Thursday, 23 November 2017
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Housing Assistance Payment Administration
222. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his plans to address the anomaly whereby the maximum HAP allocation is between 23% and 47% less than the average rental price in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49673/17]
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a flexible and immediate housing support that is now available to all eligible households throughout the State. There are currently over 29,800 households in receipt of HAP and over 20,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme.
Under HAP, a tenant sources their own accommodation, the tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended). The accommodation sourced by tenants should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on the household size and the rental market within that area. HAP applicants are informed of the maximum rent limits for their local authority area; these elements of the scheme are stated in the HAP Tenant Information Booklet, on the dedicated HAP website, www.hap.ie, and local authority staff are expected to explain them to each HAP applicant.
Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it. Greater enhanced support is also statutorily provided for in the Dublin Region for homeless households. It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis. Local authorities must also be cognisant of the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act when approving increases in HAP payments and advise tenants accordingly.
My Department is aware that some HAP recipients are making payments directly to their landlords, beyond the amount of HAP being paid on their behalf. There is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards the monthly rent to their landlord. Where a qualified household sources accommodation outside the maximum rent limits, it is important to highlight the responsibility falling on the household as set out in their tenancy agreement. From available data, at the end of Q2 2017, and excluding the additional discretion available to homeless households in the Dublin Region, 12.6% of HAP households nationally were benefiting from the flexibility to exceed the rent limits. In the Kerry local authority area, 27 of the 194 households supported by HAP at that point, or 13.9% of households, were benefiting from the flexibility to exceed the rent limits. The average level of discretion being provided to those households was 13.4% in excess of the rent limits.
The data available to my Department indicates that the current rent limits and the flexibility to exceed those rent limits, continues to provide local authorities with sufficient capacity to assist households in securing rented accommodation that meets their needs. My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review. I am satisfied with how the HAP scheme is operating and I consider it to be a key vehicle for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme under Rebuilding Ireland.