Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Questions (772)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

772. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to address the inadequacies regarding the new housing assistance payment scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10128/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The housing assistance payment, HAP, provides fast, flexible housing support to households in an area of their choice. Individuals with a housing need who in the past were reluctant to avail of full time work as they would lose their rent supplement support, can now move to HAP, avail of full-time work and retain their housing support, with an adjustment in their differential rent.

HAP is available to all eligible households in all local authority areas across the State. HAP has been rolled out on a statutory phased basis since September 2014 with seven local authorities delivering the scheme initially, 11 more authorities added in 2015, ten added in 2016 and the final three Dublin authorities providing HAP from 1 March 2017. The phased nature of the HAP roll-out has allowed for significant learning in the operation of the scheme. In this way, new HAP authorities have benefited from the experience of those authorities where the scheme has been previously operational. On average in 2017, 350 additional tenancies were being supported by HAP each week, with over 33,000 households currently having their housing needs met under the scheme, and some 20,000 separate landlords and agents currently in receipt of monthly HAP payments.

As HAP is a social housing support and consequently households are not eligible to remain on the main housing waiting list, Ministerial directions have issued to ensure that, should they so choose, HAP recipients can avail of a move to other forms of social housing support through a transfer list. With the completion of the HAP roll-out and the ending of the scheme’s pilot phase, a Ministerial Direction was issued instructing local authorities to continue to offer HAP tenants access to other forms of social housing through the transfer list. To date, more than 800 HAP recipients have transferred to other forms of social housing support this way.

Since April 2017, following the national roll out of the scheme, in cases where a tenant currently on a local authority waiting list wishes to access rented accommodation with HAP support in another local authority area, such requests can now be facilitated under inter-authority movement. In order to maintain the equitable treatment of all housing applicants, inter-authority movement for HAP applicants is based on the current social housing eligibility income bands, i.e. movement will only be facilitated across local authorities with income bands that are equal or higher; or where shared areas of choice are already operated.

A new HAP website, www.hap.ie , was launched in Q1 2017 and provides prospective HAP tenants and landlords with the information that they need to better understand how HAP works.

In relation to specific HAP supports available to homeless households, the homeless HAP place finder service operating in the Dublin local authorities, and in Cork City Council, is a targeted support for homeless households who are finding it difficult to secure HAP tenancies. The place finder service has been successfully utilised by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, DRHE, across the Dublin local authorities since February 2015, with more than 2,000 households currently being supported by the Homeless HAP scheme. A similar service began operating in Cork City in 2017. In order to further assist homeless households in exiting emergency accommodation the homeless HAP place finder service, with effect from 19 January 2018, can now be made available in each of the 31 local authority areas. All local authorities are now being provided with the options to pay deposits and advance rental payments for any households in emergency homeless accommodation, in order to secure accommodation via the HAP Scheme.

I continue to keep the operation of HAP under review but I am currently satisfied with how the scheme is operating and I consider it to be a key vehicle for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme committed to under Rebuilding Ireland.