Ministers to consider rules on older people’s rental income

Eoghan Murphy wants more homes made available for rental market

 Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy (left) speaks to  Housing Agency chief executive John O’Connor and Conor Skehan, chair of the Housing Agency at the organisation’s annual conference in Croke  Park.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy (left) speaks to Housing Agency chief executive John O’Connor and Conor Skehan, chair of the Housing Agency at the organisation’s annual conference in Croke Park.

 

Older homeowners in nursing homes may soon be able to let out their properties, keeping a greater proportion of rental income, in an effort to make their dwellings available for rent.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, said he was “looking at this in the context of the vacant homes strategy” and would be discussing the issue with Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe before the Budget.

Under the Fair Deal scheme, an older person must contribute 80 per cent of their income, including rental income, towards the cost of their nursing home care.

The rule, which effectively wipes out the older person’s rental income while adding the role of ‘landlord’ to their responsibilities, has been cited as contributing to the high rate of vacant homes in the State.

Census 2016 found about 190,000 vacant dwellings in Ireland, far in excess of European norm.

Speaking at a Housing Agency conference in Croke Park on Wednesday, Mr Murphy was asked about a possible restructuring of the Fair Deal scheme.

“I am looking at this in the context of the vacant homes strategy and I am going to talking to Minister Harris and Minister Donohoe to see if this is something we can look at.”

‘Stick approach’

Earlier, he said “a stick approach” may be necessary to bring more vacant dwellings into the private rental market.

“We need incentives, but also a stick approach. These vacant homes which we need for families, we need for young people to live in. They need to be released into the housing stock. We are looking at an emergency. We are looking at a crisis,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“It’s important to put property interests on notice that more radical solutions will be coming to the table to make sure that where there is property that can be used for housing in this current time of crisis, that we are going to look at mechanisms to bring that housing supply on stream.

“The first target that I have is to ensure that any new family that presents as homeless are not accommodated in hotels or B&Bs as they are not appropriate place. It is important that we find a pathway for those living in hotels, to exit into other forms of accommodation as quickly as possible.”

When asked about the help-to-buy scheme introduced by his predecessor Simon Coveney, he said Mr Donohoe had indicated there would be a review of this scheme because there had not been time to do an impact assessment before bringing it in.

“When we have the details we will be making a recommendation and the Minister for Finance will make a decision if it is to be retained.

Rebuilding Ireland

“What we need to do in terms of driving supply of homes in this country, we need to make sure that builders are building new homes for first time buyers, that needs to be a continued commitment, under Rebuilding Ireland, and any new initiatives that might come from the review that I’m undertaking.

“We need to see what the review tells us. What we know is that at the moment we have a dysfunctional market for the delivery of housing and homes and that means that the State has to intervene in that market to make sure that homes are being delivered.

“That causes difficulties, but also hopefully delivers solutions to new builds as well, so, when we see that report we will see the impact of this scheme. The key thing is to make sure that new homes are being built for first time buyers.

“When we looked at solutions, looking at what we need to do to make sure that homeless families are getting homes, that people are also able to rent at affordable prices, buy at affordable prices, and that there is enough supply both within the city and around the country where there is demand.

Unintended consequences

“The difficulty in trying to do these things you are making interventions in the market and that will have unintended consequences but it will also have benefits, we hope, as well.”

The Minister added the vacant homes strategy would be published shortly. “When we talk about numbers, we need to drill down into them, yes 183,000 or 189,000 might be the headline figure, but you then you need to take away where you have vacant homes where there isn’t a demand for people to live.

“So if you look at where demand might be you’re probably coming down to the 90,000 figure, then out of that figure need to take out homes for sale, homes that are between lettings, homes which are caught up in legal issues around wills, there is still a significant chunk of homes there, that can be released. There are new initiatives I want to bring in, but there might be budgetary issues that need to be negotiated with the Minister for Finance.”