Guide to housing supports for returning Irish emigrants


If you return home to Ireland and have difficulty paying rent or buying suitable accommodation, you can apply for housing support from the State.

This document describes some of the housing supports that may be available to returnees, including social housing, housing supports for older people, and emergency accommodation.

Qualifying for social housing support

If you cannot afford to pay for accommodation on your return, you may be able to get social housing support. Generally, this type of support is for people who have a long-term housing need.

To apply for social housing support, you need to fill in an application form and send it to the local authority in the area you have a local connection with. Read more about showing a local connection when applying for social housing support below.

To get social housing support you must be eligible for and in need of the support. The local authority will only assess your need for social housing, if you have met the eligibility criteria. Your local authority will consider a number of things in the following order when assessing if you qualify for social housing support:

1.Your residency status: The local authority will consider whether you have a right to live in Ireland. As an Irish citizen, you have the right to live and work in Ireland, regardless of how many years you have lived abroad

2.Your eligibility:

  • Your income: Your income must be under a certain amount to qualify for social housing support. Currently, this ranges from €25,000 to €35,000 depending on where you want to live.
  • Availability of alternative accommodation: You must show that you do not have suitable alternative accommodation, for example, a property in another area or country, or accommodation belonging to a family member that you could reasonably be expected to live in.

3.Your need: When deciding whether your household is in need of social housing, the housing authority will consider a number of questions about your current accommodation, for example, is it overcrowded, unfit for human habitation, or is it emergency accommodation or a hostel.

If you qualify for social housing support you will be placed on the list of qualified households. This means you will be added to the social housing waiting list, or you will get the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

Currently the support you are most likely to be offered is the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). If you get HAP but also want to stay on the social housing waiting list, you must apply to the local authority to be placed on the transfer list.

You can read more about local authority and social housing, including information on social housing waiting lists and your rights as a housing association tenant.

Showing a local connection when applying for social housing support

When you apply for social housing support, you should apply to the local authority area that you have a local connection with.

You have a local connection to an area if you, or a member of your household, meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • You have lived in the area at any time for a continuous period of 5 years.
  • You work in the area (or within a 15-kilometre radius).
  • You are in full-time education in the area.
  • You have an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment and are attending a medical service in the area in relation to that impairment.
  • You have a relative who has been living in the area for at least 2 years.

If you are a returned Irish emigrant, and have lived abroad for many years, it might be difficult to meet the ‘local connection’ requirement. However, the local authority can waive the local connection requirement and use its discretion to accept your application. In this case, you should provide as much evidence as possible to show your connection to the local authority area. For example, letters from friends, membership of local clubs or evidence of attending a local college.

Housing supports for older returning emigrants

If you are an older Irish emigrant returning to Ireland from abroad, and you need housing assistance, there are a number of options available to you, see below.

Social housing for older people

Some local authorities provide accommodation specifically for older people. This type of community accommodation may have extra security features, such as wardens and security cameras. 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 vary from one local authority to another. Check with your local authority to see if they offer this type of accommodation, and read more about ‘qualifying for social housing support’ above.

Voluntary housing for older people

Voluntary housing organisations provide housing in a similar way to local authorities. They also provide two types of housing for older people: group schemes and sheltered housing. They have some discretion about whom they house, but most of their housing is assigned in consultation with the local authority. Tenants in sheltered housing pay rent and they may qualify for Rent Supplement.

Most of these organisations are community-based and were set up to meet specific housing needs. They are known as approved housing bodies (AHBs) as they must be approved by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Housing support service for older Irish emigrants

Safe Home Ireland is a support service that provides housing assistance to older Irish emigrants who are returning to Ireland. They may be able to source social or voluntary housing for you before you return to Ireland, if you are having difficulty finding accommodation yourself. They also provide information and advocacy for returning emigrants and will do home visits and outreach to eligible applicants.

To find out if you’re eligible for the services they provide, visit Safe Home Ireland.

Emergency accomodation support

If you will be homeless when you return to Ireland, you may be able to access emergency accommodation. Emergency accommodation is accommodation for people who are homeless and includes hostels, B&B’s, hotels and family hubs.

Emergency accommodation is provided by the local authorities. There are different ways to access emergency homeless accommodation, depending on which local authority you go to, and on whether you are accepted as homeless as an individual or as a family.

Read more about accessing emergency accommodation if you are returning to Ireland with nowhere to stay on arrival. You can also find out more about supports available if you are returning to Ireland in a crisis.

Page edited: 10 December 2020