The Government is expecting to win Wednesday night’s vote on the eviction ban with a motion designed to shore up support from Independent TDs considering voting against the Coalition.
Sinn Féin will table a motion in the Dáil on Tuesday evening seeking to extend the ban until 2024, in a move which has put pressure on the Coalition as it attempts to shore up backbench and Independent votes. TDs will vote on the countermotion on Wednesday.
Government sources on Tuesday said they believed the winning margin would be about four votes.
The text of the countermotion includes several measures raised by members of the Regional Independent Group (RIG), some of whom have voted with the Government in the past.
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Members of the eight-TD group have outlined “eight asks”, which Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten described as “our bottom line” as they consider whether to support the Government in Wednesday night’s Dáil vote.
He said they were agreed upon and communicated to the Government late last week.
Mr Naughten said the group would individually decide whether they would vote with the Government. He also said they had a “safety net” amendment prepared containing all eight asks, on which they would seek a vote if they did not deem the Government’s countermotion to be sufficient.
Before the publication of the Coalition’s motion he said: “We feel all eight of these measures need to be implemented. We are hoping all eight are incorporated into the government motion.
“If not, we will be pressing our amendment and we would expect support right across the house.”
The Coalition’s countermotion has nine bullet points that at least partially cover all of the issues raised by the group.
It says the Government will change the eligibility date of the Croí Cónaithe vacancy grants scheme to include properties built before 2007, with effect from May 1st, 2023.
It will also extend the Croí Cónaithe refurbishment scheme to include properties that are made available for rent and not just owner-occupied from the same date.
These are both RIG asks.
The Government motion says the grant rates will “also be reviewed”. The RIG has called for an increase in the rates to reflect current building costs from May 1st.
The Government motion also says it will extend the rent-a-room scheme disregard for social welfare recipients into medical card criteria from May 1st as well as allowing local authority tenancies to access the scheme. The RIG has asked that the scheme be extended so that people receiving social welfare payments who avail of it do not lose supplementary benefits such as medical cards.
The Government also promises reforms of the Fair Deal scheme aimed at reducing disincentives to renting out and selling a home vacated when its owner enters a nursing home and its motion says it “will further move to eliminate remaining barriers to older people utilising the Fair Deal scheme who wish to rent out their homes”. The RIG has asked for such barriers to be removed from May 1st. The Government motion does not set out a timescale for its plans in the area.
The Government motion says it will bring in a “meaningful and effective budgetary package for the rental sector to include both taxation and expenditure measures”.
Earlier in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there would be a tax package in the budget for small landlords “that would take effect this year to encourage them to stay in and enter the sector”.
Mr Varadkar said: “This was after consultations with our parliamentary party and some of the Independent groups as well.”
The RIG has asked for the introduction in Budget 2024 of a tax-relief scheme to take effect in the current tax year for small landlords.
The RIG has also called for immediate engagement with site owners who have obtained planning under the Strategic Infrastructure Development – and have not yet commenced building due to viability issues – to ensure immediate commencement of these projects under the affordable housing scheme.
Additionally, proposals are being prepared for Government for a new viability measure to activate stalled planning permissions and bring forward cost rental at scale for consideration in April
The Government motion includes a section on “improving viability”
It says: “Following consultation with stakeholders the Government is taking steps to address viability in the provision of apartments including activating uncommenced planning permission through engagement with site owners through the expansion of the Land Development Agency’s Project Tosaigh and the Housing Agency’s Croí Cónaithe (Cities) Scheme, which will help to deliver increased supply over the next few years.
“Additionally, proposals are being prepared for Government for a new viability measure to activate stalled planning permissions and bring forward cost rental at scale for consideration in April.”
The RIG also asks to amend the housing assistance payment (HAP) scheme to guarantee payment to landlords where the tenant defaults on payment of contribution to HAP – effective from May 1st.
This is also included.
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The text of the countermotion argues that homes are being “delivered at scale” and the pipeline of delivery for the coming years from local authorities, the Land Development Agency and Approved Housing Bodies is “established and strengthening”.
It says that the continuing increase in the number of people accessing emergency accommodation is “a serious concern” and that local and national government are “making every effort to reduce homelessness” – and that while numbers entering homelessness slowed during the eviction ban, “it did not prevent it”.
It says it is working to bring on an additional 2,000 emergency beds in local authorities.
Much of the motion, as expected, is a lengthy recitation of existing Government policies on housing, designed to rally the Coalition benches and those independents who have voted with the Government in the past. This includes funding increases, tax breaks for renters and landlords, reforms to the short-term letting market and reforms of the fair deal scheme. It promises to “further move to eliminate remaining barriers to older people utilising the Fair Deal scheme who wish to rent out their homes”.
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It outlines that there is a comprehensive review of the rental sector, which aims to put in place a private rental sector that gives long-term certainty to tenants and ensures landlords are “encouraged to provide badly needed rental property for all those who depend on it”.
It promises to work to put together “in the coming months [a] comprehensive new budgetary package of effective measures for both tenants and landlords”.
It flags already-announced measures that will come in the interim, including giving tenants first right of refusal in bidding on a property, expanding the shared equity first home scheme for those using that first refusal opportunity and developing a cost rental backstop for those earning above social housing limits.
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It trumpets Government’s hitting of overall housing targets last year. “When verified and published in the coming weeks, figures will show more social housing new builds were delivered in 2022 than in any year since 1975,” it says.
It says it will support local authorities in purchasing “at least” 1,500 social homes “with a further expansion of that target as required”. Meanwhile, the Department of Housing is setting up an “acquisition delivery team” to “ensure each local authority meets its tenant in situ purchase targets”.
It argues that programmes such as Project Tosaigh, the Vacant Homes Action Plan and the Housing Agency’s Croí Cónaithe (Cities) Scheme will help to deliver increased supply and says that proposals are being prepared for a new “viability measure to activate stalled planning permissions and bring forward cost rental at scale for consideration in April”.
It promotes Government decisions including a “major expansion of tenants rights including tenancies of indefinite duration and increase in notice to quit periods”. The extension of the rent pressure zone system is also mentioned, as is what the government says is “a further opportunity to strengthen tenants rights” in the forthcoming Residential Tenancies Bill.
It outlines that local authorities have drawn down from a funding pot of €96 million to repay loans secured on 26 sites that will be developed using “modern methods of construction” – such as modular building.