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 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions
 Header Item Priority Questions
 Header Item Dairy Sector

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry] That is why Government policy in this area is moving to a housing-led approach rather than the traditional model that places hostel or shelter-type accommodation at the centre of accommodation provision. This change will take time to implement, but the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, is committed to seeing it through. People deserve the dignity of a home. We must obviously bear in mind the financial constraints.

Early in the new year, the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, will be issuing a policy statement on homelessness. This will indicate what we expect from housing authorities and other stakeholders in accelerating progress towards realising the ambition of eliminating involuntary long-term homelessness. The Minister of State has sought to put in place real solutions for people who find themselves without a home. Investment of nearly €50 million has been provided by central and local government in the provision of homelessness services in 2012.

With regard to wider demand for social housing, the Government's focus is on optimising the delivery of social housing for the resources invested. To achieve this, it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing conditions and explore the full range of solutions to address housing needs.

The social housing capital budget has had to be reduced from €1.535 billion in 2008 to just over €333.7 million this year - this is a considerable reduction - and the financial parameters within which we will be operating for the coming years rule out a return to large capital-funded construction programmes. Nevertheless, the Minister of State is committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to social housing support needs across the country through a variety of mechanisms, including through increased provision of social housing. Delivery is being significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the rental accommodation scheme and leasing, but the Minister of State is also developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. In spite of these challenging circumstances, a tentative projection of 4,000 housing units is anticipated for 2012.

The Minister of State will continue to target available resources to ensure the critical housing needs of the most vulnerable sectors of our society are addressed. Precise data are critical in this regard, which is why the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will in 2013 carry out a full housing-needs assessment, the first such assessment to be carried out under the 2009 housing Act. This will give a comprehensive picture of real need and help to direct scarce resources to best effect.

I will pass on Deputy Broughan's concerns on Priory Hall to the Minister, Deputy Hogan.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I warmly welcome that because the householders of Priory Hall are anxiously awaiting the recommendation of Mr. Justice Finnegan. Those with pyrite damaged homes are waiting to know whether the Government will put in place a facility regarding the new house tax, which is having an impact on them, and whether the deadline has been reached.

The current social housing capital budget is €333.7 million, a very disappointing sum. The Government is supposed to be getting €400 million plus for the 4G communications auction. Could at least part of this not be hypothecated to address the awful housing problem? Might this be considered? I understand we are not going to make the promissory note payment at the end of March. We slotted into the Estimates for the medium term approximately €5 billion between interest and capital repayments. Are there not more areas in the kitty that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should be examining to kick-start the sector and get all the unemployed construction workers back onto the sites?

It is shocking that 80 to 90 people might be sleeping out tonight. There was a recent tragic death involving a homeless person in Bray. This urgent issue needs to be addressed in the coming days. When will the housing Bill be introduced?

With regard to the rent-to-buy and rental accommodation schemes, the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, mentioned various initiatives. Do the Minister, Deputy Hogan, and Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, intend to do something more dramatic regarding plans for long-term rental?

Has the Minister of State given any consideration to allowing local authorities themselves to engage in housing construction like the voluntary bodies by establishing their own construction and housing-management companies? It would involve emulating what Clúid, NABCO and other bodies have done. Thus, local authorities, such as Sligo county and city councils, could take the initiative rather than wait for individuals in the community to do so.

Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry The Minister, Deputy Hogan, is very far-reaching in his thinking. The biggest shake-up in local government in 100 years has taken place under his watch. This involves a considerable change of mindset. Bearing in mind the limited budget and very scarce resources, I am quite certain value for money will be achieved in respect of the buy-to-let and rental accommodation schemes.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan We need more money.

Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry Given the amount of rental accommodation available throughout the country, not only in Dublin, I have no doubt the Minister and Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, will do their very best to obtain the best value for money despite the very limited resources made available through the voted Estimate.

It is obviously a matter for the Minister for Finance to deal with the money allocated for the 4G communications auction. I will raise the timeline for the legislation with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. I note what the Deputy said and the Minister will revert to him.

With regard to homelessness and people sleeping out, we are very fortunate that there are some fantastic services providing short-term solutions. Members of the voluntary sector are bringing people into shelters in the city every night. I hope sincerely that the homeless will be facilitated in every way possible. Members of the Garda Síochána are identifying people. It is very important that, in the short term, the homeless must be facilitated, especially in this very difficult climate. This is only a short-term solution, not a long-term one.

Ceisteanna - Questions

Priority Questions

Dairy Sector

 1. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the advantage to milk producers of the milk quality assurance scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55818/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The development of a dairy sustainability and quality programme comes against the background of ambitious plans under the Food Harvest 2020 report to increase dairy production by 50% in the period to 2020, and the need to find a home on international markets for this additional production.

We are taking a series of steps on a number of levels to prepare for this. State agencies, the Department and companies are working together to restore new markets in areas such as Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Africa. We are also developing a common brand, Origin Green, across the food industry generally. This is about differentiating Irish food from food produced in competitor countries. Essentially, it is a sustainability claim backed up by data that are internationally accredited in respect of how food is produced in Ireland. Part of building that brand requires a sustainability and quality programme for primary producers of dairy projects. This is why, in last year's budget, I announced that I wanted to see the rolling out of a quality or sustainability programme among the 18,000 dairy farmers in the country to ensure we could stand over our collective dairy industry and say we produce milk to a certain standard. This will not be some kind of inspection-based witch-hunt of farmers; it will be quite the opposite. We will roll out the programme in the same way that the carbon-footprinting programme has been rolled out for the beef sector. By the end of this year, 32,000 beef farms across Ireland will be carbon-footprinted. When we sell a steak, not only will we be able to put on the label the traceability claim indicating the farmyard from where it came, we will also be able to tell buyers the carbon footprint of the animal that produced it.

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