Housing Associations provide for a significant amount of social housing needs. They date back to the 19th Century, preceding local authority housing provision. Most Housing Associations provide a relatively limited number of housing units, particularly for older persons. There may be a significant voluntary input. In some cases, additional social services and activities accompany the provision of housing services.
A 1991 Report on social housing urged a greater role for the voluntary and cooperative housing sector. A 1995 social housing Way Ahead Report restated support for voluntary and cooperative housing associations in housing provision.
There are over 730 approved voluntary and cooperative Housing Associations providing 22,000 units. This has grown rapidly in the last 25 years through financial assistance from the Department of the Environment under the Capital Assistance Scheme, the Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme and other funding schemes. A significant number of units acquired under the Planning and Development Act 2000 were transferred to Housing Associations.
The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 provides for financial assistance by housing authorities to Housing Associations and Cooperatives for the erection, purchase, improvement, conversion or management of housing accommodation. Loans, periodic contributions, guarantees, grants, subsidies or other contributions may be made.
The Minister has power to approve bodies with or without conditions. Approvals may be amended or withdrawn by the Minister. There are procedures for application and approval. Housing bodies may not engage in other commercial of activities which may affect their solvency. If a body fails to comply or ceases to comply with the Department’s funding schemes, their approval may be withdrawn.
The 2019 Act amends the process for the statutory approval of AHBs. Housing authorities may only assist an AHB if it is registered under the Act An AHB whose registration has been cancelled and who was receiving assistance from a housing authority under section 6 of the Act of 1992 and is complying with the terms and conditions of the contract may continue to receive existing assistance, subject to terms and conditions of contract and the provisions of the Act will continue to apply to the AHB as if they were registered.
Housing Associations are usually companies limited by guarantee without a shareholding. They may be incorporated under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts. Some housing bodies are subsidiaries of State bodies including the HSE.
The Housing Association must have as its principal objective, r the relief of housing needs, poverty or hardship or the welfare of travellers and the provision of housing and management of housing. There must be a prohibition on the distribution of any surplus profits, dividends or other funds. All funds must be applied towards its object. Any change in the constitution of the body must be notified to the Department of the Environment.
Every Housing Association must have properly functioning governance. There are requirements regarding their governance. There must be at least five persons resident in the State on the governing body or board of directors. A member may not have a material interest in relation to any income or benefit or commercial contract or other arrangement for construction of houses, supply of goods or otherwise with the body
Bodies may provide housing accommodation for limited categories or groups, including for example elderly persons, travellers, persons with disabilities and homeless persons.
Associations and bodies must have adequate financial accounting and controls and procedures to ensure capital and income expenditures is monitored. Audited accounts must be furnished to the Departments on request or to any housing authority holding a mortgage or charge in respect of an approved bodies dwellings or issuing any subsidy allowance or grants.
The Department of the Environment makes housing schemes setting terms and conditions including in particular eligibility of persons for accommodation.
The housing legislation allows for subsidies towards rent and housing developed under the Capital Loan and Subsidy Schemes in accordance with regulations made by the Department. They may provide:
- the amount of the subsidy and the manner of determination
- the proportion which may be recouped by the Minister
- the class of houses in respect of which the subsidy is paid.
- class of houses for which the subsidy may be paid.
- requirements of financial or family circumstances of persons occupying the house,
- requirements of occupation and maintenance.
- requirements as to floor areas.
- requirements of standards of construction works and repair and availability of services.
- manner and time in which application is made.
- manner of payment of subsidy.
Capital funding is available for approved housing bodies. 2002 Regulations and Memorandum 2/02 set out the funding conditions. They were revised in 2008.
Technical guidance in relation to standards, accommodation, floor area etc are provided by the Department of Environment. Housing Associations and bodies must comply with the Rent Books Regulations and the Housing Standards Regulations. There must be procedures to ensure that management and maintenance is adequately dealt with, including safety and standards issues affecting apartment blocks and common areas.
Applications for funding are appraised by the Department. The housing authority is consulted. Proper procurement standards, construction procedures, and documentation are required.
A mortgage may be put in place between local body and housing authority to cover the repayable elements or provisions of the loan which may arise if there is a breach of condition. The Housing Authority may agree to defer its mortgage to additional borrowed money which may take priority, over sums secured to the Authority.
The Capital Funding Scheme is administered through the local authorities. The body is required to enter an agreement creating a charge on the dwelling in respect of loans advanced under the capital funding schemes.
The Capital Assistance Scheme provides 30 years mortgages to approved housing bodies by local authorities. The monies are from grants allocated centrally from the Department of Environment. There is a waiver of loan payments and interest, subject to the continued to use of the dwelling funded for the accommodation of eligible persons.
The rents payable are related to the management and maintenance costs and the income circumstances of the tenants. The tenants may qualify for rent allowance or subsidisation of rent under the scheme.
The body allocates tenancies in accordance with the requirements of the schemes. It is responsible for ongoing fixing and collecting of rent. It must undertake minimum standards of good housing management and maintenance.
A loan to an approved body may be made if it has housing authority is satisfied that the accommodation is being provided to meet housing needs in the area and at least 75 percent of the units being provided will be used as the main place of residence for
- persons in need of accommodation in the local authority’s most recent assessment.
- homeless persons.
- tenants or tenant purchasers of property with vacant possession who are surrendering a house back to the housing authority without compensation.
- elderly emigrants returning to reside up to 25 percent.
The Capital loan and Rental Subsidy Scheme allows for up to a 100 percent loan of the cost of providing housing to an approved body for letting to households. 75 percent at least must be qualified for local authority housing. The scheme requires that a subsidy be paid towards the full amount of loan repayments and interest incurred by the housing authority. They are credited directly by the housing authority to the approved body’s account subject to continued compliance by the housing body with the terms of the scheme.
The National Association of Building Cooperatives is a company established by cooperatives in 1973 to represent the interest of the cooperative housing movement in Ireland. It provides education, training and advisory and other support services to assist and expand cooperative housing.
Housing cooperatives offer subsidised rents for members prepared to share responsibility for upkeep and care of the housing estates and apartment blocks within the cooperative scheme.