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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Mum living in one-bed flat with three children soon to be homeless: 'The HAP scheme is a joke'

Amanda Barnes with her three kids (ages 2, 1 and four months)
Amanda Barnes with her three kids (ages 2, 1 and four months)
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A single mother living in a tiny one-bed apartment with her three kids is soon to be homeless as the landlord is selling the property and she has been unable to find somewhere else to live.

Amanda Barnes (22), who is originally from Sallynoggin in Co Dublin, was homeless between January and April last year.

She then joined the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme and eventually found an apartment in Grainitefield Manor, south Dublin.

However, she recently found out that her landlord is selling the property and she has to move out by June 5.

Her three children are aged two, one and four months.

She has been to numerous property viewings but is consistently being told by landlords that they "do not take on HAP tenants", despite this being outlawed under equality legislation.

"The county council told me people aren't allowed to refuse you because you're using HAP, but I've been to over 90 viewings since September and nobody has got back to me," Ms Barnes told Independent.ie.

"It's awful living in such overcrowded conditions. I suffer from depression and find it difficult to sleep, then there's three of us living in a double bed. My youngest son has her own cot but he'll soon need to sleep in a bed too.

"There's absolutely no security with the system. It's not permanent and at any point you can be told you've to move out. How am I supposed to tell my kids that they may be homeless in a couple of months?".

She split from her partner, who is the father to her three children, last year and has been unable to go back to work as she has to mind her children full-time.

Overcrowding

She claims that she asked Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to come and inspect the property to see the overcrowded conditions they are living in.

"They said I cannot argue any overcrowding points due to being on the HAP scheme," she said.

"The area itself is lovely but I haven't got room to swing a cat and I'm just feeling really down at the moment. I was told that this HAP scheme was great but it is a bit of a joke."

HAP was introduced in 2014 as a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need.

Under HAP, rent is paid to a landlord by a local authority on behalf of the tenants.

In Amanda's case, she has to pay a weekly contribution to the local authority which comes out of her social welfare payments.

Tenants using HAP have to source the accommodation themselves and there is a limit on the price of rent.

The scheme was introduced in a bid to reduce the number of homeless people.

However, it has come under criticism from TDs.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised the issue in the Dáil recently, saying families were being evicted and the scheme wasn't providing "secure" accommodation.

A spokesperson for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co Council told Independent.ie:

"Households eligible for HAP are approved for a payment rate in accordance with their household size.  It is the responsibility of all HAP recipients to find their own accommodation in the private rental market suitable to their household size.

"Where the current HAP property is deemed to be unsuitable, the applicant continues to be eligible for the relevant HAP rates and it is their responsibility to source new accommodation suitable to their needs."

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