Assessment for social housing is within the remit of the local authority involved and I have no role in relation to individual cases. In order to qualify for social housing support and be placed on a housing list, an applicant must be assessed by the authority concerned as meeting all of the eligibility and need criteria set down in the legislation. Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations.
The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy. The 2011 Regulations do not provide local authorities with any discretion to exceed the limits that apply to their administrative areas.
The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.
As part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports is underway. The Housing Agency is carrying out the detailed statistical work which will underpin this review on behalf of my Department. The review will obviously have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.
In terms of my role regarding housing policy, and recognising that there are people who do not qualify for social housing but find it very challenging to purchase or rent at market rates, the Government has brought in new measures specifically targeted at delivering more affordable homes.
Affordable housing is generally targeted at households earning a maximum gross income of €50,000 (single applicant) or €75,000 (joint applicant). Affordable homes to buy will be delivered under a new statutory Scheme; the relevant provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 were commenced last year and I recently signed regulations in respect of the making of a Scheme of Priority, which local authorities must do before 18 June 2019. Further regulations and detailed guidance will issue to local authorities in due course.
This new Scheme replaces all previous affordable purchase schemes; is led by housing authorities; is a shared equity scheme with a fully repayable equity share/discount; and the equity repayments will be pooled into a strategic affordable housing fund managed by the Housing Funding Agency (HFA).
The Scheme is complementary to other Government schemes which help first-time buyers to buy a home, such as the Help to Buy Scheme and the new Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was introduced from 1 February 2018, following a review of the two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan. The new loan enables credit worthy first time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise be able to afford at a higher interest rate.
Single applicants for the loan may earn up to €50,000 gross per annum, while the combined income of joint applicants may be up to €75,000 per annum. These income limits are unchanged from the previous local authority loan offerings. The maximum dual-income threshold also applies to the new Affordable Purchase Scheme which will enable a maximum purchase price of c. €320,000, which is in line with the purchase limits set out under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.
Full details of the loan’s eligibility criteria and other information are available from the dedicated Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan website: http://rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie/. Subject to certain conditions, any person who meets the eligibility criteria may apply for a loan regardless of whether or not they are on the local authority housing list or qualified for social housing support.
Given the affordability challenge faced by renters, the Government is committed to the introduction of a not-for-profit, cost rental sector in Ireland. The experience gained from initial cost rental projects in Enniskerry and Inchicore is informing the national approach to cost rental delivery at scale. My Department is engaged with the Housing Agency, the National Development Finance Agency, the European Investment Bank and the Land Development Agency to develop the optimum funding, delivery and administrative frameworks.