Thursday, 24 June 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
63. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the timeline for the introduction of higher income eligibility limits for social housing in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan due to the inadequacy of existing eligibility limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33857/21]
66. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government when the new income threshold for social housing in County Laois will be announced; and the stage the process is currently at. [33284/21]
83. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government when he will introduce higher income eligibility limits for social housing given that existing limits are too low in counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33856/21]
87. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government when it is intended to implement changes to the income eligibility to apply for social housing to ensure those who are working and are on low incomes are eligible for social housing in view of the fact that at present prices it is impossible for them to get mortgages to buy houses on the open market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33861/21]
88. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government when the new income threshold for social housing in County Offaly will be announced; and the stage the process is currently at. [33285/21]
90. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if a person who goes over the income threshold to be eligible for social housing whilst living in homeless accommodation such as a family hub provided by the local authority, will be removed from the social housing waiting list as a result. [33611/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 66, 83, 87, 88 and 90 together.
Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.
Under Regulation 28 of the Assessment Regulations, a household’s qualification for support may be reviewed at the discretion of a local authority and Regulation 29 provides that the household’s qualification for support shall be reassessed at the point of allocation of support. If upon review, a household is found to exceed the limits on income eligibility grounds, for example, they would be removed from the list. Furthermore, authorities are also required, when directed by the Minister, to undertake a statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA) to count the number of households on the waiting list for social housing supports whose need has not yet been met. The SSHA process requires all local authorities to review those households who are on their housing list but who are not currently in receipt of housing support.
The 2011 Regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy.
The 2011 Regulations do not provide local authorities with any discretion to exceed the limits that apply to their administrative areas.
Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge and Additional Superannuation Contribution. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once-off in nature.
The income bands are expressed in terms of a maximum net income threshold for a single-person household, with an allowance of 5% for each additional adult household member, subject to a maximum allowance under this category of 10% and separately a 2.5% allowance for each child.
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. It is important to note that the limits introduced in 2011 also reflected 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, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.
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. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.
However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is underway. The review will have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental.
In relation to affordable measures, the Affordable Housing Bill, currently before the Oireachtas, includes provisions to underpin three schemes delivering on the Government’s commitment to prioritise the increased supply of affordable homes through (1) affordable homes for purchase delivered by local authorities, (2) a new affordable purchase shared equity scheme for private homes, and (3) the introduction of a new form of tenure in Cost Rental.
Budget 2021 allocated €75 million for the Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme, one of the aforementioned provisions. It will enable first-time buyers to buy a new home, much sooner than would otherwise be the case, by bridging the gap between what people have and the price of the new home they want, while also building confidence in the construction sector to increase much need housing supply.
Extensive engagement has been undertaken with key stakeholders to ensure the optimum design of the Scheme, and significant feedback has been factored in. Work on the final design of the Scheme is ongoing, in advance of its introduction later this year.
In relation to affordable housing supports more generally, measures such as the Help to Buy Scheme and the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, are available to eligible purchasers nationally to make home ownership more affordable.
An enhanced Help to Buy scheme was announced as part of the €7 billion July stimulus package, which was extended to December 2021 as part of Budget 2021. This allows first-time buyers purchasing a newly-built home – or building one themselves – to claim back up to €30,000 paid in income tax and DIRT on bank deposit interest over the last four years.
The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a Government-backed mortgage which is for first-time-buyers nationwide to purchase a new or second-hand home or to self-build. This scheme offers loans on competitive terms to those who are unable to secure a sufficient commercial bank loan.
As part of Budget 2019, €310 million was made available to service local authority land for the delivery of affordable housing under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF). The SSF provides for key enabling infrastructure requirements that will help unlock publicly-owned lands specifically for the provision of affordable homes to buy or rent. This fund sub-vents the cost of facilitating infrastructure, with a current maximum SSF funding amount of €50,000 available per affordable home. This sum is comprised of €44,500 (or 89%) Exchequer contribution and a €5,500 (or 11%) local authority contribution. On this basis, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated by this measure.
To date, funding support of €200 million has been allocated to enable delivery of over 4,200 affordable homes for purchase or rent. €50 million has been allocated to the SSF in 2021.