Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

3:00 am

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)

Given that the Minister has concentrated on one narrow aspect of the Make Room campaign, will he comment on the overall aim of this campaign which comprises four respected national organisations, namely, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Threshold, the Simon Community and Focus Ireland? The basis of this campaign is a political goal to end homelessness in Ireland by 2010. I can accept the Minister would argue that tackling this problem is a matter for several Departments with responsibility in the area of direct housing provision. The campaign lists six specific goals, including responding to what people need, more and better housing, support to leave homelessness, renting on a low income, proper standards on renting and tackling poverty and preventing homelessness. I argue that direct responsibility for achieving four of those six goals comes under the work of his Department, in particular the goal of tackling poverty and preventing homelessness. This campaign and these organisations request that all Government policies be poverty proofed. I was under the impression this was meant to be a goal of Government policy making as a result of partnership agreements but the making of that request by these organisations, which are involved in meeting the needs of those of our citizens who are going without basic needs such as housing, seems to indicate it is not.

In concentrating on one particular area, namely people on low income who rent, the Minister seems to have set his face against reviewing the rent caps, which according to the organisations involved need to reflect the real market cost of renting. We will have to wait and see whether his review achieves that.

The Minister might also respond to other requests made by this campaign. One request is that rent supplement be paid in advance rather than in arrears because those who choose to rent and have to rent under the rent supplement scheme are put at a disadvantage to those who have to pay money upfront. Other requests include the extension of the rent supplement scheme to people working more than 30 hours a week on a means-tested basis and a root and branch review of rent supplement scheme to ensure adequate support is in place to meet housing costs for those in social housing and private rented accommodation.

I put it to the Minister that a fairly questionable statistic or lack of statistic arose during recent questioning of a value for money report on the rent supplement scheme at a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts. Some 40% of all rents are paid by the State in the form of the rent supplement, but there seems to be no co-ordination in regard to many of the new apartments built under section 23 funding, which have benefited twice through tax reliefs by way of the money invested in building the apartments and rent achieved subsequently from them. There is no joined-up Government thinking between the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Finance and the Department of Social and Family Affairs to address the fact that some developers here get a treble benefit from the State, while those in need of housing are being left to one side. We see gross enrichment of developers because of the need to house many of our citizens.


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