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The number of applicants on Dublin City Council’s social-housing waiting list has fallen by 26 percent in the last two years, from 22,652 in May 2016 to 16,752 in July 2018.
There are many reasons an applicant might be moved off of the list. But this decline is mainly down to shifting applicants from the social-housing waiting list to the social-housing transfer list, and an annual cull by the council of applications from people who don’t respond to council correspondence.
First, let’s look at the shift to the transfer list, which is people who already have social housing of one type (including HAP), and need and want to move to social housing of another type.
From January 2016 to July 2018, the number of people on the transfer list increased from 6,260 to 9,264 (48 percent). So, while the housing list shrank by 5,900 applicants, the transfer list grew by 3,004.
Part of what’s happening is that people who are on the social-housing waiting list are moving into homes in the private-rented sector, with financial support from the government’s Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) programme, which helps pay the rent.
“There are higher numbers availing of HAP and Enhanced HAP for Homeless which has impacted on the housing list,” a spokesperson for Dublin City Council said by email.
An applicant – a person or family – who gets HAP housing is moved off the social-housing waiting list and onto the transfer list, and may still get a local-authority home in the future.
“[A]pplicants who take up HAP are accounted for on the transfer list and carry the benefit of all their years on the housing list, unlike other transfer applicants,” the spokesperson said.
However, this shift only explains a share of the decline in the size of the social-housing waiting list.
In council reports on the housing list, “HAP” was not listed as a category in the transfer list before on the January 2017 report.
But by January 2018 it had appeared and there were 776 applicants, and by July 2018 that had grown to 1,472. (Remember, the housing list fell by 5,900 applicants.)
Culling the List
Aside from a shift of applicants from the waiting list to the transfer list, another factor behind the decline in the size of the waiting list is the council’s annual clear-out of the list.
In this process, applicants are asked to fill out forms to assess whether they still need a social home. If they are deemed no longer eligible, or if they simply don’t reply, they can be taken off the list.
“If there is no response to three consecutive letters the applicants are removed from the social housing list,” said the council spokesperson.
“Households who are assessed as exceeding the income thresholds, changes to circumstances, deaths, ineligibility per Social Housing Regulations, no housing need, housed by another authority are among the other reasons” they might be removed from the list, the spokesperson said.
In January 2017, independent Councillor Noeleen Reilly raised concerns about 3,655 applicants having been removed from the social-housing waiting list after a needs assessment.
The council has also taken people off the list by moving them into homes, whether council-owned social homes, or government-subsidised homes in the private rented sector, the council spokesperson said.
In 2016, there were 1,325 social housing lettings, and in 2017, that number rose to 1,658, the spokesperson said.