Housing policies in Ireland
Table 1 displays the occupancy rates to the three major housing tenure types, i.e.
owner-occupation, the private rental sector and social rental housing. Table 2
shows the number of households and persons living in permanent private
accommodation as opposed to temporary or non-private accommodation.
Table 1. Occupancy Patterns Classified by Tenure for 1991
Municipal Social Rental 9.7
Private Rental 8.0
Owner Occupation: 79.3
Outright Ownership 44.4
With Loan/Mortgage 34.9
Other (includes voluntary non-profit social rental) 3.0
Source: CSO, Census, 1991
Table 2. Number of Households and Persons Classified by Type of Household
Number of Households Number of Persons in Households
Permanent Private 1,114,974 3,505,617
Temporary Private 8,264 22,935
Non private 4,080 97,535
Total 1,127,318 3,626,087
Source: CSO, 1996
The Eastern Region (Dublin and Mid-East1 regions combined) contained 38.8% of
the total national population of Ireland in 1996 (CSO, 1996). However, the share of
the national population in the East region has steadily risen since the 1960s, from a
Counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow
32.2% share of the national population in 1961, to an estimated 39.4% of national
population in 1999 (CSO, 1999). Population is therefore becoming increasingly
concentrated into the East region, with Dublin accounting for 29.3% of the national
population in 1999. The population of the East region is estimated to have grown by
almost 5% (4.93%) between the 1996 Census and April 1999, twice the rate of
growth for the other regions where the estimated growth rate for the same period is
2.2% (tables 3 and 4).
Table 3. Number of Households and Persons in Urban & Rural Areas
Aggregate Urban Aggregate Rural Total
Persons 2,034,670 1,93,882 3,528,552
Private Households 669,422 453,816 1,123,238
Average persons / HH 3.04 3.29 3.14
Source: CSO, 1996
Table 4. Regional Differences
Region N Persons N Private HH Persons / HH
Leinster (Eastern Region) 1,873,903 600,784 3.12
Munster(Southern Region) 1,004,418 319,089 3.15
Connaught (Western Region) 420,156 132,673 3.17
Ulster (part of) (Northern Region) 230,075 70,692 3.25
Table 5 displays the state expenditure on main housing constituents, table 6 the
capital formation in housing.
Table 5. Public Capital Expenditure on Main Housing Constituents
Definition of terms used in Census; Private Household: a private household comprises either one
person living alone or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address with
common housekeeping arrangements - that is, sharing at least one meal a day or sharing a living room
or sitting room. A permanent private household is a private household occupying a permanent dwelling
such as a dwelling house, flat or bedsitter. A temporary private household is a private household
occupying a caravan, mobile home or other temporary dwelling and includes Travelling people and
homeless persons living rough on census night. A non-private household is a group of persons
enumerated in a boarding house, hotel, guest house, barrack, hospital, nursing home, boarding school,
religious institution , welfare institution, prison or ship etc.
1990 (IR£M) 1994 (IR£M) 1999 (IR£M)
Local Authority Housing 51.1 157.1 279.1
Voluntary Social Housing 9.6 27.5 37.2
Shared Ownership n/a 44.4 111.6
House Purchase and 23 19.2 21.5
Private Housing Grants 35.3 26.5 43
Affordable Housing n/a n/a 2.8
Other Housing 3.2 4.0 6.0
Total 122.2 278.7 501.2
Table 6. Capital Formation in Housing (excluding site costs) 1999
Gross National Product at market prices* IR£M 58,200
Gross Domestic fixed capital formation* IR£M 15,500
Capital formation in housing IR£M 4,342
Capital formation in housing as a percentage of gross domestic fixed 28%
Capital formation in housing as a percentage of gross national product 7.5%
*European System of Accounts (ESA95)
Irish social housing is increasingly associated with long-term poverty and
disadvantage. In 1994 Irish households with the highest risk of being poor were
local authority tenants. Half of all social tenants (49.8%) fell below the 50 per cent
relative income line. In addition, the risk of poverty among local authority tenants
had increased sharply between 1987 and 1994. For example, 37.4 per cent were
poor in 1987 compared with 49.8 in 19943. Furthermore, the link with poverty was
particularly strong for urban local authority tenants. In 1994 these tenants were 30
times more likely to be poor than urban owner-occupiers.4
Other indicators illustrate the social profile of local authority tenants. For example
data on economic activity in 1996 shows that household renting from local
authorities had a low employment participation rate 5. Additionally, the disparities
This compares to 21.8 per cent of tenant purchasers, 15.1 per cent of private renters and 18.1 per
cent of outright owner occupiers. See Nolan, B., Whelan, C. and Williams, J (1998) Where are Poor
Households?, Dublin: Oak Tree Press in association with Combat Poverty Agency, pp24.
Local authority households had 24 per cent of households with one or two persons at work, the tenant
purchaser sector indicated 48 per cent at work, private renting indicated 22 per cent and the owner
occupied sector 58 per cent. Source: CSO (1996) Labour Force Survey microdata quoted in Fahey. T
(Ed) op. cit. pp41
between the educational achievement of households who rent or purchase from
local authorities, and those who rent privately or are owner occupiers, are illustrated
by the fact that in 1996 over 60 per cent of the heads of local authority tenant
households (renting or tenant purchasing) attained primary level education only,
and less than 1 per cent got as far as third level education. 6
Over the three years between 1996 to 1999 the cumulative rate of real house price
inflation7 for private housing reached 107.8%. This doubling of house prices in real
terms since 1996 has been paralleled by a major rise in the number of households
in housing need. Firstly, the tri-annual Local Authority Assessment of Housing
Needs found a total of 39,176 households in need of social housing in 1999 – a 43
per cent increase on assessed housing need in 1996. Furthermore, 29 per cent of
the households assessed as being in need were private rented tenants in receipt of
SWA housing income support8.
Secondly, over this period the open market value of private rental income has
shadowed house price inflation and rents have jumped an average of 20 per cent
per annum in 1998 and 19999. This has contributed to an overall rise in the cost of
SWA housing income support to circa £115m in 1999, as well as to the extent of
officially recorded housing need. In addition, the Assessment of Housing Needs
recorded a doubling in the number of homeless persons to 5,234 from 2,501 in
1996. Notwithstanding this, local authority and voluntary social housing output has
continued to decline over the period from 10.6 per cent of all housing completions in
1996, to 8.7 per cent in 1997, 7.6 per cent in 1998 and 7.4 per cent in 1999 10.
Effectively, the continuous shortfall in available social housing, the decline in the
capital affordability of private housing, combined with the declining income
affordability of private renting, the growth in SWA housing income support, in
homelessness and in other categories of assessed housing need, forces the
general conclusion that at least 135,000 households can be regarded as being in
12 per cent of heads of private rented households and 31 per cent of owner occupiers had primary
level education only. 20 per cent of private renters and 9 per cent of owner occupiers had attained third
level education. Source: CSO (1996) Labour Force Survey microdata, quoted in Fahey, T. op cit. pp42
House price inflation minus the consumer price index.
Department of Environment and Local Government, (1999) Local Authority Assessment of Housing
Downey, D and DeVilly, I. (1999) ‘Changing circumstances, latest consequences: new data on rents,
conditions and attitudes in the private rented sector’ in Private Rented Housing – Issues and Options,
Dublin, Threshold; see also IAVI (1999) Annual Report, Dublin, Irish Auctioneers and Valuer’s Institute.
Department of Environment and Local Government, (1999) Annual Housing Statistics Bulletin, 1999,
Dublin, Stationary Office.
housing need11. This is approximately three and a half times greater than the official
assessment of housing need.
Drudy, P.J (1999) Housing, A New Approach, Report of the Housing Commission, Dublin, The Labour
Owner occupation is promoted as the primary goal of Irish housing policy and has
received bi-partisan political support in this regard for a considerable period of time.
The current policy measures include:
New House Grant for First Time Buyers. A grant of £3,000 is available to
households building or purchasing a newly built house who have not previously
owned a house.
Table 7. Changes in the First Time Buyer's Share of the New House Market, 1993 – 1999
Number of Loans Number of New Value of New New House Grant
Approved for new House Grants House Grants Approvals as a % of
Houses by All Approved Country- Approved Loans Approved for
Year Lending Agencies wide New Houses Country-
1993 15,527 5,399 16.197 34.7%
1994 18,875 8,572 25.716 45.4%
1995 20,675 9,785 29.355 47.3%
1996 26,598 10,931 32.793 41.09%
1997 30,671 10,574 31.722 34.47%
1998 29,220 10,023 30.06 34.3%
1999 32,722 9,469 28.40 28.9%
Stamp Duty. First time buyers are exempt from the payment of stamp duties on the
purchase of new houses or apartments . At the time of purchase buyers are
required to state in writing that they intend to reside there and undertake to notify
the Revenue authorities if within the first five years of ownership they let the
property. Upon notification to Revenue, the individual will have to pay the amount of
stamp duty that would have been paid if they had purchased the house or
apartment as an investor form the outset.
Stamp duty rates for residential property transactions on second-hand houses and
apartments has been reduced since 1998 to the following rates:
Table 8. Stamp duty rates for residential property transactions
House Price Stamp Duty Rate
Up to IR£60,000 Zero
IR£60,001 - IR£100,000 3%
IR£100,001 - IR£170,000 4%
IR£170,001 - IR£250,000 5%
IR£250,001 - IR£500,000 7%
Over IR£500,000 9%
Stamp duty on investment purchases is charged at the above rates on all new
houses and apartments purchased by non-owner occupiers (i.e. investors in private
Mortgage Interest Tax Relief: Mortgage interest tax relief is available to First Time
Buyers at the standard rate of tax (22%) on an allowance of £2,500 for the first five
years of mortgage payments. Subsequently, mortgage interest tax relief is available
on an allowance of £2,000.
Shared Ownership. Shared Ownership is a local authority administered scheme
which offers home ownership in a number of steps to those who cannot afford full
ownership in one step in the traditional way. Generally, an income limit equivalent
to £20,000 per annum in the case of a single income household applies (subject to
certain exemptions). Purchasers share the equity value with the local authority and
pay a rent charge on the local authority equity of 4.5% per annum.
Table 9. Shared Ownership Transactions, 1996 – 1999
Transactions Approvals issued but not yet Applications received
1996 1,166 999 2,780
1997 1,042 907 2,690
1998 805 992 2,962
1999 1,314 1,502 3,551
Table 10. Shared Ownership Transactions completed by House Price in £IR
< 30,001- 40,001- 50,001- 60,001- 70,001- 80,000 > Grand
30,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 70,000 80,000 Total
Total 23 53 70 84 102 155 827 1,314
% 1.8 4.0 5.3 6.4 7.8 11.8 62.9 100.0
Table 11. Shared Ownership Transactions completed by Income Category in £IR
< 10,000 10,001 - 12,001 – 14,001 - 16,000 > Grand Total
20,000 14,000 16,000
Total 128 159 205 186 636 1,314
% 9.7 12.1 15.6 14.2 48.4 100.0
Affordable Housing Scheme. The Affordable Housing Scheme was launched on the
2nd March 1999. Under the terms of the scheme, local authorities provide houses
for sale for eligible purchasers at cost price and, accordingly at significant discount
from the market value of comparable houses in the area.
Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) Mortgage Supplement. Supplementary
assistance for welfare dependent households with mortgages is available under the
SWA Scheme administered by the Health Boards through the Community Welfare
Officer's at local health centres. The assistance is means tested and is only
available for the interest payable on the mortgage. Changes in entitlement to
Mortgage Supplement under Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme for people
returning to work under Community Employment, Back to Work Allowance,
Revenue Job Assist and Jobstart schemes are as follows:
- current £250 monthly limit of Supplement to be abolished
- Back to Work Allowance and FIS payments to be disregarded in assessing
income for entitlement to Supplement
- withdrawal of the Supplement to be tapered over 4 years , i.e. at 75%, 50%,
25% and 25%
- additional income payable to people participating in approved training courses
no longer counted as means
- a weekly disregard of £25 to be introduced for part-time workers.
Local Authority Mortgage Allowance Scheme. Assistance worth up to IR£4,500 over
5 years towards mortgage outgoing's of former tenants and tenant purchasers of
local authority housing and certain voluntary housing tenants who buy a private
house on surrender of their social housing.
Table 12. Local Authority Mortgage Allowance Scheme (in absolute numbers)
Year Houses Final approvals Applications
Surrendered issued but houses received
not yet surrendered
1995 205 115 310
1996 268 129 371
1997 210 104 267
1998 153 74 190
1999 122 53 131
Local Authority Loans for Home Purchase and Improvement. Loans are available to
low-income households who cannot obtain a loan from a building society or bank
etc. on the same general income limits that apply to Shared Ownership Schemes.
Loans are available to order to purchase a house or carry out reconstruction, repair
or improvement works on dwellings. Maximum loans available are £50,000 for
purchase (£55,000 for island communities), for improvement, secured loans up to
£15,000 (£20,000 island communities) and unsecured of £6, 000.
Essential Repairs Grants. Essential Repairs Grants are intended to secure basic
structural improvements only to a house occupied by at least one elderly person.
The works which qualify for an Essential Repair Grant are basic structural
improvements which will prolong the useful life of the house for a period of 10
Table 13. Essential Repairs Grants
Year Number Value (IR£000)
1995 697 1,253
1996 747 1,295
1997 896 1,523
1998 957 1,756
1999 966 2,157
Disabled Persons Grants. Grants are payable for works necessary for the proper
accommodation of a physically disabled, severely mentally handicapped or severely
mentally ill person. The maximum grant payable is equivalent to the full cost of
adapting a local authority house and three-quarters of the approved cost of
adapting a private house. Two-thirds of the grant paid is recouped to the local
authority by the Department of Environment and Local Government subject to a
maximum recoupment of IR£8,000 in each case.
Table 14. Disabled Person’s Grants
Year Number Value (IR£000)
1995 1,615 6,537
1996 2,172 8,924
1997 2,231 8,631
1998 2,455 10,295
1999 2,875 12,498
Urban Regeneration. The availability of tax-driven incentives for both owner-
occupiers and investors in the residential property sector form the mainstay of
residential urban renewal policies in recent years. Regarding the operation of
taxation incentives, relief for residential development comes in two forms. First, the
owner occupier is entitled to set off 5 per cent of the cost of construction or
refurbishment of qualifying premises in a designated area against taxable income
for a period of ten years. Qualifying expenditure in essence is 50 per cent of
development costs net of site value. The individual claiming relief must be the first
owner-occupier after expenditure has occurred and the property must be utilised as
the sole or main place of residence.
The second mechanism applies to rented residential property and provides a
shelter whereby an investor may convert a tax liability into a property asset.
Commonly referred to as Section 23/27 relief this measure was initially introduced
in 1981, not as an urban renewal incentive but as a mechanism to stimulate
construction activity. However, since July 1992 the allowance only applies to
designated areas. In essence the incentive has become part of the urban
regeneration package, and can be interpreted as a policy shift on the part of the
Irish government to re-define the renewal thrust towards the residential sector.
Under Section 23/27 relief, 100 per cent of relevant expenditure can be offset
against rental income derived from any property in the Republic of Ireland, not
simply from the subject property. However, relief is subject to several conditions
and unlike that to the owner-occupier the potential for clawback exists. The
application of these incentives in residential renewal since 1991, has been
predominantly towards newly-built apartment schemes typically consisting of 150-
250 units per development, with investors more active in the market than owner
The price competition between investors and first time buyer owner occupiers for
the use value of new residential property has recently become a central policy
concern in the context of rapid residential asset price inflation (107.8% real inflation
over three year 1996 to 1999). As a result, policy initiatives taken in 1998 have
altered the operation of tax incentives for residential development. Under the Urban
Renewal Scheme introduced on 1 August 1998, tax incentives for investment in
residential property are no longer available on a blanket basis within designated
areas, as previously. The case for Section 23 relief will now be critically evaluated
in the case of each area to which an Integrated Area Plan relates, and the possible
impact on house prices will be a factor in considering if the tax incentive is applied.
Section 23 relief will now only apply to an area where it is shown to be absolutely
necessary for the achievement of the objectives of the Integrated Area Plan.
Furthermore, in the case of rental income from residential property of an individual,
partnership or company, the interest on borrowed monies employed on or after 23
April, 1998 will not be allowed as a deduction for tax purposes, as previously was
Private Rental Sector
The large part of the private sector is subject to the following regulations: 12
Registration of Rented Housing. Houses, including apartments, flats, maisonettes,
etc. but not mobile homes or caravans, let for rent or "other valuable consideration"
must be registered with the local housing authority (county council, corporation or
urban district council) under the Housing (Registration of Rented Houses)
Regulations, 1996. There are, however, certain exemptions from this requirement
such as houses let by a local authority, a Government Department, a health board,
a voluntary housing body, a university to a student etc. A register must be kept by
the local authority at an office designated by them for this purpose.
The landlord must supply the following information in respect of each letting: the
address of the house; a description of the house, e.g. a whole house, an apartment,
a flat, a single room, etc.; the name and address of the landlord and, if the landlor
has duly appointed an agent, the name and address of such agent.
Rent Books. Every tenant paying rent for a house, which includes an apartment,
flat, maisonette, etc. but not mobile homes or caravans, is legally entitled to have a
There are no regional differences, the legislation is national. For provisions that apply to
the large part of the private sector as well as to exceptions see chapter on legislation below.
rent book supplied by the landlord. This applies to houses rented by private
landlords, voluntary bodies, local authorities or employers, if a rent is payable. A
rent book is not needed for a holiday letting. Rent books are a record of rent and
other payments made by a tenant to the landlord. However, by law, a rent book
must also contain other information related to the tenancy. Usually, a rent book will
be in booklet form but it may be in another form provided it contains all the
necessary details. Records of rent payment made be in the form of bank
The rent book must include the address of the house; the name and address of the
landlord and of the landlord’s agent (if any); the tenant’s name; the term (i.e. period)
of the tenancy; the amount of the rent and when and how it is to be paid; particulars
of any payments, other than rent, to be made by the tenant to the landlord for
services, for instance for heating or piped television; the amount and purpose of
any deposit paid by the tenant and the conditions under which it will be refunded by
Where rent or other payments for services are made in person by the tenant (or by
a person acting for the tenant) to the landlord, the landlord must, at that time either
record the payment and sign for it in the rent book, or provide a signed receipt
containing full details of the payment.
Where payments are made other than in person (e.g. by standing order, bank giro,
etc.) the landlord must, within three months, either record and sign for the payment
in the rent book or give the tenant a written statement of the payment.
Standards for Rented Housing. Since 1 January, 1994 landlords of houses
including apartments, flats, maisonettes, etc. but not mobile homes or caravans let
for rent or "other valuable consideration" have had a statutory duty to ensure that
these dwellings comply with certain minimum physical standards. Houses let by
local authorities, other than demountable dwellings, are subject to the same
standards from 1 January, 1998. A house let for "other valuable consideration"
would be one where, for example, the occupier provided a service for the owner in
return for the right to live in the dwelling. The standards do not apply to: holiday
lettings or bona fide temporary lettings; or certain communal type accommodation
provided by health boards or approved voluntary bodies.
The standards are set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses)
Regulations, 1993. In summary, they require a landlord to: ensure that the house is
in a proper state of structural repair, i.e. that it is essentially sound with the roof,
floors, ceilings, walls and stairs in good repair; provide a sink with hot and cold
water facilities in each dwelling; provide toilet and bath or shower facilities (further
details below); provide adequate means for heating, for installing; cooking
equipment and for storing food; a statement of information which advises tenants of
their basic rights; the date of commencement of the tenancy; an inventory of
furnishings and appliances supplied by the landlord for the tenant's exclusive use.
The last two items need not be included where the tenancy commenced before 1
Rent control. From the First World War until the 1960s, rent control applied to the
private rented sector. As a result dwellings were generally in a poor state repair.
This led to deaths of some tenants which resulted in an escalated local authority
building programme. The sector has generally been in decline since this time. New
controls were introduced in the early 1990s largely due to effective lobbying by
Rent controls are no longer previous applied to the private rented sector, and the
number of remaining private tenancies with rent control is marginal Rents may be
raised by any multiple within 28 days written notice for periodic tenancies. Fixed
lease tenancies are commonly 12 months duration and are renewable not
continuous. Rent increases may occur upon renewal. There is no form of rent
indexation to calculate the rate of rent increase, nor agreed period between the
incidence of rent increases.
Local authorities administer the provisions of the legislation set out above. Figures
on the registration of landlords are published by the Department of Environment
and Local Government. The Small Claims Court resolves the range of claims for
non-return of rental deposits etc. Eviction notices and other notices to quit are
resolved through the courts. Capital allowances and Section 23 tax incentives to
investment in property for rent is now granted within the framework of Integrated
There are no large private institutional investors in private rented housing. The
typology of private landlords is multifarious. There are investment companies and
private consortiums of investors as well as large individual investors who
collectively influence supply of new build apartment and townhouse dwelling units.
Landlords are also characterised as personal investors who invest in residential
property as and asset to let or those who have inherited property and decided to let.
Representation of private landlord interests are made by two registered
associations: I.P.O.A (Irish Property Owner's Association) or N.A.P.L (National
Association of Professional Landlords).
Allowances. Private tenants can receive allowances. Housing Income support is
available to low income households and individuals who demonstrate housing need
and are not in full-time employment and satisfy the means test for receipt of rent
supplementation. The assessment of the ceiling of rent supplementation payable is
based on the minimum income payment of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance.
Minimum payments are temporally adjusted but are not index linked, and are set at
a minus IR£6 liability to the market rent charged relative to a fixed maximum rent
allowable. Shortfalls between the rent payable and supplementation are payable by
the tenant from other income supports and benefits received. Rental income
support is available to low-income tenants engaged in active labour market
initiatives, training or with dependants.
Nevertheless there exists an unemployment trap associated with the 100%
withdrawal rule for those recipients re-entering the workforce in full-time
employment (i.e. more than 30 hours per week) and who are not entitled to retain
SWA supplementation under certain work incentive programmes. Also for recipients
engaged in part-time work (up to 30 hours per week) who experience a sharp
reduction in rent allowance of £1 of SWA lost by way of higher rent contribution for
every additional £1 of net income. Also an SWA poverty trap exists whereby
irrespective of the level of social welfare income paid, the post-rent income does
not rise above the appropriate SWA level, which is the lowest social welfare
payment. The effect being to claw-back on a pound for pound basis the higher rates
of welfare entitlement arising from qualification through invalidity, old age, single
parenthood and being a carer.
Tax relief on Rent Payments - private rented tenants in full time employment are
entitled to claim tax relief against rental payments at the standard rate of 22%. For
a single person the maximum allowable relief is £750. For a marred couple it rises
to £1,500 and if both are over 55 years of age to £4,000. For widowed tenants the
allowance is £1,125 and if over 55 years of age this rises to £3,000.
SWA rent supplementation (housing income support) is funded by the Department
of Family community and Social Affairs. It is administered through local health
clinics by Community Welfare Officers on behalf of Regional Health Boards. Recent
policy commitments have been made to the transfer of this administration to local
authorities responsible for the administration of legislation governing the private
rented sector. Tax relief for private tenants is administered centrally through the
The cost of housing income support for 1999 is estimated at IR£115 million. SWA
rent supplement has developed into a mainstream housing income support for the
estimated 40,000 households in receipt of rent supplement at any given time in the
private rented residential sector. Demand for accommodation by rent-supplemented
tenants is a significant element of overall demand for private rented
There is no private sector tenants’ association.
Financing. Local authority expenditure on social housing is recouped from the
Department of Environment and Local Government and is subject to annual
programme budgeting and expenditure limits set at Governmental level. Non-
statutory social housing providers are financed via two schemes: the Capital Loan
and Rental Subsidy Schemes and the Capital Assistance Scheme. Direct
government assistance for non-profit housing associations was first introduced in
1984 in the form of subsidised loans for the provision of special needs housing. In
1988 a new grant regime of 95% loans was introduced for voluntary organisations
concerned with housing the homeless. Nevertheless, the most significant statement
of policy to date resides in the Department of the Environment policy document A
Plan for Social Housing where the state is committed to improving ‘opportunities for
community and voluntary action in housing’.
Subsequently, a range of initiatives to help develop the voluntary housing
movement have been put in place. To assist meeting social housing objectives
during a period of land use speculation and price inflation, increases have been
won to the funding limits of the Capital Loan and Rental Subsidy Schemes and
under the Capital Assistance Scheme. Additionally, the terms of these schemes
have been altered to provide financial assistance towards site acquisition, while
expenditure under the Communal Facilities Grant Scheme has also improved. By
the end of the first quarter of 2000, total allocated expenditure under the Capital
Assistance Scheme has reached over £14 million.
Construction. Local authorities may design and commission new social housing,
renovations and renewals etc. but rarely carry out the direct provision of social
housing units themselves. Private construction contractors and architectural firms
are relied upon to deliver additional new stock. Local authorities with relatively large
stock size (e.g. metropolitan local authorities) retain Direct Labour Organisations
responsible for the maintenance and repair of housing stock as well as alterations,
extensions and improvements.
Regeneration. Residential or housing investment-led urban regeneration is now co-
ordinated under the Integrated Area Plans developed for designated area-based
Allocation. The allocation of new tenancies to social housing is administered by
individual local authorities on the basis of a points based social housing waiting list.
Discretionary practice can apply across local authorities in the allocation of new
tenancies and the nature of the waiting list system is such that movement on the list
can be altered through changes in the circumstances of the applicant. An additional
dependent for a low-income single parent may positively alter his/her position on
the waiting list, whereas an individual in receipt of housing income support in
private rented accommodation may see their social housing waiting list position
deteriorate if they improve the material conditions of their dwelling by securing new,
improved private rented accommodation.
Management. Local authorities are responsible for the daily management of social
housing stock. Management issues relate to the quality, design, location and
density of social housing provision, and there now exists an apparent realisation by
local authorities that even where social housing areas become subject to stresses
arising from wider socio-economic change, and macro-structural factors (such as
high unemployment and economic marginalisation), social housing management
plays a pivotal role in shaping the quality of life for residents of social housing:
“Failure [of social housing] had many sources, many of them originating outside the
field of housing policy and practice. In most cases, however, it appeared that, even
if housing management could not cure or prevent those causes of failure, it did
have the potential to mitigate or ameliorate their worst effects, particularly if it drew
in a creative way on the resources both of residents and other initiatives or
agencies involved in the area. Where such potential was not exploited, redeemable
problems were neglected and allowed get out of hand, with damaging
consequences for the housing environment”13
Housing management is an important contributory variable in determining quality of
life and degrees of housing success and failure in local authority estates, and by
extension within voluntary sector housing provision. Nevertheless, with regard to
the social housing funding regime, significant obstacles remain in place to
improvements in social housing management and in the provision of other housing
services. With particular reference to two main public service components of local
authority housing provision – namely housing management and housing repair and
maintenance – a key obstacle is the continued overall weakness of the revenue
funding for the provision of these local authority housing services. This weakness is
exaggerated by in-built inefficiencies relating to how social housing maintenance
and repair is organised operationally, and the fact that the accounting methods of
local authorities make the calculation of adequate funding for service delivery both
a difficult and sometimes inaccurate task. Furthermore, the established inter-
governmental funding regime between local and central government remains
biased in favour of large-scale, once-off capital grants for refurbishment and this
Fahey, T. op cit. pp253
has been found to mitigate against opportunities to obtain smaller, recurrent
revenue funding for improved housing management and housing service delivery 14.
Policy trends in social housing
While the pressing demands of social housing need grew over the period since
1996, a fuller public policy response has only recently been forthcoming in the form
of Section V of the Planning and Development Bill, 1999, the National Development
Plan, and the recent details on social and affordable housing included in the
national partnership agreement A Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.
The National Development Plan includes a £6bn provision for spending on social
and affordable housing provision and indicates targets of 35,000 local authority new
build housing units by 2006, 15,000 voluntary sector new build units over the same
period and 2,000 affordable and shared ownership scheme units per year to 2006.
The housing supply provisions contained in Section V of the Planning and
Development Bill, 1999 require local authorities to put a housing strategy into their
development plans designed to met social housing need as well as affordable
housing demand from lower income households. Also, housing supply should
consciously seek to counter and remove residential social segregation in housing
provision. The development plan must also ensure that a percentage of land zoned
for residential use is provided for social and affordable housing. Most significantly,
Section V of the Bill states that the provision of up to 20 per cent of zoned land for
social and affordable housing is a condition for development and that the land will
have to made available to the local authority at existing use value for this purpose.
Draft guidelines for implementation of the housing supply provisions contained in
Section V of the Bill have subsequently been issued for consultation. The aim of the
guidelines is to provide a clear framework for preparing housing strategies and
providing for housing needs in development plans. The overall aim of the
framework is intended to:
- Ensure a consistent and practical approach by local authorities in preparing
- Demonstrate the practical basis for the operation of Part V so as to promote the
necessary supply of housing, particularly social and affordable housing, in a
way that does not distort the market;
- Ensure that policies for achieving social and affordable housing are included in
housing strategies in a way that ensures that the views of all those involved in
delivering such housing are taken into account;
- Encourage a co-operative approach between local authorities and developers
and house builders in implementing strategies.
In addition, the recently negotiated (Spring 2000) national agreement Programme
for Prosperity and Fairness seeks an immediate expansion in the local authority
housing programme to meet a target of 22,000 housing units in the four year period
to 2003, and voluntary sector housing providers are expected to deliver a total of
5,400 units over the same period. This expansion in output is to be monitored by a
Housing Forum established at the Department of Environment and Local
Government that will involve the social partners with Government in tackling
constraints on the achievement of these social and affordable housing supply
Social Housing Policy and Private Rented Sector15
Over the last decade the role of the private rented residential sector has changed
dramatically and evidence is available that suggests the long-term post-war decline
of the size of the sector is being reversed. 16 Paralleling this reversal of fortunes has
been increased subsidisation of both the provision and the consumption of private
rented housing during the 1990s, as well as legislation dedicated to improving the
regulation of the sector17. Nonetheless, major issues remain outstanding relating to
right of access and security of tenure, affordability, conditions and standards of
See Combat PovertyAgency, (November 1999), Submission to the Private Rented Residential Sector,
Combat Poverty Agency, Dublin.
According to Labour Force estimates there were 124,900 households living in the sector in 1996, by
contrast with 81,400 in 1991 (an increase of 53 per cent). A recent estimate given to the Combat Poverty
Agency national policy seminar on housing income support put the total number of households at
300,000 to 350,000 in 1999.
The Housing (miscellaneous provisions) Act, 1992 forms the legislative basis of the Charter For
Rented Housing. The Charter has been introduced in phases over the period since 1992. The first phase
incorporated minimum notice to quit period and abolition of distress and came into effect on 1 st
September 1992. In 1993 detailed regulations made under the 1992 Act provided for the right to a rent
book and minimum standards of accommodation and came into effect on 1st September 1993 and 1st
January 1994 respectively. The Finance Act of 1995 introduced a limited tax relief for tenants.,
subsequently expanded in Budget 2000 and regulations governing the registration of rented houses
came into effect in May 1996.
accommodation, as well as difficulties obtaining compliance under the law
regarding landlord registration and minimum standards of accommodation.
Notwithstanding this, both the risk and incidence of poverty in private rented
residential housing is considerable. In 1994, 15.1 per cent of private tenant
households were at risk of poverty at the 50 per cent income line. This rose to 34
per cent of households at the 60 per cent income line. In addition, the incidence of
poverty for the housing tenure was found to be 8 per cent when expressed as a
percentage of all households in 199418.
Up to recently, the provision of private rented housing was supported via Section 23
tax relief's on private residential investment. While heavily curtailed by Government
in April 199819, a declining number of incentivised investment opportunities remain.
Nevertheless, demand for private rented housing is such that investment remains
strong and has continued to bring a supply of newly built apartment stock to the
residential lettings market20.
On the consumption side, the role of SWA rent supplement has ensured a
subvention to private rental income for dwellings that have traditionally constituted
the lower or budget end of the market21. While not mutually exclusive, it is
predominately the latter type of dwelling that have become the loci for low-income
and welfare dependent tenants whose housing needs might otherwise be met by
social housing. This feature has meant that one major effect of the absolute decline
in the availability of social housing over the decade has been to extend a social
housing function to the lower-end of the private rented residential sector.
SWA rent supplementation now operates as a housing income support to an
estimated 70,000 tenant households in a year, with numbers in receipt of housing
income support estimated in the region of 40,000 tenant households at any one
time during 1998. Of these close to half (47 per cent) are in receipt of housing
income support on a long-term basis for over twelve months. The cost of SWA
The two relative income poverty lines measure the risk and incidence of poverty for households with
incomes at or below 50 and 60 per cent of average income. There is also a measure of the extent of
deprivation for households in poverty which when combined with the 60 per cent income line found that
15.3 per cent of private rented tenants were in consistent poverty in 1994. For more details see Nolan,
B., Whelan, C.T. and Williams, J. (1998) op. cit.
Department of Environment and Local Government, (1998) Action on House Prices, Stationary Office,
See Bacon and Associates (1999) The Housing Market: An Economic Review and Assessment,
Report to the Minister of Housing and Urban Renewal, Dublin.
For example: bed-sits, flats and houses in multiple occupation.
subvention to private rental income in 1998 was £88 million and the estimated
provision for 1999 has risen to £103 million.
This compares to 1994 when an estimated 28,800 tenant households were
supported at a cost of £44.8 million. Therefore, while a greater number of
households are now catered for by the scheme, the total number of recipients does
not appear to have risen as much as expenditure over the period. Arguably this is
primarily due to increased rental income derived from higher rents demanded
across the sector as a whole since 1994 and the subsequent upward adjustment of
minimum rates of subvention22.
Private rented housing at the end of the 1990s has now become an integral
component part of social housing provision. This has been recognised in the 1999
local authority Assessment of Housing Need which for the first time was directed to
provide separate information on the number of SWA tenant households assessed
as being in housing need and eligible for local authority social housing 23. Previously
the majority of households in receipt of SWA rent supplement did not feature in the
Assessment of Need, thereby resulting in a situation where many households were
not defined as being in ‘housing need’ simply because they were not on a local
authority housing waiting list24.
The results indicated that on 31 March 1999, a total of 38,176 households were
assessed in need of local authority housing. This compares to the previous
assessment in 1996 of 27,427 households in housing need and represents a 43 per
cent increase over the period.
Overall close to three out of ten (29 per cent) of households assessed as being in
need of local authority housing were private tenant households in receipt of SWA
See Department of Environment and Local Government (1999) Administration of Rent and Mortgage
Assistance, Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Issues Relating to the possible Transfer of
Administration of Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplementation from Health Boards to Local Authorities,
Stationary Office, Dublin. It is important to note that a number of factors distort comparisons between
years regarding the numbers in receipt of SWA rent supplementation. The 1998 data has been compiled
on a different basis than previously due to computerisation and the figures also reflect an increase of
some 2,000 in the number of asylum seekers in receipt of rent supplement, compared to 1997.
Under section 9 of the Housing Act, 1988 each local authority is require to carry out periodic (currently
every three years) assessments of the need for the provision of housing for persons who require housing
and are unable to provide it from their own resources. The assessments cover the need for local
authority housing in each local authority area together with the part that can be played in meeting needs
by other social housing options; the needs for sites for caravans for Travellers and the number of
homeless persons. In November 1998 the local authorities were directed to carry out an assessment of
the need existing on 31 March, 1999.
Fahy, T. and Watson, D. (1995) An Analysis of Social Housing Need, Dublin, ESRI.
rent allowance. Of these 11,361 households, 48 per cent (5,453) were single
parents with children, 23 per cent (2,613) were single person households, 22 per
cent (2,499) were two adult households with children and 7 per cent (796) were
adult households without children. The Agency is highly concerned at the high
number of child dependants residing in rent supplemented private rented housing
and at risk of poverty. Nearly 70 per cent of all SWA households assessed in
housing need (7,952 households) have child dependants.
The major categories of need indicated by the 1999 assessment found that 34 per
cent of households eligible for social housing were unable to afford their own
accommodation, 10 per cent were involuntarily sharing accommodation, 21 per cent
were living in overcrowded accommodation and 12 per cent in unfit
accommodation. These latter two categories have a particular bearing on the
housing conditions of households on local authority waiting lists but resident in the
private rented sector. Combined they suggest approximately one in three
households (33 per cent) eligible for social housing reside in unfit and overcrowded
While cross-tabulations with the numbers in receipt of SWA rent allowance have not
yet been made by the DELG, the preliminary figures suggests a very strong
correlation exists between poor housing conditions and receipt of rent supplement.
In other words, there is growing evidence that in 1999 private tenant households
assessed as eligible for social housing and awaiting a social housing allocation live
in the worst housing conditions in the sector. The 1999 Assessment of Housing
Needs confirms the extent to which current housing policy has come to rely upon
the private rented sector as a component part of social housing provision. However,
it also illustrates the poor housing conditions of many SWA tenant households and
further indicates the degree to which the housing needs of households at risk of
poverty are not currently being met in the sector.
A government appointed Commission comprising the social partners (Government,
unions, non-statutory sector and employers) as well as other interests is due to
report in June 2000. It's main function is to address issues related to increase
supply of private rented accommodation, attracting inward institutional investment in
the sector and improving security of tenure and other tenants rights as well as the
The National Economic and Social Forum is currently concluding a major study into
the future of social housing policy and is focussing on the following elements of
social housing provision and consumption: The delivery of housing as a public
service; increasing the availability of Affordable Housing; building communities;
promoting Integration and reducing social segregation; good practice.
Eligibility to social housing
Households in need of housing who cannot supply housing from their own
resources are eligible to be considered for social housing. These have been the
criteria since the 1960s. A means test is applied and varied from time to time.
Current income limits are: up to £20,000 for single persons less than and up to
£50,000 for couples.
Not everybody who is eligible for housing to apply for housing is allocated housing,
since demand outstrips supply. A points system now operates in most local
authorities. Previously the system of allocation was unclear and open to
manipulation. Under the points system, applicants are granted points for particular
circumstances (family size, overcrowding, insecurity, high rents, medical conditions
etc.)and the person with most points goes to the top of the list. Single people do not
generally do well under this system, unless they are elderly.
Since the 1960s it has been possible for tenants to purchase their local authority
houses. Flats are not available for purchase due to legal difficulties about
maintenance of common areas. Social housing provided through voluntary bodies
is not available for purchase. This makes this type of housing relatively less
Over two thirds of local authority housing built to date has been sold to tenants.
The specific details of tenant purchase schemes are changed from time to time.
Generally any tenant is entitled to purchase provided they have been a tenant for at
least two years, have no rent arrears and demonstrate ability to make repayments.
Loans are available through the local authority for purchase.
Most tenants become purchasers. Of those that remain, local authorities are
generally sympathetic to family members inheriting tenancies, although it is not an
absolute right. Tenancies would usually be transferred if someone had been
resident with the tenant for some time and if the house was appropriate to their
circumstances. (a young person would not be allowed a senior citizens flat, a single
person a three bedroom house etc.
Due to its being only relatively recently introduced on a formal basis, estate
management remains a new frontier in Irish social housing provision. Estate
management is but one of a range of appropriate interventions necessary to secure
the empowerment of local communities over decisions that affect their daily quality
of life25. Others include community representatives on the new County/City
Development Boards (CBDs) that are responsible for establishing, and overseeing
the implementation, of strategies for social, cultural and economic development
within the county and/or city. Additionally, Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) are
being established in each local authority area and are to develop policy in the key
functional areas of: planning and environment; housing; roads; community and
The key challenge for local authorities will be to ensure that those groups in society
that are most excluded and that have least opportunity to have a say, are
represented on the CBD and SPC structures.
Estate management is by default a more localised activity specific to social housing
areas, but one that has the potential to be co-ordinated and delivered across wider
housing areas. Nevertheless estate management is not panacea for all social
housing problems and must not be advocated as a cure-all for current failures in
social housing provision or regarded as a guarantee of success in future provision.
Nonetheless, in order that it becomes an elemental part of the development of
participative democracy in local government, estate management must include a
focus on issues of tenant participation and ultimately on decision-making. That is,
estate management should include a focus on managing and decision-making as a
process of empowerment for local communities – old and new. In its absence,
current and future residents of social housing can remain caught in a spiral of dis-
empowerment that further exaggerates the impact of poverty and exclusion at the
community and local level. Estate management in isolation cannot tackle this range
of difficulties, however it can strive towards the development of structures of
empowerment for local communities that will:
- Build local capacity and release existing strengths
- Change the nature of service delivery
- Strengthen the foundations for area-based decision-making and governance
- Shift underlying structures of society, especially in relation to negotiating power
and decision-making responsibilities between tenants and landlords
Innovation can lead to success. An example of best practice towards increased
empowerment of local residents is the Community Consultative Panel established
by Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. Composed of representatives from residents'
associations and interested groups in Ballymun and adjoining areas, the Panel
meetings give groups a regular opportunity to see how proposed developments in
their area fit into the overall regeneration project, and to discuss and debate the
issues of concern26.
The process of empowering communities through consultation and participation in
decision-making affecting their local areas must be built into new build and
regeneration strategies for social and affordable housing areas. It can operate at
different scales and across different issues that include estate management through
to major large-scale development proposals as part of a larger regeneration
strategy. However, to succeed it has to obtain its own capacity to positively enact
change, and this means shared decision-making between social housing providers
and social housing residents. For both local authorities and housing associations
alike the imperative remains to develop and institute models of community
participation in the building and sustaining of communities 27.
The type of housing allowance a tenant is entitled to depends on who is their
landlord. Tenants of social housing provided by voluntary bodies are charged
generally a market rent which is then subsidised through the income maintenance
system (see Q6F(1). Subsidies are capped depending on the scheme of funding
under which the construction of the housing was funded.
Tenants of a local authority are not charged an economic or full market rent but
instead pay a differential rent adjusted on the basis of household ability to pay.
Data on receipt of SWA is published by the Department of Social Family and
Community Affairs but does not differential between private and social tenants. The
overwhelming majority of tenants in social housing are likely to be subsidised.
Craig, S. (2000) Involving Communities in Local Government - a guide to participation, Combat
Poverty Agency, Dublin.
Actors and their role
Government department's role. The Department of the Environment and Local
Government is the Department primarily responsible for the formulation and
implementation of policy and for the preparation of legislation in relation to housing.
The vast majority of housing services for which the Department is responsible are
delivered through the local authorities. A limited range of services are provided
directly to the public, including £3,000 grants for first time purchasers of new
houses, and grants towards the renovation and repair of thatched roofs.
The Department maintains links with a number of other Government Departments
in relation to housing matters, particularly with the Department of Finance as
regards taxation treatment of housing, e.g. mortgage interest relief, stamp duty on
housing etc.; the Central Bank on mortgage finance; the Department of Social,
Community and Family Affairs on income supports for housing through the
Supplementary Welfare Allowances Scheme; the Department of Health and
Children on the care and support for special category needs such as elderly or
disabled people; and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on
general issues regarding Travellers, landlord and tenant matters and asylum
seekers and refugees.
Government department housing policy. The provision of decent housing for all has
long been a central aim of public policy and was given expression most recently in
the policy documents A Plan for Social Housing (1991), Social Housing - The Way
Ahead (1995) and the Government programme An Action Programme for the
Millennium (as revised in November 1999) and the National Development Plan.
The general strategy for realising this aim is that those who can afford to do so
should provide housing for themselves with the aid of the fiscal incentives available
and that those unable to do so from their own resources have access to social
housing or to income support to secure and to retain private housing. The overall
aim of housing policy is "enable every household to have available an affordable
dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment and as far as
possible at the tenure of its choice". The aim is pursued through five broad
- overseeing and maintaining a national housing programme appropriate to
- facilitating home ownership for the greatest number of households who desire
and can afford it,
- developing and supporting a responsive social housing sector for those who
cannot afford suitable accommodation from their own resources,
- developing and maintaining a framework for an efficient private rented sector,
- developing and maintaining appropriate measures to secure conservation and
improvement of the housing stock, with particular emphasis on the needs of low
Delivery of housing services under national housing policy. Housing services for
which the Department of Environment is responsible are virtually all delivered
through the local authorities. These services, for which the Department provides the
legislative basis and, as appropriate, financial support, include:
- provision, maintenance, and management of local authority housing and
- delivery of accommodation services for homeless people,
- support for the provision of social housing projects by voluntary housing bodies
under the Capital Assistance and Rental Subsidy schemes,
- improvement works to privately owned houses in lieu of local authority housing,
- shared ownership,
- affordable housing,
- sale of local authority houses to tenants,
- loans for house purchase and improvement,
- low cost housing sites,
- mortgage allowance scheme for tenants surrendering local authority or rental
subsidy accommodation and purchasing or building a house for their own
- enforcement of rent books, standards and registration of rented houses
- disabled persons grants, and
- essential repairs grants.
The Department of Environment provides a limited range of services directly to the
public, mainly in relation to private housing, as follows: £3,000 grants for first time
purchasers of new houses; grants towards the renovation and repair of thatched
roofs, and certification for the purposes of the urban renewal scheme.
Housing associations. The affiliated membership of the Irish Council for Social
Housing (ICSH) comprises 120 member organisations located all over the country
and has contributed some 25% of the new social rented dwellings added to the
national stock since 1995. The membership now collectively manages in excess of
Other agencies include the Rural Resettlement Ireland. Regarding the private
rented sector Threshold Ltd. and the Rent Tribunal (for controlled tenancies) are of
interest; the Housing Finance Agency is an actor of importance in the social
housing sector; for the homeless, Focus Ireland or SIMON; in terms of urban
regeneration Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. For owner occupation and housing
construction, actors include the Irish Home Builders Association (IHBA), and
HomeBond, The National House Building Guarantee Scheme, and the National
Special Initiatives / Restrictions
The following are selected outline areas where significant policy initiatives are either
currently underway or are in development:
- Expansion of Voluntary Sector social housing output
- Expansion in Social Housing output
- New Affordable Housing Schemes
- Shared Ownership (local authority)
- Traveller's Accommodation
- Planning and Development Bill, 1999
- National Development Plan
- Partnership for Prosperity and Fairness
- National Spatial Strategy
- Fiscal changes related to housing consumption- stamp duty and tax rental relief
- Changes in Sect 23 tax designation, Integrated Action Plans for urban
- Capital Gains Tax - reduced to 20% for development land and assets
- Changes in Financial Services - new entrants, greater flexibility in lending
- De-mutualisation of building societies
- Economic and Monetary Union - full Irish membership.
- Monetary and Exchange rate policy - no longer under national control.
Mortgage interest rates at historic lows and massive expansion in lending and
overall credit growth
- Prudential concerns raised by the extent and depth of exposure in a volatile
private housing market
- House price inflation - 107.8% real inflation between 1996 and 1999
- Middle-income house price problems for entry into Owner Occupation due to
house price inflation
- Low-income affordability issues due to increases in rent for private rental
- Commission on the Private Rented Sector
- Affordability crisis in Irish housing is a multi-dimensional and inter-tenure
phenomenon. The severity of which is impacting disproportionately upon the
marginalised groups in Irish society
- Delivery of housing services - nascent new professionalism
- Integration of administration of housing income support - local authorities to
receive the administration of housing income support to recipients in the Private
- Energy efficiency and fuel poverty - proposals to retrofit all Irish housing to
minimum energy efficiency standards
- Sustainable development guidelines for urban development.
A major study into the future of social housing in Ireland has been underway for
twelve months now under the direction of the National Economic and Social Forum.
The study will formulate a range of policy recommendations, initiatives and actions
across themes previously referred to. The key aspects of the debate are likely to
focus on the extent to which social housing policy should strive to build, develop
and sustain new and renewed communities in social housing through extensive
community development programmes, empowerment strategies, tenant
participation and estate management instead of the traditional bricks and mortar
approach to housing management.
Im/migrants. The issue of immigration is one which is very new to Ireland. Generally
legislation refers to residents, rather than citizens. There is no right to housing. the
practice seems to be that “legal” immigrants are entitled to social housing in the
same way as Irish people. People with refugee status certainly have the same
entitlements as Irish people. A recent policy statement indicates that asylum
seekers with Irish born children are also eligible for local authority housing.
The entitlement to claim SWA relates to a person being resident in the state.
Allowances for owners generally relate to ability to purchase, which in turn is related
to evidence of work and income tax payment. People who are entitled to work here
are presumably entitled to claim assistance with house purchase. 28
Asylum-seekers. Prior to April 10 2000 asylum seekers were housed in a
spectrum of accommodation ranging form emergency B&B type and Hostel
Housing programmes for asylum seekers are currently undergoing a reformulation based on a direct
provision dispersal strategy and are subject to change. For the latest details on provision contact the
Immigration Section of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
accommodation to being directly placed in private rented sector housing by referral
agencies. SWA Housing income was available directly to the asylum -seeking
household. Since then the regime has changed for new asylum seekers to one of
direct provision of board and lodgings and the direct placement of asylum seekers
in hostels and equivalent type accommodation under a new dispersal strategy that
seeks to reduce the number of asylum seekers in major urban areas by housing
them in regional centres and small rural areas. Under this regime asylum seekers
get £15 per week 'comfort money' with which to offset the cost of mobility etc. The
rationale for the change in regime practice is the officially stated shortage of
suitable accommodation in the major urban areas of the East coast.
Recognised refugees according to Geneva Convention. convention or programme
refugees are housed directly be health boards and have the equivalent rights to
social housing entitlements of Irish citizens. They are entitled to register o the
waiting lists for social housing and if allocated a tenancy are entitled to inheritance
rights for the tenancy. Family re-unification for programme refugees is allowable but
is strictly controlled by the Provisions of the Refugee Act, 1996 (this Act is not fully
implemented by the current government due to a disagreement over the policy
directions it establishes).
Economic migrants’ families of low income. all economic migrants must apply for
and be awarded a fixed work visa prior to arrival in Ireland. Otherwise they are
considered 'illegal migrants' and may be subject to deportation. Despite this non-
government organisations will encourage economic migrants to apply for SWA
housing income support for short-term housing needs as Regional Health Board
practice in determining eligibility is somewhat discretionary.
Young People. The housing needs of young people are generally not catered for in
the social housing system. There is one planned Foyer for Dublin which will be
targetting young people in a deprived inner city area, but this has yet to be
The Elderly. certain non-governmental organisations (e.g. Simon Community) and
statutory and non-statutory social housing providers provide sheltered housing to
low income elderly. Local authorities do make special provision of elderly people in
senior citizens complexes where there is on iste support from community wardens.
Within these schemes there are alarm systems for use by the tenants. Similar
schemes are provided by voluntary organisations throughout the country, with
varying levels of care and support.
The Disabled. independent of state funded institutional care systems for disabled
people, the only housing support for disabled household's are household's caring
for disabled persons is the Disabled Person's Grant (capital grant for physical
alterations to a property - see Q.XXX) as well as an income subvention known as
the Carer's Allowance.
Single-Parents. apart from prioritised eligibility for social housing for low income
single parent households there exists no dedicated housing programme for single
The Homeless. A number of statutory (local authority) and non-statutory agencies
provide services to the homeless population ranging from soup runs through to
emergency hostel accommodation, direct placement in private rented housing,
transitional housing schemes and resettlement programmes. The health needs of
the homeless population is provided for by Regional Health Services. Apart from
limited statutory provision, the funding regime for non-statutory homeless services
providers is administered centrally by Government Departments.
Recently the Irish government issued a new policy document on homelessness
based on a cross-departmental examination of the issues under the following terms
of reference: 'to develop an integrated response to the many issues which affect
homeless people including emergency, transitional and long-term responses as
well as issues relating to health, education, employment and home-making'. The
policy document entitled 'Homelessness - an Integrated Strategy' contains a
number of recommendations targeting the key urban areas with high incidences of
homelessness and recognises the unique problem of Youth Homelessness. A
separate Government Strategy on Youth Homelessness is being developed by the
Minister of State for Children, under the following objectives: to ensure adequate
emergency responses for those who become homeless, and; to ensure
reintegration to the family and /pr community of those who have been homeless.
The key elements of the strategy will involve: (a) identification of those at risk of
becoming homeless; (b) preventative strategies and actions; (c) assessment of
current service responses and their relationship to need; (d) developing provision of
adequate responses to ensure that no young person is without a place to stay; (e)
provision of services to re-integrate young people into their communities, and: (f) an
assessment of resources required.
The key proposals of the Integrated Strategy on Homelessness are:
- Local Authorities and Health Boards, in full partnership with the voluntary
bodies, will draw up action plans on a county by county basis to provide a more
coherent and integrated delivery of services to homeless persons by all
agencies dealing with the homeless.
- Homeless fora, comprising of representatives of the local authority, health
board and the voluntary sector, will be established in every county.
- Local authorities will be responsible for the provision of accommodation,
including emergency hostel accommodation for homeless persons and health
boards will responsible for the provision of their in-house care and health
- A Director for homeless services in the Dublin area will be appointed by the
Dublin Corporation and a centre will be established for the delivery of these
services within the Dublin area.
- Additional accommodation will be made available to enable persons residing in
hostels to move on to sheltered or independent housing, as appropriate,
thereby freeing up spaces in emergency hostel accommodation.
- A variety of accommodation is required for a range for homeless households ,
which includes couples and individuals with children.
- Settlement and outreach worker positions will be established to facilitate and
encourage persons to move out of emergency hostel accommodation.
An additional IR£12 million current funding per annum and IR£20 million capital
funding over a five year period will be required for these improved services to be
introduced and additional move-on accommodation to be provided. Funding
mechanisms will be reviewed in the light of the action plans.
Preventative strategies, targeting at risk groups are an essential requirement for
those leaving custodial or health related care. Procedures will also be developed
and implemented to prevent homelessness among these groups.
Battered Women. a limited number of hostels and emergency accommodation is
available form both statutory and non-statutory providers for women and
dependants who have experienced domestic violence.
Drug Users. anti-social behaviour provisions of the Housing (Misc. Provisions) Act,
1997 have led to increased number of social housing tenants who are hard drug
users being evicted form their housing on the basis of exclusionary strategies being
operated by local authorities with the tacit and sometimes explicit support of local
estate management fora. The vast majority of this population has since become
homeless and has led to a transformation in the composition of street homeless
population. There exist no formal housing programme dedicated to meeting the
housing needs of this group.
Appendix: Legal provisions
The following national provisions – there are no regional regulations – regulate the
- Housing Acts, 1966 to 1998
- Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1979
- Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992
- Finance Act, 2000
- Finance Act, 1986
- Urban Renewal Act, 1998
- Urban Renewal Act, 1986
- The statutory changes made in recent years in regard to rented housing
constitute a Charter for landlords and tenants. The legislation is:
- Landlord and Tenant Act, 1980
- Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act,1982
- Housing (Registration of Rented Houses) Regulations, 1996
- Housing (Rent Books) Regulations, 1993
- Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations, 1993
A small number of dwellings were formerly controlled under the Rent Restrictions
Acts. These are regulated under the 1982 Act. This legislation allows for regulation
of standards, of rent books and for rent to be set by a Rent Tribunal. Under the
1980 Act, tenants with 20 years continuous occupation are entitled to a 35 year
lease which would be subject to five yearly rent reviews. Very few tenancies are
subject these provisions. The following provisions apply to the remainder of private
Further References / Reading
Survey Data on Housing is collated and published by the State (see Department of
Environment and Local Government, Annual Housing Statistics Bulletin, Stationary
Office, Dublin). Categories of data collected include:
- Housing Production Activity - completions and output across all housing tenures
- Private Housing Finance - details of housing mortgage finance market
(approvals, payments, mortgage types, range of loans paid)
- Profile of Borrowers - details of mortgage finance borrowers (previous tenure,
marital status, range of incomes, occupation of borrowers)
- House Prices - new and second hand houses and apartments, regional details,
- Local Authority Housing - sales, completions by region, new lettings, total
lettings management and maintenance expenditure, local authority housing
- Activity under Social Housing Schemes - shared ownership, mortgage
allowance, remedial works, rental subsidy and capital assistance for voluntary
social housing schemes
- Traveller Families in Local Authority or Local Authority Assisted
- Housing Grants - first time buyers, house improvements, disabled persons,
essential repairs, improvements in lieu of local authority housing, water and
- Enforcement of Statutory Requirements - private rented housing
- Housing (registration of rented houses) Regulations 1996
- Capital Investment in Housing
Housing data published by the State is collated from mortgage finance industry,
housing construction industry, local authorities and other social housing providers.
Household data collated by the Census and the Household Budget Survey is also
available from the State. Other housing data is produced from professional interests
in the housing sector e.g. Irish Association of Auctioneers and Valuer's, Irish
Permanent (plc) in co-operation with the Economic and Social Research Institute. It
is important to note however that no exhaustive or dedicated national housing
provision and consumption survey, independent from the above, is conducted on a
systematic and longitudinal basis.
Bacon, P. et al (1998) An Economic Assessment of Recent House Price
Developments, Government Stationary Office, Dublin.
(1999) The Housing Market: an Economic Review and Assessment, Government
Stationary Office, Dublin.
Blackwell, J. (1988) A Review of Housing Policy, National Economic and Social
Council, Government Stationary Office, Dublin.
Downey, D, (1998) New Realities in Irish Housing - A Study on Housing
Affordability and the Economy, Consultancy and Research Unit for the Built
Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin.
Dublin Corporation, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County
Council and South Dublin County Council, (1999) Housing in Dublin - a Strategic
Review by the Dublin local Authorities, Dublin.
Drudy, P.J. (1999) Housing: a new approach, Report of the Housing Commission,
Dublin, The Labour Party.
Fahey, T (Ed) (1999) Social Housing in Ireland - A Study of Successes, Failure and
Lessons Learned, Katherine Howard Foundation in Association with the Combat
Poverty Agency, Oak Tree Press, Dublin.
Fahey, T, and Watson, D. (1995) An Analysis of Social Housing Need, General
Research Paper No. 168, Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin.
Guerin, D. (1999) Housing Income Support in the Private Rented Sector, Combat
Poverty Agency, Dublin.
Nolan, B, Whelan, C.T. and Williams, J. (1998) Where are Poor Households? The
Spatial Distribution of Poverty and Deprivation in Ireland, Oak Tree Press in
association with the Combat Poverty Agency, Dublin.
Threshold (1999) Private Rented Housing - Issues and Options, Threshold, Dublin.