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 Header Item Mental Health Services Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Rent Controls

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 955 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris] It is an invaluable tool. Anecdotally, I hear there are good benefits from the pilot project in place. The project was selected through a competitive process in which every HSE mental health services area had an opportunity to apply. We will have the results of the review in September, which will be in advance of both the budget and the HSE's service plan, and I am sure my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, will be eager to roll it out to an expanded area. I will take on board the Deputy's view about Wexford being considered in that context.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall take statements today on the procedure for nomination for appointment to the Judiciary after Private Members' business tonight. The statements shall be brought to a conclusion after 115 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be limited to a single round from a Minister and the main spokespersons for parties or groups or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and all Members may share time; a Minister shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which will not exceed ten minutes; on conclusion of the statements a Minister shall take questions for a period not exceeding 25 minutes and the Dáil shall adjourn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher For the information of the House there are 48 minutes for the Topical Issue debate, a sos for 40 minutes and Private Members' business for two hours, so it will start later than 8.10 p.m.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Yes, it will be immediately after Private Members' business.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan The Dáil is scheduled to adjourn at 10.15 p.m., but is the sitting to continue until the business is completed?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Yes.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Is the Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill gone from the agenda?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Yes.

  Question put and agreed to.

Topical Issue Debate

Rent Controls

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín This Government is a competitive one. There are many competing crises under the Government's remit at present but, unfortunately, one crisis is the clear winner - the housing crisis. This is a humanitarian crisis that has been building for many years and it still worsens today.

I attend Trim district courthouse regularly. It is chock-a-block with families in mortgage distress where banks are seeking to repossess their homes. It is shocking that there is a property rent and price bubble in full swing in Meath at present while the collateral damage of the last Fianna Fáil property crash is still weaving its way through the courts. Hundreds of families in Meath are living with friends and family. Dozens more are in emergency accommodation. I am aware of people in Meath who have had to stay in tents, churches and Garda station cells so they could bridge the gaps between homes. Currently, there are 3,800 people on the housing waiting list in Meath, despite the fact that there are 2,500 vacant or derelict buildings in the county.

Rents in the county have spiralled over the last number of years, increasing by 50% in the last four years. They increased by 15.8% last year and in the year to date they have increased by 16.7%. They are spiralling out of control. Indeed, they are increasing at a faster rate than in any other county in the State. I wholeheartedly support the right of a landlord to charge a fair price for a decent house. Indeed, it is a key component of the housing provision system in this country. However, the rents we are discussing now are in the realm of super profits. These are not the rents that are necessary to cover mortgages or to ensure that the landlord can provide a house and maintain its contents in a decent fashion. Supernormal profits are being made.

The average rent in Meath at present is €1,050 for a house. That makes renting a house unaffordable for many people on low incomes. Perhaps the Minister of State will put himself in the shoes of a person working 40 hours per week and earning the minimum wage. If that person is required to provide accommodation for their family and rent an average house in the county, they will spend 65% of their income on the rental of that property. That is their income before it is taxed. They are expected to spend the 35% that is left after paying the landlord on feeding their family and on providing electricity, warmth, clothing, education and health care for their family.

The key point here, which is something that has been missed by the Government so far, is that the point at which rental accommodation becomes unaffordable is the point where homelessness begins. That is the reason our party, since this crisis has manifested itself, has pleaded with the Government to link rent increases to the consumer price index. At present, rent pressure zones have been designated in only a small part of this country. Places such as Meath West are left outside of those zones. I ask the Minister to ensure that towns in the commuter belt are considered part of the rent pressure zones.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy John Paul Phelan): Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan First, I beg the indulgence of the House as I have not read a script in 15 years, so if I get lost I will try to correct myself.

The way in which an area is designated as a rent pressure zone is set out in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016. The 2016 Act amends the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to provide that the Housing Agency, in consultation with local authorities, may make a proposal to the Minister that an area should be considered for designation as a rent pressure zone. On receipt of such a proposal, the Act provides that the Minister must then request the director of the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, to conduct an assessment of the area to establish whether it meets the necessary criteria for designation and to report to the Minister on whether the area should be designated as a rent pressure zone. Where the Residential Tenancies Board confirms that an area satisfies the criteria for the area to be designated, the Minister then has a statutory obligation to make an order designating that area as a rent pressure zone.

An area cannot be designated as a rent pressure zone unless it meets the criteria set out in the legislation. These criteria are that the annual rate of rent inflation in the area was 7% or more in four of the last six quarters and that the average rent for the area in the last quarter was above the average national rent in the RTB’s rent index report in the last quarter, which is €987 per month for the first quarter of 2017.

On 15 June 2017, the RTB published the rent index report relating to the first quarter of 2017, which includes a summary of the data used as the criteria for designating rent pressure zones in respect of local electoral areas in the country. This allows all interested parties to see where their area stands with regard to rents and possible designation. The data from the rent index report relating to KelIs, Navan and Trim is included in the report and indicates that the annual rate of rent inflation in Trim and Navan was 7% or more in at least four of the last six quarters, while for Kells the report shows that there was growth of 7% or more in three of the last six quarters. In all cases, however, the average rent for these areas was not above the RTB average national rent for the last quarter. Therefore, these areas do not meet the criteria for designation at this time.

Under the Act, the Minister has no further role or discretion in proposing areas for designation as rent pressure zones or in deciding whether they should be so designated. The designation process is independent and based on clear objective criteria and quantifiable evidence. The Housing Agency will continue to monitor the rental market and may recommend further areas for designation. Where, following the procedures set out in the Act, it is found at a future date that additional areas meet the criteria, they will be designated as rent pressure zones.

A review of the rent predictability measure and the system of rent pressure zones is currently under way.

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