How Does Social Housing Work in Ireland in 2023?

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Priority is usually given to applicants for social housing if they are in particular situations that make them vulnerable. Social housing is an option in Ireland for people who are on low income. Social housing usually consists of flats or houses that are offered at a cheaper rate than the market average allowing people who are unemployed or in need of housing to access what they need. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how social housing works in Ireland and how to apply for it!

How Does Social Housing Work in Ireland?

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Social housing in Ireland is a system of affordable housing that is usually owned by a local authority or by an approved housing association. Social housing is reserved for people who are in most need of accommodation who have no access to any other place to stay.

Social housing in Ireland began in the 19th Century and had its golden age between the 1930s through to the 1950s. It’s a well established system for helping more disadvantaged citizens get the housing support they need.

Who Provides Social Housing in Ireland?

Social housing is provided through property that is owned by local authorities and approved housing associations. This in fact makes local authorities the largest landlord in the State providing housing for almost 100,000 people throughout Ireland. Housing associations also provide social housing as not-for-profit organisations who supply housing to specific groups such as homeless or older people.

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Who Can Apply for Social Housing?

In order to be considered eligible for social housing, you’ll need to meet the requirements. You need to be able to prove that you need social housing and it’s your only option in finding a home. There’s a long list of criteria you’ll need to fulfil in order to be approved for housing.

  1. Status in Ireland 
    In order to qualify for social housing you need to be either an Irish citizen or have the right to remain in the State on a long-term basis. If you’ve just moved to Ireland, it’s unlikely that you’ll qualify for social housing.
  2. Need 
    Your local authority or housing association will examine your need for social housing in order to determine whether you’re eligible. They’ll look at factors such as your current accommodation and whether it’s fit for human habitation and also whether it provides the right requirements for people with disabilities.
  3. Income 
    You’ll need to provide proof of income in your social housing application. There are three income thresholds that are associated with how much you as a household have earned in the previous 12 months. You’ll also need to provide where you get your income, either from employment or from social benefits. Some of the social benefits payments may be discounted.
  4. No Alternatives 
    You’ll also need to be able to confirm that you have no alternative housing available. Alternative housing could be a property that a member of your household has access to either through ownership of through a relative. Property owned by an ex spouse won’t be counted as an alternative.
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How Do I Get Priority for Social Housing?

Priority is usually given to applicants for social housing if they are in particular situations that make them vulnerable. You’re more likely to get priority for a council house if you’re:

  • Homeless
  • Living in overcrowded accommodation
  • In a medical condition made worse by where you live
  • In a vulnerable or violent situation

If you’re in one of these situations, housing associations will quite often cater exclusively to you to make sure you receive the support you need.

How Long Does It Take To Get Social Housing?


The process of getting social housing can take a long while so you need to remain patient when waiting. There are two periods of waiting for social housing, the first After you send off your social housing application and the second after you’ve been approved.

After Sending the Social Housing Application

After you’ve sent off your application to the housing association or local authority where you’re applying, they will have 12 weeks to respond to you after receiving it. If the local authority or housing association needs more information from you, they can extend this period. The local authority will then let you know if you’ve been approved or not for social housing.

After You’ve Been Approved

If you’ve been approved for the application, you’ll be contacted and placed on a waiting list known as an ‘allocation scheme’. Each local authority will have its own way in ordering the priority of the applicants and you’ll be given a login where you can access your social housing information to see how your application is doing.

What is the choice-based letting process? Choice-based letting (CBL) is part of the allocation process for social housing. It allows some social housing and council houses to be advertised and applicants can express interest in which properties they would like to live in. You can also view aspects such as size, number of bedrooms and other facilities you need.

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How Do I Fill In a Social Housing Application Form?

When filling in the social housing application, you’ll need to complete 12 sections that are in the application form. Each local authority will have their own form so make sure you fill in the information that’s required if there are any differences.

For example, the renting social housing in Dublin could be completely different from in Cork! You’ll need to fill in the application with black ink and in block capitals.

Here’s each of those 12 steps in more detail:

  1. Personal Details 
    In this section, you will need to fill in your personal details such as your name, date of birth, current address along with your contact details such as your number and email address. You will also need to include your PPS number as well. If you are making a joint application with a spouse or someone else, you need to include their details alongside yours.
  2. Nationality Details 
    This is a short section that you’ll need to fill in which covers your nationality. If you’re an Irish citizen, you only need to provide proof of your nationality with a birth certificate. If you're from the UK or a EU/EFTA country, you’ll need to provide details of your right to stay in Ireland. If you’re from outside Europe, you’ll need to provide visa information along with your nationality proof.
  3. Employment Details 
    For this section, you’ll need to include details about your employment details. If you're currently fully employed or part-time employed and when you started your job. If you’re unemployed, you’ll need to mark this as well on the application form.
  4. Weekly Income Details 
    You’ll need to include your weekly income that you receive from all your sources. You need to fill in what you receive from your employment and anything that you receive from social welfare. If you’re paid monthly, you should divide your figure by four to get your weekly payment.
  5. Details of Other Household Members 
    If there’s someone other than your spouse in your household, this is the space where you can put in their details on the application form. You’ll also need to include their nationality and employment information.
  6. Current Accommodation Details 
    This next part is where you need to fill in your current accommodation details. You need to indicate what type of housing you’re currently living in, whether it’s privately rented and whether you’re receiving any social welfare supplements such as the rent supplement or the HAP scheme. You also need to include the details regarding the tenancy agreement such as the length and how much your weekly rent is. Along with the details, there’s a space to report the conditions of the property.
  7. Accomodation History 
    This is a simple section where you need to just fill in your accommodation history. Include where you’ve lived before, what dates you’ve lived between and what reasons you had for leaving the property.
  8. Housing Requirements 
    In this part you need to indicate what your needs are in terms of social housing. This can include any particular disability needs you have for your social housing.
  9. Basis for Application 
    For this part, you need to be able provide a reason for your application. You should indicate your local connection to the area in which you’re applying, and you should be able to indicate your five different areas of choice.
  10. Other Property Information 
    For this part, you need to indicate whether you or another member of your household have any interest or investments in any property or land in Ireland.
  11. Criminal Offences 
    You need to include any criminal offences that you might have on your criminal record. This will also include any other members of your household.
  12. Other Information 
    The last part is for any other information you might think is relevant that hasn’t been included in the rest of the application form. You should also do this last so you know that anything you want to add hasn’t come up before.

This is based on the Dublin City Council social housing application form.

What is the EEA and EFTA? The EEA is the European Economic Area, or sometimes referred to as the Single Market. It is a free-trade area that includes both European Union members and EFTA members (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein). Within the EEA, there is free movement of labour but greater restrictions on residency.

After completing the form, you should sign and date the declaration, and then send it off to your local authority as soon as possible. If you need any help, both Citizens Information and The Housing Agency have resources available to walk you through it.

What Do I Do If I Get Social Housing?

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When a social housing property becomes available, the local authority will review the allocation scheme and decide who will get housing based on the priority of the applicants. If you are successful, the council will contact you with an offer of the council house.

Since there are usually so many applicants, you will only have a small window to accept the social housing offer before it is offered to someone else. If you do accept the offer, the council will arrange the next steps regarding the tenancy agreement:

  • Time for you to sign the contract
  • Whether you are offered a long-term or fixed-term contract
  • When you move
  • When you pay your rent each month

Your rent will be linked to your income so if you’re earning little then your rent will be low. If you start earning more however, your rent will go up.

Can I Refuse a Social Housing Offer?

If you refuse an offer after using the choice-based letting allocation system will mean you won’t be able to apply for anything on the CBL for a further 12 months. You also won’t be able to receive any rent supplement during that time either.

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