and immediate housing support that is now available to all eligible households throughout the State. There are currently over 33,000 households in receipt of HAP and over 20,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. HAP commenced in Westmeath County Council on 1 December 2016 and the total numbers of active HAP tenancies at end 2017 was 366. The 2017 average monthly rent paid to landlords under the HAP scheme in Westmeath was €540.
In respect of the provision of HAP funding, Limerick City and County Council provides a highly effective HAP transactional shared service on behalf of all local authorities. This HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord. Accordingly, my Department does not recoup individual local authorities in respect of HAP rental payments in their administrative areas but rather recoups all landlord costs via the HAP SSC.
My Department has, since 2015, provided local authorities with a HAP administrative payment of €150 per HAP household on the basis of the cumulative number of new households supported through HAP in each year. This administrative payment recognises the resources required to manage the HAP process by local authorities. Westmeath County Council has received a HAP administrative payment of €24,150 in respect of households supported by them at mid-year 2017.
RAS was established in 2004 and placed responsibility on local authorities to meet the accommodation needs of people in receipt of Rent Supplement for 18 months or longer, and who are assessed as having a long-term housing need. RAS provides a more structured, accommodation-based approach to the use of the private rented sector to meet long-term housing need, thereby eliminating dependence on temporary income support payments, i.e. rent supplement. On a phased basis, long-term Rent Supplement recipients will transfer to social housing and have their long-term housing need met by local authorities under the RAS.
At 31 December 2017, 60,338 households with a long-term housing need have been transferred from Rent Supplement to RAS and other social housing solutions nationally. Of these, 34,493 were housed directly under RAS and a further 25,895 were accommodated under other social housing options, excluding HAP. Since the first transfers commenced in 2005 to end of December 2017, Westmeath County Council has transferred 1,105 Rent Supplement recipients directly to RAS and a further 341 to other social housing options, excluding HAP.
A total of €134.338 million was allocated to RAS in 2017. Of this, the total RAS expenditure in 2017 for Westmeath County Council was €3,902,877. This funding supported the continuing cost of Westmeath County Council’s 575 existing RAS contracts at the beginning of 2017, as well as the transfer of an additional 100 tenancies from Rent Supplement to RAS during 2017.