Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Questions (259)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

259. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will arrange discussions with the Minister for Health regarding the need in the context of the housing crisis to reform the operation of the fair deal scheme in order to encourage participants in the scheme to make their homes available for letting in order to alleviate the housing shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50487/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS), also known as the Fair Deal Scheme, was published by the Minister for Health in July 2015.  A Working Group is overseeing the implementation of its recommendations, including any legislative changes that may be required.

Action 17 of the Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, undertakes to examine the treatment under the NHSS’s financial assessment of income from the rental of a person’s principal private residence (PPR), where they move into long-term residential care. This examination aims to explore the potential to encourage vacant accommodation to be brought into active use.

Action 3D of the National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy 2018-2021 also commits my Department to work in close partnership with the Department of Health to examine possible measures to address vacant homes when an owner moves to nursing home care under the Nursing Home Support Scheme.

My Department is currently engaging with the Department of Health in relation to these actions.  The Department of Health has received legal advice that changes to the treatment of rental income in the Fair Deal Scheme would require primary legislation.  Both Departments are exploring proposals to enable vacant properties owned by patients in long-term nursing home care to be brought back into early use, through adjustments to the treatment of rental income and house sale proceeds derived from a PPR in the financial assessment of income for the purposes of the Fair Deal Scheme. 

Legislative amendments to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009, under the remit of the Minister for Health, are required to remove any disincentive in the financial assessment under the Nursing Home Support Scheme (Fair Deal Scheme) to both the renting out and the selling of the homes of participants in or applicants for the Scheme. Discussions are ongoing between Department officials in this regard in the context of progressing any appropriate amendments through the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill, being developed by the Department of Health. Arrangements for discussions at Ministerial level will be made, if necessary, to ensure that satisfactory progress is achieved.

It will remain a personal choice for any individual as to whether or not they wish to sell or rent out their home upon taking up residence in a nursing home.