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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Ministerial Rota for Parliamentary Questions: Motion
 Header Item Housing (Amendment) Bill 2013: Order for Report Stage
 Header Item Housing (Amendment) Bill 2013: Report and Final Stages

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy O'Reilly has expressed an interest in the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill and the criminal justice (proceeds of crime) Bill on previous occasions, as has Deputy Bernard Durkan. Both Bills are listed for later this year but the criminal justice (proceeds of crime) Bill is still being discussed with the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB.

The Construction Contracts Bill is on Committee Stage and obviously it is a matter for the members of the committee as to when they conclude their deliberations, at which point the Bill will come back to this House for Report and Final Stages.

Deputy Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan There is enormous concern that our national monuments and heritage are being vandalised and, in some cases, stolen. There was an incident recently in Lake Garadice in County Leitrim, where a 600 year old church window was stolen. Thankfully, it has been found again, due to the vigilance of the local people. In that context, when will the monuments Bill be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Bill is not due until the middle of next year but given the Deputy's keen interest in the matter, I will ask the relevant Minister to update him on whether it can be expedited.

Deputy Ray Butler: Information on Ray Butler Zoom on Ray Butler When is publication expected of the trusts Bill, to reform and consolidate the general law relating to trustees so as to deal better with and protect trust assets?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny That Bill is due for publication later this year and I assume it will be considered in the session beginning in September.

Ministerial Rota for Parliamentary Questions: Motion

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I move:

That, notwithstanding anything in the Order of the Dáil of 9 March 2011, setting out the rota in which Questions to members of the Government are to be asked, Questions for oral answer, following those next set down to the Minister for Health, shall be set down to Ministers in the following temporary sequence:
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
whereupon the sequence established by the Order of 9 March 2011, shall continue with Questions to the Minister for Finance.

Question put and agreed to.

Housing (Amendment) Bill 2013: Order for Report Stage

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I move: "That Report Stage be taken now."

  Question put and agreed to.

Housing (Amendment) Bill 2013: Report and Final Stages

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, to delete lines 10 to 16 and substitute the following:
“(a) in subsection (3) by deleting paragraphs (a) and (b) and substituting:
“(a) charges such as rent as is set down in a national rent scheme established by the Minister.”,
(b) by deleting subsection (4),

(c) in subsection (5) by substituting the following paragraphs for paragraphs (a) and

“(a) A housing authority shall, in accordance with regulations made for the purposes of this section, not later than the date prescribed by the Minister for the purposes of this subsection make a scheme (in this Act referred to as a ‘rent scheme’) in line with the national rent scheme as referred to in subsection (3).

(b) A housing authority may, from time to time, as the Minister directs, revoke the rent scheme and make a new rent scheme.”.”.

I have tabled these amendments because I believe that rents should be set according to people's means and ability to pay. If one is on a social welfare payment in Donegal, Dún Laoghaire or west Cork, one's payment is the same. If one is earning the minimum wage in Kerry, Kilkenny or Westmeath, one's wage is the same. Social housing rents should be set on that basis, namely on what people are able to pay, given their income and no other factors should be taken into consideration.

  At one level, this Bill suggests that the Government is moving in that direction because it refers to removing certain considerations that should not be included in the setting of rents. That is welcome because it is wrong, for example, for property prices to be in any way influential in the setting of rents for social housing. In my area of Dún Laoghaire, and I suspect it is true of Dublin generally and other major urban centres, social housing rents have been heavily influenced by local property prices, which is completely unfair. Property prices should have no bearing whatsoever on social housing rents. I have compared the differential rent scheme in Dún Laoghaire with schemes elsewhere and found that - for no apparent reason other than the fact that private rental rates in the area are high in general - social rent rates for the area are higher than the average, even though the income of people who depend on social housing is no higher in Dún Laoghaire than elsewhere. This situation is grossly unfair and the Minister of State seems to be trying to address it with this legislation, at one level at least. However, while it is fair enough to take market prices out of the equation, the Minister of State is still giving the power to local authorities to vary rents. The Bill refers to issues such as the cost of maintenance of the social housing stock, for example, as something which can influence the rents local authorities can charge. I do not believe that is right, particularly against the background where budgets for local authorities and the money being made available for the provision of social housing are being cut, year on year, because there will be major, if not irresistible, pressure on local authorities to increase rents in order to maintain their housing stock. Therefore, significant variations in rent levels between one location and another will continue, based on the financial health or otherwise of the relevant local authority.

  We need social housing because there are 100,000 families on the social housing list. We must provide for such families right across the country in a major way, which has not been done for the past ten to 15 years. I hope this Government will address the urgent social housing need that exists. That must be done and the rents for that social housing must be based solely on people's ability to pay, now more than ever, as so many in our society are struggling financially. There should be no question of rents for social housing being increased because of financial pressures on the local authorities.

  While there are elements of this Bill that are progressive, there are other aspects that are very retrograde. The way to address that is to have a national differential rent scheme, to be applied right across the board, rather than giving local authorities the power to vary rents, depending on what pressures they are under. That is the logic behind my amendments and I hope the Government will seriously consider accepting them. I believe they are fair. The Department seems to be acknowledging, in this Bill, that there is an unjustified variation in rents across the country. If the Department accepts that, then the best way to address it is to devise a national differential rent scheme, based purely on people's ability to pay. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis I support Deputy Boyd Barrett's amendments. The setting of rents across local authorities is very important and there must be consistency. One of the main problems is that different local authorities apply different rent rates. Differential rent rates should be based on the income of tenants, which is the fairest way to determine them. Ability to pay should be taken into account. It is very unfair, for example, that people on social welfare pay different rents, depending on the local authority area in which they live.

In the context of the LPT, we have already had indications from Cork County Council and others that they intend to add the LPT onto the rents. Will there be variations in this across local authorities too?

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