HAP limits causing crisis
THE parsimonious Housing Assistance Support (HAP) payments provided for tenants is causing a crisis in the Wexford town area.
Cllr Lisa McDonald criticised HAP as being only a 'stop gap' for the shortfall in social housing.
She said: 'The reality is that people on HAP are not going to get social housing until we decide that we're going to start building houses.'
Cllr McDonald said HAP limits need to be increased. 'It costs €1,100 to rent a three bed house in Wexford. You are talking about seeing families with children sent out to the outer perimeters of the district so we do require pressure to be put on that.'
Padraig O'Gorman of the Housing department of Wexford County Council acknowledged the problem, but said HAP caps are a matter for the department. 'We have made our views known that there should be an increase for Gorey and Wexford town. There are substantial problems with the HAP cap because it's a countywide cap. The Wicklow cap is a lot higher.'
He said the council plans to build 1,030 houses and 1,750 rental units over the next three years. Mr O'Gorman said there are many benefits to landlords when it comes to HAP. 'In the past the rent supplement was paid to the tenant and they would pay the landlord. The HAP system is far more direct. They also get 100 per cent tax relief on the interest on their mortgage.'
He said houses are inspected which benefits tenants. '100 per cent of new HAP people can expect that they will go into the transfer list.'
Mr O'Gorman said Wexford County Council has HAP targets of 400 for 2017 which it is expected to surpass by 100 houses and has ambitious targets of 600 houses for 2018 and 2019.
He said the department of Housing has advised that people cannot move from the old RAS system into HAP. The advice from the department is that they are not eligiible from HAP as it's not deemed an exceptional or emergency case. We are taking the interpretation that the next day is an exceptional or an emergency case as they are technically homeless, so we are approving them for HAP.'
Cllr George Lawlor said: 'If they have no home to go to then they are homeless.'
Cllr McDonald said she appreciates the courage and 'teleological approach' of Mr O'Gorman in his interpretation of the housing act. 'For someone to have the strength of character to do that has to be commended by this council,' she said.
Cllr Deirdre Wadding said HAP is 'throwing reliance' back on the private sector and has the same paltry security of tenure as the private sector.
'which is feck all'.
'I don't really see how this helps people in the long run. If there is no contract, where does it actually vary from the private rental at all. It's just another name for rent allowance. I have to deal with people on the edge.'
She cited an example of a family who was waiting for a house in a village but due to their place on the list they have been left disappointed time and again, adding that there are anomalies in the system when it comes to how income is categorised. Cllr Tony Dempsey said both tenants and landlords have expressed concern about HAP, that they can be removed from the housing list.
Mr O'Gorman said: 'When an application is approved for HAP they have two weeks to go into the transfer list. Housing officers have to consider everyone that is on the HAP transfer list. The issue we have had is that it is very difficult for people on the HAP list as there are people who are homeless or who have medical needs who get the properties before them.'
He said this will most likley remain the case until the council's building programme 'ramps up' in the next few years. Cllr McDonald said it is taking 14 months for the sale of houses to go through.