Coveney denies repair fund 'is just free cash for landlords to do up their houses'
Housing Minister Simon Coveney has denied that a plan to give State funding for the renovation of vacant houses is effectively giving landlords free cash to do up their houses.
The €32m repair and leasing scheme is aimed at encouraging the owners of run-down, empty properties to fix them up so they can be used for social housing.
AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger told the Oireachtas Housing Committee that she had a "major problem" with the scheme.
She said that, in her view, leasing for social housing probably meant that the properties would be let out on the Housing Assistant Payment (HAP) scheme.
"That is not investing in public housing," she said, adding that the State should be acquiring vacant properties, "not just doing them up for whoever owns them".
Mr Coveney said the State was buying vacant properties and also defended the repair and leasing scheme.
"We're not giving people grant aid here to do up their houses," he said.
Mr Coveney said the reason many properties were vacant - even in high rent areas - was because they needed €10,000 to €15,000 in renovations.
He said the offer to owners was that the State would fund the repairs and take the cost out of the rent over the next decade.
Mr Coveney said this would solve the cash flow problem a property owner may have in making their property available for a long-term tenancy for social housing.
"It can be a win-win for everybody," he said.
"This is not a grant. It's simply the State helping with a cash flow problem."
He insisted there was "urgency" in the Government's efforts to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.
He told the committee that this year, local authorities and approved housing bodies would be in a position to deliver 4,450 units through a combination of construction, acquisitions and rapid builds, among other measures.
He admitted delivering rapid-build homes had been a "headache" for the department and local authorities.
Just 22 have been completed so far, with hundreds promised by the end of the year. Mr Coveney said: "Rapid build is only part of the solution, but it's something that can deliver projects on a timeline that probably wouldn't be possible with conventional projects."
He said his department had a €1.7bn budget this year, a €400m increase on 2016.