Government must not “sell off the family silver” to social housing tenants

Tenant purchase discounts must not be reinstated, conference hears

The Government’s Social Housing Strategy 2020 includes a commitment to introduce a new scheme for the sale of social housing. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

The Government should not

sell off “the family silver” by giving local authority tenants discounts to buy homes, the head of policy with Ireland’s largest housing association has said.

At a joint Department of the Environment-Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland housing conference, head of policy with Clúid Simon Brooke said he supported the principle of tenants being able to buy their homes. He said that homes built by the State to house people who could not afford to live in homes rented on the private market should not be sold off cheaply however.

Utter madness

“I think it’s fundamentally wrong that tenant purchase schemes should exist at a discount. It is the Government selling off the family silver . . . It’s utter madness,” he said.


Tenants of council houses have been able to buy their homes from individual local authorities since the 1930s, with a national scheme for the sale of council houses in place since 1973 giving buyers a percentage discount for each year of their tenancy. The most recent scheme, which had been in force since 1995, came to an end in December 2012.

The Government's Social Housing Strategy 2020, published last November, includes a commitment to introduce a new scheme this year. Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has yet to publish the details but said it would involve discounts for buyers.

Tenant discounts

“I would appeal to the Minister when he decides what form the new tenant purchase is going to take that he doesn’t include tenant discounts,” Mr Brooke said.

RIAI president Robin Mandal warned against "short-term fix" solutions to the housing crisis.

“Not only is it too simplistic to believe that if the market were flooded with houses, the housing issue would be solved, but also it could do exactly the opposite – exacerbate the problem by building the wrong houses in the wrong places,” he told the conference.

There was a need he said for “empirical data, based on research”, to determine what housing was needed, what space was available, what should be built, and where it should be built, rather than relying on the cyclical nature of the housing market.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times