I propose to take Questions Nos. 349 and 350 together.
It is open to anyone to apply for social housing support, applications for which 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.
Section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 requires all local authorities, as a reserved function, to make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer, the allocation of which would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the households.
It is the local authority which assesses housing applicants, taking into account factors such as the condition and affordability of existing accommodation, medical and compassionate grounds, etc. The authority then prioritises the needs of approved applicants in accordance with its allocation scheme.
The Programme for Government commits to putting affordability at the heart of the housing system. To this end programmes are in development which will be specifically aimed at supporting middle income earners. The Affordable Housing Bill 2020 which I published in January provides for new affordable purchase and Cost Rental Schemes and it is intended to see the first homes delivered under the schemes in 2021. The schemes will complement other existing initiatives such as the Rebuilding Ireland Home loan and Help to Buy Scheme.