Councils are utilizing a “very badly worded” round from the Division of Housing to exclude households from social housing regardless of their incomes falling beneath qualifying thresholds, housing rights advocates are warning.
They are saying a round issued in March final 12 months can also be getting used to refuse homeless households emergency lodging. The influence is being described as “unacceptable” and “actually harsh”.
The round, which centres on how a family’s earnings is calculated, is titled Social Housing Help Family Means Coverage 2021. It says: “The willpower of whether or not an applicant family meets the earnings standards relies on a calculation of their previous 12 months’ web common earnings earlier than the date of receipt of utility.”
Councils are making use of a “inflexible” interpretation of this, says Aoife Kelly-Desmond, managing solicitor with the Mercy Legislation authorized charity. “They’re trying again at an applicant’s common earnings over the previous 12 months, even the place their present circumstances have modified and their earnings is beneath the qualifying earnings threshold.”
Annual earnings limits of €25,000-€42,000, relying on the native authority and family measurement, haven’t modified since 2011.
“The outcomes will be actually harsh,” says Ms Kelly-Desmond. “If an individual is blocked from getting into, or is faraway from, the social housing record they’re additionally unable to assert HAP [Housing Assistance Payment], which means they may very well be with none housing assist for a interval of months despite the fact that their present earnings is way beneath the brink.
“Much more concerningly, we see many native authorities use eligibility for social housing as a ‘proxy’ for eligibility for emergency homeless lodging.”
Opposition housing spokesmen Eoin Ó Broin of Sinn Féin and Richard Boyd Barrett of Folks Earlier than Revenue say they’ve had a number of instances of their clinics over the previous 15 months. “It’s completely surprising and it’s getting worse,” mentioned Boyd Barrett.
This utility of the round seems to contravene each the 2011 Social Housing Evaluation Rules, which give “discretion” to assessment an utility the place there are “adjustments in family circumstances”; and the 1988 Housing Act, which says an individual “shall” be thought to be homeless when “unable to offer lodging from [their] personal sources”.
Whereas Ó Broin “absolutely” understood the necessity for consistency in earnings assessments, he mentioned: “It’s merely unacceptable that folks whose earnings is clearly beneath the earnings thresholds are excluded from social housing assist due to a really badly worded round. I’ve written to Minister [for Housing] Darragh O’Brien and his officers urging them to amend the round to make sure a level of flexibility.”
Ms Kelly-Desmond mentioned: “At a minimal the round must be amended to return discretion to native authorities to contemplate a cloth change in circumstances when assessing purposes for social housing.
“It have to be made clear it isn’t relevant to emergency homeless lodging.”
A Division of Housing spokesman mentioned: “Social housing is a long-term assist for households with persevering with, long-term problem assembly their lodging wants. Assessing an applicant’s web common earnings over a 12-month interval gives a complete image of their present and former earnings and permits for a good and real looking evaluation of long-term want on the time of utility.
“Candidates might reapply for social housing assist at any time, and hire complement may additionally be out there to assist meet shorter-term wants. An individual doesn’t must be eligible for social housing to entry homeless helps.”
‘I mentioned we’d be on the streets with two children and was principally informed it wasn’t their drawback’
Sandra (not her actual identify) reunited along with her companion in February after a interval aside. The couple have two younger kids, one with particular wants and autism.
Regardless of their earnings falling beneath the €38,000 restrict for his or her household measurement for social housing in Dublin, South Dublin County Council informed them final week they weren’t eligible. Nor can the now homeless household get Housing Help Cost (HAP). They had been additionally initially refused emergency lodging.
She says that though she and her companion had been aside, she was dwelling along with her dad and mom and receiving the One Guardian Household Cost of €208 plus €80 per week for the kids — about €15,000 per 12 months. When she and her companion reunited in February, she stopped receiving this. He earns “an excellent bit much less” than €38,000 a 12 months as a labourer.
They moved out of her dad and mom’ residence attributable to overcrowding and had been transferring between household and pals’ houses. In April they utilized for social housing and HAP.
Involved concerning the delay in processing their utility, they contacted their TD, Eoin Ó Broin, who contacted the council.
“Final Friday somebody known as from the council. She mentioned, ‘I’m sorry to let you know, you’re over the yearly earnings threshold for social housing’.” She was informed their mixed incomes over the 12 months as much as April was greater than €38,000.
“I used to be making an attempt to clarify to her that I don’t get One Guardian Household Cost any extra, and we’ve got a toddler with particular wants. I used to be principally pleading along with her. I requested about emergency lodging and she or he mentioned, ‘Nicely, as you understand, you don’t qualify, so there may be nothing we are able to do.’ I mentioned we’d be on the streets with two children and was principally informed it wasn’t their drawback.
“I felt my mouth drop into my abdomen … I simply thought, ‘What are we going to do?’ We are able to’t afford to hire in Dublin … Our earnings would solely cowl hire, nothing else. And the actual fact they had been denying us emergency lodging was a knife within the again.”
Following intervention by Ó Broin and Mercy Legislation, they’ve been provided emergency lodging within the metropolis centre however can’t apply for social housing or HAP till February 2023.
“I simply really feel misplaced, caught,” says Sandra. “My baby’s meltdowns are getting worse. My older baby is asking day-after-day, ‘When are we going residence, Mammy?’ It seems like there’s no approach ahead for us.”
South Dublin County Council didn’t present a remark.