Grants to refurbish dilapidated houses are also being examined
Elderly people living in large homes would be incentivised to move to smaller ones through a mix of tax incentives and grants, under new plans being considered by the Government.
Ahead of the publication of the ‘Housing for All’ plan next month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Irish Independent that measures being examined include incentives for “right-sizing”.
“There’s lots of housing out there where people may downsize, for example – if there was a good incentive to downsize,” Mr Martin said in an interview with the Irish Independent.
“So can we use more of the existing housing stock, for example [for people to downsize] – voluntarily obviously, and make it incentivised.”
It is among a number of measures being considered under plans to address the housing crisis. Grants for prospective homeowners to refurbish dilapidated houses are also being examined.
A vacant property tax “is being looked at” to incentivise people to develop the properties “and get them into use”, the Taoiseach said.
Mr Martin said the housing crisis will have to be dealt with in the same manner as Covid.
“Every single avenue has to be explored as to how we can provide more units and more housing,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil leader revealed his top civil servant Martin Fraser is chairing a new interdepartmental group set up within the last month “with everything on the table” to drive housing delivery.
The Irish Independent understands that ministers are discussing possible tax incentives for people who want to rightsize, as well as discussions around a specific grant.
A report on housing options for the ageing population published last year found that people wanted to “age in place” – and that if more age-appropriate housing was available within their existing community, they would be more inclined to rightsize.
Mr Martin explained why the Government is also looking at providing a type of grant to prospective homeowners to incentivise them to refurbish dilapidated houses. “Can we help their decision-making, in terms of whether they go for it or not?” Mr Martin said.
“There’s a repair and lease scheme in the public sector that local authorities benefit from. We’ve asked the Minister for Housing to give consideration to a scheme, whereby you’d incentivise people who would want to buy their first house, for example, to get involved in refurbishing it. It could be a grant.”
It’s understood this scheme would seek to incentivise prospective homeowners, specifically first-time buyers, to purchase a property that has been vacant for more than 12 months.
Details of the scheme are currently being worked on by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath.
After Tánaiste Leo Varadkar set a new target of building 40,000 homes every year at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis last weekend, Mr Martin said it would be possible to hit that figure over the decade, given the shortfall caused by the shutdown of the construction sector over the last 18 months will need to be made up.
“You can get to a stage where some year we will hit the 40,000,” he said.
But Mr Martin said the difficulty facing the Government was a skills shortage in the construction sector. “The real challenge for us is getting the people to build the houses, making sure we have the skill set, reskilling people and getting enough people to really drive delivery.
"Having analyzed this over the last year, now it seems to me that delivery will be our big challenge – and that means people allowing projects to get off the ground.”
He criticised local authorities for taking too long to approve new housing projects.
“There comes a stage when you have to get off the seat and just vote and get the project going. There’s been too many projects delayed given the urgency of the crisis,” he said.
The bill underpinning the Land Development Agency will be passed before the summer recess, he said.
“That gives an extra capacity to get going and getting housing provided, the affordable housing legislation provides for the capacity to build more affordable housing directly by the State in addition to social housing.”