Update: I received a call late night 17th August. It was the lady at the centre of the story calling to tell me that a local TD has intervened and she will now receive the rent allowance as she did before. Great news I am sure you will agree. However, this is not a unique case and it’s likely that more will surface (end of update).
The HAP scheme was introduced in 2016 to help alleviate the housing issue. What started out as a seemingly good move has worked in some instances, and many in office will pat themselves on the back on a job “well done”.
It hasn’t been effective for many, and thousands are now in a worse position ad a result of these amendments in policy, but you don’t or probably won’t hear about these cases. The spindoctors will ensure that.
Why is it ineffective for many?
Best way to describe this is by a lived experience from a person who wishes to remain anonymous. I encountered this person in a politicians local clinic as I was waiting in the reception area. She told me of her problem:
She, a young mother was in receipt of the Rent Allowance Payment and was living in an apartment with the child’s father. They are not “together” but doing their best for their 3 year old son as they have an amicable relationship and want the best for the son.
With their son growing up fast, the small apartment was just no longer a viable option. She asked her landlord if he would have anything else suitable for their needs. He did, it was a house that was ideal for all included, and it was a cheaper alternative to the smaller apartment. She went so far as to say that she was happy that it was less as she did not want to be depending on the state payments, but at this juncture in time she did not have any other option.
It was a case that she had started a degree in college, fallen pregnant and had to drop the course etc, until a more appropriate time.
Before moving to the new house, she went to the Department of Social Protection to inform them of the move and the change in price (as I said already, it was significantly lower and she was happy to be receiving less, all she wanted was a roof over her sons head).
She was informed that Rent Allowance would be changed to HAP scheme and that it wasn’t a big change as such, but that landlords would have a bit more paper work to do. Plain sailing so far.
The landlord was the presented with the paperwork and upon rigorous inspection, and legal advice from his solicitor was advised to sign “at your peril”. I do not know the ins and outs of the legal implications for signing but he said, under no circumstances would he use the HAP scheme.
So, where does that leave our young mother? She went to the Department of Social Protection, they informed her “you’ll need to go to the council”. She went to the Council, they said, “you’ll need to go to the Department of Social protection”. Peter to Paul, back to Peter, only to be brushed off to Paul.
After countless visits to both, the Department of Social Protection gave her some reprieve, saying they’d maintain the rent allowance payments for a definitive period of time but that she would have to look for an alternative tenancy in the area.
I asked, how much is the rent allowance? She replied €95. Sounds like a substantial amount? The average cost of accommodation in Athlone is, 800pm. I asked, how much was the current accommodation? She informed me it was 600, well below the average. She was managing this with the rent supplement of 95 per week, X 4 is €380, the balance was made up from whatever means they could manage.
So, it’d make a lot of sense to let her remain there. I asked more about her search for suitable accommodation, she said, firstly “there’s a severe lack, the available ones are priced so far out of our grasp and then, the odd time a house would become available, you ask if they will take HAP, they either decline.. or in one case, hang up”.
And where does that leave you now? I asked. “I don’t know, I have rent paid up until the first week in September, after that I may have to declare myself as homeless with my son. The landlord won’t budge on signing the HAP scheme, the DSP and the County Council seem to just pass the book onto each other. Only one local politician has done anything of value but that was only to buy me some time. The time is up..”
So, to sum this up.. the HAP has failed her. She was completely fine under the Rent allowance payment but now, because of poorly thought out legislation she is on the cusp of homelessness.
There is no accommodation in Athlone that is affordable for her. If you doubt this, then check out daft.ie . The killing point of this is that she has a home, which is comparatively much lower to the the alternatives in the area and neither the DSP or the Council seem too bothered.
Politicians and policy makers, do not stand up and say that the HAP is working, because this is living proof that it isn’t.