Social Housing Incomes Limits denying Monaghan families any chance of their own home – Matt Carthy TD
The current income limits that apply are preventing thousands of individuals and families from ever securing housing supports, Deputy Matt Carthy told the Dáil last week.
He said that the limits in place in County Monaghan, the lowest in the state, meant that some people who were offered council housing tenancies subsequently had the offers withdrawn. Deputy Carthy told the Housing Minister that a long promised review of the limits must be implemented and that flexibility must be included to allow for those who were on the brink of same.
Deputy Carthy told of one case he had recently dealt with, he said:
“The people in need of social housing supports do not want to hear about reports or promises. They want to see the Government take action that has been long-promised in respect of income limit thresholds. The income limits were introduced, in my view, as a measure simply to reduce the waiting lists. In the interim, they have caused undue hardship to those people who are waiting for housing.
“My office advocated for a single parent who is working in a low-paid job. She is currently living in her parents’ home, sharing a box room with her child. She was provisionally offered a house this month, which was a huge relief. She completed the paperwork only to be then told that she exceeded the income limits by €1,500 a year or €28 a week and the offer of housing was withdrawn.
“Worse than that, she has been removed from the housing list altogether and she was told that when she gets back on it if her income reduces, she will go to the back of the queue.
“That is a scandal that needs to be addressed. We need to know when that scandal will be addressed”.
In a response on behalf of Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, junior Minister Malcolm Noonan, said:
“Housing For All was published in September 2021 and, as part of a broad suite of social housing reforms, committed to reviewing income eligibility for social housing. The review, which examined inter alia the efficiency of the current banding model and income limits applicable to local authorities, has been completed. Minister O’Brien recently approved implementation of its recommendations. This included the commissioning of work to scope and develop options for a revised or new social housing income eligibility model. This work will commence shortly under the aegis of the Housing Agency, which has been tasked with commissioning it. It is expected that this work will be completed by the end of 2022.
“It is now appropriate to await the report I referred to before considering the appropriate income threshold levels for all counties and the potential impact of the changes that might arise. The November 2021 report has been published – I am aware some Deputies have read it – and is available on our Department’s website. In a previous reply to a question by Deputy Naughten, the Minister, Deputy O’Brien, has given a commitment to looking at transitioning measures for families going over the threshold. The Minister is not happy with the report but he is looking to the review of the Housing Agency and to have that completed by the year end. We are conscious there is an absolute sense of urgency on this, as highlighted by the number of questions and the comments from the Deputies. Minister O’Brien is committed to resolving this and looking at those transitioning measures for families who might be just marginally going over the threshold in some areas.
Monaghan families locked in rental market
Deputy Carthy told the Ministers in attendance that the current limits mean that, for any couple seeking housing support, either one working prevents them from doing so.
He told the Dáil:
“I have lost count of the number of couples I have been working with who have been removed from the housing waiting lists because they exceeded limits by just a couple of hundred euro in some instances.
“The system as it applies to County Monaghan is designed so that any couple, of which a single party is working, will not make it onto the social housing waiting list.
“The income limit for County Monaghan for a family of two adults and two children is €27,500 per annum. Those people will never qualify for a mortgage! The prospect of private homeownership is not available to them.
“The Government has provided for precisely zero affordable homes in County Monaghan under the affordable housing scheme.
“What are we supposed to say to those families who fall into that trap?
“Should we tell them to rent forever and face the ever-increasing rent prices and costs? Should they essentially remain nomadic for the rest of their lives?
“My appeal to the Minister of State is not only to review but to create a system so that flexibility can be allowed for those people who breach income limits that have been set too robustly up until this point.”