Other Questions - Local Authority Housing.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 618 No. 5

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  9.  Mr. Crawford  Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford   asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government  Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche   the number of households in the rental accommodation scheme; the cost of the project to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16587/06]

  100.  Mr. Perry  Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry   asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government  Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche   the response he has received from local authorities regarding the operation and implementation of the rental accommodation scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16636/06]

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 100 together.

Under the rental accommodation scheme, or RAS, local authorities are providing accommodation for certain recipients of SWA rent supplement who have been assessed as having a long-term housing need. The RAS is an additional housing option and eligible persons can indicate their preference to be accommodated by local authorities under the RAS or social housing, or to be considered under both.

The initial project to transfer rent supplement recipients of 18 months or more continuous duration is due to be completed by the end of 2008. The implementation of the RAS is a collaborative project between my Department, local authorities, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive. Roll-out commenced in an initial group of lead authorities, namely Dublin, Galway and Limerick city councils, South Dublin, Donegal, Offaly, Westmeath county councils and Drogheda Borough Council. In addition, South Tipperary, Fingal, Louth, [1685]Kilkenny, Monaghan, Wexford, Wicklow and Leitrim county councils and Waterford and Cork city councils are now implementing RAS. These authorities collectively cover 79% of the transferable cases.

The total cost of the scheme to date is €1.73 million of which €842,000 has been spent in the current year. There is a budget of €19 million to support the implementation of the scheme in 2006.

More than 1,000 cases have been transferred to RAS since the initial transfers in September 2005. A further 340 households in the target group for the RAS have been provided with local authority housing. The target is to have 5,000 cases transferred to the RAS by the end of the year. A further 5,000 prospective RAS households have had their cases reviewed. Work is ongoing on interviewing tenants, the inspection of properties and meeting and negotiating with accommodation providers.

Implementation of the scheme will accelerate as local authorities procure new accommodation through the development of new public private partnership or PPP arrangements. The procurement process for PPP projects to deliver some 100 units of accommodation on long-term lease-type arrangements has commenced, with three local authorities having issued procurement notices.

Mr. O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  The RAS scheme is not working in many areas. Last year’s budget of €6 million was significantly underspent. Many local authorities such as Drogheda Borough Council for example have asked that the amount of rent they are allowed to pay be increased. On the periphery of Dublin, landlords are demanding rents far higher than rural or non-urban rents. That is a serious issue which must be addressed. It is one of the issues in these two questions asked by Fine Gael Members.

With regard to the waiting period of 18 months, I have had representations from people in their 50s who have recently been separated, or people who might have serious mental or other health problems. Will the Minister of State consider excusing people in certain extreme conditions from the 18-month waiting period and allow them in much earlier, so that they would not have to wait in awful, appalling accommodation, and be fast-tracked into RAS accommodation if it were available to them?

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  There is no problem with the budget. It is not a case of resources if many local authorities are not using the money.

Mr. O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  They cannot use it. The Minister of State will not let them use it.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  The scheme has been started by 19 local authorities.

[1686]Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  How many people are involved?

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I gave the figures. There are about 60,000 people on rent supplement. There are about 33,000 of those who are over the 18-month waiting period. About 1,000 people have moved so far. This will be a very slow process, and to date it is slower than we expected. One has to negotiate case by case with each landlord. Much of the accommodation for which people were receiving rent allowance is very poor. The local authorities will not touch it or take responsibility for it. Some of the tenancies are not registered with the PRTB and other landlords are sitting on the fence and do not necessarily want to do business. Overall, the process is slow. It was always meant to take about four years, and is a major project.

Mr. O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  Will the Minister reduce the 18-month period?

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  No. We are trying to deal with 33,000 people.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.


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