With 1,726 families in homeless accommodation, the need to urgently release up to 9,000 family homes which are locked out of the housing market as a result of the Fair Deal Nursing Home Scheme is paramount, according to Denis Naughten TD.
The figures in today’s Homeless Quarterly Progress report from the Department of Housing show that there are 3,848 children in 1,726 families who are without a home. Yet there is up to 9,000 family homes, close to schools, some with buses and broadband outside the door which are falling into disrepair because of perverse Fair Deal rules regarding rental income, that is five vacant homes for each homeless family.
“At a time when we have a shortage of family homes right across this country we must address the anomaly which results in a treble penalty being applied under the Fair Deal Nursing Home Support Scheme if the vacant property is used to provide a homeless family with a roof.
“Current policy on the Fair Deal scheme is effectively banning the renting out of vacant homes belonging older people in nursing homes because they are hit with a treble penalty under the current means test rules,” Deputy Naughten reflected.
According to the Deputy, under the Fair Deal nursing home scheme, 7.5 percent of the market value of the house is used but if that home is rented out when the older person goes into a nursing home then the gross income, exclusive of any costs such as maintenance or letting fees, is also included in the means calculation. Yet it gets worse because if that rent then goes through the older person’s bank account this is also considered as capital and is included in the means assessment.
“If a vacant property is leased out to one of the 1,726 families who are looking for a roof over their heads, the older person in the nursing home is paying for this in their means assessment three times. In addition, such a means test can fail to take into account the costs associated with the letting or maintenance of the property.
“Right across the country in cities, towns and villages there are many such properties in good repair and in areas of high demand for rented homes. Some of these properties even have 1,000mbps fibre broadband outside the door. I’ve spoken with many family members of older people in nursing homes who would love to see these homes occupied by those currently in homeless accommodation.
“In recent figures I received from the HSE, there are currently just 812 of the 9,746 Fair Deal vacant homes rented out and usually by the time an older person’s estate is finalised, the property in question requires significant investment before it can become a home again.
“I have written to the Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, Michael Harty TD, asking that this anomaly be addressed when the committee considers changes to the Fair Deal legislation next month.
“In light of the rise in the number of children and families in homeless accommodation we urgently need to bring these families into communities where the taxpayer has already paid for infrastructure such as schools, roads and water. I am hopeful that I will secure all party support for such a reform. Surely, we can help older people, give a home to children and stop properties becoming derelict, a win-win situation for everybody,” Deputy Naughten commented.