Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1936)

Seán Fleming

Question:

1936. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding landlords that do not want to enter the housing assistance payment scheme with a local authority but have existing tenants that are in receipt of rental supplement; if they can continue on same; the engagement he has with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to ensure that some persons are not left homeless as a result of landlords not entering into the HAP agreement in circumstances in which there is no suitable alternative rental accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34954/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. It is available in all local authority areas and its introduction ensures that all social housing supports can be accessed through the local authorities.

HAP will replace Rent Supplement (RS) for those with a long-term housing need, who qualify for social housing support. However, RS will remain available through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to households as a short-term income support. The strategic aim is to complete the majority of transfers from long-term RS to HAP by end 2020, as outlined in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness.

HAP provides fast, flexible housing support to all eligible households in the area of their choice. Individuals, 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 and avail of full-time employment and retain their housing support, with an adjustment in their differential rent.

HAP plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals. At the end of Q2 2019 there were more than 48,000 households having their housing needs met via HAP.

A landlord or an agent acting on behalf of a landlord is not legally obliged to enter into a tenancy agreement with a HAP recipient. However, on 1 January 2016, the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 introduced “housing assistance” as a new discriminatory ground. This means that discrimination in the provision of accommodation or related service and amenities against people in receipt of rent supplement, HAP or other social welfare payments is prohibited. Further information is available at www.ihrec.ie/your-rights/i-have-an-issue-with-a-service/i-have-an-issue-about-accommodation/.

If a person feels that they have been discriminated against by a landlord or their agent, they can make a complaint under the Equal Status Acts to the Workplace Relations Commission; further information is available on the Commission's website, www.workplacerelations.ie.

Administration of the HAP scheme is a matter for the relevant local authority. The transfer of existing long-term rent supplement tenancies is continuing, with ongoing engagement between local authorities and local DEASP offices. Failure of a landlord to participate in HAP should not affect an existing customer’s entitlement to rent supplement, provided that the tenant has engaged with the local authority and/or Community Welfare Officer within the HAP transfer process.

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.