Voluntary housing bodies play an important role in providing rental housing throughout the country for people who could not otherwise afford to provide suitable accommodation from their own resources. The voluntary housing bodies decide on the types of housing projects/services they will provide, having regard to local needs, and are responsible for tenancy allocations in consultation with the local authorities. They are not-for-profit organisations concerned with the relief of housing needs, and, usually take the legal form of housing associations. Such bodies must be approved by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in order to qualify for financial and other aids to provide housing.
The Irish Council for Social Housing, (ICSH), 50 Merrion Square East, Dublin 2 (Website www.icsh.ie) provides information and advice on the formation and management of voluntary housing bodies.
Voluntary housing is supported by local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government under two separate schemes, as follows:-
Capital Assistance Scheme which provides accommodation, generally one or two bedroomed units, to meet special housing needs such as those of the elderly, disabled, homeless or smaller families, and
Capital Loan & Subsidy Scheme which provides housing for renting, particularly to meet the needs of low income families.
Capital Assistance Scheme
Under this scheme, voluntary housing bodies provide accommodation, generally one or two bedroomed units, to meet special housing needs such as those of the elderly, disabled, homeless or smaller families. The voluntary housing bodies decide on the type of housing projects/services they will provide having regard to local needs and are responsible for tenancy allocations in consultation with the local authorities. A minimum of 75% of the houses in each project are reserved for persons whose applications for local authority housing have been approved by the local authority, homeless people or local authority tenants and tenant purchasers who return their dwellings to the local authority. The remaining houses in a project are let to people nominated by the voluntary housing body. Rents are determined having regard to tenants' means and the cost of managing and maintaining the dwellings.
Capital Loan & Subsidy Scheme
Under this scheme, voluntary housing bodies provide housing for renting, particularly to meet the needs of low income families. The houses are let by the voluntary housing bodies to persons whose applications for local authority housing have been approved by the local authority. Rents are related to your ability to pay, taking account of household earnings and circumstances. Tenants of the houses are centrally involved in the management of their estates.
Tenancy of Voluntary Housing Bodies
The tenant pays a weekly rent to the Voluntary Body for rental of the dwelling. In determining rents under this scheme, voluntary housing bodies have regard to the tenants' means and the cost of providing and maintaining the dwellings. Assistance towards the rent of these dwellings may be available under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
All Voluntary Housing Schemes are managed and maintained by the Approved Body providing the housing. The Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme aims to encourage tenant participation through management boards which involve the tenants in the management of the houses.
Tenants of Voluntary Housing schemes cannot apply to purchase their rented houses.
There is a range of assistance available to tenants of a voluntary housing scheme, who return their house to the voluntary body with a view to purchasing their own house, as follows:
- the Mortgage Allowance Scheme,
- exemption from income limits for the Affordable Housing Scheme
- exemption from income limits for Local Authority House Purchase Loan
- Low Cost Housing Sites from the Local Authority, and.
- the Improvement Works in lieu of Local Authority Housing Scheme in respect of the house to which the tenant moves.