Council secures increase in income limits for housing

Donegal County Council has successfully lobbied the Department of Housing to increase the income eligibility levels for social housing.

The new income thresholds for social housing eligibility have been increased to E25,000 for a one-person household and E30,000 for a household of more than one person.

“It shows a certain confidence in how the strategic policy committee structure works and shows that the department were listening,” said Fianna Fáil Cllr. Dessie Larkin, chairperson of the council’s housing strategic policy committee.

Last month, at the committee’s regular meeting, committee members learned that the introduction of income thresholds for social housing eligibility could see people dropped from the county’s waiting list. The new thresholds introduced for Donegal had been set at E20,000 for one adult and E24,000 for a household of more than one person. The income levels were among several significant changes to the housing assessment process that stemmed from national legislation adopted in 2009, though some provisions are only now coming into operation.

Committee members heard from the council executive that people who were about to be allocated housing would not have qualified under the new income restrictions, and members called on the council to assess the impact of the income thresholds on the Donegal waiting list.

They also called on the council to seek a meeting with Willie Penrose, TD, minister of state with special responsibility for housing and planning, to discuss the council’s concerns over a number of new department directives.

“What we were hoping to do was proof all the changes in the legislation against the Donegal scenario,” Cllr. Larkin said.

The committee’s proposal was later approved by the council’s corporate policy group and then approved by the full council at their March meeting. As a result, the council housing section sent a deputation to the department to make the case for higher thresholds, bringing examples of people on the Donegal list who would not qualify for housing under the limits announced last month. The department increased the thresholds for Donegal as a result.

“The department took that totally into account,” Cllr. Larkin said. “It is great to know we had an effect.” He was particularly concerned about the limit for the larger household, questioning why the limit for a two-adult household was not double that of a single-adult household.

Thomas Pringle, independent TD for Donegal South-West, welcomed the increases but said during a Dáil debate that the introduction of the limits “will place an unfair burden on people in low-paid jobs”. He said members will monitor their impact.