‘Milestone’ rollout of housing support scheme complete
Simon Coveney says decision on Gilligan’s HAP application would be for housing officer
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney at the rollout of the Housing Assistance Payment scheme at City Hall, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke
The nationwide rollout of the housing assistance payment scheme (HAP) is now complete, having been introduced to the council areas of Dublin city, Fingal and Dún Laoghaire – Rathdown.
HAP is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. Unlike rent supplement, it allows recipients to remain in the scheme even if they gain full-time employment.
It was at the centre of controversy on Wednesday after the Irish Independent reported that convicted drug dealer John Gilligan expressed interest in signing up for the scheme.
It is understood Gilligan made an inquiry about HAP at a Fingal County Council office in Blanchardstown but did not apply for the scheme.
On Wednesday, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he did not want to discuss Gilligan’s case but that any HAP applicant would have to go through a needs assessment.
“Anybody is entitled to apply for HAP. They will go through a housing needs assessment and if they qualify, they qualify,” Mr Coveney told a press conference in Dublin City Hall.
“That will be a decision for a housing officer making a housing needs assessment. The needs assessment is primarily based on income, so obviously there needs to be a credible explanation as regards income and where it comes from.
“So whatever housing officer is assessing John Gilligan, they’ll have to make appropriate decisions around that.”
The Minister said the rollout of HAP to Dublin was a “hugely significant milestone” in the development of social housing support.
“It means local authorities can provide housing support to many more households with a long-term housing need, including many long term rent supplement recipients, as well as households who may not be eligible for rent supplement but who are struggling with the cost of rent.”
Currently more than 18,000 households receive HAP support, with more than a third of these having transferred from the rent supplement scheme. More than 10,000 landlords take part in the scheme with about 300 households joining each week.
Under HAP, local authorities will make rent payments, subject to certain conditions, on behalf of the recipient to the landlord. The recipient will then pay a rent contribution to the local authority. This contribution is a differential rent, set by the local authority based on income and ability to pay. This differential will change in line with changes to the recipient’s employment status.
The scheme has been rolled out on a phased basis since 2014. Budget 2017 increased HAP funding to €153 million and anticipates an additional 15,000 households will join the scheme by the end of the year.