Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility
137. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his plans to improve the income eligibility limits for social housing in 2017 in view of the fact numerous families are slightly above existing income limits but are unable to obtain loan approval from financial institutions; if the eligibility criteria will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2160/17]
138. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his plans to exclude family income supplement in the assessment of income eligibility for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2161/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 138 together.
The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe maximum net income limits for each housing authority, in different bands according to the area, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy.
The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. The limits also reflect a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn and thereby promote sustainable communities.
Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all housing authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI and the universal social charge. Most payments received from the Department of Social Protection are assessable, including Family Income Supplement. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and housing authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once off.
Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. I am satisfied that the current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this and that they provide for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households unable to provide accommodation from their own resources. These income limits will continue to be kept under review by my Department, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda set out in the Social Housing Strategy 2020.
I am aware of the difficulties experienced by some households in purchasing their own home where they are not eligible for social housing support on income grounds. It may be possible for such households to avail of a mortgage from a local authority which is targeted at lower income first-time buyers who can demonstrate that they are unable to get a loan from a building society or bank. A loan can be up to 97% of the price of the property, subject to a maximum loan of €200,000. The relevant terms and conditions applying to local authority housing loans are set out in the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2012 which prescribe a maximum annual gross income threshold of €50,000 for a single person household or a combined annual gross income of €75,000 for a two person household. The Regulations are available on my Department’s website at: Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2012.
Another option is the Home Choice Loan, a Government backed mortgage for first time buyers. The Home Choice Loan is available through authorised mortgage brokers and can be used to provide up to 92% of the market value of the property being purchased, up to a maximum loan amount of €285,000. A new or second hand property may be purchased under the scheme. Further information is available at: www.homechoiceloan.ie.