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More than 1 in 4 HAP Tenancies not sustainable while real Social Housing need up 33%

In March 2021, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage published the 2020 Social Housing Construction Statistics Report. Page 4 of this Report makes for interesting reading in that it sets out the 'Rebuilding Ireland Total Cumulative Social Housing Delivery'. Unsurprisingly, HAP accounts for the vast majority of the 124,749 solutions delivered between 2016 and 2020 (65 per cent). However, these figures are not just misleading, they're downright wrong, with more than one in four of these HAP tenancies either failing or double-counted due to renewal.

The 'Total Cumulative' figure, set out in the Report refererenced above, is achieved by counting the total HAP tenancies started as at Q4 of each year from 2016 to 2020. This doesn't take account of the exits from HAP or any double-counting where HAP tenancies have been renewed. Another report, also published by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, 'HAP Exchequer Spend Landlord Payments 2019 – 2020', shows that, as at Q4 2020, there were in fact 59,821 active HAP tenancies -  21,006 less than the 80,827 'Total Cumulative' reported. This equates to a drop of 26 per cent.

So if HAP is not delivering a real social housing solution, what is it doing? Well, it's a useful tool to artificially lower the number of households on the social housing waiting list. In 2016, the official number of households on the social housing waiting lists was 91,600, by 2020 this figure was 61,880 a decrease of almost 30,000 households. The HAP Quarterly Statistics for Q4 of each year from 2016 to 2020 shows that, during this time, a total of 14,665 households were transferred from Rent Supplement to HAP. Households in receipt of Rent Supplement are counted as part of the Social Housing Waiting Lists for each Local Authority. Households in receipt of HAP are not. This means that almost half of the decrease from 2016 to 2020 was nothing more than administrative. All that changed for these households was the name of the payment and the fact that they didn't receive it directly anymore, their landlord did. 

Taking the 59,821 active HAP tenancies as at Q4 2020 and the 61,880 households on the social housing waiting list as at 2nd November 2020, gives a total of 121,701 households. An increase of 30,101 households since 2016 (33 per cent).

If Government is to address policy failures on housing, it must do so on the basis of real data. Rebuilding Ireland has failed and a new housing strategy is due to be delivered. As part of this new strategy, Social Justice Ireland urges Government to commit to the following:

  • increasing social housing to 20 per cent of the total housing stock by 2030.
  • prohibiting the sale of any State land capable of being used for residential development.
  • ensuring properties owned by Approved Housing Bodies remain as social housing on the expiry of their financing term.