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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Priority need test

The Housing Executive is responsible for providing accommodation for anyone who is legally homeless.  To be legally homeless you have to pass 4 tests including the Priority Need test.  The other tests are eligibility, homelessness and intentionality. To pass priority need you need to be able to convince the Housing Executive that you would less able to cope as a homeless person than the average person because you are vulnerable in some way.

Automatic priority need

There are certain circumstances that mean you will automatically pass priority need.  The categories of people who have priority need are:

  • pregnant women,
  • people with dependent children,
  • people made homeless by a natural disaster, such as fire,
  • young people between 16 and 21 who are at risk of sexual or financial exploitation,
  • people at risk of violence,
  • other people who are vulnerable because of old age, illness, mental health problems or physical disability.

Shared access to children

When deciding if you have priority need the Housing Executive only looks at dependent children.  Dependent children means

  • children under the age of 16 who live primarily with you
  • children under 19 who are still in full time education or on a government training scheme.

The Housing Executive will usually decide that the parent who gets Child Benefit for the children is the resident parent. If you have shared access to your children, you may not pass Priority Need. Talk to Housing Rights if you’ve been turned down for this reason.

Young people

Homelessness is especially risky for younger people.  There’s a special type of temporary accommodation for young people called Foyers which provide support and training. Get help from a housing adviser at Housing Rights if you’re a young person if you’ve got nowhere to stay or you’re not safe at home.

Vulnerable people

You can be vulnerable for a range of reasons;

  • you are over 60 and vulnerable
  • you have a disability
  • you have mental health issues and have left an institution in the last 3 months
  • you have health problems which mean you would be less able to cope on the streets than a homeless person who did not have these problems.

You could be vulnerable for other reasons, perhaps because of an addiction or because you’ve recently left care or prison.  Make the Housing Executive aware of any specific issues you have which might help you pass this test.  You may need to have these details supported by a health or other professional who can confirm your information.

If you give any letters or evidence to the Housing Executive, make sure you keep a copy for your own records.  You can speak to one of our advisers at Housing Rights if you’ve got any questions about Priority Need.

Passing the test

If you pass this test the Housing Executive will have to check that you are also homeless, eligible for assistance and that you’re not intentionally homeless. While looking into this, the Housing Executive should put you up in temporary accommodation if you don’t currently have somewhere safe to stay. 

If you pass all 4 homeless tests you’ll be a Full Duty Applicant and the Housing Executive will have to make 3 reasonable offers of housing to you.

Failing the test

If you don’t have priority need the Housing Executive won’t have any responsibility to house you.  You can still apply for social housing and be given points using the selection scheme

You may have to move out of thetemporary accommodation that the Housing Executive arranged if you fail the test.  You can challenge the Housing Executive’s decision that you didn’t pass and you can normally remain in temporary accommodation while you challenge this decision.