Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008: Report and Final Stages.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 192 No. 15

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An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Before we commence I remind the House that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except for the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion of the amendment. Each amendment must be seconded.

Amendments Nos. 1, 4, 5, 15 and 16 are related, are alternatives to each other and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 1:

I will speak generally on all five amendments because we have discussed them in some depth on Committee Stage. The amendments seek to draw on the language contained in the Government’s homeless strategy. It seeks to put homeless action plans and homelessness at the centre of the Bill. I do not think the inclusion of these amendments would cause any great problem [950]for the Minister of State. They do not go beyond the spirit of The Way Home strategy published in August 2008. I urge the Minister of State to consider the inclusion of the amendments.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senators Coffey and Cummins also tabled the amendment.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment. We tabled this and similar amendments on Committee Stage to reinforce the provision for the homeless in the Bill.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I will be brief. I support the amendment for precisely the same reason as my two colleagues and also because this is a matter that was urged upon us by the various lobbying bodies. It is not in conflict with the Minister’s objectives. In fact, it is putting a kind of headline for him to take specific action. Everything he said in the earlier part of the debate looked towards the question of action and a real plan to implement the fine sentiments we have heard. I believe the Minister of State is committed and that he will do it. I can see no real problem about having this wording. I support Senators Hannigan and Coffey in this matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Deputy Michael Finneran): Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  These amendments all deal with the subject of homeless action plans and in so doing return to an issue that was raised by a number of Senators on Second Stage and Committee Stage. It is an issue about which I, as Minister of State with responsibility for housing, am concerned also and that is why I published The Way Home in August 2008.

As I have indicated to Senators previously, The Way Home was launched after the publication of the Bill and therefore certain aspects, including those with statutory implications, were not sufficiently advanced to be comprehended by the Bill. I have indicated also that following on from the publication of the national implementation plan for the strategy, I propose to bring forward legislative provisions to place local homeless action plans on a statutory footing. These plans will provide the focus for locally sensitive and relevant action and will inform housing services plans and the wider delivery of housing supports, including the development of appropriate local housing allocation policies.

It is important to repeat that work on implementation has already begun. A circular has issued to all local authorities providing further details regarding action plans and advising authorities to commence work on updating their existing plans. The circular also advises authorities about their local homeless forum and the formation of the management group of the local homeless forum.

In addition, we are working on bringing forward necessary legislative provisions, in conjunction with the more broadly based implementation plan. It is envisaged in The Way Home that these plans, as well as containing an overall vision and objectives, would include output targets and timescales for achievement. The associated actions to be included in these plans must take account of the local situation as the experience of homelessness varies throughout the country.

I thank Senators for tabling amendments suggesting how the action plans might be put on a statutory footing. However, in light of the ongoing work, including on appropriate legislation that I have outlined, I ask them to withdraw their amendments.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I thank the Minister of State for his response. While I am disappointed with it, I look forward to debating the implementation of his homelessness strategy, The Way Home, in the House over the coming months. I will not be pushing my amendments in this grouping.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Notwithstanding the Minister of State’s commitment to introduce legislation to deal with local homelessness action plans, I cannot understand why we cannot [951]make provision for it in this Bill. After all, it is a housing Bill. We have debated this long and hard during the preceding Stages.

  12 o’clock

Amendment No. 16 is substantial. All we are calling for is the establishment of a local homelessness forum within the administrative area associated with each homelessness action plan. I cannot understand why the Minister of State will not consider accepting this amendment, even at this stage. The Way Home has been published and adopted by the Government. I am presenting a good opportunity to enshrine in legislation many of the commitments in that document. If the amendment is accepted, it will go a long way towards progressing the local homelessness action plans about which the Minister of State speaks. Not only will it save time, it will also furnish local authorities and housing authorities with clear criteria with which to work. Drawing on The Way Home and this amendment would certainly tackle the needs of the homeless.

When I was going home last night I came across three or four homeless people sleeping rough in the cold of the night. They cannot wait and we should act now to try to help them. There is an urgent need and we cannot turn a blind eye for much longer. It is all very well to have plans but they must be implemented. Many have been produced by the Government in respect of various sectors but they are gathering dust. The Fine Gael proposal is not one that should be allowed to gather dust but one that should have legislative traction. For that reason, I hope amendment No. 16 will be accepted.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  As I stated, the implementation plan is being worked on as we speak and I hope to have it in place before Christmas. It would be inappropriate to put the cart before the horse. I stated on Second Stage and Committee Stage, and I reiterate on Report Stage, that I intend to bring forward the parts of the implementation plan that require legislative underpinning. As stated, the House will have an opportunity to debate the implementation plan. I am sure it will be subject to much debate in the House. This is the simple reason I do not propose to accept the amendments. I commend the Senators on paying attention to this matter and on their attempts to address it. I have no doubt but that the wise words of Senators will be taken very much into consideration when I am putting in place the legislative framework for those sections of the implementation plan that require legislative backing.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 2 and 7 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  On a point of order, is it only Members from the Government side of the House who are present?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  That is not a point of order.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Is it not a point of order?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  There are 12 Members in the House at present.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  There is a Minister of State in the House discussing very important business.

Senators:  Hear, hear.

[952]Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Is it correct that there are only Government Members in the House?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  It is not correct.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I only see Government Members.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  It is not correct.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I move amendment No. 2:

The rationale behind amendment No. 2 is to make specific provision for “tenancy services” rather than “services” alone.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Amendments in the names of a number of Senators on the issue of tenancy support services were tabled and discussed on Committee Stage. The amendments sought to make provision for housing authorities to undertake to offer tenancy services in the sense of providing support to tenants to sustain and continue with their tenancies. As promised on Committee Stage, I have examined this matter with Parliamentary Counsel. However, in the time available it has not been possible to resolve the issue satisfactorily. As Senators are aware, housing authorities already undertake activities such as tenant training in estate management, the production of tenant handbooks and the employment of tenant liaison officers. Finance is available from my Department for these activities.

It is important to define carefully what is meant by tenancy support services, however, if that activity is to be added to the listing in section 10 of housing services authorities may provide in the performance of their functions under the Housing Acts. As the amendment stands, the concept is too vague to include as a function related to the provision of housing services and clarity as to the nature, extent and scope of the proposed services would be required. The proposed function in this regard would need to be developed further before it could be included in an amendment to the Bill. I hope to do that during the passage of the Bill through the Lower House. I cannot accept the amendment at this stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 3 to 8, inclusive, not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Amendment No. 9 not moved.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I call a quorum.

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  On a point of order, in the last quorum Senator Callely wondered why no member of the Opposition was present. I should like to remind him that as in the Lower House, members of the Opposition do not look after Government quorums.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  That is not a point of order.

[953]Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  The Senators’ absence was noted and the only Members present for a very important Bill, with the Minister of State in the House, were those on the Government side. No Member of the Opposition was present.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  The Government Members are supposed to be here.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Stay in the House.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  It is important that I put that on the record of the House.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Stay in the House. The Senator has not contributed once to this Bill.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  If I have upset the Opposition by putting that on the record of the House I regret that.

(Interruptions).

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  However, I wanted to put on the record of the House that there was no member of the Opposition in the House at the time.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Senator Callely has not contributed on this Bill, yet he has the temerity to lecture this side of the House.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I call Senator Hannigan. We are on amendment No. 10.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I welcome all contributions to this Bill, including that of Senator Callely. I look forward to hearing more from him throughout the day because we shall be here all day on this Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is the Senator pressing the amendment?

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I am. I am here to discuss amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, which are being grouped together.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  We have dealt with amendment No. 9. Is amendment No. 10 being pressed? In the event, amendments Nos. 10 and 11 will be taken together.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 10:

I was hoping to speak on the issue, and I shall be brief because we covered this in some detail last week on Committee Stage. These amendments seek to improve the consultation aspect of the Bill, especially in relation to local organisations, whether they are community groups or——-

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  On a point of order, the bells for the quorum are still ringing within the precincts of the House. Can they be turned off? It is causing much confusion.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  They could not hear them last week. Someone locked the door.

(Interruptions).

[954]An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator Hannigan, without interruption, please.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Specifically in relation to community groups and residents’ associations, many of us will have dealings with the latter on a daily basis and know that when matters such as housing plans arise, they often have very good reasons for contributing to the proposals. I believe this will enhance the role they play already and put it on a statutory footing. I ask the Minister of State to consider this amendment in the light of that.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  These amendments generally seek to expand the list of bodies and persons with which the housing authority formally consults on housing service plans. I do not consider the combination of amendments adds to the provision. I am satisfied the list in paragraph (f) is sufficiently broad to cover the groups referred to in the proposed amendments. When work is completed on the homeless action plans, however, I envisage that homeless forums may need to be included in that listing.

As for amendment No. 10, which seeks to expand paragraph (d), it is important to say that the paragraph provides that approved bodies must be consulted. Such bodies must have as primary objectives the relief of housing needs, poverty or hardship. It is also relevant in the context of the proposed amendment to say that they receive their approved status for the purpose of the provision of housing accommodation for homeless persons, among other purposes. The use of the phrase, “approved bodies engaged in the provision of accommodation or shelter” in subsection (1)(d), I believe, is sufficient to cover the work engaged in by approved bodies. The additional phraseology is not necessary in this instance. I have concerns that by trying to draw out the provision, there is a danger of excluding a group that would have been covered by the more general terms.

Amendment No. 11 proposes including recognised associations under section 128 of the Local Government Act 2001. I am satisfied that section 16(1)(f), which specifies that the draft plan may be made available to local community bodies or any other person, as the housing authorities consider appropriate, is sufficient to cover any groups that are active locally that are relevant. In these circumstances, I ask the Senators to withdraw their amendments.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I am disappointed with the Minister’s response. At a time when we are trying to encourage involvement in local communities, including groups like residents’ associations, it would not have taken much effort nor would it have done any harm to include them specifically. However, I will not push the issue.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendment No. 13 is both a Government and Labour Party amendment that arises from Committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are related and will be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 13:

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I indicated to the House on the Committee Stage debate on section 16, dealing with the preparation and making of a housing services plan, that I would examine this amendment, which proposed to extend the timeframe from six week to eight [955]weeks within which the bodies or persons notified in accordance with section 16(1) must make their observations on the housing services plan. I have carried out that examination and I am satisfied the timeframe suggested in the amendment can be accommodated.

As the House will appreciate, no matter what timeframes are chosen, there will be always demands for an extension to those limits. The current limits are demanding on all parties, but are reasonable. However, there is no major issue of principle involved. Therefore, on balance and in order to meet the concerns of Senators I propose this amendment.

Given the extended timeframe now proposed for persons and bodies under section 16(3), I also propose to increase from three to four weeks the time limit for the submission of the manager’s report under subsection (5), in the interest of balance between the various parties. I ask the House to support these two amendments.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I welcome the Minister of State’s comments with regard to both amendments. These changes will strengthen the Bill and make the process easier. We are pleased the Minister has taken our amendment on board.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 14:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 15 not moved.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I move amendment No. 16:

[956]Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I second the amendment.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 26.

Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul.
Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie. Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances.
Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic. Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  Healy Eames, Fidelma.
Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  McCarthy, Michael. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  Mullen, Rónán. Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal.
Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.  


Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Ciaran Cannon  Zoom on Ciaran Cannon  Cannon, Ciaran. Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria.
Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark. Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine.
Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus. Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Maurice Cummins and Paudie Coffey; Níl, Senators Diarmuid Wilson and Déirdre de Búrca.

Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendment No. 17 in the names of Senators Hannigan, Alex White, McCarthy, Ryan, Prendergast and Kelly arises out of Committee Stage.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 17:

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  This amendment arises from the debate on Committee Stage when the Labour Party sought to include the words, “economic, cultural, ethnic or other”. At the time, the Minister of State stated that in his view, the word “social” includes “economic”. While I do not dispute this, I merely seek to set down in writing that the word “social” includes “economic, cultural, ethnic or other”. It is more or less in line with the comments of the Minister of State on Committee Stage and as a result, he should accept this minor amendment.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  As I indicated on Committee Stage, I am satisfied that the word “social” in its normal use, that is, pertaining to human society and its members, is sufficiently [957]broad to encompass economic, cultural, ethnic and other issues. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  In that case, one should tell the publishers of Webster’s and the other dictionaries to remove the term, “socio-economic”, because it is covered by the word “social”. I do not accept this for a moment.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  As I stated, I prefer to use the broader encompassing term, “social”. This is how I wish it to remain, which is the reason I do not propose to accept the amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is amendment No. 17 being pressed?

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I fail to see how our suggested explanation could not be included. I am a little disappointed that the Minister of State has not seen fit to include it but I will not press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 18 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendment No. 19 in the names of Senators Bacik and Norris arises out of Committee Stage.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 19:

This is simply to make mandatory the obligation on a housing authority to carry out a social housing assessment under section 20(3). I ask the Minister of State to accept that. It imposes an obligation rather than merely facilitating the housing authority. It is in the spirit of the Bill. We have debated it already on Committee Stage.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I second Senator Bacik’s amendment. It calls for precisely what the Minister intends, which is, action in the matter. Instead of being a wish, it is something that will and should be done. I listened to the Minister of State’s arguments on Committee Stage and I was not completely convinced. Therefore, I would be happy to support Senator Bacik on this issue.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  This amendment is not necessary. Subsection (3) will allow housing authorities, where they consider it necessary, to assess households which have been receiving rent supplement for a specified period which have not applied for local authority housing. These would generally be households which become known to the housing authority by virtue of them being potential clients of the rental accommodation scheme. It is not necessary to compel housing authorities to assess these households. They have not applied to the housing authority for social housing support and may not wish to do so in the future. However, the authority has the power, if necessary, to assess such a household for social housing support at any time. If a household, following on this subsection, requests that a social housing assessment be carried out, the housing authority is obliged to make an assessment under subsection (2). I ask the Senators to withdraw the amendment in those circumstances.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I do not accept the Minister’s response. It is important to place the obligation on the housing authority. I will not press the amendment at this Stage since we have debated it already.

[958]Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendment No. 20 in the names of Senators Hannigan, Alex White, McCarthy, Ryan, Prendergast and Kelly arises out of Committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 20, 21 and 22 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 20:

This amendment, which we also tabled at Committee Stage, seeks to allow those who have been in arrears with their rent to be reconsidered for housing in exceptional circumstances.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I second the amendment. There was extensive debate on these three amendments on Committee Stage, as the Minister of Stage will recall. I think he indicated at that point that he would go back to the Parliamentary Counsel about the interplay between section 20(5) to which these amendments are proposed and section 35(5), which I think is now section 34(5).

The amendments propose to allow flexibility within section 20(5), which provides that a household shall not be eligible for social housing support where, under subparagraph (b), it was in arrears of rent for an accumulated period of 12 weeks or has otherwise breached a condition of the tenancy agreement.

I expressed the view on Committee Stage that this was too absolutist in tone and that if one member of a household had breached even a minor condition of the tenancy agreement, the household would become automatically ineligible for social housing support. I was concerned about the hardship this section might impose on households. I suggested that there should be more flexibility built in. The amendments proposed by Senator Hannigan and Senator Norris, and supported by me, would allow the flexibility to the housing authority where undue hardship would be caused.

The wording of amendment No. 22 is taken from section 34(2), which currently does not seem to apply to section 20(5). When I raised this with Senators Hannigan and Norris on Committee Stage, the Minister of State indicated he would go back to the Parliamentary Counsel about this issue. What, if anything, has the Minister been advised by Parliament Counsel about whether either section 34 could be amended so that it clearly applies to section 20(5) or whether an amendment might be put to section 20(5) to give the housing authority some leeway in cases of undue hardship as a result of this provision.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The arguments were made at the earlier Stage. At that point Senator Bacik raised what I felt was a significant legal point. Her memory is quite accurate. The Minister of State said that he would consult the Parliamentary Counsel and take legal advice. He has not yet had the opportunity to give the House the burden of that information.

My amendment also seeks to facilitate. It introduces a discretionary element so that people will not automatically be ineligible in all circumstances, some of which, that could be imagined, could be unduly harsh and discriminatory.

It does not, on the other hand, remove the power from the local authority, either to evict or to charge arrears. That survives. All that is allowed is a discretionary power. In fact, the language was specifically taken by the agencies that drafted these amendments for all of us from other sections of the Bill. Therefore, the spirit and language of this amendment are already contained in the Bill.

[959]This is an important amendment. The Minister of State said he would take a look at it but I see he has not tabled a similar amendment. There does not seem to be a Government amendment addressing this issue, including the issue raised by my colleague about a possible conflict between two sections of the Bill.

As I mentioned the question of Government amendments, these are usually indicated by an asterisk but an amendment in the name of my colleague, Senator Hannigan, amendment No. 13, was marked with an asterisk as well. Does that mean that it is accepted by the Government or it is being taken over as a Government amendment even though it is in his name? I seek a technical clarification on that.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I somewhat support the view expressed, in particular, on amendment No. 21. My experience of dealing with my local housing authority, DCC, and the housing manager, Mr. Ciarán McNamara, who seems to have what Senator Norris referred to as the flexibility to accommodate in certain instances, is that it has always been very accommodating.

I ask the Minister of State, particularly in light of amendment No. 21, what type of flexibility exists or would he review or reconsider the position that has now been put.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  On a point of clarification to Senator Norris, amendment No. 13 was tabled by both the Government and the Labour Party. That is why there is an asterisk.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It means it is a kind of double amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Yes.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am grateful for that clarification.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  It means it has been accepted.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is splendid. It is a triumph for a new Senator.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  A very accommodating Minister of State.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  A not quite flexible enough Minister of State, not yet. We await his words.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  The intention of section 20(5) is to underline the seriousness of actions such as the breach of tenancy agreement or non-payment of rent. The consequence of these actions is that they are to be taken into consideration by a housing authority in determining the household’s eligibility for further support.

The subsection, as amended on Committee Stage, provides that a household that was previously the tenant or the owner of a local authority dwelling or site, and during a three-year period prior to the carrying out of the social housing assessment was either in arrears of rent for an accumulated period of 12 weeks or breached a condition of the tenancy agreement, will be deemed ineligible for social housing support.

While I acknowledge the sentiment of amendment No. 20, which seeks to qualify the provision where there are exceptional circumstances relating to inability to pay, I do not believe that such a proviso is necessary. It is important to read section 20(5) in conjunction with section 31(6)(f) which allows for the waiving of rent in cases of financial hardship and section 34(2) which provides a hardship clause where moneys are due to a housing authority. I am satisfied these safeguards provide an adequate safety net for tenants.

[960]With regard to amendment No. 21, I indicated on Committee Stage that a more detailed consideration of the mandatory nature of this provision is warranted. I propose to undertake this consideration in conjunction with the Parliamentary Counsel. In the circumstances, therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendments.

  1 o’clock

Amendment No. 22 makes new provisions in this section for moneys due to a housing authority. I do not consider the amendment to be necessary. Section 20 does not provide housing authorities with the power to charge rents, sell sites or dwellings or make tenancy agreements. These powers are exercised by authorities under other Housing Acts and the provisions of section 31 of this Bill for the charging of rents. Moneys owed to housing authorities and any other provisions in that context are addressed by sections 33 and 34 of the Bill. I am satisfied that the proposed arrangements provide a sufficient level of relief for the circumstances envisaged by Senators Norris and Bacik and on that basis I ask them to withdraw their amendment.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I am not pressing my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 21 not moved.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 22:

Acting Chairman (Senator John Ellis): Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Yes, and I would like to explain why. I understand I am entitled to speak once more after the Minister of State has spoken.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  I am advised that the Senator can only move the amendment because it has already been discussed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I fail to understand that. I thought the proposer of an amendment could comment on the Minister’s reply.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  The amendment has already been discussed. The Senator can move the amendment, have it seconded and press it to a vote but he cannot discuss it. Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The amendment is being pressed. The Minister of State indicated that he is considering amendment No. 21. Given its simplicity, I fail to understand why he could not have used the time available to him to bring a Government amendment in this regard. That is one of the reasons I am pressing amendment No. 22.

[961]It is not clear to me that the waiving of rent will be operable for the tenant because questions of literacy may arise. It may be the case that the tenant only learns of the capacity to waive rent subsequent to a failure to vindicate his or her rights. I am pressing the amendment to a vote, therefore.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I second the amendment.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 27.

Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul.
Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie. Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances.
Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic. Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  Healy Eames, Fidelma.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene.
Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.



Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Ciaran Cannon  Zoom on Ciaran Cannon  Cannon, Ciaran. Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria.
Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark. Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine.
Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus. Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis. Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned.
Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann. Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran.
Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim. Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.  

Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and David Norris; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 23:

We debated this amendment on Committee Stage. It imposes an obligation on the Minister to make regulations in subsection (6) rather than merely providing that he or she may make regulations.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I second the amendment for the same reasons.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  This amendment seeks to require a Minister to regulate, whereas the Bill uses the normal drafting convention that a Minister may make regulations. The amendment is unnecessary. It is the intention of the provisions that the Minister will make the neces[962]sary regulations. Drafting convention is that the power to make regulations is an enabling power in that it permits the Minister to do so rather than compelling him or her to do so. The language adopted has been cleared by the Parliamentary Counsel and I do not propose to change it. Under those circumstances I ask the Senators to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 24:

This amendment has been debated on Committee Stage and I put it down again to emphasise the need to specify the different categories of household need rather than simply leaving them entirely up to the Minister. In the spirit of the Bill I felt it important to give some clearer guidelines on the basis for the need.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I second the amendment for the reasons stated by the Senator and because of the arguments I made at an earlier stage of the Bill. There is no point in rehearsing them at this stage.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Subsection (6) provides that the Minister may make regulations providing for the description and classification of household need. It is intended that these regulations would include a revised classification system for housing needs centred on severity and persistence of need.

It is proposed to base the revised classification system, in as much as is possible, on the model developed by FEANSTA, with which the Senator is familiar. The proposed classification system has already been the subject of intensive consultation with social partners and housing [963]authorities from the perspective of both the general and special housing needs, and on the whole they have been in favour of the proposals.

Providing the details for such a classification system in regulations will allow the necessary flexibility to adapt the model over time as circumstances and priorities change. Flexibility is not as readily available in primary legislation. As I mentioned on Committee Stage, the list suggested by the Senator is drawn from the 1998 Act, which in light of changing housing needs has proved to be limited in providing an accurate picture of both the nature of need and the relative priorities. People with multiple needs are not adequately captured by the current statutory definitions.

The proposed revised classification based on the FEANSTA approach provides a more developed method of reflecting the urgency and persistence of different types of need. It will provide the basis for the development through regulation of a better measure of need in the future. Under those circumstances I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly  Zoom on Alan Kelly  I call a quorum.

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Our proceedings will now resume with amendment No. 25. Have they all gone?

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Is there nobody in the House to move the amendment, apart from the Fianna Fáil Members?

Senator Denis O’Donovan: Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  I think we should move on, a Chathaoirligh.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Please Senators, just hold on.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  There is nobody in Opposition.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I am calling amendment No. 25 in the names of Senators Bacik and Norris.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 25:

This amendment was debated on Committee Stage and simply imposes an obligation on the Minister to make the regulations within one year.

(Interruptions).

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Silence, please. Senator Bacik without interruption.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  In the spirit of the Bill, the amendment seeks to ensure that the regulations will be made in a timely fashion after the commencement of the Act.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Is the amendment seconded?

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment.

[964]Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I appreciate the Senator’s concern to ensure that there are timely assessments of need. However, this is adequately covered by section 20 which deals with individual assessments and section 21, which deals with the summary of assessments. My intention is to have more regular reporting on summary of assessments of needs. The whole intention of changing the current regime is to provide more timely assessments, both for the individual and in relation to the summaries which are required for planning purposes.

Subsection (7) empowers the Minister to make regulations to set out how an individual assessment of housing need would be carried out on a household including, under paragraph (d), the frequency of reviewing and updating assessments. The amendment is not necessary and I would ask the Senators to withdraw it.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I will not push the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman (Senator Denis O’Donovan): Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  Amendments Nos. 26 and 28 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 26:

While it has already been debated on Committee Stage, this important amendment seeks to ensure that needs assessments are carried out annually rather than on a tri-annual basis. It is to ensure that such assessments are done on a more up-to-date basis. As we know, conditions in the housing market change quickly and have done so in the past year or even in the past few months. Therefore, annual assessments would be more appropriate than assessments done on the current tri-annual basis. Perhaps the Minister can let us know if he has any view on whether they will continue to be tri-annual or whether more timely assessments will be made.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I support Senator Bacik’s amendment for the reasons she stated. I also emphasise the point that we are moving into pretty turbulent times. Three years is a long way down the road, if the assessments are to be tri-annual. People may well be under considerable pressure because of the changing economic climate. As we know, alas too well, the economic circumstances are changing rapidly.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I am satisfied that the current formulation in sections 20(7) and 21 would achieve the same aims as the Senator’s amendment, by giving a framework for more timely assessment of need. Subsection (7) empowers the Minister to make regulations regarding the frequency of reviewing and updating the assessment of housing needs of an individual household. Where an individual seeks a housing assessment, the intention would be to undertake a preliminary examination immediately to determine if short-term or emergency housing supports are required and, if so, to respond accordingly. A full housing assessment will be carried out once any immediate needs have been addressed and will seek to provide an accurate and objective account of the long-term housing needs of the individual household concerned. Regulatory powers in subsection (7) are focused on the updating of this assessment to ensure that any changed circumstances of the household are taken into account.

Section 21 deals with the summary of all these needs and replaces the current tri-annual assessment, which was provided for under the 1998 Act. While the section provides that these summaries will be prepared for very specific purposes — i.e. housing service plans — they will also be undertaken at periods to be directed by the Minister. My intention is to move to more [965]timely reports on the overall needs and the proposed provisions will facilitate this. I therefore cannot accept this amendment.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I am grateful to the Minister of State for indicating that he will move towards a more timely system, so I will not push this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman: Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  Amendment No. 27 arises from committee proceedings.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 27:

This amendment is in keeping with the Government’s new strategy on homelessness under which the current maximum period for which people should stay in emergency accommodation is stipulated as six months. The amendment seeks to ensure that the maximum period will be one of the criteria by which assessments are made.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I second this important amendment. On an earlier Stage, I made a point in support of Senator Bacik concerning those people who have been in hostel accommodation and so on for six months or longer and their families, who must go on to the streets. The Minister of State indicated with a nod that he understood the problem. On Second Stage, he also indicated his clear intention that people should not stay for more than six months. In this light, setting a maximum period would be important. Otherwise, people might stay in emergency accommodation for comparatively long and uncomfortable periods.

We know from experience that emergencies can last a long time. Emergency legislation dating from the last war is still on the Statute Book. More than 60 years is a hell of a long time. I would hate to believe that someone could experience an emergency that lasts as long as some of our emergency legislation. In light of this legislation, the definition of an emergency does not include immediacy.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Before moving to the substance of the amendment, the intent of subsection (7) is to empower the Minister to make regulations to set out how an assessment of housing needs will be carried out for an individual household. It deals with practical administrative matters, such as application forms, the timing of assessments etc. In this light, an amendment of the type suggested is not appropriate.

On the substantive issue, I have indicated that an important role within the new homeless strategy, The Way Home — A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness in Ireland 2008-2013, relates to the elimination of long-term occupancy of emergency homeless accommodation. The strategy contains specific targets to ensure that no one will be in emergency accommodation for more than six months by 2010.

In the long term, this goal will be statutorily underpinned through the local homeless action plans. It is intended that these plans will address a broad range of issues, including accommodation and community support services. They will be developed through inter-agency co-operation and in partnership with the voluntary sector. I have indicated that we are working on proposals to follow through on the strategy’s commitment to place the plans on a statutory [966]footing, but it was not possible to complete the work on time for Report Stage of the Bill. In light of the ongoing work, will the Senators withdraw their amendment?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I will not press the amendment at this stage, but it is a shame that Report Stage was not delayed to allow the work to be completed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Hear, hear. Show me the way to go home.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 28 not moved.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I move amendment No. 29:

As I have often stated, the Bill is a very good one and gives considerable structure to the housing allocation systems in housing authorities. However, it is a pity that no clear provision for homelessness has been included and for that reason, the Bill is not complete.

We have proposed the amendment to ensure homelessness is recognised in legislation. As other Senators stated, Fine Gael has consulted many of the agencies, NGOs and organisations that are working at the coalface with the homeless on an hourly and daily basis and, like us, they are anxious that homelessness is properly recognised in legislation.

The section refers to the allocation of dwellings and how allocation schemes are run. It is only reasonable that the phrase “measures to prevent and reduce homelessness” is inserted. Will the Minister of State consider accepting the amendment?

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I second the amendment.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  The allocation scheme is a mechanism for housing authorities to fairly and transparently allocate dwellings to individual households. Subsection (4) empowers the Minister to make regulations governing the matters that housing authorities must include in their allocation schemes, including the manner of allocation of different categories of dwelling and the order or priority of their allocation. Including a policy objective of preventing or reducing homelessness within this framework would not be appropriate.

It is a fundamental principle of the scheme that it responds to need. Where a need such as homelessness has been identified, there is sufficient scope in subsection (5) for a housing authority to reserve a portion of dwellings in its area for the allocation to such households. The broader strategy on the prevention and reduction of homelessness will be addressed through the proposed statute-based local homeless action plans, which I have just discussed.

In light of the ongoing work, which will address the Senators’ concerns, and the interpretation of current provisions in subsection (20), will they withdraw the amendment?

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  According to the Minister of State, the Bill provides housing authorities with discretion to make provision for the homeless through a percentage of their allocations. On the other side of the coin, authorities will also have discretion to provide no allocation and for that reason we tabled the amendment.

[967]Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 27.

Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul.
Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie. Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances.
Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic. Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  Healy Eames, Fidelma.
Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  McCarthy, Michael. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David. Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal.
Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.  


Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Ciaran Cannon  Zoom on Ciaran Cannon  Cannon, Ciaran. Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria.
Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark. Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine.
Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus. Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis. Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned.
Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann. Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran.
Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim. Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.  

Tellers: Tá, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendment No. 30 is out of order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I received a courteous note from the Cathaoirleach indicating that this amendment would be ruled out of order because it could create a potential charge on the Exchequer. Will he or the Minister of State indicate what might be the nature of that charge? I have considered the amendment, which does not refer to money, wages etc., and I cannot identify any charge to which it might give rise. It merely proposes the creation of an appeals mechanism.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  It would give rise to a potential charge on the Exchequer and I cannot allow it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  In that context, the act of breathing could give rise to a potential charge on the Exchequer.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I will communicate later with the Senator on the matter.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I would like to ask the Minister of State about this when he comes back into the House.

[968]Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I second Senator Norris’s request. I think——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No, the amendment has been ruled out of order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Will the Minister of State say what charge his Department fears might arise in this regard?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  The Minister of State may not respond as the amendment has been ruled out of order. Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 are related and may be taken together by agreement.

Amendment No. 30 not moved.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 31:

The purpose of this amendment is to put in place measures to support tenants who have fallen into arrears in respect of rent, to assist them in getting out of those arrears and as such to sustain their tenancy.

Amendment No. 32 seeks to ensure, in respect of a termination of residency, that all procedures put in place to support tenants have been exhausted and that termination would be enforced only after all other avenues have been explored.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Section 25 relates to tenancy agreements under the rental accommodation scheme. It is not considered appropriate in this context to deal with non-payment of arrears as powers are provided elsewhere for housing authorities to deal sympathetically with tenants who fall into arrears. Section 31(6)(f) allows for a housing authority to include in its rent scheme procedures, where appropriate, to waive rent in whole or in part on a temporary basis in cases of financial hardship. A further provision included in section 25(11) relates to tenants under the rental accommodation scheme and allows the housing authority to reduce the rent contribution owing to a tenant’s move into that scheme from a rent supplement position. The amendments are not necessary and I ask Senators to withdraw them.

As I mentioned earlier, I undertook on Committee Stage to consider the inclusion of some general provisions on tenancy support services and I remain minded to do so. The description of the type of services involved in this area is potentially too vague for statutory interpretation. As such, further work is required to develop a sufficiently robust provision for inclusion in the Bill. I will continue to consult the Parliamentary Counsel with a view to bringing forth a suitable amendment on Committee Stage in the Lower House.

Senator Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I second the amendment. If the Government is favourably disposed to this proposal, it should accept the amendment of this House. If, as has been clearly stated by the Minister of State in his response, the Government is favourably disposed to this proposal, the amendment should be accepted, in due courtesy, in this House rather than in the Dáil. I say this respectfully.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Hear, hear.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  As I stated, I continue to consult the Parliamentary Counsel on the matter. It would be reasonable to allow this consultation which arises from my commitment to consider whether more can be provided in terms of tenant support services. If the Parliamen[969]tary Counsel accepts this is possible, I will do so. However, a decision on the matter has not yet been reached.

Senator Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  Will the Minister of State ensure the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is provided with whatever resources are necessary to allow it to make its decision?

Acting Chairman (Senator Denis O’Donovan): Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  Senator McCarthy may not speak again on the amendment. Senator Hannigan, as the proposer of the amendment may, however, speak again.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  On a point of clarification, as Senator McCarthy is jointly proposing this amendment, is he not entitled to speak again?

Acting Chairman: Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  No, only the proposer of the amendment may speak again.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I fail to see how the amendment could be considered in any way vague. I am glad to hear the Minister of State intends to re-examine the issue. Some time has passed since it was first raised and this is the first time the proposal has been described as vague. I am unhappy with the Minister of State’s response and I believe the matter could have been dealt with in this House.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 27.

Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul.
Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie. Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances.
Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic. Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  Healy Eames, Fidelma.
Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  McCarthy, Michael. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  Mullen, Rónán. Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene.
Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.



Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Ciaran Cannon  Zoom on Ciaran Cannon  Cannon, Ciaran. Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria.
Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark. Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine.
Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus. Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis. Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned.
Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann. Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran.
Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim. Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.  

Tellers: Tá, Senators Michael McCarthy and Brendan Ryan; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.

[970]Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 32 not moved.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 33:

This amendment relates to the amount of money owed by tenants to a local authority. It will give a housing authority the ability to waive any moneys owed by tenants if it considers it would result in the avoidance of hardship for the tenants of the house. I ask the Minister of State to accept this amendment.

Senator Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I second the amendment. I also support it. The amendment reads: “Where exceptional circumstances arise such that arrangements under section 34(2) cannot be put in place without causing undue hardship, a housing authority may cancel the obligation of a household to pay part or all of the moneys referred to in that section”. This amendment gives a housing authority the power to waive moneys owed by tenants if the payment of such moneys would cause undue hardship. If moneys are owed by tenants in the first instance, they must have accrued as a result of financial hardship. I do not believe anybody is playing a game here in regard to that.

As the Acting Chairman will know from our division of Cork County Council, we have dealt with cases involving people who have fallen into difficulty weekend after weekend. Given the downturn in the economic fortunes of this country and the fact that many more people are unemployed compared to this time 12 months ago, acceptance of this amendment is important to ensure we put on a statutory footing the obligation on a council to waive such moneys that have accrued given that the payment of them would cause tenants financial hardship.

Another point also arises in this respect. The executive functions of managers are far superior to the reserve functions of members of local authorities. That is an issue I have continuously raised here in the context of powerful local councillors. If there is discretion at executive level, we have no guarantee that such discretion would be used in favour of somebody who, in any reasonable thinking person’s mind, should have any moneys in arrears waived because the payment of them would cause the person financial hardship.

I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. It is made in good faith. If we have learned anything since 14 October, it is that times are tough in this country and they are most difficult on families, particularly those on low incomes.

  2 o’clock

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I listened with interest to my colleagues. I understand where they are coming from in terms of tabling the amendment. I await the Minister of State’s response with interest. The only aspect of the amendment with which I disagree is the proposal that a housing authority would cancel the obligation to pay part of the money owed. Nobody wants to cause undue hardship to people who find themselves in exceptional circumstances. However, I recall a safety net was put in place in the past to assist with ESB, gas and other bills and cheques were written for that purpose. A review of that scheme was undertaken and people were assisted, through community welfare officers, to par[971]ticipate in a payment scheme. As a result, the amount of money paid out for utility bills has been greatly reduced. People make a part payment over a period of time.

In fairness, it does not cause undue hardship to request people to part pay over a period of time. Such an approach is not unreasonable. I put that to the proposers of the amendment and, equally, to the Minister of State. I look forward to hearing his views on the proposal. I understand the substantive part of the amendment but I believe most local authorities are accommodating to tenants, especially by way of part payment over a period of time. I look forward to the Minister of State’s reply.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I cannot accept the amendment. Section 34(2) sets out the arrangements for the operation of a hardship clause in the application of this section where moneys are owing to a housing authority. It provides that, where a housing authority is satisfied that a household would suffer undue hardship, it can enter into an agreement with the household for repayment of the money due in reasonable instalments, in addition to any rents or charges the household is already paying to the authority. I believe the provision is fair and provides a reasonable safety net for households. It is also sufficiently flexible to allow housing authorities to operate it in a sensible manner.

In section 31 the Minister has the authority to make regulation for rent to be waived, in part or in whole, on a temporary basis, in the case of financial hardship. In those circumstances I ask the Senators to withdraw the amendment.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  From recollection, the measure to which the Minister of State referred in section 31 operates on a temporary basis. I accept what he said in regard to section 34(2), that a local authority can enter into an agreement to receive payment by instalments. I accept Senator Callely’s implication that the instalments could be set at a low level. I would prefer if the amendment was accepted in its entirety but I accept what the Minister of State said. I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman: Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  Amendments Nos. 34 and 36 are related and they may be discussed together by agreement.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 34:

We debated these amendments on Committee Stage, in addition to amendments Nos. 35, 37 and 38. I had sought to insert these amendments, plus another amendment on which we voted on Committee Stage and therefore is no longer before the House. The intention was to improve the provisions on anti-social behaviour. I regret that the Minister did not accept them on Committee Stage. I accept he indicated that he would consult the Parliamentary Counsel on the amendment that was put to a vote, so I understand there might be a further development in that regard at a later stage. Perhaps the Minister of State will tell us more now. I would have welcomed hearing from him some of the result of the discussion or consultation with the Parliamentary Counsel, not just on this principle but on other matters raised by colleagues.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment.

[972]Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I am advised that ordering the paragraphs in such a subsection gives no particular pre-eminence to the items covered. Therefore, the amendments are unnecessary and I ask the Senators to withdraw them.

I appreciate the intent of the Senator’s amendment is to focus on preventative measures and inter-agency work but I am satisfied that the section as it currently stands will achieve that purpose. I indicated on the previous occasion that we would develop guidelines in this area that will reflect work already undertaken by the Centre for Housing Research, which provides important training to housing practitioners on dealing with anti-social behaviour. Illustrating the types of matters that might form part of the preventative strategy in legislation might be overly restrictive. I assure the House that innovative approaches are facilitated in this area and that the provisions stand the test of time by providing for flexibility. Therefore, while I appreciate the intent of the amendments I do not accept them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman: Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  Amendments Nos. 35 and 37 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 35:

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  While I appreciate the intent of the Senator’s amendment is to focus on preventative measures and inter-agency work, I am satisfied that the section as it currently stands will achieve that purpose. I indicated on the previous occasion that I would develop guidelines in this area that will reflect work already undertaken by the Centre for Housing Research that provides important training to housing practitioners on dealing with anti-social behaviour. In those circumstances I do not propose to accept the amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 not moved.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I move amendment No. 38:

I have already explained my reason for tabling the amendment on Committee Stage. It would be useful to have specified that relevant residents, community and voluntary sector organisations might be consulted on the anti-social behaviour strategy. I accept that the Minister of State has arranged for drawing up guidelines, but it would have been nice had more detail been available to us in this House for Report Stage. I am disappointed that was not the case.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment and add my voice to that of Senator Bacik’s. The general thrust of the amendment is good and, if accepted by the Minister of State, would strengthen the Bill. It is important that residents, community groups and the voluntary sector would have a forum enshrined in legislation to provide that they can contribute their views [973]to any anti-social plans housing authorities might propose. I support the general thrust of the amendment.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I am generally satisfied that with the extent of consultation provided for, as the joint policing committees are representative not only of councillors, Oireachtas Members and senior Garda officers but also include community and voluntary interests. Importantly, subsection 5(d) provides for consultation with any other person as the authority considers appropriate. As I consider the consultation envisaged by the Senator can be achieved through the operation of this section in its current form, I ask the Senators to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 39:

When we debated this on Committee Stage, I had the impression that the Bill took account of what I was trying to achieve. With regard to the incremental purchase scheme, we are trying to allow tenants to buy from the voluntary housing sector houses in which they live. I do not refer to houses that will be built on foot of this Act or houses whose construction has already commenced. Those individuals living in voluntary housing sector estates should be permitted to take part in the incremental purchase scheme. This may not have been clear when we debated this on Committee Stage but I want it to be clear now. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on this.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  This amendment is not necessary. Section 37(1) already provides that this Part applies to dwellings provided by an approved body. I ask the Senator to withdraw the amendment. We cannot sell voluntary houses because we do not own them. There will be provision under the new incremental purchase scheme in respect of homes that have yet to be built.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  We can set down in law the procedure by which one could purchase the house in which one resides. I do not understand why my provision must be excluded but I will not press it.

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Let me distinguish between local authority housing and voluntary housing. Local authorities run the tenant purchase scheme through which tenants can buy their local authority houses. Under the incremental purchase scheme, which is covered in this legislation, tenants will be in a position to buy voluntary houses. Existing voluntary houses are not in our ownership and thus we cannot sell them.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I accept we cannot force the owners to sell them but we could make allowances in the legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 40:

[974]

We debated this issue on Committee Stage. While we accept issues arise in respect of management fees for apartments and that the inclusion of apartments in the incremental purchase scheme would give rise to difficulties, we do not accept those difficulties cannot be overcome. We received promises from various Ministers in recent years to the effect that the issue associated with the operation of management companies would be sorted out, but that still has not been done. I hate to see flats excluded from the scheme. If the Minister of State will not accept this amendment, will he commit to reconsider our proposal when the legislation on management companies passes through the House?

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I second the amendment.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I support Senator Hannigan, who made a fair and valid point on apartments. This issue has been around the circuit for a little while. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State’s response, in which I presume he will outline why he will or will not accommodate the amendment. Given that there are some legal and other outstanding issues, will the Minister of State indicate when this issue will be addressed to accommodate the principle of the amendment?

Deputy Michael Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  As I stated on the last occasion, the current tenant purchase arrangements do not apply to apartments. While we are continuing to work to finalise proposals for a viable sales scheme for apartments, in advance of obtaining experience of dealing with the sale of apartments under any future legislative model, it would be premature to consider the sale of new apartments in this matter under the incremental purchase scheme. In view of this, I ask Senator Hannigan to withdraw the amendment. I am on record as saying on Second Stage and Committee Stage that I am working with the Parliamentary Counsel to bring forward a proposal for the sale of apartments. This work is not yet complete. I remind the House that management companies are the responsibility not of my Department but of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government also has a role to play in addressing the issue of management companies. I will not press my amendment but I put the House on notice that I will not let up on the issue. I would like the scheme to be extended to tenants in apartment blocks.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Deputy Michael Finneran): Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I thank Members for their contributions during the passage of the Bill through the House and for the warm welcome afforded to me on my return to the Seanad as a Minister of State. This has been a good, worthwhile debate and there were worthwhile and vigorous contributions from all sides. While there is seldom complete agreement on any issue before the House, it would not be a misrepresentation to say there was a good, broad welcome for the provisions of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008.

The Bill is an important milestone in the development of housing policy. It provides a more strategic approach to the delivery and management of the housing service plans and anti-social [975]behaviour strategies. It establishes a new, more effective and comprehensive basis for assessing need and allocating housing. The introduction of an incremental purchase scheme aimed at helping people to become house owners is innovative. The policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities set out a vision to guide the transformation of the housing sector over the medium term by delivering more and better quality housing responses and by doing so in a more strategic way that focused on the building of sustainable communities. The Bill is a crucial element to the practical implementation of that agenda. I look forward to returning to the House with the provisions that I signalled are being developed, which I hope to introduce in the Dáil. I wish the Acting Chairman, Members and staff of the House a peaceful and happy Christmas.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I thank the Minister of State for bringing this Bill before the House. My party acknowledged that it was a good Bill on all Stages and we tried to amend it to improve it further. There is no doubt that the Bill will improve the lot of those on the housing lists, the homeless and those with other housing needs. The various sections of the Bill, when enacted, will contribute to ensuring such people are well looked after by the various agencies and, more important, the housing authorities.

Having housing action plans and service plans represents good management but following through is essential. Like Senator Hannigan, I will be monitoring closely the implementation of this Bill and how it will be utilised by the housing authorities and local authorities. They are the bodies we empower to house those with a basic need for housing, which is a fundamental right.

I have certainly enjoyed contributing to debates on this Bill and I hope I have made some positive points. I listened carefully to all sides and all Senators — it is important that we listen to all contributions because everybody has something to say from which we can all learn. The Minister of State has a genuine listening ability, which I appreciate and acknowledge. I thank him and his staff for their work on this Bill. It is certainly positive and I look forward to making use of its provisions.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I should also like to thank the Minister of State for introducing this Bill. My party is very positive about it and we believe it has great potential as regards benefiting not just current tenants, but people on waiting lists as well as the homeless. On the whole, we welcome the Bill. We are pleased the Minister of State has accepted a number of our amendments. We would have liked to him to accept more, but we are pleased with those he has accepted. That is very gracious of the Minister of State, and I should like to pay tribute both to him and his staff for the work they have put into producing this very complex and detailed Bill.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I am standing in for my good friend and colleague, our housing spokesman, Senator Larry Butler. I know he would like me to put on the record of the House his appreciation of the manner in which this legislation was accommodated by all our colleagues in the Seanad. I congratulate the Minister of State in that regard. The general feedback is that this is good legislation.

It is great to have our friend and colleague, a former Member of the Seanad, the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Finneran back in this House with such a good item of legislation, and to witness the open and frank manner in which he steered the Bill through the House. Even his few words in summary indicated that he will keep an eye on developments and come back to us with regard to progress on the various items we have teased out in respect of the Bill.

We thank the Minister of State for his co-operation, and I know Senator Butler would like to express to his colleagues opposite his appreciation for the manner in which they teased out [976]issues, tabled amendments and accommodated the debate. We should like to extend to the Minister of State and his staff our best wishes for a very happy, holy and peaceful Christmas.

Question put and agreed to.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I move that the sitting be suspended until 3.30 p.m.

Acting Chairman: Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  Is that agreed? Agreed

Sitting suspended at 2.25 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.


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