Fight against new housing assistance payment will move to streets, council chambers

Critics say new payment will force thousands of households off social housing lists

Minister for Housing  Jan O Sullivan: HAP system to have route to apply for other social housing options. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Housing Jan O Sullivan: HAP system to have route to apply for other social housing options. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The next focus in the fight against the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) will be in the six local authorities in which it is being piloted, one of the groups opposing it has said.

The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which provides for the replacement of rent supplement with the new payment, passed its last stage in the Dáil last night.

Its most important provision is to move responsibility for rent supplement from the Department of Social Protection to the Department of the Environment, via the local authorities, and to rename it the HAP.

Some 78,000 households are in receipt of rent allowance and, according to data gathered in May last year, there are 89,000 households on the social housing waiting lists.

Payments to landlord

Critics say the HAP will force thousands of families off the social housing waiting lists, as section 37 states: “The provision of housing assistance . . . shall be deemed to be an appropriate form of social housing support for a household.”

Critics say once a household is moved on to the HAP, the option of social housing will be closed. Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan has described the claim as “misleading and grossly inaccurate”.

“The new system will specifically provide a route for HAP tenants to apply for other social housing options,” she said.

The scheme has been piloted with tenants on a voluntary basis in Limerick city and county in recent months. It will be fully piloted later this year in six local authorities across the State.

Dublin City Council will also pilot the HAP, targeting homeless families. The scheme is scheduled to be rolled out nationally from January 2015.