Housing supports for returning Irish emigrants
As an Irish citizen, you have the right to live and work in Ireland, regardless of how many years you have lived abroad.
If you return home to Ireland and have difficulty paying rent or buying suitable accommodation, you may qualify for social housing or financial support from the State.
Depending on your age and circumstances, you may be eligible for housing supports for older people.
Social housing support
If you can’t afford to pay for accommodation when you return to Ireland, you may be able to get social housing support. In general, this is for people who have a long-term housing need.
To apply for social housing, download an application form from your local authority's website.
You can only apply to one local authority at a time, and you must choose an area with which you have a ‘local connection’. This means that you (or a member of your household):
- Lived in the area at any time for a continuous period of 5 years
- Worked in the area (or within a 15km radius)
- Are in full-time education in the area
- Have an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment and are attending a medical service in the area in relation to that impairment
- Have a relative who has been living in the area for at least 2 years
As you are returning to Ireland from abroad, it might be difficult to meet the ‘local connection’ requirement. Try to give as much evidence as possible, such as letters from friends, membership of local clubs, or proof of attending a local college.
In some cases, the local authority can waive the local connection requirement.
Read more about showing a local connection when applying for social housing support.
Applying for social housing
When you apply for social housing, the authority will assess your eligibility and your need.
Your income must be under a certain amount to qualify for social housing. Currently, this ranges from €30,000 to €40,000, depending on where you want to live.
You must also show that you do not have suitable alternative accommodation, such as:
- A property in another area or country
- Accommodation belonging to a family member that you could reasonably be expected to live in
The housing authority will consider your current accommodation, including whether it’s overcrowded, unfit for human habitation, or emergency accommodation.
Read more about how your eligibility and need for social housing is assessed.
After you apply
The local authority must decide if you qualify for social housing within 12 weeks of getting your application form. This time-frame can be extended if they need additional information, which they will request from you.
Supports to rent or buy a home
Help with paying rent
Depending on your circumstances when you return to Ireland, you may qualify for rent supports. However, you cannot apply for these supports immediately when you arrive.
For example, to qualify for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), you must already be on your local authority’s social housing list (see ‘Social housing’ above). Similarly, you must be living in rented accommodation for at least 6 months (183 days) of the last 12 months to be eligible for Rent Supplement.
Help with buying a home
If you plan to buy a property when you return to Ireland, you can read about Taking out a mortgage.
You can also check if you qualify for the Help to Buy Scheme. This scheme helps first-time buyers purchase a newly built house or apartment. You can also get it for once-off self-build homes. However, you cannot get the Help to Buy Scheme if you owned a home abroad.
Other schemes you may be interested in are the First Home Scheme and
Local Authority Affordable Purchase Scheme. These are 'shared equity' schemes, where the State or the local authority takes a stake in your home to help you buy it.
Read more about Help with buying a home.
Housing supports for older people returning to Ireland
If you are an older Irish emigrant returning to Ireland from abroad, and you need housing assistance, there are several options available to you.
Social housing for older people
Some local authorities provide accommodation specifically for older people. This type of community accommodation (called ‘sheltered’ housing) may have extra security features, such as wardens and security cameras. You may also get on-site meals and nursing care (though it is not a nursing home).
Each local authority allocates housing in accordance with its own housing allocation scheme, so you will need to contact your local authority to find out if this type of accommodation is available in the area you want to live.
The age limit for this type of accommodation can also vary from one local authority to another.
Approved housing bodies for older people
Approved housing bodies (AHBs) provide similar housing to local authorities, with some dedicated homes for older people.
They have some discretion about who they will give housing to, but most of their housing is assigned in consultation with the local authority.
Safe Home Ireland
Safe Home Ireland provides housing assistance to older Irish emigrants who are returning to Ireland. They may be able to find social or AHB housing for you before you return, if you have difficulty finding accommodation yourself. They also provide information and advocacy for returning emigrants and will do home visits and outreach to eligible applicants.
Read more about housing for older people.
Adapting a property you already own
Older people and people with disabilities
If you already own a property in Ireland and meet certain eligibility criteria, you can apply for the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme (for example, to add a stairlift or an accessible shower).
You may also qualify for the Housing Aid for Older People Grant (for example, to upgrade electrical wiring or provide central heating).
You can also visit the Age Friendly Homes website for information on adapting an existing home, new accessible homes, housing grants, housing design, housing policy and research.
If the house is vacant or derelict
If you own a property that was built before 2008 and has been vacant for 2 years or more, you may qualify for the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant. If eligible, you can get a grant of up to €50,000 to renovate a vacant property and up to €70,000, if the property is derelict.
If you will be homeless when you return to Ireland, you may be able to access emergency accommodation. This is for people who are homeless and includes hostels, B&Bs, hotels, and family hubs.
If you need emergency accommodation, contact your local authority. You will be assessed by a Housing Officer who will confirm your emergency housing needs. Your emergency accommodation may vary depending on which local authority you go to, and whether you need housing as an individual or a family.
Read more about returning to Ireland in a crisis.
You can also visit the Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project website for more information if you will be homeless when you return to Ireland.