Christopher Bowes BL is FLAC Legal Officer. This post appeared on the FLAC Casebook blog.
The Minister for Housing has signed new regulations which “remove the cap on percentage increases in relation to the income eligibility threshold [relating to applications for social housing] in respect of each household member aged less than 18 years”. The Social Housing Assessment (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (Statutory Instrument No. 116 of 2021) amend the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 84 of 2011) and take effect from the 19th April 2021.
The income limits for eligibility for social housing are prescribed by regulations which set out three bands of maximum household income which apply in different parts of the country. The Department of Housing has published a table which sets out the relevant income limit for each local authority area.
The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 provide that the maximum income threshold which applies to an applicant for social housing may be increased by 5% in respect of each member of their household who is over 18, “subject to a maximum increase of 10%” (i.e. increases in the income threshold in respect of two additional adult members of the household only). It should be noted that “applicant” refers to one person only. In the case of a couple applying for social housing, a 5% increase in the income threshold is available in respect of the second member of that couple, and a further 5% increase is available in respect of any other adult member of their household.
Those regulations also provide for a 2.5% increase to the maximum income threshold for every member of the household under 18. Previously, such increases were also subject to a maximum increase of 10% (i.e. increases in the income threshold in respect of four children only). However, regulations 4, 5 and 6 of the 2021 Regulations delete the references to a 10% cap on the increases available in respect of child members of the household. The effect of this is that, from 19 April 2021, a local authority, which is assessing a household eligibility for social housing, may increase the maximum income threshold by 2.5% in respect of each child member of a household, regardless of how many children that is.
FLAC is aware of at least one case, arising from its Roma Legal Clinic, where a family with over ten children, who were dependent on social welfare and who were experiencing homelessness, were unable to access social housing supports because their income was above the threshold.
Finally, the 2021 regulations also provide a new template Social Housing Support Application Form for use by local authorities. The changes to the form seem largely cosmetic, however, the new form does ask applicants to provide further information in relation to their reasons for seeking social housing supports. Applicants may select from a list provided (from reasons including overcrowding, Disability grounds, rent increases, eviction, unfit accommodation and involuntary sharing) or set out their reasons themselves. The collection of such data may provide a helpful insight into the county’s broader housing landscape.