Families who turn down two offers of social housing face five-year wait

New rules mean applicant will be suspended from the waiting list for five years

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: the department has been seeking ways to make it less attractive for people to turn down offers of social housing. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: the department has been seeking ways to make it less attractive for people to turn down offers of social housing. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Families who turn down two offers of social housing will not receive another offer for five years under a change in policy set to be introduced by the Government.

Under current rules, if two offers of social housing are turned down the applicant is suspended from the waiting list for a year and will not be offered social housing for that period. One refusal is allowed.

This suspension period is also not counted as “time on the list” – those seeking a social house are given priority based on the length of time they have been waiting.

Ministers have been advised that the current system – in the midst of a housing crisis – is not enough of a deterrent to ensure people do not turn down offers.

Homeless charity Focus Ireland has said the most common reason a property is turned down is because the neighbourhood has problems with drugs or antisocial behaviour. The second most common reason is that the home may be too far away from the applicant’s family.

Currently, in situations where the applicants are homeless and have “priority status”, the refusal of two “reasonable offers” will result in the family being stripped of their priority status. They cannot then reapply as homeless for another year, unless their circumstances change significantly. Their request for a house will instead be decided on the basis of their time on the housing list only.

This sanction period will also be extended to five years under the new rules.

Homelessness taskforce

The Department of Housing has been seeking ways to make it less attractive for people to turn down offers of social housing. The new rules were one of a number of housing policies proposed by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy at a recent Cabinet sub-committee meeting.

Ministers provisionally decided to extend the sanction period for both categories of applicants on the housing list to five years and it is expected the move will be given official sign-off by the Cabinet in the weeks ahead.

It will only affect the offer of social homes and not the granting of Housing Assistant Payment (HAP), where applicants source their own property.

The Cabinet sub-committee also discussed measures to give effect to the recommendations of the homelessness inter-agency taskforce. It examined how Government departments and agencies – such as the Department of Justice and the HSE – could assist in tackling homelessness, such as ensuring people leaving direct provision are adequately accommodated.