THE Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is not much good in a market where the shortage of available property means that people are only one step away from homelessness, according to a West Cork councillor.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the Western Committee Cllr Noel O’Donovan (FG) said: ‘The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is to be commended, but the shortage of property is the real difficulty.’
Cllr Michael Collins (Ind) concurred, saying: ‘The scheme is excellent but more and more people will be made homeless because landlords are unwilling to take HAP.’
He complained that people are spending years, sometimes decades, on the Council’s waiting list for housing and asked: ‘How do we encourage landlords to take up HAP?’
Angela Murphy, a senior executive officer with Cork County Council, said the local authority has written to letting agencies and that ‘word is spreading that it is a good system.’
She confirmed that one third of people on HAP are single, and Paul Sutton, another senior executive officer with the Council’s housing department, said that ‘homelessness is becoming an increasing feature’, particularly in situations where there are rent increases.
Throughout the country, he added, ‘people are being forced to move in with parents or friends.’
But where a person is in danger of becoming homeless, he said, they move higher up the list.
‘If we don’t have a house, they can find an alternative using HAP. The only other option is the homeless service, where they will be put up in a B&B for a short period of time. It is a question of lack of supply ... but homelessness is not as prevelant a problem in West Cork, as it is in Cork or Dublin.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said: ‘Single people seem to be in a limbo situation.’ Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) made the distinction that there is a pressing need for more units for single men because women ‘seem to be better able to get accommodation themselves’ using the HAP system.
It was also confirmed that Cork County Council has recently been given discretion by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to provide for additional flexibility of 20% above the rent caps where this is necessary to source suitable accommodation for households that qualify for social housing support.
And of all the Municipal Districts within the County, West Cork, at 200, had the hightest HAP tenancies, followed by Bandon Kinsale Municipal District with 142.