Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Questions (954)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

954. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there are circumstances in which a council tenant who inherits a sufficient sum to purchase outright the rented council house in which they live can qualify for the tenant purchase scheme even though their income is entirely from social welfare; if there is discretion in these circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23225/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015, provide the basis for the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme for existing local authority houses.  The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme.  To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

The minimum reckonable income for eligibility under the scheme is determined by the relevant local authority in accordance with the detailed provisions of the Ministerial Direction issued under Sections 24(3) and (4) of the 2014 Act. In the determination of the minimum reckonable income, local authorities can include income from a number of different sources and classes, such as from employment, private pensions, maintenance payments and certain social welfare payments, including pensions, where the social welfare payment is secondary to employment income.

The minimum income criterion was introduced in order to ensure the sustainability of the scheme.  Applicants must demonstrate that they have an income that is long-term and sustainable in nature. This ensures that the tenant purchasing the house is in a financial position, as the owner, to maintain and insure the property for the duration of the charged period, in compliance with the conditions of the order transferring the ownership of, and responsibility for, the house from the local authority to the tenant.

It should be noted that the financing of any house sold under the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme is a separate matter from the eligibility criteria for the scheme.  If the tenant is deemed eligible under the scheme, he or she may fund the purchase of a house from one, or a combination, of his / her own resources or a mortgage provided by a financial institution or a local authority house purchase loan.

In line with the commitment given in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been completed and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations. 

Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review shortly. I intend to bring a comprehensive package of social housing reform measures to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the Review of the Tenant Purchase Scheme will be progressed as part of that process.