Threshold, the national housing charity, welcomes the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment which is provided for in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014. The Bill is expected to be passed by the Dáil later today (19.06.14).
Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of Threshold, said: “We have been calling for radical reform of the Rent Supplement scheme for a long time. In fact, we proposed the introduction of a system like the Housing Assistance Payment as far back as 2003.”
According to Threshold, the flaws in the existing Rent Supplement scheme include: delays in landlords getting paid; the fact that rent has to be paid in arrears rather than in advance; the onus on landlords to collect rent payments directly from tenants; and the fact that the amount received doesn’t match total rent.
“Tenants are disadvantaged when they receive Rent Supplement because they’re competing in a market where other tenants can pay landlords their monthly rent, in advance and by direct debit,” said Bob Jordan. “In fact, it is Threshold’s experience that very few landlords are willing to accept Rent Supplement tenants in the current market.
“Rent Supplement recipients are also disadvantaged because, if they take up work, they place their housing support payment at risk. The new HAP system will remove this poverty trap: payments will be means-tested based on a person’s income, which means people will be able to work without worrying about whether their earnings will impact on their eligibility for the scheme.”
Levelling the Playing Field for those in Need of Housing Support
Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said HAP would “level the playing field” for those in need of housing support.
“The roll-out of HAP will level the playing field, particularly for those who have been disadvantaged under existing schemes,” she said. “The vast majority of people on housing waiting lists are single people, who – in the past – have had little likelihood of being allocated a house by their local authority. As a result, they have been forced to source housing at the lowest end of the private rented market.
“HAP will make things much better for those with a long-term housing need, not worse. At the moment, those in receipt of Rent Supplement have no direct links with their local authority and no access to other social housing options; but this will now change.
“The new system will provide people with more secure and better-quality accommodation, and more options in terms of housing supports: those who receive HAP will be eligible for their local authority housing transfer list. A large proportion of social housing is allocated by local authorities from the transfer list; in fact, last year, 50 per cent of all social housing units allocated by Dublin City Council were from this list.”
Senator Hayden said she would like to see legislation introduced to outlaw discrimination by landlords against tenants in receipt of social welfare payments. “It is unacceptable that landlords can refuse to accept tenants on the basis that they receive a social welfare payment to help them with their rent,” she said.
Further information about Threshold is available at: www.threshold.ie.