Applying for local authority/social housing
Local authorities (or housing authorities) are the main providers of social housing for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes. Local authority housing is allocated according to eligibility and need. Rents are based on the household’s ability to pay.
Housing associations and housing co-operatives also provide social housing for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes. These organisations are often called approved housing bodies.
Several sets of Social Housing Assessment Regulations prescribe how housing authorities should handle social housing applications.
Important elements of these Regulations include that:
- You can only apply to one housing authority
- In general, you must already be living in the area covered by that housing authority or have a local connection with the area – though a housing authority may agree to waive this requirement
- You will only be considered for social housing if your household income is less than the threshold that applies in the housing authority’s area
- If your current mortgage is unsustainable, this will be taken into consideration in assessing your household’s need for social housing - see 'Need' below
In order to qualify, you must be eligible for social housing and you must be in need of social housing.
- The housing authority will assess your eligibility first
- It will only assess whether you need social housing after it has deemed you to be eligible
Foreign nationals: you must have a legal right to remain in the State on a long-term basis. Detailed rules are contained in Circular Housing 41/2012 (pdf).
To be regarded as eligible for social housing you must satisfy the income criteria.
You must also show that you do not have suitable alternative accommodation.
The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government has published detailed guidance (pdf) on how household income is to be assessed by local authorities. There are 3 maximum income thresholds that apply to different housing authorities. The Department has published a table showing these maximum net income limits (pdf).
You will be regarded as having alternative accommodation if a member of the household has property that the household could reasonably be expected to live in. This includes property that is being rented out – under the Residential Tenancies legislation you can terminate the tenancy if the household needs the property to live in.
A property will not be regarded as alternative accommodation if it:
- Is occupied by someone who is divorced or separated* from a member of the household, or whose civil partnership with a household member has been dissolved
- Would be overcrowded if the household lived in it
- Is unfit for human habitation
- Would not adequately meet the accommodation requirements of a household member with a disability
When deciding whether your household is in need of social housing, the housing authority must consider the following questions:
- Is your current accommodation an institution, emergency accommodation or hostel?
- Are you homeless within the meaning of section 2 of the Housing Act 1988?
- Is your current accommodation overcrowded?
- Is it fit for human habitation?
- Does it meet the accommodation requirements of a household member with a disability?
- Is it unsuitable for your household’s adequate housing on exceptional medical or compassionate grounds?
- If it is shared with another household, have you a reasonable requirement for separate accommodation?
- Has your household’s current mortgage been classified as unsustainable as part of the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) laid down by the Central Bank?
- Is your household dependent on Rent Supplement to meet its housing need?
- Is your current accommodation unsuitable for your household’s adequate housing in any other material respect, having regard to particular household circumstances?
The most recent updates to these questions were made by the Social Housing Assessment (Amendment) Regulations 2016, which, among other changes, added the questions on homelessness and Rent Supplement.
Areas of choice
You can specify up to 3 areas where you would choose to live. At least one of them must be in the area administered by the housing authority that you apply to (its functional area) and the others must be either in that functional area or within the same county. If you do not live in or have a connection with the housing authority’s own functional area, but the authority has agreed to accept an application from you, you can only pick areas of choice within that particular authority’s functional area.
After your application is accepted
If you are accepted by the housing authority as being eligible for and in need of housing, you are then placed on its housing list or record of qualified households, and it will also notify any other housing authority in whose functional area you have specified an area of choice.
If you are in private rented accommodation while you are on the housing list, you may be eligible for Rent Supplement. If you are housed under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), which is legally defined as a form of social housing support, you will no longer be on the housing list. However, if you apply for a transfer from HAP to another form of social housing within 2 weeks of getting the letter confirming your HAP payment, any time that you spent on the housing list can be taken into account when your local authority considers your application.
If you get a local authority home
Local authority housing is unfurnished. If you are offered a local authority home and you do not have and cannot afford to buy furniture or appliances, you may be eligible for help under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
Local authority rents are based on a system called differential rents. This means that the rent is based on your ability to pay, so if your income is low, your rent will be low; and if your income increases, your rent will increase also. The income of any other members of your household will be added to the rent calculation and there may be deductions for any children in your family. Each local authority operates its own rent scheme.
Your local authority may have a minimum and/or maximum rent, which may depend on the size of your home. There is also a hardship clause that gives local authorities discretion to reduce the rent if there are particular reasons to do this.
If your income or the income of anyone in your household changes, you must
inform the local authority, so that it can recalculate your rent.
How to apply
To apply for local authority housing, download an application form from your local authority's website or else contact its housing department directly.
An Easy To Read Guide (pdf) to filling in the application form is also available.
If you wish to be considered for accommodation provided by a housing association or other approved housing body, tick the box marked 'voluntary/co-operative housing' on the application form. Some housing associations may accept direct applications.