The Coalition is confident it will win a Dáil vote on the eviction ban but could see its working majority tighten as some Independent TDs look set to desert it over the controversial decision to allow the moratorium to expire.
Government sources believe they will win the vote brought about by a Sinn Féin motion seeking to extend the eviction ban into 2024 by a margin of up to six votes.
This is lower than the comfortable margins the Government had when it won confidence votes last year though such high-stakes votes tend to attract more support for the Coalition from the ranks of Independents.
The Government’s razor-thin majority is set fall to just one with Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan intending to vote with the Opposition this evening – a move that will likely see her lose the party whip again.
I’m renting the home of my emigrant brother. What are the tax implications if he signs it over to me?
It will lose its official majority outright if she is joined in her rebellion by party colleague Patrick Costello.
He has suggested within the last fortnight that the eviction ban should continue and did not offer a comment on his voting intentions when contacted on Tuesday.
The Government is expecting to win tonight’s vote with a countermotion designed to shore up support from Independent TDs.
A meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators on Tuesday night heard calls for “significant consequences” for any Government TDs opposing the Coalition in today’s Dáil vote.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the expiry of the evictions ban was a “difficult decision” but necessary to avoid further problems in the future.
TDs John Lahart and Éamon Ó Cuív along with Senator Mary Fitzpatrick are said to have welcomed progress on housing supply.
They also set out the need for all Government TDs to back the Coalition motion defending the decision to allow the ban to expire - while outlining planned measures to help renters - in Wednesday’s Dáil vote. It is understood the three Fianna Fáil politicians called for “significant consequences” for any Government TDs opposing the Coalition motion.
The text of the countermotion includes several measures proposed by members of the Regional Independent Group (RIG), some of whom have voted with the Government in the past.
Roscommon Galway TD Denis Naughten described the group’s “eight asks” as “our bottom line” as they consider whether or not to support the Government tonight.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday some of the proposals were “being done already” but they are “good ideas”.
“We were happy to take them on board,” he said.
The Coalition’s countermotion has nine bullet points that at least partially cover all eight of the issues raised by the RIG.
These include plans to expand the Croí Cónaithe scheme of grants for refurbishing vacant properties to include properties built before 2007 and those that are to be made available for rent. It says the grant rates will be reviewed, which falls short of the RIG’s call for them to be increased from May 1st.
The Coalition also promises reforms of the Fair Deal Scheme to eliminate barriers to nursing home residents who wish to rent out their homes – another RIG ask – though the Government has not offered a timescale.
It is understood the Coalition plans to eliminate the policy that sees people in nursing homes pay 40 per cent of the rental income from their main home towards the cost of the care, reducing it to zero.
The Government motion says it will bring in a Budget package for the rental sector that will include both taxation and expenditure measures. The RIG has asked for the introduction of a tax relief scheme to take effect this year for small landlords.
RIG member Verona Murphy last night warned the Government the group requires an undertaking that its proposals will be implemented.
The Wexford TD said the group awaits further clarity on the “immediacy of the Government’s actions before committing to support the [Coalition] motion”.
Government sources were bullish about the impending Dáil vote, initially predicting a buffer of four votes but later revising that upwards to six.
Its working majority is set to be tested again next week with Labour leader Ivana Bacik telling the Dáil her party had been left with no choice but to put forward a motion of no confidence in the Government unless the decision to end the eviction ban is reversed.
While the Government is confident about coming through the upcoming Dáil votes, Coalition figures privately believe the pressure will grow in the weeks ahead. “Where this becomes a problem is in May and June when the wave [of homelessness] occurs,” a Minister said.
There were sharp exchanges during last night’s debate on the Sinn Féin motion with Pearse Doherty calling the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien “the minister for homelessness”.
Mr O’Brien said the Government’s decision to end the eviction ban was “not one that we took lightly” but believed it was correct.
He said extending the moratorium would not increase housing supply and that the Sinn Féin proposal would only serve to “shrink the number of homes available to rent”.
The Fianna Fáil meeting on Tuesday night heard that a specialist intervention unit is being established by Mr O’Brien in the Department of Housing to drive local authority delivery targets and overcome bottle necks.
Minister for Finance Michael McGrath told the meeting that he is exploring taxation options in the Budget to retain small landlords in the sector and further support tenants.