Thursday, 7 November 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
As a former Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, I do not suppose the Tánaiste will be surprised that I and others are very critical of the long-term use of the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme. It is a system that artificially inflates the market and is the single biggest transfer of public funds to private landlords in the history of the State.
One aspect of this system that has worsened considerably in recent months is the processing times. The delay in processing applications now averages nine weeks. I will use Kildare County Council as an example. It is now processing applications made in August. This means that anyone who had found accommodation has to come up with the deposit, the one month's rent in advance, the October rent and now the November rent is due. If that was totalled up for most parts of the country, it would amount to between €6,000 and €8,000. HAP is paid to people who cannot pay the rents so it does not take a genius to figure out that this is a real problem and people are borrowing money, if they can do that. The tenant and landlord are effectively in limbo. If someone fails to pay the rent after securing a tenancy, the landlord has the right to issue a 14 day notice to pay the rent or consider the tenancy terminated. I have spoken to genuine landlords and letting agents who do not want to be issuing notices to quit but cannot forgo two or three months of rent with little chance of its being backdated. This is a very serious issue. Fair is fair. One letting agent told me that if he advertised a property in Kildare or west Dublin, he would expect to receive between 150 and 160 emails within 24 hours. Of those, 70% would potentially be HAP tenants. The people who are not HAP tenants have a better chance of getting the accommodation.
There is a very real legal implication where there is a clear failure of Government policy. Once people are deemed eligible for HAP, they are deemed to have had their housing need met and are removed from the social housing waiting list. In the meantime, if their application is not processed in a timely fashion and their tenancy is legally terminated as a result, they are effectively homeless and have lost their place on the housing waiting list. Is the Tánaiste aware that this significant issue will add to the number of people becoming homeless? This is the origin of some of that homelessness and it has to be addressed urgently. What is the Government doing or going to do about this?