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Report on increasing HAP rates released soon as pressure mounts on government over homelessness

The number of people who were homeless nationwide in the last week of April was 10,049.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

RECOMMENDATIONS ON WHETHER the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) rate should increase are due to go to Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien next month.

It comes as the latest figures from the Department of Housing show that the number of people who were homeless nationwide in the last week of April was 10,049.

This represents a rise of 224 from the 9,825 homeless in March.

It shows a 24% increase in homelessness year-on-year. 

HAP is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need and is administered by the local authorities, who pay the landlords directly.

The rent being charged for the accommodation must be within the limits for the household type set in each local authority area.  The rates have not changed since 2016.

However, in the midst of an ever-worsening housing crisis, charities and those in opposition have long called for the HAP limits to be increased, with the Taoiseach also telling the Dáil that he is in favour of raising the limit. 

Mike Allen from Focus Ireland told RTÉ’s News at One that that while election promises were made to review the HAP limits, “we still haven’t seen the report, two years later”.

“It’s absolutely imperative,” he said, stating that people are being pushed into arrears, into debt and into homelessness over the inaction.

The Housing Agency has carried out an analysis on behalf of the Department of Housing before Christmas on the HAP discretion level which is available to local authorities.

Flexibility of up to 20% may be provided currently on a case-by-case basis, and 50% in Dublin. 

It is understood the analysis has been presented to the officials in the Department of Housing, but the minister has yet to see the data. 

Recommendations are expected to be made to O’Brien in the next month, it is understood. 

Research carried out by the Simon Community in April found that there were only 80 properties available for people receiving HAP to rent across 16 areas of the country.

For the first quarter of 2022, there was a 92% drop in the number of affordable houses since June 2021, when there were 906 properties available.

Just 80 properties were available across the four HAP categories – single people, couples, couple/single parent plus a child and a couple or single parent with two children.

The figures are particularly stark for single people accessing HAP, with just one property available within standard HAP limits. Adding discretionary HAP limits only added one additional property.

A total of 737 properties were available to rent at any price across the 16 areas, which is a 445% drop from the previous report in December 2021, where there were 1,349 properties on the rental market.

The department states that at the end of Q4 2021, over 100,000 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 61,900 households actively in receipt of HAP support and over 33,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme.

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A spokesperson for the housing minister said that O’Brien “has been very clear in saying the intention for Government is to shift away from using market subsidies such as the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in the long term and to significantly increase our social housing stock”

They stated that the Programme for Government commits to ensuring that HAP levels are adequate to support vulnerable households, while the supply of social housing is increased.

“Under Housing for All, the Department was tasked with undertaking an analytical exercise to examine whether an increase in the level of the 20% discretion available to local authorities under HAP is required, in order to maintain adequate levels of HAP support. The Housing Agency undertook to carry out this analytical exercise on behalf of the Department. The review has been submitted and is undergoing analysis within the Department. Recommendations will be made to the Minister following that analysis, which will conclude shortly.”

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