Friday, 4 June 2021
Affordable Housing Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Alice-Mary Higgins (Independent)
I believe this amendment complements this section of the Bill. We had some indication in the last session that a previous constructive amendment, which was tabled by Senator Warfield in respect of the role of co-operatives, would be taken on board.
Amendment No. 40 is complementary. I recognise that the 30% piece goes towards some of my concerns about prioritisation rather eligibility. Senator Warfield's amendment means there would be an almost two-way information piece within the 70% of the priority. Yes, the provision is great for local authorities. I am very much aware of the concerns. It is important to note that each local authority is different and that local authorities have the 30% flexibility in respect of prioritisation. If we see a trend emerging - for example, if five, six, seven, eight or 20 local authorities start to incorporate something within their schemes of priority or 30% considerations - that may well be useful to the Minister in designing or amending the remaining 70% priority scheme.
The amendment is not about the Minister delegating powers to the local authorities because there is the 30% provision. It is about the Minister consulting them and maybe having a two-way street. For example, a local authority might say it has found something that concerns a single person-headed household. We will come to this later. If a local authority mentions something that it has found to be a really important concern in terms of different family types, and that it has introduced in its consideration of the scheme of priority, that will become useful information for the Minister. There is nothing in Senator Warfield's amendment that ties the hands of the Minister. The amendment simply suggests that the Minister would learn from what local authorities do to address the priority issue and, crucially, that there would be consultation with the Oireachtas committee.
We hope that many hundreds of thousands of homes will be built under this scheme. When we think about how their distribution is prioritised, and how these schemes are prioritised, it is important that we have as much good information as possible for decision-making purposes. I appreciate that 30% is reserved, but this amendment speaks to the other 70% and to the need for the Minister to have useful information in that regard.
There is something very constructive in this amendment. I know that amendment No. 67 is a mirroring amendment. I hope that the amendment is taken on board. It does not bind the Minister to whatever input he might get from a committee or a local authority. It does not delegate or take powers away from the Minister and give them to the committee or the local authority. It simply advocates for a process of engagement so that the decisions the Minister makes in respect of the 70% aspect of the eligible priority are as well informed as possible.