Public Housing

Labour Minister, Jan O’Sullivan, has published a new Bill which will bring about the most radical reform of public housing support in decades.
The Bill will introduce a new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), introduce a new tenant purchase scheme for local authority tenants and reform the process for the termination of local authority tenancies.
The new Housing Assistance Payment scheme will ensure that all long-term housing support lies with local authorities. It will enable people to take up full-time employment whilst maintaining housing support and it will help ensure that all accommodation in the private rented sector is up to a fit standard.

Household Income
The new tenant purchase scheme will be linked to household income, with the highest discount available to those families in the lowest income band. The scheme will enable tenants to become homeowners and remain in their community.
To support this principle the scheme will be structured to discourage the sale of the property in the years following the purchase by the tenant. In the event of a sale local authorities will also have the first option of buying the property back.
The Bill also introduces a new, fairer system for the repossession of local authority houses in cases of serious breaches of the tenancy agreement, such as anti-social behaviour or continued failure to pay rent or rent arrears. The new system will provide a transparent system, with review provisions, for tenants while also allowing local authorities to recover possession of a dwelling.

Martin Farren
Welcoming the Bill local Labour councillor, Martin Farren, noted that it has long been accepted that the current rent supplement system isn’t fit for purpose. Labour, in government, is the first to actually change it.

The new Housing Assistance Payment will be better for tenants, better for landlords, better for local authorities and will introduce a more coherent and joined-up system of housing support.
“To access the HAP scheme a household will complete a social housing assessment with the Council.

Pay Directly

“Once the household has secured appropriate accommodation in the private rented sector the local authority will pay the landlord directly, with a contribution by the household paid directly to the local authority.

“Household income can increase through the take up of employment and the family will still be in a position to receive housing support while paying an appropriate rent contribution.”
“This will mean that people in receipt of rent supplement will be able to take up part-time or full-time work without the fear of losing their rent support.

“Accommodation rented in the private sector will have to be maintained to a proper standard and the local authority will be better able to control access to public housing and reduce the problem of council houses lying vacant”, said Farren.
“Minister O’Sullivan will be calling on local authorities to take part in pilot programmes under the new scheme and I will be encouraging Donegal County Council to be one of the seven pilot areas which would allow the schemes to begin in 2014.”