This may be the final sitting day before the summer recess but we will be back in September. The Minister of State should imagine getting a letter last week saying that it was his last day on the council housing list and that, after ten years, he was being removed for being a few hundred euro over the limit. That is happening and it is an absolute scandal. I will give an example. The following was stated in a letter received by one of my constituents this week, "Having assessed your income details provided I regret to inform you that you are no longer eligible to be considered for social housing support by Fingal County Council as your income exceeds the limits set out in the council's allocation scheme for social housing support." This woman has been on the housing list for 12 years. The family has six children. My calculation is that they are €1,662 over the income limit for a family of that size, which is €40,250. Of their income, which is assessed to be over the limit, €3,300 is a family income supplement, FIS, payment which recognises that this family does not have enough money to live on yet the State is also saying that it is no longer eligible to be considered for social housing. That is just mad. How could that be? I know the Minister of State would not want to stand over this kind of policy yet he must fix it.
As it stands, the income threshold level for which an applicant may qualify for social housing in Fingal is set at €35,000 per annum, for a single person. Beyond this, depending on family sizes, the threshold varies. For an average family of two adults and two children, however, the level sits at €38,500 per annum. In cases where a household contains three adults and four children, the threshold stands at its highest, €42,000. These limits were established in 2011 and have not been reviewed by the Government since, or at least they have not changed . The income threshold as it stands is simply too low and has led to more problems being created than solved.
Many families in Fingal who have been on the housing list for in excess of seven years now find themselves being removed from that same list, due to being a couple of hundred euro over the existing threshold. This is simply an unacceptable situation which is causing great distress for families who have been patiently waiting to be offered housing for many years. They are waiting to get an offer and they are being taken off the list.
A situation whereby a person may have to refuse a promotion in order to ensure that they do not rise slightly above the threshold is in complete contrast to the kind of employment innovation that the Government should be promoting, which I know the Minister of State is seriously interested in facilitating. My Labour Party colleague, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, recently urged the Minister of State to highlight the Government's proposals regarding the existing thresholds. The Minister of State said that the Government intended to conduct a review of the thresholds which should have been made available by mid-2018 yet no such review has been published.
There appears to be no sense of urgency regarding this matter, despite the fact that many families have reached a point of utter desperation and fear becoming homeless. The Government continues to delay reviewing the existing thresholds, meanwhile housing prices rose by 12% in the past year. This has led to a situation whereby households may be slightly over the existing thresholds but are nowhere near the income levels required to actually purchase homes. This situation has reached crisis point. The Government's lack of urgency and the total absence of a strategy is simply unacceptable. Ultimately, a complete review of and subsequent increase in the income limits for qualification for social housing is urgently required. As matters stand, the limits are simply too low and have resulted in families being removed from housing lists. The level of distress this causes is shocking and none of us wants it to happen. We know intuitively that this is wrong and that it must be changed.
We simply cannot have situations where low income earners are refusing promotions in order to ensure that they remain on the housing list. Increasing house prices have made it impossible for many families to purchase homes, meanwhile there is no real affordable housing scheme in place. This situation is simply unsustainable and a complete review - alongside an increase in the income limits - must be carried out immediately.