New limits for the means testing of incomes for the assessment of social housing need came into force this week, it was announced by the Minister for Housing and Planning, Willie Penrose.
In Westmeath, for all areas covered by the county council and Athlone Town Council, the maximum net per annum income threshold for a single person applicant is now amended to €25,000, whereas for a three adult and four child family it is now set at €30,000.
“Up til now there have been many different practices in housing authorities in the way applicants for social housing support had their income means tested, and in some cases there were no specific income limits and general guidelines were applied,” he explained.
“In others there were limits but these varied from area to area. There were also very significant variations in the way income was defined. The new regulations will standardise both the income limits and how income is defined,” he stated.
Under the new arrangements three income-threshold bands have been established, and housing authorities are assigned to a band based on an analysis of the local private rental cost of housing accommodation in each area.
In the new amended regulations which came into force on April 1, Minister Penrose announced an increase of €5,000 in each of the income bands previously envisaged which now range from €25,000 - €35,000.
The income bands are expressed in terms of a maximum net income threshold for a single person household. This means, for example, that a single person in the top band, such as Dublin, is eligible to apply for social housing support as long as net income does not exceed €35,000.
Income limits specified in the regulations are based on ‘net’ income, which is defined as gross income of all kinds [including most forms of social welfare benefits or assistance] less tax, PRSI and the universal social charge. Child benefit is disregarded as well as most temporary income.
For households of more than one person, the income threshold is increased to take account of additional adults and children in the household. The Minister acknowledged that the increase in the limits may result in more applications for social housing support, but said that it was important, for reasons of achieving sustainable communities, to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn.
“I will look again at the eligibility criteria for social housing in about six months time. This will form part of my review of social housing policy over the coming months,” said Minister Penrose.