'Opt in' process to stay on the housing list is probed by local Cllrs
Councillors on the Swords and Balbriggan Area Committee go their first briefing on the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme which came into effect in Fingal on March 1 and some expressed concern about recipients of the scheme actively having to 'opt in' to keep their place on the social housing waiting list while receiving HAP.
Staying on the housing list will not be automatic when someone receives HAP but they can and will be encouraged to take up the option of keeping their place on the list, according to the council.
Cllr Paul Mulville (NP) said it would be better if participants in the scheme had to actively 'opt out' of their place on the waiting list and in all other cases, their desire to remain on the list should be assumed.
But council official, Gene Griffin said he 'appreciated the point' but the council was bound to operate the scheme according to the national guidelines set down within it.
However, Mr Griffin said the process in Fingal would be 'friendly' and there would be a dedicated HAP team to help recipients of the payment through the process where he assured councillors they would be 'strongly encouraged' to complete the paperwork in front of the HAP team who would advise them to make sure they take up their option of remaining on the social housing waiting list.
Mr Griffin's colleague, Liam Burke said that in effect, the council would probably ask participants in the scheme to 'sign off on it' if for some reason, they did not want to remain on the housing list, to make sure their intentions are clear.
Mr Griffin said that the scheme was a new kind of housing support that would be made available to anyone 'with a confirmed social housing need' - effectively, that means anyone on the council's current social housing waiting lists.
Recipients of the scheme would source accommodation themselves on the private market and then both the HAP recipient and the participating landlord would apply to take part in the scheme.
The HAP recipient's tenancy agreement would be with the landlord and not the council and the rent that tenant pays will be paid through the HAPS Share Service Centre which will be located in Limerick and will be responsible for the overall running of the scheme across the country.
The rent paid will be worked out, based on the tenant's ability to pay and will amount to around 12% of the household's income. In that sense it differs greatly from the Rent Supplement scheme which pays a flat sum each month to the tenant, to aid that tenant meet a percentage of a private rent.
The council will have the responsibility of inspecting properties that apply to be included in the scheme and to make sure those properties are suitable for HAP recipients.
Cllr Philip Lynam (SF) called for the establishment of a local database of HAP landlords and a monthly update on how many such landlords are available in each of the electoral area of Fingal.