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Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien Photocall Ireland
Policy Matters

Housing Minister: Report of two properties acquired under Govt scheme 'doesn't tell full story'

Last week, The Journal reported that just two properties have been acquired since April under a scheme designed to keep people facing evictions in their homes.

HOUSING MINISTER DARRAGH O’Brien has accused Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin of being “disingenuous” with his criticism of the Government’s action on housing and said reporting of certain figures “does not tell the full story”.

Last week, The Journal reported that just two properties have been acquired since April under a scheme designed to keep people facing evictions in their homes.

Speaking to The Journal, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said criticism of the scheme was unfair and argued that many sales processes are ongoing.

The cost rental tenant in situ scheme was introduced by the Government earlier this year after it lifted the temporary ban on evictions that had been in place. It is directed towards households who are renting a property and facing eviction, but who are not eligible for social housing supports like the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) or the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

Figures released to Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin under the Freedom of Information Act showed that just two purchases have been finalised under the scheme since April.

The figures showed that in total, 152 referrals to the scheme have been made to the Housing Agency from local authorities and other sources with 130 assessed so far by the agency.

Speaking to The Journal, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said criticism of the scheme “does not tell the full story”.

“The criticism of it from the main opposition spokesperson on housing is really disingenuous. Really, really disingenuous, because it does not tell the full story,” O’Brien said. 

“I can give you an example of that, earlier in the year, the Sinn Féin spokesperson came in and said we’d only bought 14 homes in Dublin through the Tenant in Situ scheme. Made a big play on this.

“We’re actually going to exceed 1,500 this year, we are close to 2,000. And actually, he knew when he was saying it that when you’re actually purchasing a home, it goes through a conveyancing process but it didn’t suit his narrative. 

“So what I would just say to Deputy Ó Broin and others is, at least tell people the truth,” O’Brien said.

“Someone knows when they’re purchasing a house there’s a time that it takes to conclude the legals. What’s really important is the tenancies are secured,” O’Brien said.

The Minister pointed out that the Tenant in Situ scheme (which differs to the Cost Rental Tenant in Situ scheme mentioned above) has seen close to 900 homes purchased so far with another 600 or 700 in the sale agreed process.

Under the Tenant in Situ scheme, if you are a social housing tenant and your private landlord wants to sell the home you are renting, the local authority can buy the home and you can continue to rent it from the local authority instead. 

“Those tenancies are secured now. They just have to go through the legals, you don’t do it in one day. Ó Broin knows that, but doesn’t want to tell people that. And they’re crucially important. So that’s the real figure,” O’Brien said.

The minister said it was “the same” case with the Cost Rental Tenant in Situ scheme which has had over 150 referrals despite just two acquisitions. 

“So actually coming in and saying only two have been purchased is actually deliberately misleading,” he said.

Responding to this, Ó Broin told The Journal that he put the figures into the public domain in good faith and pointed out that all of the figures relevant to the scheme – not just the two acquisition figures – were published. 

“What we are hearing both from landlords and tenants is this scheme is not working as effectively as it could be. So rather than dismiss the very honest sharing of the figures we put into the public domain, the minister should act on the criticisms of the scheme and improve it,” he said.

Ó Broin said he is “very concerned” at the low level of referrals to the scheme (152 so far) and explained that his main criticism of it is that it is too cumbersome for tenants and that not enough people know about it.

“Many of the people eligible for it don’t have a relationship with the Local Authority and wouldn’t instinctively think to go to Local Authority,” Ó Broin said.

He added that information on the scheme is “very hard to find” and said:

“We need a much more nimble and accessible scheme.” 

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