More than one in five rentals subsidised by HAP

Posted on Wednesday, 11 May 2022
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The latest data from the CSO on Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Properties by Local Electoral Area indicate that more than one in five, 20.9 per cent, of all tenancies registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) were subsidised by HAP.


The Local Electoral Area of Arklow in Wicklow has the highest number of HAP tenancies as a proportion of RTB registrations, with more than one in two (53.7 per cent, n=713) in receipt of the subsidy. Tenancies subsidised by HAP accounted for more than 3 in 10 registered tenancies in 39 LEAs, while in 10 LEAs, more than two in five tenancies were supported by HAP.


Nine LEAs had less than 10 per cent of HAP tenancies as a proportion of registered tenancies, six of which were in Dublin (Dún Laoghaire at 8.5 per cent, Dundrum at 6.1 per cent, Blackrock at 4.7 per cent, South-East Inner City Dublin at 4.7 per cent, Stillorgan and Pembroke at both at 4 per cent).



North Inner City Dublin has the highest actual number of HAP tenancies (1,586), followed by Dundalk South (1,216), Clondalkin (1,116), Cabra-Glasnevin (1,068) and Tallaght (1,060). 

Overall Numbers and Rates of Change

According to the CSO release, there were 60,590 tenancies subsidised through HAP in 2021, an increase of 4.5 per cent on 2020. While the numbers in receipt of HAP continue to increase, the rate of increase has slowed steadily since its introduction (Table 1). The largest rate of increase was obviously in 2016 as "social housing solutions" replaced the provision of social housing as part of the previous housing strategy, Rebuilding Ireland, which launched in July 2016. According to data available from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, 93,922 HAP Tenancies were set up between September 2014 and December 2021. That there are 60,590 in existence at the end of 2021 suggests that 35.5 per cent were not sustained.

Table 1: Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Tenancies by Total Tenancies Supported, No. Change year on year and Percentage Change year on year

      2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Total     5,284 15,638 30,097 41,991 50,620 57,978 60,590
No. Change y/y     10,354 14,459 11,894 8,629 7,358 2,612
% Change y/y     196.0 92.5 39.5 20.5 14.5 4.5

Source: CSO PxStat HAP10, 

The CSO data also provides the percentage change in the number of HAP tenancies compared to the previous year, per LEA. South East Inner City in Dublin had the highest rate of change in 2021 increasing by almost 50 per cent. This is followed by Pembroke in Dublin (40.1 per cent), Blackrock (38.6 per cent), Stillorgan (38.2 per cent), and North Inner City Dublin (35.7 per cent). As shown earlier in this article, four of the five LEAs with the highest rate of increase in the number of tenancies, were among the LEAs with the lowest overall rates of HAP tenancies as a proportion of RTB registered tenancies. This may indicate that households within these areas are experiencing income reductions and finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. In fact, the proportion of RTB registered tenancies subsidised by HAP has increased in each of these areas every year since 2017.

Three LEAs experienced no change in the number of HAP tenancies between 2020 and 2021 - Granard in Longford, Monaghan, and Fermoy in Cork; while almost half of all LEAs (82 of the 166) experienced a reduction. The largest reduction (-17.9 per cent) was experienced in Carrickmacross-Castleblayney in Monaghan, followed by Edenderry in Offaly (-16.3 per cent), Birr in Offaly (-13.9 per cent), Ballybay-Clones in Monghan (-13.8 per cent), and Graiguecullen-Portalington in Laois (-12.3 per cent). There is no correlation between these LEAs and those with high rates of HAP tenancies as a proportion of RTB registered tenancies and, in all of these LEAs, rates had been increasing year-on-year until 2021, when they decreased.

This change is not explained in the data on social housing output produced by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage either, as this indicates that the Local Authorities who built the most social housing in 2021 were Kildare (533 units), Fingal (425 units), Cork County (391 units), Louth (301 units), and South Dublin (247 units). Monaghan and Offaly County Councils built just 58 and 63 social housing units respectively.

Increasing the RIGHT Supply

Ireland’s social housing supply is approximately 9 per cent of our housing stock. According to Housing Europe, this is at odds with many of our European counterparts. According to estimates published by the Parliamentary Budget Office, the number of people with an ongoing social housing need as at the end of 2020 (those on the waiting list and those in receipt of HAP) was 260,000. More than one in every 20 people in Ireland is in need of a home.

Social Justice Ireland proposes that Government set a target that 20 per cent of all housing stock be social housing by 2030. This would equate to an additional 232,800 social housing units to be delivered in the next eight years. Housing for All commits to just 90,000 but lacks clarity over how 42,500 of those could be delivered within the plan. The current need, based only on the social housing waiting lists, HAP tenancies, RAS tenancies and households in receipt of Rent Supplement is over 157,000. This does not account for households leaving Direct Provision; new households fleeing war; households in refuges for Domestic Abuse; the majority of the homeless as currently counted; or all of the homeless not currently counted within official data (as would be counted under an ETHOS typology proposed by FEANSTA). It also does not take account of future demand, averaging 27,500 per year.

This would also require a winding-down of housing subsidies which have been proven not to provide sustainable homes and, instead, to exacerbate inflation in the private rented sector.

Building homes where they are needed the most requires decentralising control to Local Authorities, allowing them to control the development in line with their county development plans which have been subject to extensive consultation with their communities. Local Authorities can also develop at cheaper rates, with average construction cost of a 2-bed of €230,300 and a 3-bed of €214,076 in 2020. To achieve these lower costs, Government must make State land available for development and restrict the sales of State land suitable for residential development to private developers.

Government needs now to invest in capital projects to provide social housing and associated infrastructure.  The change in classification of Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), to inside the general government sector, means that local authorities and AHBs could pool their full property portfolios for the purpose of accessing low-cost credit. The European Investment Bank has committed to funding social housing projects in Ireland, included in the €291.3 million infrastructure package committed in 2018. A pool of approximately 180,000 rented properties between local authorities and AHBs would likely attract lower lending rates, so that differential rents, which traditionally do not cover costs associated with the provision of housing, could service more of the loan.  

The ring-fencing by Local Authorities of rents received and any sale proceeds from tenant-purchase schemes should also be considered.  Rather than forming part of the general local authority budget, money received should be dedicated to the maintenance and development of local authority housing.  In their 2018 Report, Norris and Hayden (2018) recommended that local authorities freeze any tenant purchase schemes to maintain local authority housing stock and redesign the schemes so that former tenants can only sell their home back to the local authority.  In the context of a national emergency, these are all areas which should be explored and implemented.