Local authorities are the principal providers of social housing. They are housing authorities under the housing legislation. Local authority housing is allocated in accordance with eligibility. Local authority rents are based on income. In addition, housing associations and housing cooperative provide social housing for letting.
There are now national social housing regulations 2011 which prescribe the mechanism for dealing with social housing assessments by all housing authorities. An application must be made to a single authority only. Generally, the applicant must reside in that authority area or have a connection with it. The local authority may waive this requirement.
An applicant would be eligible only if his income is below the threshold in that area.
The unsustainability of an applicant’s current mortgage may be considered relevant. In order to qualify, the applicant must be eligible for social housing and in need of social housing.
The housing authority assesses eligibility. It will assess social housing need after assessment of eligibility. In the case of foreign nationals, they must have the right to stay in the State on a long-term basis. The matter is governed by a circular.
Applicants must be within a certain income limit. They are published by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. There a number of different thresholds in different local authority areas. Departmental guidelines determine the assessment of income.
A person may be deemed to have alternative accommodation if a member of a household has property in which he could reasonably be expected to be lived in. This includes rented out property.
A property is not regarded as alternative accommodation if it is
- occupied by a person from whom a person is divorced or legally separated.
- over-crowded, unfit for human habitation or does not adequately meet the accommodation requirements of a member of the household who has disability.
In assessing need, the housing authority considers the current position. It considers whether the housing is fit for habitation, over-crowded, is it fit for emergency institutional nature whether it is shared or whether the requirement for separate accommodation is reasonable. It will consider whether the housing is unsuitable in any other material respect having regard to circumstances, including medical, personal and compassionate grounds.
If a household’s mortgage has been classified as unsustainable under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process, then this may be deemed need for the purpose of the assessment of social housing needs.
The applicant may specify up to three areas in which he would choose to live. At least one of them must be in an area of the housing authority and the others may be in that functional area or within the same county. If the person does not have a connection with the housing authority’s functional area but is accepted, he may pick areas of choice within that functional area.
A person who is accepted as eligible for social housing and in need of housing is placed on a waiting list. This is the record of qualified households. The housing authority will notify other housing authorities whose functional area the applicant has specified as an area of choice.
Housing authorities draw their own rules for deciding priority. This is the scheme of priorities letting. commonly referred to as a point system. It is published by the authority. It ranks households on the list in accordance with circumstances.
Applicants are entitled to request local authority for their status on the list. Their status on the list may change in accordance with circumstances of other persons and the applicants themselves. Most list prioritize families and older persons.
As residential accommodation becomes available, they are allotted in order of priority taking account of the circumstances of the accommodation and the applicant.
Local authority housing is let unfurnished.
When the local authority is offering accommodation, it will assess eligibility and needs. It will reaffirm whether the application is valid and consider the connection with the area of choice. An applicant who is offered a house in an area he does not want may refuse it. However, if the local authority deems to refuse unreasonable it may reduce his priority on the list.
If a member was previously on the list, he will not be allocated housing if he has damaged local authority housing without repairing or paying for repairs, breached terms of agreement or built up more than 12 weeks’ arrears without a payment or arranging for payments. Exceptionally local authorities may consider providing social supports to persons in these circumstances.
Persons who are on the housing list may be eligible for other assisted purchase and subsidized housing including
- shared ownership,
- low cost housing site,
- affordable housing scheme,
- local authority mortgage,
- housing association home.
Rents are based on income. The income of householders is considered. Deductions are allowed for the number of persons in the household. Each local authority has its own scheme. It has a maximum and minimum rent which may change. There is an obligation to disclose changes in household income. If there is a case of hardship, the local authority may reduce the rent.
It is possible to inherit a local authority house from a tenant who has died. It is usually required that the tenant who is taking over the tenancy has resided and is related. There may be requirements for a minimum number of years’ residence. Each local authority has its own rules.
Local authorities allow for transfers between local authority rented houses. They establish a transfer list. A person may register on the transfer list if he has lived in the house for a minimum period of years, does not have rent arrears and it is in good condition.
Persons may arrange for a private transfer by finding someone else who wishes to swap. This must not result in any overcrowding. It is possible to arrange a private transfer in exchange with a person in any different authority. It may be possible in some circumstances to swap with an authority in the United Kingdom.
A person who is receiving rent supplement for a period of 18 months may apply where eligible under the rental accommodation scheme. The property must meet minimum standards of residential accommodation.
The local authority will enter a contractual arrangement with the accommodation provider to make the housing available under the scheme for an agreed term. This is negotiable. It may apply to any property new or old.
Local authorities draw up contracts with landlords to provide scheme lettings for persons with long-term housing needs. The local authority will pay rent directly to the landlord. They may require a contribution to the rent which will be paid to the local authority.
The local authorities will seek a reduction in rent in return for landlord not having to collect rents fill vacancies, for the strength of covenant and guaranteed payments. No deposits are paid under the scheme. Where damage is caused above normal wear and tear, the housing authority is e usually prepared to guarantee the equivalent of up to one month’s rent towards repair.
Landlords with eligible rent allowance tenants may be approached by the local authority or may seek to participate in the scheme themselves. The scheme involves relationships between the local authority and the landlord, the landlord and tenant and the tenant and local authority. The local authority will enter a contractual arrangement with the accommodation provider to make the housing available under the scheme for an agreed term. This is negotiable. It may apply to any property new or old.
The local authority nominates the proposed tenant who signs a residential tenancy agreement with the landlord. This may be an existing tenant who was receiving rent supplement.
There are model agreements under the scheme which may be subject to some variation.
The contracts maybe case by case for a particular property. There may be long-term arrangements which may be linked with Planning and Development Act Part V arrangements between developers and the local authority.
There may be more open arrangements between landlords and authorities where local authorities have a right to nominate certain persons for occupation where landlords have a number of units available.
Local authorities will agree to transfer jointly tenancies to single tenancies if there is evidence that the relationship is broken down. If one partner only is living in the house, then they may consider the terms of the letting.
The incremental purchase scheme is the subject of 2010 regulations. It permits persons who qualify for social housing to buy designated houses from the local authority at a discount.
The Household Means Policy issued under the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 provide for the income that is assessable in relation to housing needs. The assessment is made on the basis of net income. This includes income from
- overtime payments, commissions, bonuses, including regular overtime,
- maintenance payments received,
- property income,
- capital investments income,
The following are disregarded,
- child benefit,
- exceptional needs payments
- educational grounds,
- foster care payments,
- fuel allowance,
- mobility allowance,
- living alone allowance
- rent or mortgage interest supplements
- FAS scheme payments