Grealish demands review of Fair Deal scheme to free up houses for renting

'If the Government were to relax the rules, it could open up thousands of homes for the rental market'

TD Noel Grealish.

TD Noel Grealish.

More than 500 homes across County Galway are left idle while their occupants are in nursing homes, but a Galway TD is calling for the rules to be changed so such houses can be rented to families caught in the accommodation crisis.

The HSE, responding to a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Health from the Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish, has revealed that more than 550, of almost 1,300 Galway people in nursing home care, supported by the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (aka the Fair Deal scheme ) had a private residence included in their financial statement.

Under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, older people in long-term nursing home care, who are over a low income threshold, must hand over 80 per cent of any rental income from their homes. However, Dep Grealish points out that many decide it is “not worth their while putting their homes up for rent” while they are in a nursing home.

Dep Grealish said about 555 in Galway city and county are left idle while the occupants are in nursing homes, but that these homes could be rented by families seeking accommodation if the Government relaxed the Nursing Homes Support Scheme rules. “If the Government were to even reduce the amount people have to pay, maybe down to 30 per cent, it could open up thousands of homes for the rental market, where the demand for accommodation is driving rents skywards all over the country,” he said.

A review of the Fair Deal scheme was published three years ago which recommended re-looking at the issue, while both the Departments of Housing and Health were exploring proposals in a bid to enable such vacant properties to be brought back into use. However Dep Grealish said progress on this is “way too slow”.

“We have a crisis in relation to the supply of new houses that is creating huge demand for properties to rent and sending rents through the roof,” said Dep Greealish. “Anything that increases the supply of housing to the rental market will help to ease the problems so many people have in finding a place to live, and it could also dampen down the rent costs spiral.”

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