Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Order of Business
I refer to the news coverage on Monday and the programme by RTE on Monday night on emergency homeless accommodation to put one matter on the record. The matter relates to the 123 complaints that were made in relation to emergency accommodation. Those complaints and their outcome were made available to RTE under an FOI request. What perhaps was not brought into the public domain was the acknowledgement by all concerned that the complaints had been fully investigated and resolved in a timely fashion. It is important to acknowledge the professional role played by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, which acts on behalf of all four Dublin local authorities in what have been difficult circumstances over the past two years in the area of homelessness, and to say that the 123 complaints related not solely to private accommodation but to accommodation provided by statutory providers and NGOs as well. Those were 123 complaints out of approximately 9,000 unique placements in the Dublin region for homeless emergency accommodation and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive is playing a valuable role in homelessness in the city of Dublin.
I welcome a recent announcement by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government that mediation between landlords and tenants which is conducted through the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, will now be free. This is an important step forward in the landlord and tenant relationship. It encourages a non-aggressive approach in an effort to bring understanding between the parties which, quite often, is most needed between landlords and tenants when there are conflicts. It is important to bear in mind that most landlord and tenant relationships are happy and never end up in conflict. Encouraging the use of mediation is important because one is dealing with a home and ensuring that the relationship between the landlord and tenant goes forward in an amicable manner is best achieved by mediation.
I also welcome another issue that went slightly unnoticed. Mortgage interest relief has been increased to 100% for landlords who rent their properties to tenants who are in receipt of social welfare, whether it be rent supplement, housing assistance payment, HAP, or rental accommodation scheme, RAS, payments. As far back as 2002, fewer than 50% of landlords were willing to rent to tenants on social welfare. We really need to address that issue. The bottom line is it is difficult for tenants in receipt of social welfare supports to obtain housing and anything that can be done to encourage landlords in that direction is to be welcomed.