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Homeowners can rent asylum-seekers rooms under proposed plan

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Minister Paschal Donohoe

Minister Paschal Donohoe

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Minister Paschal Donohoe

The Government will consider proposals to encourage homeowners with an empty room to rent it to asylum-seekers who have been given permission to stay in Ireland.

The plan is aimed at helping asylum-seekers with the strain of finding a place to live after they have been allowed to remain here.

It forms part of the considerations of an inter-departmental group looking at the direct provision system.

A submission for Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said it would be "significantly cheaper" than emergency accommodation.

There are 7,271 people in the direct provision system, of whom 1,585 are living in commercial accommodation.

The Department of Public Expenditure briefing explained how finding a place to live is proving so difficult for many successful asylum-seekers that some opt to stay in direct provision.

"Rent-a-room would be a significantly cheaper option than the emergency accommodation option that is currently being used at significant expense for new applicants," the memo said.

"It is essentially a direct consequence of spaces not being freed up by those with decisions to remain in Ireland choosing to stay within direct provision."

The submission said 8,000 people availed of the so-called "rent-a-room" scheme in 2017 at a cost of €12m.

Under the scheme, homeowners can rent out a room for up to €14,000 a year without having to pay any tax on it.

While many people currently offer accommodation to students, renting a room to someone who had been in direct provision would provide an income year-round.

The submission said the idea would bring economic benefits and "facilitate better integration into the community".

Benefit

Rent-a-room was generally only of use to single people, but this matches the profile of those in direct provision, 55pc of whom are in Ireland on their own.

Officials are seeking approval from the minister to explore the option in consultation with NGOs for refugees.

"Apart from the obvious benefit to the homeowner, the relief has served to deliver effectively a new housing supply source where supply in the wider market has been slow coming on stream," the submission said.

Officials hope to discuss the idea with the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners.

The State would probably pay homeowners directly for their accommodation, as with the Housing Assistance Payment scheme, the submission said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe said: "The report on direct provision is part of an ongoing deliberative process and the draft report still needs to go to government."

Department of Justice figures show that last weekend 7,271 people were in direct provision, 2,024 of whom are children.

Of those, 5,686 - including 1,739 children - were living in 39 international protection accommodation centres such as Mosney and the Balseskin reception centre near Dublin Airport.

A total of 1,585 people are being housed in commercial accommodation providers, including 285 children.