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Coveney: No Govt plans to forcibly take vacant properties

Coveney: No Govt plans to forcibly take vacant properties

Coveney: No Govt plans to forcibly take vacant properties.

 

The Government has no plans to forcibly take possession of vacant properties, according to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney.

Simon Coveney TD minister for housingHe said he had no "absolute" statements to say on measures to address the housing crisis, but they would include accessing the 240,000 empty properties around the country while respecting property rights.

Mr Coveney was speaking at a conference organised by the Housing Agency focussing on the issue of affordability.

He said that there will be six-month emergency plans implemented in urban areas to "inject some adrenalin into the system".

He also said student accommodation is easier to provide through rapid build and could free up affordable rental properties.

Furthermore, elderly designed accommodation could attract people into leaving large family homes where they live on their own.

 

Housing Agency Chairperson Conor Skehan said one third of the population will need state support to buy or rent their home.

The conference heard that 100,000 homes will be needed by 2020 and there are plans to build 35,000 social units.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for a group set up to help homeowners in mortgage difficulties has said that there are roughly 5,000 families who do not have the money to restructure their debt and are facing repossession.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ross Maguire from New Beginnings proposed that a mortgage rescue scheme - similar to one that worked in the UK in the 1990s - should be established.

This would allow the State to purchase the houses and allow families to stay on as tenants.

Mr Maguire said such a scheme could also be funded by the private world so long as leases were between new owners and local authorities were strong.

It comes as new figures obtained from the Housing Agency by Sinn Féin show there are more than 5,000 vacant homes across South Dublin County Council.

Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said the report, which has been presented to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and the Dáil Housing Committee, has revealed that as many as 230,000 homes across the State are vacant.

 

He called for as many of the vacant properties as possible to be made available to those on housing waiting lists.

"South Dublin County Council is already using compulsory acquisition powers to bring some vacant sites back into use. However the Minister for Housing must make more funding available to the Council to allow them to acquire a greater number of these units", he said.

"At a time when over 2,000 children across the state are homeless allowing such a high rate of vacant dwellings in not only unacceptable, it is a scandal," he added.

Elsewhere, Chairwoman of the Housing Finance Agency Dr Michelle Norris has said it is proposing to the Minister Coveney that the agency increases lending to the housing association sector and also that the local authorities be given eligibility to borrow from it.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Dr Norris said the agency funded around 350 units that way last year.

She said the housing strategy plan is for an additional 13,500 units to be provided and the Housing Finance Agency believes the best option to pay for this very large build programme in the short-term, is for it to borrow money from the markets and EU institutions such as the European Investment Bank to fund this programme.

 

She said it can do this at a very, very low interest rate and she said the best way to address the social housing issue is to provide additional new build social housing units.

She said the private rented sector is an important part of the solution in providing social housing, but "we can't rely on it".

She said at this stage, we are over-reliant on it to house low-income households and it simply does not have the capacity.

Dr Norris said the Housing Finance Agency borrows money on international markets and from institutions such as the European Investment Bank and lends its onto local authorities and non-profit sector housing associations to provide social housing and to house low income households.

In the Dáil, Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd called for emergency legislation to stop people being put out of their homes by landlords selling their properties.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Housing and Homeless Committee, Mr O'Dowd said it was an absolute scandal that families were using blow up beds in hostels.

He said: "we cannot accept a situation where callous landlords were abusing a situation when the law allows them to put tenants out when they are selling."

The committee is currently hearing from the housing charity Treshold, which last year dealt with 32,000 housing queries.

The charity's CEO Bob Jordan said tenants needed rent certainty and security of tenure. "Four-year security of tenure doesn't cut it when you have children in school for ten years".

Mr Jordan said rent certainty was good for landlords as well as tenants.

 

Among the measures the charity is calling for is an increase to rent supplement to reflect market limits; an extension to the Tenancy Protection Service; and a review of the tax code to encourage landlords to accept and retain tenants on state payments.

To prevent evictions, the charity is calling for legal safeguards to allow tenants to remain during and after the sale of a property. They also say the legal definition of landlord should be amended to include receivers and lenders in possession.

Treshold is also calling for a second Commission on the Private Rental Residential Sector. The first Commission reported in 2000.

Mr Jordan warned that while there was a huge focus on those in emergency accommodation at the moment, the focus shuld be on preventing homelessness.

He suggested a localised increase in rent supplement where Community Welfare Officers would have a band for certain areas.

But he warned the limits should not be visible to landlords: "It doesn't make much sense to have it up on a notice board", he said.

He also said students should be accommodated in affordable on-campus accommodation. He said the Section 50 scheme was an example of a successful tax break but he said what happened was that on-campus accommodation had become as expensive as the private rented sector.

Mr Jordan also warned against any row back on the bedsit regulations, saying they had increased supply because they made older properties more likely to be occupied.

He added that Dublin City Council had discovered that around 50% did not comply with fire safety.

 

 

Source: RTE 24/05/2016

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

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