Coveney announces Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) now available in Dublin

Published on Wednesday, 01 Mar 2017
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Minister Coveney and CE DCC Owen Keegan at the rollout of the HAP scheme to the Dublin region

Mr Simon Coveney T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, today (1 March 2017), announced the completion of the nationwide rollout of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme with its introduction to the administrative areas of Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, delivering on another key action under Rebuilding Ireland: An Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. The effect is that eligible households in all 31 local authority areas can now avail of an immediate form of social housing support, with €153 million being made available for the scheme in 2017.

“The rollout of HAP to Dublin is the hugely significant milestone in the development of this new social housing support. The availability of HAP means that all local authorities can provide housing support to many more households with a long-term housing need, including many long-term Rent Supplement recipients, as well as households who may not be eligible for Rent Supplement but who are struggling with the cost of rent. As well as removing a barrier to employment, by allowing recipients to remain in the scheme if they gain full-time employment, the HAP scheme improves regulation of the rented accommodation being supported and it provides certainty for landlords as regards their rental income” said the Minister.

The Minister acknowledged that “while the level of supply in the rental market is challenging in some areas, HAP continues to offer many families stable and supported social housing. For example, every week more than 45 homeless households are having their housing needs supported by the scheme across Dublin and 20 other families in the South Dublin area.”

There are currently more than 18,000 households receiving HAP support; over a third of these households have transferred from the Rent Supplement scheme. Over 10,000 landlords are taking part in the scheme with approximately 300 households joining the scheme every week.

The Minister concluded saying “The increases made available since July 2016 to the maximum rent limits underpinning the HAP scheme together with the additional protections provided to tenants in recent amendments to the Residential Tenancies Acts, means that HAP can and will continue to offer families longterm support and access to good quality housing in communities of their choice.”

The Minister also announced the launch of a new dedicated HAP website (www.hap.ie). The purpose of the website is to provide a single national point of information on the HAP scheme both landlords and tenants, before contacting the relevant local authority.

ENDS

Editor's notes

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. HAP will provide a more integrated system of housing supports; the scheme aims to allow all social housing supports to be accessed through the local authority and to allow recipients to take up full-time employment and still keep their housing support.

Under HAP, local authorities will make payments, subject to rent limits and certain conditions, on behalf of the HAP recipient directly to the landlord in respect of rent. The HAP recipient will then pay a rent contribution to the local authority. The rent contribution is a differential rent – that is, a rent set by the local authority based on income and the ability to pay.

The Programme for a Partnership Government and Rebuilding Ireland made the following commitments in relation to the future operation of HAP:

  • Increasing Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) (and Rent Supplement limits) and extending the capacity to make discretionary enhanced payments

Update: The HAP rent limits were increased in July 2016 and have had the effect of providing further targeted supports to those households in most need; providing prospective HAP recipients with access to a greater number of properties in the market; and reducing the number of households falling into homelessness.

All local authorities where HAP is operational can now exceed the prescribed rent limits (by up to 20%), on a case by case basis subject to guidelines.

  • Extending the roll out by local authorities of HAP

Update:  HAP has been introduced on a statutory phased basis and the  full roll-out of the scheme was completed today, 1 March 2017, with the introduction of HAP to the administrative areas of Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal County Council.  A multi-agency HAP Implementation Dublin Working Group was established to advise and prepare for the introduction of the scheme to the Dublin region based on experience of the roll-out to date, and the particular pressures and characteristics of the rental market in Dublin.

HAP has been rolled out on a phased basis since 2014 with 7 local authorities delivering the scheme initially, 11 more authorities added in 2015, 10 added in 2016 and the final 3 Dublin authorities providing HAP from today. The phased nature of the HAP roll-out has allowed for significant learning in the operation of the scheme. In this way new HAP authorities have benefitted from the experience of those authorities where the scheme has been operational longest and vice versa.

The Homeless Pilot of the HAP scheme has been operational since February 2015 across the four housing authorities in the Dublin Region, i.e. Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council, and is being implemented through the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE). The focus of this pilot scheme is to transition qualified households from emergency accommodation, including hotels, into private rented tenancies. Homeless HAP continues to be available and will operate side by side with HAP.

“Refresh” of Ministerial Direction providing access to Other forms of Social Housing (Transfer List)
Since December 2014, statutory directions have issued to authorities involved in the HAP scheme, instructing them to take the necessary steps to ensure that households benefiting from HAP can avail of a move to other forms of social housing support, should they wish to do so, through a transfer option.  Local authorities were directed that HAP recipients, who apply to go on the transfer list, should get full credit for the time they spent on the waiting list and be placed on the transfer list with no less favourable terms than if they had remained on the waiting list.

With the completion of the rollout of the HAP scheme; a consolidating Ministerial Direction has been signed to clarify that the transfer list option continues to be available to all new HAP supported households. This direction instructs authorities to continue offering tenants supported by the HAP scheme the option of availing of other forms of Social Housing Support through a transfer option.

It is ultimately up to the household to choose if they wish to be placed on a local authority’s transfer list, and it is understood that the majority of HAP households do avail of this option. As of December 2016, 240 households across the country have transferred from the HAP scheme to other forms of social housing support.

All local authorities are reminded that their scheme of letting priorities and related transfer provision should be able to facilitate this option, and authorities are asked to examine their scheme to ensure this is the case.

Funding for the HAP scheme has increased year on year, since it commenced in September 2014, in order to meet the continuing costs of existing HAP households, and the costs of additional households being supported.  Budget 2017 increased HAP funding to €153m (additional €105m over 2016 Budget) to meet the costs of both existing HAP households and the Rebuilding Ireland target of supporting an additional 15,000 households in 2017.

In order to apply and be assessed for social housing support, including the HAP scheme, please contact your local authority.

To qualify for HAP under the homeless pilot scheme, a household must generally be accepted as homeless within the meaning of section 2 of the Housing Act 1988 by one of the four Dublin local authorities. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) can be contacted for further information in this regard.

For more information on the HAP scheme, please go new website www.hap.ie