Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (107)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

107. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he plans to carry out a review of the HAP rent thresholds nationally in view of the fact that the present thresholds do not reflect the price of rented properties in many parts of the country and force tenants to top up rents from their own limited resources in order to put a roof over their heads; if so, when the review will be carried out and completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7579/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, tenants source their own accommodation in the private rented market. 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.

Increased rent limits for the HAP and the Rent Supplement Scheme were introduced in 2016. These limits were agreed in conjunction with the Department of Social Protection (DSP). In reviewing the rent limits, my Department worked closely with DSP and monitored data gathered from the Residential Tenancies Board and the HAP Shared Services Centre. The HAP rent limits were increased significantly, by up to 60% in some cases.

Maximum rent limits for the HAP scheme are set out for each housing authority area in the Housing Assistance Payment (Amendment) Regulations 2017. The current maximum HAP rent limits are available on the Irish Statute Book website at the following link:

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2017/si/56/made/en/print?q=housing&years=2017.

Local authorities also have discretion, because of local rental market conditions, to exceed the maximum rent limit by up to 20%, or up to 50% in the Dublin region for those households either in, or at immediate risk of homelessness. It should be noted that it is a matter for the local authority to determine whether the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis and also the level of additional discretion applied in each case.

While there is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards the monthly rent required by the landlord, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that tenancies are sustainable and that households in HAP are in a position to meet the rental costs involved.

In considering this issue, I am conscious that increasing the current HAP rent limits could have negative inflationary impacts, leading to a detrimental impact on the wider rental market, including for those households who are not receiving HAP support.

My Department closely monitors the level of discretion being used by local authorities, taking into account other sources of data, including Residential Tenancies Board rent data published on a quarterly basis. It is considered that the current maximum rent limits, together with the additional flexibility available to local authorities, are generally adequate to support the effective operation of the HAP scheme.

The Programme for Government commits to ensuring that HAP levels are adequate to support vulnerable households, while we increase the supply of social housing. My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review and it is a key mechanism in meeting housing need across the Country.