Richie MacRitchie is an information officer with Welfare Appeals, who provide information and representation on social welfare, housing, employment and other issues. They hold a weekly clinic with a Russian interpreter every Wednesday morning (currently by zoom). For details, visit http://www.welfareappeals.ie/index.php/en/russian-info
This week Richie will talk about Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and some of the issues which commonly arise. If anyone would like further information or help with their circumstances please email email@example.com
Each local county council is responsible for assessing the housing needs of people living in the council area. There are some central rules which are applied across all council areas, but some rules are applied differently in each area. But the core idea is relatively simple. If you cannot provide accommodation yourself, the council will (eventually) provide you with a place that they rent directly to you. However, councils do not have enough housing to allocate to everyone who applies, and therefore they have a waiting list. Once you get to the top of the list, you will be offered a council tenancy.
In order to apply for the council housing list, you must be legally resident in Ireland. EU citizens and their family members must be exercising their Treaty rights. Non-EU nationals must have a long-term residence visa (usually stamp 4). Students and other short-term visa holders are not normally permitted to apply. If you are a non-EEU citizen, you should check your visa conditions before applying for housing support.
You can only be on the housing list for one county council at any one time. However, if you live in Dublin, you can select different areas of the city where you would like to be housed. For example, if you are on Dublin City Council list, you can ask to be housed in Fingal, South Dublin or Dun Laoghaire. You must show that you have a local connection with the council area where you apply. If you live or work in the area this will suffice, although there are other ways of showing that you have a connection.
You will be asked to give details of everyone in your household. Your “household” includes everyone you would like to live with you when you are offered accommodation. It does not necessarily include everyone who is living with you at the time you make the application. The income of everyone in your “household” will be assessed, so it is important that you do not include anyone in your application if you do not intend to live with them in your council tenancy.
For the different income limits click here https://assets.gov.ie/117877/1d2cad0e-4c47-4a5c-b8ef-38401fc8fc4a.pdf . You should note that it is your income AFTER tax that is used. It is not always easy to calculate your total income. For example, if your income has been temporarily reduced, some councils may not accept your reduced income.
Medical Priority & Overcrowding
If you can show that your medical condition would be greatly improved by a change in accommodation, you may be awarded medical priority status and being housed more quickly. You can also be awarded priority status if you have exceptional social grounds. Each case is looked at individually, so it is difficult to say what kind of medical or exceptional case will be accepted. You can also be housed more quickly if your accommodation is overcrowded.
When you get to the top of the list you will be offered housing. The housing is usually provided with no furniture or kitchen appliances. If you are in receipt of a social welfare payment, you may get assistance with the cost of these items from your local social welfare office under the Exceptional Needs Payment Scheme.
Each council sets the amount of rent in a different way. You will probably pay between 10-22% of your weekly income to the council. You will be charged rent for anyone living in the property with you. However, the council will not give permission for someone to move in to the property if it makes the property overcrowded.
Buying your council house
In some circumstances you may be able to buy your property from the council after you have lived there for some time. A significant discount is usually offered on the purchase price, depending on how long you have been a tenant there. However, not all properties are for sale and councils may change their policy. You therefore cannot be guaranteed that you will be able to do this.
Voluntary Housing Associations
Housing Associations also provide housing to people on the housing list. Each Housing Association has different rules about who is eligible and some specialise in providing housing to vulnerable groups, and some have a different way of calculating your rent. If you are given housing by a housing association, you pay your rent to the association and have many of the protections that are available to private tenants. However, you will not have the opportunity to buy the property from the association.
When you die
Each council has a policy about what happens to your tenancy when you die. If family members have been living in the property for a period of time, they may be able to take over the tenancy and continue living there. It is therefore important that you tell the council about any family members living in the property.
Losing your council home
If you breach the conditions of your tenancy, you may be evicted from your council home. The council may also ask you to move property if the accommodation no longer suits your needs. However, in most cases, once you have been given a council tenancy you can stay there for the rest of your life.
If anyone needs any further information or assistance with their application for the council list or HAP, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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