Local authorities look set to assume further responsibility in the realm of housing support if Government plans for reform of the rent supplement system proceed.
On Friday the 19th July it was announced that local authorities will take over some of the work of the Department of Social Protection, specifically in relation to rent supplement provision.
If proposals which are due to come before the Oireachtas shortly are implemented, the rent supplement will be replaced by the “Housing Assistance Payment”, which is intended to allow those who are employed to continue receiving some form of rent support. Under the present scheme, rent supplement is discontinued once a tenant is employed for 30 hours a week. The new system would instead permit the receipt of assistance at a reduced level.
The impetus for this change stems from ongoing concerns that the current rent supplement scheme acts as a poverty trap, with people intentionally shirking employment for fear of losing their assistance. This has led to the rent supplement, which was always intended to provide temporary assistance to those eligible, becoming a long-term housing support service. Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, welcomed the prospect of the Housing Assistance Payment, saying that “it will remove one of the primary disincentives for people in receipt of rent supplements to return to work”.
It is thought that transferring the administration of rent assistance to local authorities will lead to a more streamlined system. Local authorities will make the payments directly to the landlords and it is hoped that the authorities’ involvement will also improve the calibre of housing on offer. Housing organisation Threshold has welcomed this initiative, with director Bob Jordan stating that the policy of payment directly to the landlord “gives tenants more security and choice, while also providing greater peace of mind for landlords”.
Trial runs of the Housing Assistance Payment will be conducted early next year, with a project implementation group currently assessing what the initial parameters of the test phase should be. It is hoped that detailed legislative provisions will be brought before the Dáil this autumn.
For further reading, see: < http://www.merrionstreet.ie/index.php/2013/07/government-gives-green-light-to-new-housing-assistance-payment/?cat=102>
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