Dublin Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland spoke with staff who are working with homeless clients every day to seek their input. Sasko Lazarov/
Housing Assistance Payment

Dublin Lord Mayor to tell Housing Minister that HAP scheme should include a deposit for tenants

Alison Gilliland said funding an initial deposit could be key to keeping many people out of homeless services.

DUBLIN’S LORD MAYOR is to ask the Government to make a number of changes to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) system, including the funding of a deposit to tenants to help them to secure accommodation.

The scheme, which is only available to people who are already homeless, provides financial assistance to individuals with their rent payments.

However, they must come up with a deposit themselves and it is a tenant’s responsibility to ensure they get their deposit back when the tenancy ends, so they can carry it over to a new tenancy.

Alison Gilliland, who is also a Labour party councillor, told The Journal that she will ask the Minister for Housing to consider changing the general HAP system to include a deposit. 

She said such a reform could be the key to keeping people out of homelessness.

“Families find it really, really hard to get that deposit together,” she said. “So, like the Homeless HAP, the ordinary HAP could allow for a deposit to be given as well, and then it would be the family or individual’s responsibility to get that deposit back and use it then if they need to move on. That would make a difference.”

Gilliland yesterday visited the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) operational building, where staff liaise with those who are facing homelessness and arrange placements both in emergency and long term accommodation.

She sought input from those working with homeless clients on how barriers could be lifted.

Staff at the DRHE building told the Lord Mayor that many of the calls they receive are from families who have never been homeless before, often because a HAP tenancy has not worked out and they are struggling to find a new home in the current rental market.

Another suggestion she plans to raise with the Government is a shift to funding HAP rents by unit, rather than the number of people in the tenancy.

“HAP is associated with the person, so if you’re single you will get a particular amount of HAP, if you have two children it’s another amount,” she said.

“Instead of allocation to the person, the idea is that it would be allocated to a one-bed or a two-bed or a three-bed. If you had, for example, a couple, and one of the two left, the other could still sustain the tenancy rather than neither of them being able to sustain it.”

Gilliland is meeting with Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien today and said she plans to raise the suggestions she heard with him. 

She said the ideas she will raise come “from our people who are actually on the frontline”.

“They know what will work and what will make a difference and two small thing like that would make a big difference to sourcing accommodation. I think we really need to push that the minister would bring that in.” 

Gililland also heard from staff at the DRHE about the impact of high rents in Dublin and a lack of housing within HAP limits. 

“One of the big concerns I have is the skewing of the market of build-to-rent,” she said.

Most large developments that come into Dublin City Council for planning approval are build-to-rent. We know that the outcome there is to maximise profits and there is a very high market rent in and around the city. Ordinary HAP doesn’t meet that rent, Homeless HAP might, but you’re feeding the market. The very high rent levels are disadvantaging everybody and they’re not helping supply.

She said the council’s role in “disrupting” that cycle is to build affordable housing and to rent it at affordable levels. 

“We will try to step up to that mark and we’ve identified our own gaps, particularly around project management, to get our own systems bringing out that level of delivery,” she said.

“But from the department’s perspective there are still blockages that need to be removed.”

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