Just 13 homes, out of more than 400 offered to Dublin local authorities by landlords exiting the market, were bought in recent months under the tenant-in-situ scheme, figures obtained by The Irish Times show.
Under the scheme, restored by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien last April, councils are empowered to buy homes offered by landlords who are selling up and where their tenant is in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), or the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).
Since Monday’s announcement that the eviction ban would not be extended, the tenant-in-situ scheme has been cited by both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien as a key mechanism to protect the poorest households from homelessness in the event of termination notices. They say 1,500 homes will be bought under it this year.
On Wednesday Mr Varadkar, speaking at Government Buildings, said: “We want and we expect local authorities in the main to purchase those homes and move people from being HAP tenants to regular social housing tenants, which is what they should be anyway.”
Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Finance on Thursday, the Taoiseach said he was “disappointed” with the level of tenant-in-situ purchases being completed by local authorities, adding the scheme “really needs to be accelerated”.
He said he, Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State Kieran O’Donnell intended to “really sit on” local authorities to make it work at a faster pace.
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Figures supplied by Dublin’s four local authorities show fewer than 3 per cent of homes offered by landlords since June last year have been purchased. In all, 460 homes with social housing tenants were offered to Dublin councils since June 1st, 2022, and 13 bought.
A further 382 are being examined for possible purchase, of which 92 are described as at “closing” or “sale agreed” stage.
One council, Fingal, has bought none. It has been offered 120 and 12 are at sale agreed stage. Dublin City Council has been offered 180 and bought seven. Both Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin county councils have bought three homes, having been offered 23 and 137 respectively.
Sinn Féin spokesman on housing, Eoin Ó Broin, on Thursday described the figures as “truly shocking” and proved the scheme was “not working”.
Mr Ó Broin said the “rules and the resourcing” of the scheme needed “immediate” change. He said it delegated the decision-making about which homes to buy to the local authorities, rather than instructing them to purchase.
He said council officials were “sticking to their allocations scheme” and purchasing homes only where the tenant was on the housing list for a specified period of up to eight years – to avoid accusations of facilitating “queue jumping”. He added that local authorities were also under-resourced to do the “labour-intensive work” of processing landlords’ expressions of interest.
Mr Ó Broin said he had “direct experience” of a landlord who was willing to sell to the council. “But it took the local authority so long to say whether they would even consider buying, the landlord got fed up, sold on the private market and the family became homeless.”
The Department of Housing has been asked for a response.