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How Italy’s building bonus uncertainty is causing headaches for homeowners

Voice Of EU

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After Italian authorities gave the green light to next year’s Budget Law at the end of last month, many homeowners carrying out renovations didn’t get the news they were hoping for.

The plans aren’t favourable for those with single family homes, as the authorities decided to extend the superbonus only for condominiums until 2023, meaning there isn’t as much time to move through construction projects as hoped.

EXPLAINED: How Italy’s proposed new budget could affect you

As things stand, based on the manovra – or financial measures – set out by the government, there are just eight months left to access the superbonus for those with a single family home.

It spells a timeframe potentially too short for many waiting for their building project to get off the ground or those stuck in a backlog caused by high demand for construction companies.

‘No house and all the bills’

Many homeowners have already successfully accessed the bonus, with the government approving over 9 billion euros of investments.

But we count among those waiting tensely for news. Solely on the basis of the superbonus, my husband and I bought a wreck in the northern region of Emilia Romagna in May.

After months of searching and waiting for the sale to go through, once we finally had the deed in our hands we thought we’d be able to move through the process and start on the demolition and build of our new home.

House renovation in Italy using the superbonus.
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Yet, seven months later, the original and unliveable old farmhouse is still standing in its crumbling glory while we grow ever more anxious for works to start – and potentially finish – in time.

For us, this would be our primary residence, our only home. We have both borrowed money and also sunk every penny we’ve ever had to our names and saved up over the years to afford it.

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The superbonus was an opportunity too good to miss, as we would never have been able to undertake a project like this without it.

But if we are left stranded halfway through, we will be left with an old building not fit to live in and nowhere else to call home as we have sold our current apartment – at a loss too.

Soon enough, we’ll be living in a trailer on site and all we can do is cross our fingers that we’ll have a real roof over our heads soon.

Italian property.
Photo: Mattia Bericchia on Unsplash

We’re not the only ones fast in the superbonus quagmire. Paul Bains who lives in Sicily almost embarked on the same idea – a full demolition and rebuild – on the house where he resides, but he was worried that it would be “a disaster” and scrapped the plan.

Echoing our fears, he said, “We would have run out of time and I would have ended up with no house and all the bills.”

A shortage of building professionals

Paul still wanted to access the government coffers to upgrade his property without knocking it down in any case. After initially discussing ideas in September and October 2020, an architect eventually came to visit his home in January 2021 to make assessments.

Months passed and on asking for progress, Paul was told that they’ll need another architect after being unable to reach the first one.

READ ALSO: Italy’s ‘superbonus’ renovations delayed by builder shortages and bureaucracy

By July, the builder he had been liaising with also “disappeared”.

He said that he feels like he has lost a year by waiting and asking around for other contacts, but so far is stuck and unable to move forward.

“In some ways I’m just resigned to it,” he said, nodding to the culture of bureaucracy which he described as slow in rural Sicily.

“In some ways I just accept it as perhaps a good thing and move on,” he added.

Bureaucracy is causing delays to accessing Italy's superbonus.
Photo by Julia Solonina on Unsplash

Using the superbonus on a second home

Not everyone is experiencing the same frustration and worry.

Roger Hampton is a British citizen living in Norway and his renovation project is underway on a second home in Italy.

He and his family found the holiday home of their dreams in Ancona, in the Marche region.

Despite breaking one of the biggest rules of house buying in Italy – buying the property unseen – they are successfully progressing through their building plans, blogging the developments as they go.

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“I first read about the superbonus when it came out and then changed my property search, as I realised there was more we could do than we could initially afford,” he said.

Without the superbonus we couldn’t have done this,” he added.

Due to the various lockdowns, he couldn’t travel from Norway to view properties, so his engineer did it on his behalf and just sent photos and videos. It worked out and now they are embarking on a full demolition and rebuild in the end, as the foundations were too weak to stay in place.

Despite only having visited Italy twice this year, his second home project is moving at a pace.

As an architect by trade, Roger admitted he found the process less stressful than most as he understood a lot of the jargon and the protocol. Regardless, accessing the bonus and progressing through construction from a distance is an achievement.

He met a technician last September who used his contacts to get the appropriate contractors for construction.

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For us, this is currently greatest stumbling block as there’s high demand for thermal technicians (termotecnici) and we cannot move forward without this key contact.

In fact, we have found a construction company to knock down the wreck and build our new home, but without the final approval from technicians, we are at an impasse.

Other home renovators I spoke to said they are having the same issues with appointing these particular professionals.

Soberingly, one told me that it took a year to starts works after buying the property. In our case, that would definitely be too late to claim the superbonus under the current rules.

One reader of The Local contacted us to say that they also had this experience, saying, “Getting knowledgeable professionals has been a real struggle.”

In their case, they are moving within the same comune (municipality) and it will be their primary residence. They actually didn’t intend to use the superbonus initially, as they began their project before it was introduced.

However, due to the difficulties of finding the right professionals, time has rolled on and they can now benefit from more government aid than they originally thought.

“The whole thing has been hard but we stand to gain so much if it works out for us, it’s well worth it,” they said.

It’s a positive sentiment that Roger expressed too. “It’s a case of having the patience and it’ll work out,” he said.

For those who are jittery and restless, they might not be far off the mark with such optimism.

The budget proposals indicated a change in the superbonus to cover only those single family homeowners with an ISEE (the social-economic indicator of household wealth) of 25,000 euros maximum for the whole of 2022.

If you don’t fall into this category, the deadline of June 30th 2022 applies.

READ ALSO: Building superbonus: Italy’s draft budget leaves homeowners in limbo

However, some respite is still possible as the Budget Law has not yet been examined by parliament and has so far not been made into law.

At this point, amendments are being made and pressure is mounting to remove the income ceiling and to scrap the shorter deadline for single family homes.

“We are fine-tuning amendments to remove references to ISEE ceilings as a requirement for continuing to benefit from the superbonus on single- and multi-family houses,” Agostino Santillo, vice-president of the Five Star Movement party is reported to have said in a Senate meeting.

He criticised the measure as “discrimination”, saying his party have “put an alternative option on the table that does not create obstacles”.

The government launched the so-called ‘superbonus 110‘ back in May 2020, one of a raft of measures aimed at boosting the Covid-hit economy. It offers homeowners large tax deductions on expenses related to energy upgrades and reducing seismic risk.

Property owners have been petitioning to extend the bonus for the same amount as planned for condominiums, with some arguing that those with single or multi family homes shouldn’t be excluded or labelled “houses of the rich”.

Reports suggest that news on who can access the superbonus and for how long are expected this week.

All proposed measures and extensions to come into force from next year are yet to be converted into law and are still subject to change.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.



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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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