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. 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.
Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area are set out in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA).
The most recently conducted SSHA details the number of households on all local authority waiting lists as at 24 June 2019 (the count date). Since the count date, the Housing Agency has been examining the figures submitted by Local Authorities. The Agency recently submitted its report to me which provides information on the characteristics of the households on the list. The full report is available on my Department’s website.
The final numbers provided by the Housing Agency regarding the 2019 assessment show that 68,693 households were assessed as qualified and being in need of social housing support. This represents a decrease of 3,165 households or 4.4% on the last assessment in June 2018. Indeed, since the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan was launched in 2016, the numbers have decreased from 91,600 to 68,693, a reduction of 25%.
It is important to note that social housing is a demand led service and for that reason it is difficult to predict the degree to which housing lists will decrease or increase over the next 12 months. The number of units delivered by local authorities in a given time period does not necessarily equate to the ‘net need’ for social housing support reducing by an equivalent number. The nature of the list is dynamic. As new households are added to it, others are removed as their housing needs are met or where the households themselves indicate that they no longer require State support.
The undertaking of the SSHA assists in providing a more strategic picture of the dynamics of the numbers applying for social housing supports and emerging trends. The purpose of the SSHA is to capture the total number of households qualified for social housing support across the country whose social housing need is not being met, in order to better understand the level of need for such support. The data garnered through the Summary will allow my Department to target the delivery of social housing supports under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness to those most in need.
While it is difficult to predict social housing need, it is important that Housing Authorities are aware in general terms of the potential demand when they are preparing their Housing Strategies as part of their Development Plan process. To this end, National Policy Objective 37 of the National Planning Framework (NPF) requires that local authorities in the future will undertake a "Housing Need and Demand Assessment" (HNDA) for each local authority area. This will be important in estimating likely future housing need across tenures.
Work on the development of the HNDA process has commenced in my Department and an expert advisory group is preparing guidance for local authorities to assist them in conducting a HNDA. This new evidence-based approach will form the basis of a more accurate and consistent projection of demand for different tenures of housing. The HNDA methodology, which it is hoped will be available in early 2020, will comprise guidance and an assessment tool, that will inform local authority HNDA preparation.