The Housing Section of Sligo County Council provides a number of very important services, covering every aspect of social housing:
2010 proved to be a very challenging year for the Housing Section of Sligo County Council. This was due to the current economic climate, which affected the housing market, and the financial allocation received from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, together with an increase in the number of applications for social housing.
As a result of the reduced financial allocation from the Department, the Housing Section has made every effort to complete existing schemes and to provide opportunities for those who are most in need on the housing list.
The Housing Capital Allocation for 2010 was €11,795,000 which was made up as follows:
|Local Authority Housing Programme||€3,100,000.00|
|Capital Assistance Scheme||€3,000,000.00 (Voluntary Housing)|
|Capital Loans and Subsidy Scheme||€5,495,000.00 (Voluntary Housing)|
|Traveller Accommodation||€ 200,000.00|
|Remedial Works Schemes||€ 200,000.00|
|Retrofitting Voids: Energy Upgrades||€ 375,000.00|
|Compliance with new rented standards||€80,000.00|
The following scheme was completed in 2010:
- Summerhill, Tubbercurry
- 2-Bed Rural House
The Council has always had a policy of purchasing houses on the open market where the houses represent value for money and where a demand exists. Fifteen houses were purchased on the open market in 2010 and in addition, work commenced on two rural houses during the year.
In recent years where house ownership has become more difficult for households to achieve due to the increasing cost of housing, Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, has proved an invaluable source of affordable housing providing Sligo County Council with assistance in delivering the Housing Capital Programme.
The Housing Strategy states that 20% of eligible sites, which are the subject of new residential development, are to be set aside for the development of social and affordable housing. However, the downturn in construction has resulted in a marked reduction in the number of units coming on stream.
During 2010, a number of properties became available for Social and Affordable Housing in the following developments:
Since the beginning of the Planned Maintenance Programme in 2002, much progress has been made in the general upkeep of Council housing stock. Works typically include replacement of worn out doors, windows, fascias and soffits. The emergency repair funds are used to carry out repairs to housing stock other than those repairs listed in planned maintenance and deemed eligible in accordance with the Tenant Hand Book.
The budget allocations for Maintenance Issues are as follows:
|Demountable Dwelling Maintenance||€ 70,000.00|
|Planned Maintenance||€ 240,000.00|
|Emergency Maintenance||€ 150,000.00|
The Council allocated a sum of €30,000 in 2010 towards Environmental Improvements works. An additional €10,000 was allocated to Local Authority Residence Associations for estate upkeep.
Rents are assessed and reviewed on an Annual basis. Rents, including arrears are collected by a number of different methods – Household budget deductions through the Post Office, or direct payments can be made to Sligo County Council or Sligo Borough Council. Rent payments can also be paid by Standing Order through the bank or with the local revenue collector. Rents payable on Local Authority dwellings are assessed under a Differential Rents Scheme. A Differential Rents Scheme means that the rent is based on the income of the household with deductions allowed in respect of any dependent children in the house. During the year, rents were reviewed to bring them into line with trends in the economic climate.
Sligo County Council process a number of housing loans each year. From April 2010 all housing loans are now assessed and recommendations issued by the Affordable Homes Partnership which is based in Dublin. All applications are now subject to strict credit checks which are carried out by the Irish Credit Bureau.
This scheme offers home ownership in a number of steps to those who cannot afford full ownership in one step in the traditional way. The applicant will initially acquire a share of between 40% and 75% of the house and rents the remaining percentage from the Local Authority with the intention of purchasing the remaining equity from the Council within a 25 year period. They too, are now assessed by the AHP (Affordable Homes Partnership).
Home Choice Loans is a mortgage provided through a number of local authorities for First Time buyers who cannot get sufficient finance from a bank or building society. Home Choice Loan provides up to 92% of the market value of the house purchased. The maximum loan amount is €285,000. The loan is a normal Capital and Interest bearing mortgage which is repaid on a monthly basis.
The mortgage term is for a maximum of 30 years and is only be available for newly built homes. Galway County Council is the central processing unit for Local Authorities in this region.
Persons who have been tenants of a local authority house for a period of at least one year may apply to purchase their rented house outright or by means of Shared Ownership under the Tenant Purchase Scheme. The purchase price will be the market value of the house in its existing state of repair and condition, less various discounts. The applicant wishing to purchase their home should seek a mortgage from a financial institution.
This Scheme allows Sligo County Council to improve or extend privately owned houses, occupied or intended to be occupied, by an approved applicant for housing as an alternative to the provision of Local Authority Housing. Sligo County Council pays the full cost of the works and the applicant then makes repayment on the amount. These repayments are calculated in a similar manner to the Differential Rent Scheme and apply for a period of 15 years.
During 2010, 2 no affordable housing units were completed at The Hawthorns, Carraroe, Sligo. The delivery of Affordable units is dictated by the same constraints as those that pertain to Part V in general.
The Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme for People with a Disability is available to assist in the carrying out of works which are reasonably necessary for the purpose of rendering a house more suitable for the accommodation of a person with a disability who has an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment. The type of works allowable under the scheme include the provision of
The level of grant aid available is determined on the basis of gross household income and can be between 30% - 95% of the approved cost of the works.
The Mobility Aids Housing Grant is available to cover a basic suite of works to address mobility problems, primarily, but not exclusively, associated with ageing. The works aided under the scheme include:
The effective maximum grant is €6,000 or 100% of the cost of the works, whichever is the lesser. The grant is available to households whose gross annual household income does not exceed €30,000.
The Scheme of Housing Aid for Older People is available to assist older people living in poor housing conditions to have necessary structural repairs or improvements. The type of works grant aided under the scheme includes:
The level of grant aid available is determined on the basis of gross household income and can be between 30% - 100% of the approved cost of the works.
|Grant Name||Number of Grants Paid||Total Amount Paid|
|Housing Aid for Older People||138||€795,165.13|
|Housing Adaptation - Disability||43||€379,337.68|
|Mobility Aid Grants||34||€121,866.88|
|Total paid in 2010||215||€1,296,369.69|
Voluntary Housing is provided by non-profit independent organisations that provide rented houses for people who cannot afford to buy their own houses or specific groups such as the elderly, homeless, people with special needs or disabilities. A recipient of a Voluntary house must be registered on Sligo County Council’s housing list, however, while the tenant enjoys all the rights of a County Council tenant they are unable to avail of a tenant purchase on this house. Currently Sligo County Council, in conjunction with Sofia Housing Association, proposes to deliver 57 voluntary housing units in Tubbercurry.
Sligo County Council has adopted a Traveller Accommodation Programme 2010 – 2013 which lays out the targets for Traveller accommodation for that period. Sligo County Council will continue to consult with individual traveller families and traveller support groups with a view to identifying the most appropriate accommodation for individual families.
Travellers seeking standard housing from both housing authorities will be accommodated, where possible, in existing or new local authority estates and applications for such housing will be processed in accordance with the Local Authority’s Scheme of Letting Priorities and having regard to estate management issues, an appropriate social mix within areas, compatibility of families, anti-social behaviour, social and previous accommodation history, and house size requirement.
In co-operation with voluntary groups Focus Ireland and North West Simon Community, Sligo County Council provides a Tenancy Sustainment Service to tenants. The aim of the service is to focus on practical ways to sustain tenancies, rather than seeking to solve all client problems by supporting the household through the process of moving in and maintaining their home. This is achieved by developing a care plan between the Tenancy Sustainment Officer and the tenant.
A Care Plan may cover any of the following issues:
The service provided by Northwest Simon Community is shared between Sligo County Council and Leitrim County Council. In 2010, Sligo County Council contributed an amount of €5,000 to the Northwest Simon Community. Sligo County Council would hope to continue to support the Tenancy Sustainment Service subject to adequate funding being available.
During 2010, a contract under the Energy Efficiency Works Scheme commenced to upgrade
19 number older dwelling houses in the county. The primary objective of this exercise was to
enhance the Energy performance of each of the respective dwellings to achieve a minimum
rating of C1.
Works carried out to each of the individual units are as follows:-
The overall cost of the contract was €127,499.00, made up as follows:
|Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government Energy efficiency Recoupment:||€91,739.00|
|Internal Capital Receipts contribution||€35,760.00|
The contract was completed in December 2010.
Provision has been made within the budget for a spend of €80,000 to allow Sligo County Council houses to be in compliance with new rented standards. The main objectives of this program are:
These requirements are set out as per the 2008 Housing Regulations.
A budget of €10,000 was made available in 2010 to carry out Radon detection and remedial works were necessary to 100 dwelling the local authority stock.
Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed by means of regulations made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992. These regulations specify requirements in relation to a range of matters such as structural repair, absence of damp and rot, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, light and safety of gas and electrical supply. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations and responsibility for the enforcement of the regulations rests with the relevant local authority supported by a dedicated stream of funding provided from part of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by the Private Residential Tenancies Board.
These standards are currently set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993 (S.I. 147/1993). From the 1st of February 2010 new updated regulations will govern standards for rental accommodation. These regulations are called the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 (S.I. 534/2008).
It is up to each local authority to carry out these inspections on private rented property. 460 inspections were carried by Sligo County Council Housing technical staff throughout County Sligo in 2010.
In 2009, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) launched the Social Housing Leasing Initiative. The introduction of leasing as a form of social housing provision represents a widening of the options for increasing the supply of social housing. Leasing introduces greater flexibility in the composition of the housing stock and provides the opportunity for housing authorities to benefit from market conditions to increase output and meet housing need in a cost effective manner.
The statutory basis for the provision of social housing through leasing is provided in the Housing Act 1966 and updated in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.
The leasing option must comply fully with sustainable communities’ objectives as outlined in ‘Delivering Homes Sustaining Communities’. Leasing proposals must ensure that accommodation is in a location and of a type that can appropriately meet the needs of people on local authority housing lists. In addition, housing authorities will need to demonstrate that the leasing proposal does not conflict with the mixed income, mixed tenure dimension to the overall sustainable community’s objective.
The leases are funded as part of the Social Housing Investment Programme (SHIP) and will be a ‘first call’ on such funding in future years.
Access to housing stock will be achieved through:
Local authorities may enter into long term leasing arrangements with private owners to lease properties for the purposes of providing accommodation to people on their social housing list. The term of these agreements may be from 10-20 years. The local authority will take over responsibilities for the internal maintenance of the properties and will be the landlord to its social housing tenants.
The owner will be paid 80% of the market rent on the basis of guaranteed payments for the term of the agreement, regardless of void periods. The owner will retain responsibility for the management company fee and structural repairs.
At the end of the term, properties will be returned to the landlord in the same general condition having regard to fair wear and tear.
Approved Housing Bodies can also lease properties from the market and manage and maintain these for periods of 10-20 years. They can also purchase or construct properties.
The Approved Housing Body will enter into a Payment and Availability Agreement with the local authority to make these properties available for social housing purposes. This agreement will set out the terms of the arrangement and the responsibilities of both parties and the Approved Housing Body will be paid a fee related to market rent.
In April 2009, the DoEHLG issued guidance to local authorities on the use of unsold affordable properties as a means to meet social housing need. One of the options is for local authorities to temporarily use unsold affordable homes for social housing purposes. The DoEHLG will pay a fee to the housing authority on the condition that the properties are managed and maintained by an Approved Housing Body.