Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, tenants source their own accommodation. The accommodation sourced by tenants should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on household size and the rental market within the area concerned.
Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it. It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis.
Additional discretion of up to 50% above rent limits is available to assist in housing homeless households in the Dublin Region. The additional discretion available to homeless households recognises the difficulty this cohort of households face in sourcing and securing properties in a highly competitive rental market. I have no plans at this time to provide a similar level of discretion to local authorities outside of the Dublin area.
However, in order to provide additional assistance to vulnerable households and to better resource local authorities, a Homeless HAP Place Finder service has been rolled out across all local authorities with effect from January 2018. The purpose of the Place Finder service is to target HAP supported rental properties for households in emergency accommodation, assisting households find suitable accommodation and providing the payment of a deposit and first month's rent on the behalf of the HAP recipient.
To date, 22 Place Finders have been appointed and are operational in 24 local authorities. 7 local authorities indicated that they did not wish to seek additional resources to establish a Place Finder service as they were satisfied with their existing homeless service. The operation of local homeless services, including the putting in place and operation of a Place Finder service, is a matter for each local authority.
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 current housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme set out in Rebuilding Ireland.