Friday, 4 June 2021
Affordable Housing Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Alice-Mary Higgins (Independent)
I will briefly speak to amendment No. 43. We have talked about the input that local authorities can have in respect of the scheme of priority but my concern is that housing authorities can make or amend a scheme of priority and give it to the Minister, but the Minister can then change it completely. The Minister can direct the local authority to amend the scheme of priority. The section states that "the housing authority shall comply with any such direction ... as specified by the Minister". There may well be an input point for local authorities but there is a strong override mechanism. My amendment is simple. Of course it is appropriate to consult the Minister on the scheme of priority but the local authority should "have regard to" the direction from the Minister, as per my amendment, rather than be compelled to "comply with" the direction, as is contained in the section. That is quite heavy language. The relationship suggested by my amendment is more appropriate, especially given that this only relates to a certain portion of housing provision. This does not affect the national scheme, it is about a particular local scheme. I imagine that in 99.9% of cases, the local authority would have very serious regard to the input of the Minister and would probably end up being of a mind with him or her. However, "comply with" is a blunt tool in the context.