Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Questions (505)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

505. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the income limits that are used to determine if an applicant is eligible for HAP; the discretion allowed regarding previously owned homes or existing co-owned properties that the applicant can no longer inhabit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22840/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In order to be eligible for HAP support, a household must first qualify for social housing support and be placed on a housing list. 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 2011, as amended.

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 current income limits are available on my Department's website at

https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/other/social-housing-support-table-income-limits

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.

Under the Household Means Policy, which applies to all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, and the universal social charge. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards. Local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once off in nature.

In relation to previously owned homes or existing co-owned properties, under Section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and Regulation 22(1) of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, a household shall be ineligible for social housing support if it has alternative accommodation that the household could reasonably be expected to use to meet its housing need, either by occupying it or by selling the accommodation and using the proceeds to secure suitable accommodation suitable for the household’s adequate housing. However, Regulation 22(2) of the 2011 Regulations provides that this ineligibility does not apply where an applicant for social housing support owns accommodation that is occupied by his or her spouse, from whom he or she is formally separated or divorced. Under the enactment, a deed of separation is sufficient to set aside this ineligibility ground and it is not necessary to await judicial separation or divorce to get a decision on social housing support in these cases. The rationale for this exception is that the terms of a formal separation or divorce will provide for the future ownership and occupation of the family home and it will be clear whether the household that has left the family home can return to live there.

In order to provide more flexibility to local authorities to deal with cases where the ownership of the family home had not yet been finalised, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 amended section 20 of the 2009 Act and Local authorities may now provide such households with social housing support under the Rental Accommodation Scheme or the Housing Assistance Payment scheme until ownership of the family home is resolved in a formal separation or divorce settlement.

The 2014 Act amendment provides that support in these circumstances will be reviewed by the local authority at prescribed intervals and the household will not be able to transfer to other forms of social housing support while ownership of the family home remains to be determined. However, where the household ultimately qualifies for the full range of social housing supports, the length of time the household was supported under RAS or HAP will be reckonable for the purposes of determining the household’s relative priority for a transfer.