I propose to take Questions Nos. 343 and 344 together.
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. In order for a household to qualify for HAP, they must first be assessed as eligible for social housing support by their local authority. Any household assessed as eligible for social housing is immediately eligible for HAP.
Under HAP, households at risk of homelessness may be eligible for additional supports. To qualify for specific additional supports available to homeless households, a household must have been determined by the relevant local authority to be homeless within the meaning of section 2 of the Housing Act 1988. The operation of local homeless services, including the Place Finder Service, is a matter for each local authority.
Despite the challenges faced throughout 2020 due to the Covid emergency measures, local authorities and the Housing Assistance Payment Shared Service Centre (HAP SSC) have continued to provide a critical service to all HAP customers. This is evident in the high number of HAP tenancies that continued to be set-up. The 2020 HAP target was 15,750 additional tenancies and, at the end of Q3 2020, 11,887 HAP tenancies (76% of target) had been established.
Measures that were required to be taken in the context of Covid-19, however, have had an impact on processing times for HAP applications, including Homeless HAP Applications. The average processing time at end Q2, 2020 was 40 days. An analysis of more recent data from the HAP SSC indicates a reduction on that average processing time at end Q3, 2020 to 38 days.
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.
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. HAP application processing times within local authorities may vary. If there are delays at the processing stage within a local authority, payment to the landlord may 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.
Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective HAP transactional shared service on behalf of all 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. Any rental payment arising for a given month will then be made to a landlord on the last Wednesday of that month.
The average processing time of a HAP application, including Homeless HAP applications, is provided in the following table:
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Average for the Quarter
Q3 2020 *
*Q4 2020 HAP data is not available at this time.
Through our ongoing engagement with local authorities my Department has stressed the need to minimise delays in processing these vital applications to ensure the social housing needs of tenants can be met through the HAP scheme where required. My Department is closely monitoring this situation and will continue to do so over the coming months.