Applying for social housing

What is social housing and who provides it?

Local authorities are the main providers of social housing for people who cannot afford to buy a home or rent accommodation privately. Social housing is allocated according to people’s eligibility and need. The rent is based on your household’s ability to pay.

Approved housing bodies (AHBs) also provide social housing for people who cannot afford to buy their own home.

What are the main rules when applying for social housing?

There are rules about how local authorities manage social housing applications. They include a number of important elements, such as:

  • You can only apply to one housing authority
  • 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

These rules are set-out in the Social Housing Assessment Regulations.

Do I qualify for social housing supports?

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
  • If you are eligible, they will then assess if you need social housing

You must also have a legal right to remain in the State on a long-term basis. The rules about access to social housing supports for non-Irish nationals are available in Circular Housing 41/2012.

1. You must be eligible

To be eligible for social housing you must:

  • Meet the income criteria
  • Show that you do not have suitable alternative accommodation

What is the income criteria for social housing?

The Household Means Policy provides details of how your household income is assessed by local authorities for social housing support. It includes information about what income is taken into account and what income is disregarded (not taken into account). For example, certain social welfare payments are not considered in these assessments.

There are 3 maximum income limits that apply to different housing authorities.

Basic maximum income limits per area
Areas Maximum net income limits for a single person
Cork City, Dublin City, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Galway City, Co Meath, South Dublin, Co Kildare, Co Wicklow €40,000
Co Carlow, Co Clare, Co Cork, Co Galway, Co Kerry, Co Kilkenny, Co Laois, Limerick City and County, Co Louth, Waterford City and County, Co Westmeath, Co Wexford €35,000
Co Cavan, Co Donegal, Co Leitrim, Co Longford, Co Mayo, Co Monaghan, Co Offaly, Co Roscommon, Co Sligo, Co Tipperary €30,000

These are the maximum net income limits for a single person. These limits are increased if there are other members of your household. You get an additional:

  • 5% of the basic maximum income limit for every adult member of the household. This is up to a maximum of 10% or 2 additional adults.
  • 2.5% of the basic maximum income limit for every child in the household

The local authority looks at your household’s average net income for the 12 months before they received your application when assessing if your household meets the income criteria. Net income is the amount you are left with once income tax, Universal Social Charge, Additional Superannuation Contribution (ASC) (pdf) and PRSI are deducted from your income.

The Department provide guidance notes to local authorities with further details about assessing income for social housing support. For example, these guidance notes state that savings are only relevant to the income assessment if they generate an income for applicants, by way of dividend or interest.

If you are looking for information about any income you have that is not included in the Household Means Policy you should contact your local authority.

What is considered alternative accommodation?

You will be considered as having alternative accommodation if you or a member of your household has property that you could reasonably be expected to use to meet your housing needs. This property will be considered alternative accommodation if you could live in it, or sell it and use the money to pay for suitable accommodation. Alternative property includes property you own abroad, or property that you are renting out. Under residential tenancies legislation you can terminate the tenancy if your 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

* A couple does not have to be judicially separated in order for this to apply. A deed of separation is sufficient – see our document on separation agreements.

2. You must need social housing

When deciding if your household needs social housing, the housing authority considers:

  • 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)?
  • Is your household dependent on Rent Supplement to meet its housing need?
  • Is your current accommodation unsuitable because it does not adequately house your household in any other way, having regard to particular household circumstances?

How do I apply for social housing?

To apply for local authority housing, download an application form from your local authority's website, or contact your local authority's housing department and ask for an application form. An Easy to Read Guide (pdf) to filling in the application form is also available.

You will need to provide additional documentation with your application form. For example, you need to include photo identification, proof of address and proof of income. There is more information about proof of income below.

You no longer need to get a HPL1 form stamped by Revenue when completing your social housing application, as the local authority now checks this information directly with Revenue. The application form has a checklist that includes details of all additional documents you need.

What documents do I need for proof of income?

You need to provide proof of your income with your application when applying for social housing to show that you meet the income criteria. The documents you need are different depending on whether you are employed, self-employed or getting a social welfare payment.

If you are getting a social welfare payment, you will need a statement from the Department of Social Protection detailing all your social welfare payments over the previous 12 months.

If you are self-employed, you will need to provide at least 2 years’ accounts with an auditor’s report, and a notice of assessment and/or a self-assessment acknowledgement letter for the previous 12 months.

If you are employed, you will need evidence of your income for the previous 12 months. You can use the following documents to provide proof of your household income from last year and your household’s current income:

  • Proof of income for last year: Last year's Statement of Liability (formerly P21) and Employment Detail Summary (formerly P60). These are both available from Revenue. You can use Revenue’s online service, myAccount to access these documents. See our pages on how to get your Statement of Liability and Employment Detail Summary for more information.
  • Proof of current income: Payslips or a Pay and Tax Summary for the current tax year up to the date you apply. The Pay and Tax Summary is available from Revenue.

Note: If you pay an Additional Superannuation Contribution (ASC) (pdf), you must also provide the previous year’s last payslip and your most recent payslip. ASCs only apply to people in public service pension schemes.

If you are not registered for Revenue’s myAccount, or if you are having difficulty getting any of these documents online, you can contact your local tax office for help or to get a paper version.

Picking 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.

Applying for AHB or accessible social housing

If you want to be considered for accommodation provided by a housing association or other approved housing body, tick the box marked 'approved housing body' on the application form. Some housing associations may accept direct applications.

If you are a wheelchair user or need accessible accommodation you should tick the box marked ‘wheelchair liveable accommodation’ in the section of the form that asks about your housing requirements. There is a supporting Disability/Medical form for people applying for social housing with a medical or disability need.

Applying for disability or medical priority

If you have a disability or medical condition, you may be prioritised on your local authority’s housing list. There is a supporting Disability or Medical Information Form (HMD Form) for people applying for social housing with a medical or disability need. You can get the form from your local authority or download it from their website.

The form has 3 separate sections. You complete the first part of the form, your healthcare professional completes the second part, and another healthcare professional completes the third part. The 3 parts of the form should then be submitted to your local authority together.

Getting help to fill out the form

If you need help filling out the application form, or are unsure how to answer the questions or where to get your supporting documents, you can contact your local Citizens Information Centre for help. Your local authority can also check that your form is fully completed and you have all your supporting documents before you submit your application.

What happens to my social housing application next?

The local authority has 12 weeks from receiving your completed application form to assess it and make a decision on whether you qualify for social housing or not. This timeframe can be extended if the local authority needs additional information, which they will request from you. You must submit the additional information in the required timeframe, or your application may be refused.

If your application is accepted

If you are accepted by the housing authority as being eligible for and in need of housing, you are placed on its housing list or record of qualified households. 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 able to get Rent Supplement. If you are getting 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.

Read more about social housing waiting lists and the allocation process.

If your application is not accepted

If your application is not accepted, the local authority should give you the reasons for their decision. If it does not, you can apply to see your file under Freedom of Information.

If you want to challenge the local authority’s decision, you can appeal it with them. Each local authority has their own internal appeal process for dealing with appeals.

If you are not happy with the outcome of the internal review you can make a complaint to the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman investigates complaints about local authorities and other public bodies. You must make your complaint within 12 months of the local authority’s decision. The Ombudsman will investigate your complaint and make a decision and recommendations on the issue. They may ask the local authority to review its decision, change its decision, or provide an explanation or compensation.

You can also appeal the local authority’s decision in court. Generally, this is done by applying to the High Court for judicial review of the decision of the local authority.

If you get a local authority home

Local authority rents are based on a system called differential rents. This means 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 adult members of your household will be included in the rent calculation and there may be deductions for any children in your family. Each local authority operates its own rent scheme. Contact your local authority for the details of their differential rent scheme.

Your local authority may have a minimum 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.

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.

Page edited: 27 February 2024