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27/09/2021

Longford County Council tenants being frozen out from buying houses

Housing

Fresh criticism has been aimed at the finer workings of the State's Incremental Tenant Purchase Scheme

An initiative which offers discounts to local authority tenants to buy out their rented properties is prohibiting a growing cohort of long term leaseholders from doing exactly that.

The Incremental Tenant Purchase Scheme took effect from January 2016 and before becoming operational in April 2016, affording tenants the right to purchase their rented council accommodation subject to a range of qualifying criteria.

However, one of the underlying rules of the scheme, namely that an aspiring purchaser must be in receipt of an annual income of at least €15,000 led to calls last week for the scheme to be reviewed.

Leading that appeal was Independent Cllr Mae Sexton. She said there were a significant number of long term tenants in Longford with savings and other means of capital behind them who were being denied the chance of calling their rented social accommodation a family home.

As she called for an immediate root and branch review of the scheme to allow for such cases, she was supported by Fine Gael’s Peggy Nolan.

“There are tenants on social welfare through no fault of their own and there are others with life savings who are precluded from buying their house,” she said.

The Fine Gael councillor’s party running mate Cllr John Browne was another to speak out, claiming tenants who were in social housing for ten years and had the necessary means to buy out their homes should be allowed do so.

Cllr Nolan re-entered the debate for a second time, stating she had already flagged her concerns with Junior Housing Minister Damien English and asked for those same reservations to be aired at the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) with a letter to be sent to other county councils.

She did place caution, though, on Cllr Browne’s suggestion for a ten year cap, stating: “Ten years is very short because the people I am dealing with have been in houses for 30 years.”

Cllr Sexton agreed, implying a 15 year ceiling might be more practicable.

Cllr PJ Reilly backed up that viewpoint with Cllr Paraic Brady arguing the point local authorities should be given greater autonomy when deciding whether a tenant was suitable or not under the scheme.

“I do think it should fall back to the discretion of the Council staff especially if there is a genuine case out there and they have the money to buy the house then that discretion should be allowed,” he said.

Cllr Gerry Warnock gave a similarly caustic appraisal of the current scheme befalling councils like Longford, describing it as “ill-conceived from the get go”.

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