Following contact from a number of concerned constituents on the amount of time it was taking Fingal County Council to process their Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) application, Deputy Broughan asked the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government to report on the waiting times for processing of HAP applications by each local authority; the additional resources he will release to ensure that waiting times are reduced down to 1 to 2 weeks.  In a reply received last week, Deputy Broughan was informed that “the average processing time at the end of Q3 2019 within the 31 local authorities is 34 days”.

Deputy Broughan says “Given the difficulties tenants have in finding HAP properties in the first place this delay is completely unacceptable and puts them at risk of the landlord backing out of the agreement.”

The PQ reply stated “Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective HAP transactional-shared service on behalf of all local authorities. The HAP Shared Services Centre (HAP SSC) manages all HAP-related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is then processed by the HAP SSC. On average, HAP applications are processed by the HAP Shared Service Centre within 2 -3 working days of receipt. Any rental payment arising for a given month will then be made to a landlord on the last Wednesday of that month.

HAP application processing times within local authorities may vary. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is entered on the system by the local authority and then submitted for processing and payment by the HAP Shared Service Centre.  If there are delays at the processing stage within a local authority, payment to the landlord will be backdated to the date on which a complete and valid application form was received by the local authority.   The landlord is therefore not penalised for any delay.

An analysis of data from the HAP SSC indicates that the average processing time at the end of Q3 2019 within the 31 local authorities is 34 days. My Department has recently written to all local authorities to remind them of the critical need to keep processing times under review at a local level to ensure times are minimised to the greatest extent possible.

To support local authorities in the implementation of the HAP scheme, my Department provides a once off administrative payment of €150 per HAP household to all local authorities.  This administrative payment recognises the resources required to manage the HAP process.  The payment is made directly to local authorities, to offset HAP staffing and administrative costs.  Since 2015 over €9m has been provided to local authorities in this regard.

At the end of Q3 2019, there were over 50,000 households having their housing needs met via HAP and some 29,000 separate landlords and agents in receipt of monthly HAP payments. My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review.”

Deputy Broughan concludes “My colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, recently raised the delays in processing HAP applications in her own constituency and around the same time I was also contacted by a number of constituents fearful about losing the properties they had sourced.  It is bad enough that Fine Gael (supported by Fine Gael Independents and Fianna Fáil) are forcing tens of thousands of people into this type of insecure and unsuitable accommodation but now these delays are adding stress to people and families.  What we need is a large scale social and affordable house building programme.”