Thursday, 1 February 2018

Ceisteanna (350)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

350. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will address an anomaly in the housing assistance payment, HAP, whereby properties which were provided under the former affordable housing initiative are not deemed to qualify for HAP even if the person otherwise qualifies; his views on a particular case (details supplied); the number of such properties that are affected by this policy in so far as his attention has been drawn to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5281/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Circular AHS1 of 2009 - Measures to deal with Unsold Affordable Homes gives local authorities the option of bringing Unsold Affordable (USA) dwellings in their ownership into temporary social housing use through the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP) (formerly known as the Social Housing Leasing Initiative (SHLI)) or the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). This purpose of this initiative is to ensure that the outstanding loans on the dwellings remained performing loans and in return the units would be made available for social housing use on a temporary basis, with an AHB or private management company in place to manage the tenancy and the unit. As a housing option it may be used to accommodate social housing applicants, households on rent supplement for more than 18 months or homeless persons returning to mainstream accommodation.

In parallel to this, since 2009, my Department has also funded the permanent acquisition of unsold affordable units, either taken from the SHCEP scheme, progressing from temporary leased units to permanent local authority owned stock, or unsold affordable dwellings taken directly into social housing stock.

While the first priority for local authorities will continue to be to sell affordable housing to eligible purchasers, section 96(11) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that, where the authority becomes satisfied that the property is no longer required for the purposes of affordable housing or social housing, it may be used for another purpose connected with its functions or be sold on the open market.

In relation to the issue raised, details have been sought and will be reviewed and a reply will be forwarded to the Deputy in accordance with Standing Orders.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A.

As the Deputy will be aware, the option is available to local authorities to bring unsold affordable dwellings in their ownership into temporary social housing use through the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP) or the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). In parallel to this, since 2009, my Department has also funded the permanent acquisition of unsold affordable units, either taken from the SHCEP scheme, progressing from temporary leased units to permanent local authority owned stock, or unsold affordable dwellings, taken directly into social housing stock.

While the first priority for local authorities will continue to be to sell affordable housing to eligible purchasers, section 96(11) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that, where the authority becomes satisfied that the property is no longer required for the purposes of affordable housing or social housing, it may be used for another purpose connected with its functions or be sold on the open market.

In situations where a local authority is using unsold affordable units for social housing under the SHCEP or RAS schemes on a temporary basis, the question of a payment being made under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme does not arise, as the tenant is already in receipt of social housing support by virtue of having such a tenancy.

I understand that the case referred to by the Deputy is one of a limited number of instances where local authorities, because of their wider responsibilities for developing and protecting sustainable communities, may have decided to rent dwellings privately to non-social housing tenants, effectively acting as a private landlord. In such cases, it is not considered appropriate that HAP landlord payments would be paid to the local authority. However, I can confirm to the Deputy that Fingal County Council are liaising closely and urgently with the tenant in question in order to find a solution to address their households needs.