HAP revisions required to fix housing crisis

Clare Independent TD Violet-Anne Wynne has called on the Government to take a more creative approach to tackling the housing crisis.

“According to the most recent end of year report, average rents in Clare rose by 9.6% from 2021 to 2022, with the highest increase being rent on 3 bed houses, which rose by 15% from the same time last year. There are currently 2,755 families on the housing list in Clare, and of those 459 are approved for 3 bed houses.  As it stands, HAP in respect of families or lone parents with 3 children is just €550.00 – this doesn’t even cover half of the average 3 bed rents in Clare, let alone 75%. On average in the last year, a three-bed rent in Clare was €1,101.00 meaning that in order HAP to cover 75% of the rent, HAP would need to be increased to €825.75,” Deputy Wynne said.

“I raised the possibility of raising HAP to meet market rents with the Minister and received the following response:

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The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals. At the end of Q3 2022, over 106,700 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 59,700 households actively in receipt of HAP support.

Under Housing for All, my Department was tasked with undertaking an analytical exercise to examine whether the level of discretion available to Local Authorities under HAP was adequate. The Housing Agency carried out this analytical exercise, on behalf of my Department, to better understand what level of discretion should be made available to Local Authorities under HAP to maintain adequate levels of support.

Following receipt and analysis of this review, I, in cooperation with Government colleagues and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, approved an increase in the HAP discretion rate from 20% to 35% and for new tenancies to extend the couple’s rate to single person households. This will secure more tenancies and prevent new entries to homelessness. Both these measures came into effect from 11 July 2022.

A separate review of the discretion available to Homeless HAP tenancies in Dublin, which is up to 50% above the prescribed maximum rent limits, is currently being undertaken by my Department, in conjunction with The Housing Agency.”

Deputy Wynne continued: “We all know the massive rental crisis that exists in the county, and the country at large and as rents continue to skyrocket, mortgage prices are actually beginning to decline. The sad reality is that because so many families across the county are trapped in an endless renting cycle, getting the money together for a mortgage will never be possible. According to a recent survey by Virgin Media, 92% of 18- to 24-year-olds are concerned that they will never own a home.

In the instance that home ownership is now virtually impossible, the Government need to ramp up Housing for All targets to 50,000 builds a year and engage in an aggressive strategy of rezoning land just as they have advised the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to do with respect to Emergency Accommodation, like the commercial unit in Shannon Business Park that is due to be converted shortly.

Deputy Wynne said: “What is needed now by the Minister and his officials is some out-of-the-box thinking with respect to housing. We need to look at employing the use of modular homes to tackle the housing crisis. The building of modular homes is being used to tackle the refugee crisis, so the same tactics should be employed by the Minister for Housing. We need to send out a clear message that we believe everyone deserves to have a place they can call home. It is imperative that we look after those for whom private housing is unattainable in order for society to truly prosper.

“Three weeks ago, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth confirmed to me that his Department will be constructing 700 rapid build homes with the potential to house up to 2,800 individuals in family units. He said that he expects to have 500 of these units on-stream by April 2023. He confirmed that sites in Cork, Cavan, Claremorris, Mallow, and Thurles have been earmarked for development and that all developments will include as standard; roads, footpaths, street lighting and community facilities, including a playground and green spaces.

These units would be completely public housing on public land, and in addition they would be highly energy efficient, durable, sustainably built and will have a life expectancy of 60 years. The basic footprint of these units is that they accommodate up to four bedrooms.

If we were to replicate this effort with respect to housing, it would require possibly 3,000 units to clear the current list of 11,542 people registered homeless and provide the opportunity to build up capacity to in order to ensure that people who become homeless in future will have options.”

The Deputy continued; “I am not saying that this is an ideal solution, but we are now six months deep into the highest homeless figures in Ireland since records began. Once the eviction ban is lifted possibly at the end of next month, we will see a spike of notice to quits being served and evictions bans just as we did at the end of the last eviction moratorium. The State must be prepared, and I believe investing in rapid build housing is one constructive solution that we can deliver on in the next few months.”

The Deputy welcomed the news announced by the Minister for Housing recently of a €150 Million fund for Local Authorities however noted that high funding was not without its issues; “While I am delighted to see the Minister handing more money to Local Authorities to deal with acquiring vacant properties, I am also keenly aware that the housing crisis needs constructive solutions that can be implemented in the short-term in addition to engaging with bringing vacant properties back on-stream that can takes upwards of a year.

I am delighted to hear that the Dept of Housing is not short of cash, however I am concerned that with this flush approach to Housing development is a lack of incentive on the Department and the Minister to provide innovative solutions to the housing crisis.”


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