Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has announced an increase in the Housing Assistance Payment discretion rate of up to 35% from next month.

This means that local authorities can now pay up to 35% more than the current set HAP rates - which differs between local authorities.

Speaking at this morning's FEANSTA conference, he also said he would be expanding the couple's rate to single people.

This will apply to new HAP tenancies from next month.

The minister said this would secure and expand more tenancies and prevent new entries to homelessness.

Minister O'Brien said he has been consistent in saying Ireland needs to decrease its reliance on market subsidies but that it will only do that through significantly scaling up the social housing supply.

He also confirmed that local authorities can now purchase homes where tenants in receipt of HAP are living and whose landlords are selling the property.

These people would otherwise be at risk of homelessness, Minister O'Brien added.

There are currently over 60,000 people across the country in receipt of HAP.

The Simon Communities of Ireland said the increase in the discretionary HAP rates was a recognition that the HAP rates are not where they need to be.

Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communications, said any increase in discretion was welcome.

However, he said the minister had not mentioned the homeless HAP rates and said people who were in an emergency situation are in need of market rates.

Homeless HAP is a particular payment a local authority can give to someone who is at imminent risk of homelessness to buy themselves into the private rental market.

Sinn Féin's Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin described the changes to the homeless HAP rates for outside of Dublin as 'disappointing’.

He said: "While the decision to raise the base rate for single people is welcome, the decision to raise the homeless HAP uplift rate outside of Dublin to 35% is disappointing.

"People in emergency accommodation and at risk of homelessness in Dublin can avail of a 50% uplift. There is no reason why people outside of Dublin should not receive the same level of support. The Homeless HAP uplift rate should be 50% state wide.

"What was missing from the Minister's statement today was a more fundamental change to reverse the growing over-reliance on rental supports such as HAP, RAS and Rent Supplement."

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the increases announced today do not go far enough.

He said it would not bridge the gap between the HAP limit and unaffordable rent levels.

He said: "It will achieve next to nothing with stemming the flow into homelessness and addressing the completely unaffordable level of rents in most of Dublin."