The right of local authorities to set and collect rents on their dwellings is laid down in section 58 of the Housing Act 1966. The making or amending of such schemes is an executive function and is subject to broad principles set out by my Department, including that rent levels should be based on income and reflect tenants’ ability to pay.
Each local authority has its own separate differential rent scheme or schemes in operation. As rent is calculated using each local authority’s own formula, the schemes do vary in a number of ways from each other. This is particularly the case when it comes to what may or may not be considered as reckonable/ assessable income for rent purposes. Each local authority lists sources of income which they consider assessable for rent purposes and these can and do differ across the country at present.
Section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, provides for the introduction of a national rents framework for social housing tenants. Considerable work has been carried out by my Department in developing a draft of such a framework, which has as its main aim the harmonisation of local authority rents whilst retaining the general principle of rents related to household income.
In line with the commitment given in Rebuilding Ireland, a review of the disparate systems of differential rent for social housing in place across local authorities has been carried out. The overall objective is to ensure that housing supports are fair and sustainable and prioritise those on lowest incomes. The issue of what constitutes income for rent purposes is being examined as part of this review.
I intend to bring a comprehensive package of social housing reform measures to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the review will be progressed as part of this package. I expect to be in a position to publish the completed review, as part of this broader process.