Local authorities in Ireland are the main provider of social housing for people who need housing and cannot afford to buy their own homes. Local authority housing is allocated according to housing need, and rents are based on your ability to pay.
Housing associations (sometimes called “voluntary housing” or “voluntary housing associations”) and housing co-operatives also provide social housing for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes.
Qualifying for local authority housing
If you think you may qualify, you should apply to your local authority, which will take account of factors such as your household size, income, your present accommodation (if any), the condition of that accommodation and any special circumstances, including age, disability, medical circumstances, etc. Some local authorities in Ireland impose an income limit on applicants. Someone from the local authority may visit you to assess your present housing circumstances.
There is nothing to stop you applying to more than one local authority, for example, you might register on a county council list, in addition to an urban district council in that area. Local authorities have the power to accept applications from people who do not live in their area, but practice varies from area to area.
Local authority housing waiting lists
If you are accepted by the local authority as being in need of housing, you are then placed in the local authority housing waiting list. Each local authority draws up its own rules for deciding order of priority on the waiting list, called “‘schemes of letting priorities”. You can get a copy from your local authority. Some local authorities operate a points system. Each household on the waiting list is given a number of points depending on its circumstances. The greater your housing need, the more points you get.
You may be able to specify areas where you would like to live, but you should remember that if you choose a popular area, you may wait longer for an offer of housing than if you choose a less popular area.
As houses become available to your local authority for letting (renting out), they are allocated from the waiting list in order of priority, taking account of all the relevant circumstances. If you want to know your position on the waiting list, your local authority will inform you. You should remember that your position may go up or down depending on the circumstances of other people on the housing waiting list and as your own circumstances change. Priority is generally given to families and elderly people rather than single people or couples without children.
If you are offered a house you do not want, you can refuse it. But if the local authority thinks that you do not have a good reason for refusing the offer of the house, it may reduce your priority on the waiting list, particularly if you refuse more than one offer.
Local authority housing is unfurnished. If you are offered a local authority home and you do not have and cannot afford to buy furniture or appliances, you may get help from your local Health Service Executive (HSE) Area. Contact the Community Welfare Officer for more information about this.
Eligibility for other housing measures
Once you are registered on the waiting list, you may be eligible for other housing measures, for example, housing association homes, Shared Ownership, a low cost housing site, improvement works in lieu of local authority housing, a local authority improvement loan, a local authority mortgage or the Affordable Housing Scheme.
Local authority rents are based on a system called “differential rents”. This means that the rent is based on your ability to pay, so if your income is low, your rent will be low; and if your income increases, so will your rent. The income of any other members of your household will be added to the rent calculation and there may be deductions for any children in your family. Each local authority operates its own rent scheme.
Your local authority may have a minimum and/or maximum rent, which may depend on the size of your home. There is also a hardship clause that gives local authorities discretion to reduce the rent if there are particular reasons to do this.
If your income or the income of anyone in your family changes, you must inform the local authority.
How to apply
Contact the Housing Department of your local authority