Stringently enforced income bands in the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), based on the county in which a home is located, are “keeping people in homelessness” and “needs to be changed”, the director of Dublin’s homelessness services is warning.
Eileen Gleeson, director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, says homeless families in Dublin who would be willing to move to counties such as Carlow, Cavan, Laois, Louth, Kilkenny, Wexford or Westmeath are staying stuck in hotels and B&Bs because they fall outside the HAP income bands for these areas.
Maximum household income limits, to qualify for HAP, are organised under three “bands” depending on the area in which a household wishes to rent.
In band 1, covering the four Dublin local authorities as well as Cork City, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, the maximum annual net income thresholds are €35,000 for a single person and €42,000 for a family with children.
In Band 2, covering Cork county, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick city and county, Louth, Wexford and Waterford city and county, the net income thresholds are €30,000 and €36,000.
In Band 3, covering Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Donegal, county Galway, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary and Westmeath, the limits are €25,000 and €30,000.
“Our problem is that families who could be HAP’d out to Kildare or Westmeath are having to stay in Dublin where the real pressure is on. It wouldn’t be such an issue if housing supply was not an issue, but without social housing we have to put people into the private rental sector,” said Ms Gleeson. “And there won’t be social housing for at least two years.
“We recently had a problem with families from Kildare, stuck in emergency accommodation in south county Dublin and my guess is that they couldn’t get accommodation in Kildare, their income was too high for Carlow and so they came into us.”
She said there had to “be a better way to manage this issue”.
Under HAP the tenant finds the property and the rent is paid to the landlord by the local authority. The tenant pays a differential based on income to the council.
"The way the bands are organised means that a homeless family from say Tallaght who would rent a property in Kildare, can't if their income is higher than the 'band 2' threshold," said Ms Gleeson.
“We have some homeless families in own-door apartments in Louth, who are on the housing list in Dublin. They may never come back to Dublin but we can’t HAP them up there because they’re not eligible for social housing there. They wouldn’t get on the list there, and they don’t want to lose their place on a housing list.
“We have raised this repeatedly with the Department [of Housing]. The structure is too complicated. Perhaps something targeted for homeless families could be looked at.”
A comment was not available from the Department over the weekend.