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Multi-agency steering group on housing policy

Legislation for private rented sector

The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, told Barry Cowen (FF, Laois Offaly) that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government had established a multi-agency steering group to give effect to the new housing policy framework announced last 16th June and was developing proposals and protocols for the transfer of responsibility from her department to housing authorities of people with long-term housing requirements   (Dail Eireann, Debates, 23rd November 2011, 690-2). The transfer of tenants from rent supplement to local authorities would help achieve a key government commitment of removing barriers to employment and return rent supplement to its original purpose as a short-term income support payment.


Asked about the issue of homelessness within the housing strategy by Sean Crowe (SF, Dublin SW), the minister told the Dail that the government was committed to updating the homeless strategy with a housing first/housing led approach and more effective prevention strategies.  Work on updating the strategy would conclude this year (Dail Eireann, Debates, 30th November 2011, 501-2). The initial emphasis would be on Dublin, moving away from reliance on emergency accommodation to more permanent accommodation; linking funding to targets and outcomes; making better use of existing accommodation; additional social housing provision through acquisitions, remedial works and a leasing programme; engaging with NAMA to secure state properties without significant state funding; targeted use of the Rental Accommodation Scheme; an enhanced private rented sector; better coordination; and the establishment of Homeless Action Teams across all regions.


Separately, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, told Sandra McLellan (SF, Cork E) that the government had approved heads of a Bill concerning the private rented sector and he hoped to have to have it in place by 2012.  Compulsory registration of landlords was being actively considered for the legislation.  Replying to comments by Dessie Ellis (SF, Dublin NW), he commended the role played by Threshold and other voluntary groups in helping students and others who might be vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords (Dail Eireann, Debates, 30th November 2011, 412, 501).  Later, the minister told Gerry Adams (SF, Louth) that the legislation would also address the major reform of devising an alternative to the system of rent supplement operated by the Department of Social Protection.  The intention was that households with an identified social housing need would move to a new social housing scheme operated by local authorities, so that rent supplement could revert to its original role as short-term income support.  He planned to introduce the legislation in 2012 to put this new approach on a statutory basis.  


Asked about his commitment to social housing, the minister told Sean Crowe (SF, Dublin SW) and Padraig McLachlainn (SF, Donegal NE) that Ireland’s financial situation ruled out a return to large-scale capital funded local authority programes, so social housing would be primarily facilitated by more flexible funding models such as the social housing leasing initiative and the Rental Accommodation Scheme.  Levels for capital funding for social housing had reduced 66.23% since 2008 (Dail Eireann, Debates, 30th November 2011, 513-4).  He listed the set of measures considered such as social housing bonds, options to purchase, build-to-lease and sourcing loan finance.

The first scheme of loan finance from the Housing Finance Agency to buy housing units from NAMA was launched July 2011 ad he expected this facility to be a critical source of new housing provision.

> Housing regeneration programme: Dail Eireann, Debates, 30th November 2011, 406-8.