Wednesday 7 December 2016

Social housing resales should go to councils, committee hears

Philip Ryan and Sean Duffy

Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30

Paschal Donohoe Picture: Tom Burke
Paschal Donohoe Picture: Tom Burke

People who buy social houses from city or county councils should be forced to sell them back to the local authority if they decide to trade up, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.

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Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Fine Gael TD Sean Barrett said councils should buy social housing back from former tenants at an "upgraded value" of the house if occupants are moving on.

Mr Barrett, who sold his parent's council house, said the current system which allows people sell social housing into the private sector is "daft" and needs to be urgently reformed. He said a former local authority house in Dalkey, South Dublin is currently on sale for €750,000.

Speaking to Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe as he attended the Budget Oversight Committee, Mr Barrett said hundreds of thousands of social housing units built by local authorities have been sold into the private sector.

"I am a product of a local authority house and I'm a product of a sales scheme that was mad," he said.

"By all means give the tenant the opportunity to buy the house but if they sell it or the tenancy is passed on and left to kids, who have their own houses, they should be obliged to sell it back to the local authority at an upgraded value of the house," he added.

Speaking after the meeting, committee member and Dublin South West Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy said he supported Mr Barrett's proposal. Anti- Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit Richard Boyd Barrett said he was also supportive of the idea but said it needs to be "teased out".

Funding

During the hearing, Mr Donohoe also warned abolishing waters charges will result in less funding for schools, hospitals and housing after he was questioned by committee chairman John Paul Phelan on the issue.

"What is going to be the case if we end up treating water infrastructure, funding it out of general taxation it will be directly competing with all the other needs. We will have to add that to the list of housing, education and all those other needs," he said.

He also insisted he expects the Department of Health's spending to come in on budget this year.

He said he has made it clear to health chiefs he does not want to hear demands for more funding after he made an additional €500m available earlier this year.

"There are few of us who can offer guarantees on anything but I have been absolutely clear that I expect the health budget to come in on budget for this year," he said.

Meanwhile, the Government has been told by a leading think-tank that it should not over-stimulate the economy in the forthcoming budget.

The reports says the Government should use its improved financial situation to focus on balancing the State books.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has said that it expects the Irish economy to remain "robust" for the remainder of this year and next year.

Irish Independent

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