Local authorities are designated housing authorities by the Housing Acts. The principal function of a Housing Authority is to provide housing for persons who cannot do so from their own means or due to a disability. They also have functions in terms of improving, increasing and maintaining housing standards of the housing stock.
Housing authorities have powers to provide houses directly. They may provide loans to others to construct or purchase their own house. They may give grants or loans for the reconstruction of existing houses. Housing authorities have power to provide housing for homeless persons. The legislation required the housing authorities to prepare building programme and allocate housing in accordance with a scheme of priorities
The housing authorities formerly constructed houses on a large-scale. The policy of providing local authority estates has largely changed and most local authority houses have been long since sold to their original tenants. Modern housing policy emphasises the provision of housing by different measures and in a way which avoids segregation of local authority and privately owned houses.
Housing authorities have a duty to provide accommodation for persons who cannot do so from their means. This includes people who are living in a hostel , shelter or other institution due to lack of accommodation.
Part II of the 2009 Act sets out the types of activities which a housing authority may provide. They include
- housing supports, including affordable and social housing support,
- providing financial and other assistance to formerly homeless households and tenants.
- management and maintenance, refurbishment of dwellings owned by the authority,
- remedial or regeneration works.
The support may be granted in a number of ways including
- social housing support,
- affordable housing,
- shared ownership arrangements,
- sale of dwelling,
- homeless person services,
- the provision of sites.
Housing authorities may provide ancillary service in providing housing services. This includes the provision of roads, shops, facilities for community benefit, including health and leisure facilities, playgrounds, recreational places, allotments, open spaces, parks, sites of worship, factories, schools, offices and other buildings which in the opinion of the housing authority serve a beneficial purpose in connection with the requirements of households. These may be provided directly or under public/private partnership arrangements.
The Housing Act entitles housing authorities to serve notices on occupiers of land or any person receiving rent in relation to land, requiring particulars of the interest of which he occupies or receives rent or the name, address of any person, who to his knowledge has any estate or interest in the land.
Local authorities are obliged to produce a Housing Strategy in relation to housing needs. The Housing Strategy is to estimate the number of persons on the housing waiting list under requirements for affordable housing in the area concerned.
The Housing Strategy must provide that as a general policy that less than 20% of the lands zoned for residential use is reserved for social and affordable housing. Eligibility is based on income, financial circumstances and responsibilities. When affordable houses are resold within 20 years there is a clawback of the subsidy element.
The Housing authority may acquire land for the purpose of housing by compulsory acquisition. This must be confirmed by the Minister, who must be satisfied that the authority will have a reasonable expectation that the land is required.
Housing authorities may provide sites for building purposes. They may lay out roads and services for the sites and carry out such incidental development works as are necessary for the development of houses and ancillary facilities such as commercial and leisure-type development as above.
The Department may pay amounts to the housing authority for the purpose of the provision of sites through an approved body for the construction of dwellings for letting to the persons who qualify for social housing or for the purpose of sale to qualified purchasers. Qualified purchasers are persons assessed in need of social housing, housing authority tenants, approved bodies or certain other housing providers. If houses are resold in 20 years, there is a partial claw back of the amounts provided.
The housing authority may provide and facilitate or manage social housing support. This may include
- provision of dwellings by approved bodies,
- sale of dwellings,
- entering arrangements to make rental accommodation available,
- provision of caravan sites,
- provision of sites for construction.
The authority may provide temporary or permanent social housing support. It may build, lease, acquire sites, convert buildings or refurbish them. The housing authority is to have regard to the housing services plan and the need to counteract undue segregation in housing between persons of different social backgrounds. It is to ensure a mixture of dwelling types and sizes of classes of tenure, and that it is reasonably matched to the requirements of households.
Social housing support may be provided through entering and attending rental accommodation availability agreements. These are long-term leases used to allocate housing to those whom in the past would instead have become local authority tenants. The housing authority may enter public/private partnership arrangements for the performance of its functions in relation to social housing support.
The housing authority may require information from the applicant, including details of household members, ages, occupations, condition of health, income, means of transport, details of current housing arrangements, tenure, etc. It is an offence to provide false information.
The housing authority may control and manage houses vested in it. It may also agree to carry out the management and control of a house of which it is not owner, if the house is provided under a contract or lease between the authority and the owner of the dwelling house under the rental accommodation scheme.
The housing authorities may
- allocate dwellings to eligible household,
- may sell dwellings or
- may let them on terms as they determine.
The provisions in the 2009 Housing Act may be incorporated in tenancy agreements which the authority enters. The legislation also provides for terms and conditions of rental accommodation agreements. If the authority enters agreements with an owner, the terms of the tenancy with the tenant should reflect the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement with the owner.
The housing authority may delegate its management functions including powers to maintain, repair, refurbish, enforce et cetera to designated bodies. These include other councils and housing associations. They may be established jointly between residents and the council and declared to be designated bodies for this purpose.
The constitution of designated bodies may be set by ministerial regulation. The delegation may be revoked. Delegation or revocation is reserved to the elected members. Delegation may relate to management, rent collection and maintenance of common areas.
Housing authorities may determine the rent and charges for lettings made. They may charge for rent, service charges and insurance. Statutory formulae may apply.
The scheme determining rental conditions may be reviewed and modified. The making of the scheme is reserved to the elected members. Decisions on rent and other charges on an ongoing basis are an executive matter. Copies of the scheme must be made available to members of the public without charge at the local authority’s offices and on the internet.
The housing authority may require information from applicants for housing support or who have obtained housing support. It may seek details of the composition of the household in terms of age, sex, occupation, income, benefits and allowances of household members. It may seek details of the household’s current housing arrangements, rents payable, landlord’s details and details of any previous housing provided by the housing authority.
The request for information is made in writing and there is a specified period during which a response must be made. The giving of false misleading information is an offence, subject on summary prosecution to a fine of up to €3,000.
Monies owed to the housing authority are subject to an interest rate set from time to time. Housing authority may enter arrangements for payment of arrears by instalments.
Housing authorities must make and publish a strategy in relation to antisocial behaviour. It is adopted by the elected members. The strategy is to be reviewed periodically. Certain parties are to be consulted including the Garda Siochana, the Health Services Executive and other appropriate parties.
The purpose is to prevent and reduce instance of antisocial behaviour, promote good estate management, to coordinate services aimed at dealing with antisocial behaviour and to promote cooperation with agencies including an Garda Siochana in order to take a coordinated approach to antisocial behaviour. It may provide for procedures and initiatives for dealing with antisocial behaviour and its reduction.