Almost two-thirds of households in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap) last year were in employment of some kind, official figures show.
This is a significant rise in the proportion of those in employment compared to the first year the scheme was introduced, with representatives in the sector saying it represents a recognition among those under financial pressure of their entitlements.
Under the Hap scheme, tenants who qualify for social housing source their own private rental accommodation, but have most of their rent paid directly to their landlord by their local authority.
According to data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), there were a total of 68,180 households in receipt of Hap last year. Of those, 42,749 were in employment of some kind, representing 62.7 per cent.
By comparison in 2017, the first year in which it fully operated nationally, 42 per cent of households were in employment. There were 32,810 households in receipt of the payment, with 13,780 working.
The level of employment varies from local authority area, at 72.7 per cent in both Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin County Council, with the lowest percentage in Carlow County Council area where 43.6 per cent are employed.
The median income for those on Hap has also increased to €19,341 last year, up from €14,084 in 2017.
Wayne Stanley executive director of the Simon Communities, said to be entitled to Hap, an individual must be entitled to social housing.
“It’s a sign that social housing isn’t coming quickly enough. If you look at the length of time people are on the social housing waiting list, they could be waiting seven years. With the rising cost of rent in the private rental sector, that need becomes more urgent and so then they apply for Hap,” he said.
“Local authorities have said there was a period a number of years ago when they were receiving more and more [applications] from people in the private rental market who were under pressure.”
Figures from the Department of Housing show that last year a record €515.2 million was paid to landlords by the State through the scheme. The figures do not include administrative costs associated with running the payment.
A report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), published last year, found more than half of renting households receive support for housing costs.
Rachel Slaymaker one of the authors of the report, said their research highlighted the “chronic undersupply of affordable rental accommodation in many areas, particularly for low-income single adults”.
A spokesman for the Department of Housing has recently said it continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review and is “committed to decreasing our reliance on the HAP scheme”.
“Since 2020 approximately 14,000 households exited from Hap to other forms of social housing provided by local authorities and AHBs [approved housing bodies],” they said.
“Our focus is on ensuring there are sufficient permanent social homes for people and on reducing reliance on HAP. Last year in 2022 we delivered more new-build social homes than in any year since 1975 and our focus is on delivering even more this year in 2023.”