under-fire | 

Landlord minister pushed Dáil to hike funds for rents scheme which he receives income from

European Affairs Minister of State Thomas Byrne branded his Fianna Fáil colleague as “naive” for failing to declare properties he sold to local authorities

Fianna Fáil Junior Minister Robert Troy. Photo: Frank McGrath

Philip Ryan and Ralph RiegelIndependent.ie

Fianna Fáil Junior Minister Robert Troy used Dáil speaking time to call for more funding for a State rental scheme which he currently receives an income from.

Mr Troy also used parliamentary questions to seek specific information about the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) under which he has leased two properties to Westmeath County Council.

Amid mounting pressure over his failure to properly declare his property interests last week, the under-fire minister published details of his business dealings including two rental contracts with the local authority where he previously served as a councillor.

Mr Troy also revealed he has a contract with his former council since August 2011 under which he said the local authority “paid rent for this property through electronic transfer”.

Under RAS, councils pay private landlords directly to accommodate tenants in receipt of rent support for more than 18 months.

Landlords who take part in the scheme can claim 100pc relief on their mortgage interest as an expense against rental income.

Mr Troy, a Longford-Westmeath TD, raised the State-funded scheme, which was first introduced in 2004, on several occasions in the Dáil since being elected in 2011.

During a Dáil debate on housing legislation in April 2014, he raised concerns about the lack of funding for the rental scheme at a time when investment in social housing was reduced after the financial crash.

“I accept that there are tight financial constraints, but there has not been a corresponding increase in rental accommodation scheme, RAS, funding. This compounds the problem facing us,” the then Opposition TD said.

The following month in May 2014, Mr Troy complained in the Dáil that the high cost of rent was preventing local authorities from taking on houses under the rental accommodation scheme.

“Landlords are simply refusing to engage with local authorities on that scheme because they can get more money on the commercial market,” he said.

In December 2014, during a debate on homelessness, he raised the issue again, saying: “The banks are forcing landlords to sell property and rental accommodation schemes are being terminated at an unprecedented rate in local authorities because those authorities have not been provided with the funding to ensure they can continue to supply houses.”

The Dáil register of members interests for 2014 show Mr Troy had two rental properties in Westmeath at the time of the debate.

Four years later in June 2018, Mr Troy submitted a parliamentary question to former Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy seeking details of the amount of funding spent by Westmeath County Council on the rental accommodation scheme, housing assistance payment (HAP) and long-term leasing arrangements.

In May 2022, while serving as a minister, Mr Troy sought, through a parliamentary question, the figures of RAS properties in Westmeath and Longford for the last three years.

He also sought details for the number of properties leased by the two local authorities in his constituency and figures for the number of people in receipt of HAP.

Mr Troy has refused to answer questions from theIrish Independent on how much he receives from Westmeath County Council under RAS.

He will also not say if he had a RAS contract with Westmeath County Council at the time he sought more funding for the scheme in Dáil debates.

It comes as European Affairs Minister of State Thomas Byrne branded his Fianna Fáil colleague as “naive” for failing to declare properties he sold to local authorities.

“I think naive is probably a good word and he has apologised fully to the Taoiseach, to his constituents and to Sipo (Standards in Public Office Commission),” Mr Byrne told Newstalk’sOn The Record with Gavan Reilly.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has accepted Mr Troy’s apology and explanation for failing to declare three properties and a business.

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