Thursday, 17 October 2019

Questions (324, 325)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

324. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if additional staffing resources have been requested for the HAP shared services centre section in Limerick; if his attention has been drawn to a substantial backlog of up to ten weeks in processing payments to landlords from submission to receipt of payment; his plans to address the backlog by providing additional resources; when this will occur; the additional homeless measures being undertaken to mitigate the delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42744/19]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

325. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the budget provided for the HAP shared services centre for 2019; the amount drawn down; the estimated but not as yet approved for payment amount; if there is a shortfall, the way in which this will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42748/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 324 and 325 together.

Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional-shared service on behalf of all HAP local authorities. The HAP Shared Services Centre (HAP SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is then processed by the HAP SSC. On average, HAP applications are processed by the HAP Shared Service Centre within 2 working days of receipt. Any rental payment arising for a given month will then be made to a landlord on the last Wednesday of that month.

HAP is funded through a combination of Exchequer monies and tenant differential rents collected in respect of HAP tenancies. Budget 2019 has increased the Exchequer funding for the HAP scheme to €422 million. This will allow for the continued support of existing HAP households and also enable the additional 16,760 households targeted under Rebuilding Ireland to be supported by HAP in 2019. 

The Exchequer allocation also provides for the recoupment to the HAP SCC the costs associated with the administration of the HAP scheme. HAP SSC staff and administrative costs are recouped quarterly.  The HAP SSC currently have 74 staff. Sanction requests for additional staffing resources were received in Quarter 1 2019.  These were approved by my Department; no additional requests have been received. 

Under the HAP scheme, eligible households source their own accommodation in the private rented sector and the tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord.   The HAP application form comes in two parts, Section A to be completed by the applicant tenant and Section B to be completed by the landlord or agent. An application for HAP will only be accepted by the local authority when both Section A and Section B are completed, signed and returned, along with the required supporting documentation.  Any delay in tenants and landlords supplying this information will impact on the processing time of the HAP application.  The earliest date a HAP payment to the landlord will apply from is the date a complete and valid HAP application has been received by the local authority.

HAP application processing times within local authorities may vary. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is entered on the system by the local authority and then submitted for processing and payment by the HAP Shared Service Centre.  If there are delays at the processing  stage within a local authority, payment to the landlord will be backdated to the date on which a complete and valid application form was received by the local authority.  The landlord is therefore not penalised for any delay.

To support local authorities in the implementation of the HAP scheme my Department provides a once off administrative payment of €150 per HAP household to all local authorities.  This administrative payment recognises the resources required to manage the HAP process.  The payment is made directly to local authorities twice yearly, to offset HAP staffing and administrative costs. 

At the end of Q2 2019, there were over 48,000 households having their housing needs met via HAP and some 28,000 separate landlords and agents in receipt of monthly HAP payments. My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review.