Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1959, 1969, 1974, 1986)

Seamus Healy

Question:

1959. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of the local authority tenant purchase scheme; if tenants have an entitlement to purchase by way of a lump sum; if Part V houses will be included in the scheme; if persons have an entitlement to purchase with income other than from employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35626/19]

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Niall Collins

Question:

1969. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to allow tenants of voluntary housing agencies to purchase their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35766/19]

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Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

1974. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will review the tenant (incremental) purchase scheme and the €15,000 minimum income requirement to avail of the scheme due to the significant number of persons being denied the scheme albeit living in the homes for decades in some cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35978/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

1986. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if local authorities will be allowed discretion regarding the income threshold under the tenant purchase scheme for isolated rural houses for which there is no housing demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36272/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1959, 1969, 1974 and 1986 together.

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 scheme only provides for the purchase of local authority houses owned by the relevant local authorities and does not extend to houses owned by Approved Housing Bodies (AHB), as the ownership of these properties remains with the AHB.

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.

The provisions of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, are designed to enable the development of mixed tenure sustainable communities. Part V homes are excluded from the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme 2016 to ensure that homes delivered under this mechanism will remain available for people in need of social housing support and that the original policy goals of the legislation are not eroded over time. The continued development of mixed tenure communities remains very important in promoting social integration.

Local authorities may also, within the provisions of the Regulations, exclude certain houses which, in the opinion of the authority, should not be sold for reasons such as proper stock or estate management. It is a matter for each individual local authority to administer the Scheme in its operational area in line with the over-arching provisions of the governing legislation for the scheme, and in a manner appropriate to its housing requirements.

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.

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. Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, in that context, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review.