New scheme for State to purchase tenants’ homes and rent it back to them amid eviction row

Local housing body or council can purchase tenant’s home and rent it back to themRenters will be given first refusal on buying their homeTenants can also avail of shared equity scheme which reduces cost of purchase by up to 30pc

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Hugh O'Connell

A scheme for local authorities or housing bodies to purchase a tenant’s home and rent it back to them will be in place by April 1 as the Government seeks to offset the impact of eviction ban ending.

The Cabinet has agreed to put in place the so-called ‘cost-rental backstop’ on an administrative basis as ministers scrambled to agree measures to mitigate the worst impacts of the ban expiring.

However, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan caused confusion after incorrectly claiming that another element of the Government’s plan – to give tenants first refusal to buy the property they are renting if their landlord decides to sell – would be in place by April 1.

It comes amid warnings from the opposition and housing groups that thousands could face eviction and homelessness in the coming weeks. The Dáil will debate a Sinn Féin motion to extend the eviction ban until next year later today.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the “protection of tenants” was central to the Government’s counter-motion that would provide a “safety net” for renters.

“So there is no gap, so that we unwind the eviction ban but we introduce these innovative measures to increase and improve tenants’ rights at the same time,” the Environment Minister said at a press conference in Government Buildings today.

The Government counter-motion will set out that for renters in receipt of State supports such as housing assistance payment, councils can purchase their home and make it available to them as social housing as part of an expanded “tenant-in-situ” scheme.

For those not in receipt of supports but facing eviction, their local housing body or council can purchase their home and rent it to them on a “cost rental” or not-for-profit basis.

A third element of the Government’s plan is to give tenants in a position to purchase their home first refusal to buy the property, including using the option of using the State-backed shared equity scheme of up to 30pc of the price of the property or to apply for a local authority home loan.

However, Mr Ryan incorrectly claimed in response to questions that this 'first refusal' option would be in place “on an administrative basis” from April 1.

His office later clarified the 'first refusal' option will take longer. The measure requires legislative change and will not be in place by April 1. There is no clear timeline for its introduction.

Ahead of the Dáil debate and vote on the eviction ban motion, Mr Ryan refused to be drawn on what sanction Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan will face for voting against the Government for the second time in less than year.

He said the matter will be discussed at a parliamentary party meeting expected to take place after the Dáil votes on the motion tomorrow evening. “I’d prefer to give my parliamentary party my views first and then share them publicly,” Mr Ryan said.

He also announced details of a new windfall tax on energy companies. This will include a cap on renewable energy companies’ revenues from the end of December last to June of this year set at €120 per tonne and a solidarity contribution of 75pc from fossil fuel companies including the Corrib Gas Field and Whitegate Oil Refinery for 2022 and 2023.

He said that revenues from these measures will be lower than expected by the range of €280 million and €600 million. “It will be recycled as part of helping households in their electricity bills and also on the solidarity contribution giving us flexibility in how we develop the energy transition we’re engaged in and help businesses make that change,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan would not, however, commit to the introduction of another €200 electricity credit for all households later this year and cautioned that the revenue from the cap may not be able to fund another credit, at a cost of close to €400 million.