Guide to housing supports for returning Irish emigrants

Introduction

If you return home to Ireland and have difficulty paying rent or buying suitable accommodation, you can apply for housing support from the State.

This document outlines the types of State housing supports that are available and highlights any barriers you might encounter when trying to access these supports as a returning Irish emigrant.

If you have a long-term housing need, you no longer specifically apply for a ‘council house’. Instead you apply for social housing support to go on the social housing waiting list and/or get the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) – see the section on ‘Social housing supports’ below.

If you have a short-term housing need (for example, if you lose your job) you can apply for Rent Supplement to help pay the rent, or emergency accommodation if you become homeless – see the section on ‘Short-term housing supports’ below.

If you are an older, Irish-born emigrant living abroad, and you want to return to Ireland, but will be unable to provide accommodation for yourself, Safe Home Ireland may be able to help you find accommodation before you return. Find out more about the supports that Safe Home Ireland provides.

Qualifying for social housing support

If you can’t afford to pay for accommodation yourself, you may be able to get social housing support. Generally, this type of support is for people who have a long-term housing need.

To qualify for social housing support you must be eligible for the support and you must be in need of the support. The local authority will only assess your need for social housing, if you have met the eligibility criteria.

Your local authority (county or city council) will consider a number of things in a specific order when assessing if you qualify for social housing:

  1. Your residency status: The local authority will consider whether you have a right to live in Ireland. As an Irish citizen, you have the right to live and work in Ireland, regardless of how many years you have lived abroad
  2. Your eligibility:
    • Your income: Your income must be under a certain amount to qualify for social housing support. Currently, this ranges from €25,000 to €35,000 depending on where you want to live.
    • Availability of alternative accommodation: You must show that you do not have suitable alternative accommodation, for example, a property in another area or country, or accommodation belonging to a family member that you could reasonably be expected to live in.
  3. Your need: When deciding whether your household is in need of social housing, the housing authority will consider a number of questions about your current accommodation, for example, is it overcrowded, unfit for human habitation, or is it emergency accommodation or a hostel. For a full list of the questions, see Applying for local authority/social housing.

If you qualify for social housing support you will be placed on the list of qualified households. This means you will be added to the social housing waiting list, or you will get the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Currently the support you are most likely to be offered is the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). If you get HAP but also want to stay on the social housing waiting list, you must apply to the local authority to be placed on the transfer list.

Housing supports for short-term housing needs

The table below lists the types of social housing supports available for those who are eligible and have a long-term housing need.

Type of support How it works and things to consider for returning Irish emigrants Further information
Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) The type of support you are most likely to receive is the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), as there is a shortage of social housing at the moment and a high demand for it.

With HAP, you find private rented accommodation yourself and get help from the State with paying the rent. The local authority will make the HAP payment to your landlord on your behalf and you must pay your weekly HAP rent contribution to the local authority. The amount of rent contribution you pay to the local authority depends on your income and ability to pay.

You can work full-time while getting HAP.

Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)

HAP.ie – Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

A tenancy in a local authority property

You rent a property that is owned and managed by the local authority (informally known as a ‘council house’). The amount of rent that you pay depends on your income and household size.

Due to current shortages of local authority properties, most people who qualify for social housing support get support through the Housing Assistance Payment (see above).

Applying for local authority/social housing

A tenancy in an Approved Housing Body (AHB) property

This involves renting a property that is owned and managed by an Approved Housing Body (AHB). AHBs are also known as housing associations.

AHBs are independent non-profit-making organisations that provide rented housing for people who cannot afford to pay private sector rents or buy their own homes, or for particular groups, such as older people, homeless people and people with disabilities. Some examples of AHBs are Clúid Housing and Tuath Housing.

If you want to be considered for an AHB tenancy you can specify this on your social housing support application form.

Some AHBs may also accept direct applications.

Full list of approved housing bodies – Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

Housing associations

Applying for local authority/social housing

Rental Accommodation Scheme

This Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) involves entering into a tenancy agreement with a landlord. The local authority pays rent directly to the landlord on your behalf. You pay a contribution towards the rent directly to the local authority (your contribution is calculated based on your income).

This scheme is becoming less common and is gradually being replaced by the HAP scheme (see above).

You should note that if you have recently returned to Ireland after living abroad, you are unlikely to qualify for RAS, as you must have been on Rent Supplement for 18 months to qualify for RAS.

Rental Accommodation Scheme

Showing a local connection when applying for social housing support

When you apply for social housing support, you should apply to the local authority area that you have a local connection with.

You have a local connection to an area if you, or a member of your household, meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • You have lived in the area at any time for a continuous period of 5 years.
  • You work in the area (or within a 15-kilometre radius).
  • You are in full-time education in the area.
  • You have an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment and are attending a medical service in the area in relation to that impairment.
  • You have a relative who has been living in the area for at least 2 years.

If you are a returned Irish emigrant, and have lived abroad for many years, it might be difficult to meet the ‘local connection’ requirement. However, the local authority can waive the local connection requirement and use its discretion to accept your application. In this case, you should provide as much evidence as possible to show your connection to the local authority area. For example, letters from friends, membership of local clubs or evidence of attending a local college.

Housing supports for short-term housing needs

If you have a short-term housing need (for example, if you lose your job and are no longer able to pay your rent) you can apply for Rent Supplement to help pay the rent, or emergency accommodation if you become homeless. The application process for these supports is different to how you apply for social housing support, see Social housing supports above.

Below see details of the short-term housing supports provided and how to apply for them.

Type of short-term housing support How it works and things to consider for returning Irish emigrants Further information
Rent Supplement

This type of housing support is only for people who have a short-term need for assistance with their housing costs.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) makes the payment directly to you and then you pay your landlord.

You should note that if you have recently returned to Ireland after living abroad, you are unlikely to qualify for Rent Supplement, as you need to have lived in private rented accommodation or homeless accommodation in Ireland for at least 6 of the last 12 months to be eligible.

Rent Supplement

Emergency accommodation

Emergency accommodation is accommodation for people who are homeless and includes hostels, B&B’s, hotels and family hubs. If you are homeless and need to access emergency homeless accommodation, you should go to your local authority to request emergency accommodation.

There are different ways to access emergency homeless accommodation, depending on which local authority you go to, and on whether you are accepted as homeless as an individual or as a family.

There are no restrictions about how long you have lived in Ireland when accessing emergency accommodation.

Housing options for homeless people

Agencies providing services for homeless people

Further information

You can read more about the different types of social housing support available in Ireland and the obstacles you may encounter in the Social Housing Support booklet (pdf).

You can read more about Local authority and social housing, including information on social housing waiting lists and your rights as a housing association tenant.

If you are unsure if you will be eligible for social housing support based on your income, the following resources may help:

Find details of the local authority areas in this list of local housing authorities by county.

Page edited: 18 July 2019