Thursday, 16 February 2017
Social and Affordable Housing
I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. I will highlight the statutory basis for the provision of social housing support. Under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated regulations made thereunder, the assessment of households for social housing support - and the allocation of that support - is a matter for individual housing authorities in accordance with the prescribed criteria. Households that qualify for social housing support on assessment are entered onto the housing authority's waiting list and are considered for the allocation of suitable tenancies in accordance with the authority's allocation scheme made by the elected members under section 22 of the 2009 Act.
As indicated, the assessment of individual housing applications and the allocation of accommodation to qualified households are matters solely for housing authorities. In the context of housing matters generally, the Minister has limited powers to give directions and guidelines to housing authorities under sections 4 and 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. However, section 6 of that Act specifically provides that these powers do not permit the Minister to exercise any power or control in the context of any particular case with which a housing authority is or may be concerned. I must also highlight the independence of local authorities in performing their functions, as provided for under section 63 of the Local Government Act 2001. The Minister has no role in the normal day-to-day operations of individual local authorities. The Minister's role in respect of local government is primarily to provide the policy, financial and legislative framework within which local authorities perform their functions.
In that context, it is important to note that the Local Government Act 2001, Part 15, includes important provisions in relation to the ethical framework applicable to the local government sector, including providing a statutory basis for a code of conduct that has been issued for all local authority employees. In the ordinary course of events, it would be a matter for the relevant local authority, in the first instance, to investigate any allegations of malpractice regarding the operation of its housing allocation system. Subject to the outcome of any such investigation, it would then be for the local authority to consider what further action, either internally or by way of referring the matter to other relevant appropriate authorities, may be required. Matters concerning the allocation of social housing in one local authority have been referred to in correspondence received by my Department and this is the subject of ongoing engagement with the local authority concerned.
If the Senator is aware of any cases which he considers require investigation, he should forward details to the appropriate authorities, be that the chief executive of the relevant local authority or, in the event that criminal conduct is alleged, An Garda Síochána, or through such other channels as may be appropriate.