Wednesday, 10 November 2021
Department of Health
223. To ask the Minister for Health if there are plans to amend the fair deal scheme to allow homeowners to rent out their homes while they are in a nursing home given this would free up more houses onto the rental market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54856/21]
The Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Act 2021, which was signed into law on 22 July, introduced further safeguards into the NHSS to further protect the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses. It also includes an amendment in relation to applying the 3-year cap to the proceeds of sale of a house while a resident is in long-term care. This addresses the first relevant commitment in the Housing for All Strategy (action 19.7). This removed a disincentive against the sale of properties that might otherwise remain vacant.
As well as introducing the change above, the Department of Health has also agreed to action 19.8 in the Housing for All Strategy to develop a mechanism in relation to the rental of vacant properties "in a way that is targeted, equitable, evidence-based and provides appropriate safeguards for vulnerable older people". It is important to note that complex policy questions remain in meeting these criteria and there are high risks associated with unintended consequences.
The NHSS is a complex €1.4 billion Scheme that relies on €350m of contributions from over 22,000 residents. It is important to ensure that the costs, benefits, and unintended consequences of any policy changes are fully understood and resolved before they are put in place. There is no existing exemption of rental or similar income from assessment within the Nursing Homes Support Scheme and due care needs to be taken to ensure that any future changes are appropriate; to protect and meet the needs of residents while also making provision for those in need of housing.
The Department of Health and other government departments continue to collaborate on this policy, including the identification of the number of houses that may be brought into use and the costs associated with the policy options available to address this action, with a view to introducing legislation as soon as possible once this analysis and policy development is complete.