Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008: Report and Final Stages.

In the text of the Bill as amended in the select committee there are a number of incorrect references to sections of the Bill. I ask the Acting Chairman, Deputy John Cregan to instruct the Clerk of the Dáil to make the following corrections to the text of the Bill:

In page 48, line 2, to delete "section 39" and substitute "section 46".

In page 48, line 3, to delete "section 39" and substitute "section 46".

In page 48, line 30, to delete "section 41" and substitute "section 49".

In page 48, line 35, to delete "section 41" and substitute "section 49".

In page 49, line 46, to delete "section 41" and substitute "section 49".

In page 50, line 15, to delete "section 40 [subsection] (6) or (7)" and substitute "section 48 [subsection] (5) or (6)".

In page 51, line 23, to delete "section 40" and substitute "section 47".

In page 51, line 32, to delete "section 40" and substitute "section 47"

In page 67, line 6, to delete "section 8" and substitute "section 57".

A list of the requested corrections is available and can be given to the Members if necessary.

Amendment No. 1 is consequential on amendment No. 27. Amendments Nos. 17 and 20 are related. Amendments Nos. 1, 17, 20 and 27 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, line 7, after "PLANS" to insert "AND HOMELESS ACTION PLANS".

There has been a lot of debate in the House on the time apportioned to debating the Bill this evening. I withdraw amendments Nos. 21 to 25, inclusive, amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive and amendments Nos. 46 and 47. These are amendments which were also debated on Committee Stage. I do not believe they will be successful in the House today given the Government's majority and, in order to facilitate additional amendments or amendments not given appropriate time on Committee Stage, I will withdraw them later, if that is agreeable to the House.

The substantive amendment with regard to amendments Nos. 1, 17 and 20 is amendment No. 27. As the House is aware, when the Bill was first drafted, it contained no mention of homelessness. It was not until the Bill reached the Seanad that we saw the inclusion of the issue of homelessness. Amendment No. 27 proposes that:

Each housing authority shall establish a process ... within its administrative area for the purposes of developing and implementing a local homeless action plan. Each local homeless forum shall include approved bodies . . .

The Minister of State made reference to this matter on Committee Stage. As I believe some of the aspects of the Minister's strategy on Committee Stage were deficient, I will be pressing this amendment.

The effect of Deputy Lynch's proposed amendments has already been provided for by the more comprehensive and far-reaching amendments I presented to the select committee to place the making of homelessness action plans on a statutory basis. I presume the Deputy does not wish to press these amendments in favour of my own substantive amendments which have been strongly endorsed by the MakeRoom alliance. I would, therefore, ask the Deputy to withdraw his amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, lines 27 to 34, to delete all words from and including "TO PROVIDE" in line 27 down to and including "INTEREST;" in line 34.

These are two technical amendments to change the Long Title. The first changes the Long Title to reflect the fact the earlier amendments in the Bill as published make certain changes to the existing affordable housing schemes and the shared ownership scheme, which have now been superseded by the introduction on Committee Stage of new affordable dwelling purchase arrangements under Part V. Amendment No. 3 references the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 rather than the Social Welfare Acts as it is the 2005 Act that is being amended. I commend the amendments to the House.

The Minister of State referred to the shared ownership scheme, which is germane, so it might be appropriate at this point to mention the progression of a particular element of housing policy dealt with while this Bill has been making its way through the Oireachtas. I refer specifically to the long-term leasing arrangements with which the Minister of State and his officials are dealing and which they are finalising for local authorities in Waterford and elsewhere.

When I spoke on the Bill, I made reference to the 20% social and affordable housing provisions and my strong belief that the measure has been innovative and effective, not just from the standpoint of housing but also from that of social inclusion and integration. I understand a number of circulars regarding long-term leasehold arrangements between local authorities, voluntary groups and developers are being drafted and finalised. These measures are timely and demonstrate the necessary flexibility considering the economic times in which we find ourselves.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, for considering and developing the approach to long-term leasing. The bottom line is that the money is not available to build units in the traditional manner so we need to figure out alternative methods to finance the construction of local authority housing and, in doing so, start money moving around again in the local economies. All one need do is look at the Standard and Poor's report that came out yesterday which highlights the stark situation with regard to our housing market. It is good there has been a development and an extension of the N3 circular that came out late last year or early this year. The different long-term leasing arrangements being drawn up constitute a significant shift in Government policy.

I thank the Minister of State for considering and adopting these approaches and I look forward to their implementation over the course of the next few months. I know that view is shared by local authority officers dealing with housing throughout the country. I also thank the officials for briefing me on this issue.

While we are not dealing directly with this issue, I try to be as open as possible with Deputies and Senators in dealing with the legislation, which will be seen from the number of Government amendments. I recall that Deputy Deasy during the Second Stage debate indicated his support for a variant of the long-term lease. I am pleased we are moving in that direction and I have also accepted suggestions from other Deputies. Deputy Deasy is clearly identified with the proposal in regard to the long-term lease. We are now considering variants and hopefully, at the end of the day, it will be helpful to the housing authorities throughout the country. I thank the Deputy for his comments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 7, line 40, to delete "THE SOCIAL WELFARE ACTS" and substitute "THE SOCIAL WELFARE CONSOLIDATION ACT 2005".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No. 175, and amendment No. 177 is related. The amendments may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 8, line 5, after "Act" to insert "(other than section 100)”.

These amendments provide for the insertion of a small number of changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. The main change is being made to put beyond doubt that the scope of the Act does not extend to owner-occupied leasehold dwellings such as apartment owner-occupiers where the relevant lease is in excess of 35 years. As matters stand, section 3(2) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 lists certain dwellings which fall outside the remit of the Act. That list is exhaustive and cannot be supplemented without legislative amendment. Therefore, unless a dwelling falls outside the remit of the Act pursuant to section 3(2), the dwelling may be deemed to be an appropriate dwelling under the Act for the purposes of dispute resolution, subject to certain other conditions under the Act being satisfied.

This could mean, for example, that a dispute over service charges between a management company and an owner-occupier in an apartment block, who also happens to be a leasee, could fall for resolution by the Private Residential Tenancies Board in the same way the normal landlord-tenant disputes do. Of course, it was never the intention that the Act would have application to owner-occupiers of apartments. The amendment I propose will put that matter beyond doubt.

I note that amendment No. 175 at paragraph (5) states:

The Act of 2004 is amended by inserting the following section after section 147:

147A.—The Board [namely, the Private Residential Tenancies Board] shall, at such intervals as are specified by the Revenue Commissioners, disclose to the Revenue Commissioners information contained in the register the disclosure of which to the Revenue Commissioners is reasonably necessary for the performance by the Revenue Commissioners of their functions.

I understand this was proposed by my colleague, Deputy Róisín Shortall, and was also referred to in a recent parliamentary question to the Minister of State. If my interpretation of this is correct, it is a welcome addition to the Bill in that it allows for tax compliance and other measures to be carried out between the Revenue Commissioners and the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

The Deputy is correct. The insertion of the new section 147A into the Residential Tenancies Act gives effect to a recommendation made by the Committee of Public Accounts in regard to taxation of rental income. It provides for an improved flow of information from the PRTB to the Revenue Commissioners to enable access to the full landlord records held by the PRTB for the purpose of enabling tax compliance checks. These amendments will take effect immediately on the enactment of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 8, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

"(3)Section 100 and, in so far as it relates to that section, this section shall be construed as one with the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 and 2009 and shall be included in the collective citation “Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 and 2009”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 8, line 8, after "Act" to insert "(other thansection 100)”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 28 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 9, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:

""persons with a disability" shall mean persons with a disability within the meaning of section 2 of the Disability Act 2005.".

These amendments relate to the issue of disability. There was an oversight related to homelessness in the Bill when it was first published. I have received representations from organisations on behalf of the disability sector. The Bill provides a very good opportunity to put in place legislation to give true recognition to the matter of disability. However, the absence of relevant measures is similar to the absence of addressing homelessness in an earlier draft and it should be corrected at this stage.

I realise the Minister is in discussions with disability groups but discussions continue on an ongoing basis and one should not draw a line at the end of discussions and suggest they will no longer continue, especially in the area of disability. The discussions are at a stage at which the amendments proposed are worthy of inclusion in the Bill. Any further consultation between the Minister of State and such groups may be examined another time and amendments may be put accordingly, as the Minister of State has indicated. Nevertheless, there is a clear opportunity this afternoon to address a deficiency within the Bill and for disability to be recognised. I call on the Minister of State to support the amendment.

There was a lengthy and interesting discussion on issues related to the housing support needs of people with disabilities at the select committee meeting. I welcome the Deputy's keen interest in the matter, which reflects my interest in the issue, and his desire to ensure the needs of people with disability are at the heart of support offered by housing authorities. However, the specific proposals suggested by the Deputy run the risk of pre-empting the important work currently underway to develop a national housing strategy for people with disabilities. The national advisory group tasked with developing the strategy is due to complete its work by the end of 2009. As I indicated at the select committee meeting, upon completion of the strategy it may prove necessary to incorporate some of the specific recommendations into law but I do not believe it would be appropriate to do so at this time. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 10, line 36, after "areas," to insert the following:

"apartment complexes (within the meaning ofsection 50),”.

Section 3 contains general powers in respect of the making of regulations by the Minister. Section 3(2)(b) provides that regulations may apply generally or to specific housing authorities or areas. They may also apply to any specified class of matters, including designated apartment complexes which come under the scope of part 4 of the Bill. The subsection also provides that the different provisions of any such regulations may apply to different housing authorities or areas or different classes of matters. Amendment No. 8 provides, in common with all other matters individually specified in the subsection, that different provisions of the regulations may be expressed to apply in respect of the different classes of apartment complexes coming within the scope of part 4. I commend the amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 9 to 14, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, after line 41, to insert the following:

"PART 2

AMENDMENT OF RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES ACT 2004.

10.—In this Act, "the Principal Act" means the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.".

Amendments Nos. 9 to 14, inclusive, relate to significant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. On Committee Stage, the Minister indicated there would be a review of the Residential Tenancies Act and the Private Residential Tenancies Board and that these matters could be examined another time. The Minister also indicated there was some merit to the series of amendments on Committee Stage as they have been related here.

In the context of my previous comments to the Minister of State, we have already seen that there will be changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 as a result of the Bill. I believe other changes could be made too and there is no obvious reason why they should not be made. The series of amendments allow for the creation of a national deposit scheme in which the Residential Tenancies Act would be significantly changed and a national treasury account would be created to establish at least €500,000 in holding deposits of tenants as part of a tenant landlord agreement. At present, when one hands over a deposit to a landlord there is no legislation governing what takes place to that deposit. A landlord may lodge it in his or her bank account or credit account. He or she may keep it in a jam jar or in a biscuit tin at home or may go to a shopping centre to buy a sofa or to Las Vegas if he or she so wishes.

Ultimately, the money handed over by the tenant belongs to him or her and the landlord only has custody of that money for the duration of the tenancy. Reports from Threshold and the PRTB show a significant amount of their workload relates to the matter of disputed deposits. These amendments create a clear mechanism to ensure such disputes are dealt with in a speedy fashion. The PRTB will come before the an Oireachtas committee next week and to discuss the 18 month backlog of disputes. The cost of this backlog is approximately between €700 and €900 per day. There would be an immediate saving to the State by simply clearing the backlog.

Yesterday, in answer to a parliamentary question the Minister stated there are in excess of 200,000 private residential tenancies registered with the PRTB. I believe more exist which are not registered. However, if we tied the registration process to the holding and safekeeping of a deposit, it would create greater and more far-reaching compliance with the PRTB registration process. It would also provide protection for tenants and their deposits. It would create a significant amount of money for the State and approximately half a billion euro could be held on account as a result.

If the amendments were carried there would also be a direct saving for the State because there are approximately 80,000 rental allowance contracts. Community welfare officers hand over money to a landlord on behalf of a tenant for which everyone in the State pays. The amendments create the possibility for that sum to be notionally lodged with a treasury account. If there is a breach of the tenancy agreement, the landlord can avail of the deposit but, most importantly, the State need not outlay the money in the first instance. By a modest reckoning if the amendment were agreed to it would create an immediate saving of approximately €80 million for the State. I realise some €35 billion is involved in NAMA and so on but €80 million remains a significant sum by any account. Any legislation that generates such a saving for the Exchequer should not be ridiculed.

Much work has gone into these amendments. They also consider deposits which operate in the voluntary and housing co-operative sectors. I call on the Minister to accept the amendments. They do not set any precedents. Although they may represent new legislation in Ireland other countries in Europe and elsewhere in the western hemisphere have such measures as a standard practice in tenancy agreements.

Although not specifically related to the amendment, my point related to deposits in general. There have been reports in the media about deposits for new apartments which, unfortunately, were never built. It relates to the homebond guarantee which is only valid for two years. I ask the Minister of State to review that situation.

Amendments Nos. 9 to 14, inclusive, were discussed on Committee Stage. As I said on that occasion I see merit in what Deputy Ciarán Lynch has proposed but I do not propose to accept the amendments at this time. However, my Department is currently progressing a review of the Residential Tenancies Act and I have asked my officials to consider Deputy Lynch's proposals in the context of that review.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply and for his expression that there is merit to the proposal. The Minister of State has stated in replies to parliamentary questions and on Committee Stage that the Residential Tenancies Act is under review. That is not to say that the Residential Tenancies Act cannot be amended this evening as it has been amended by the Minister already. I do not see any reason for not accepting this amendment even with the current review. I will be pressing the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 11, after line 41, to insert the following:

"10.—In this Act and in the Principal Act, "deposit" means any money intended to be held (by the landlord or otherwise) as security for—

(a) the performance of any obligations of the tenant, or

(b) the discharge of any liability of the tenant,

arising under or in connection with a tenancy.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 11, after line 41, to insert the following:

"10.—(1) Where a landlord requires a tenant, on entering into an agreement for a tenancy or lease, to pay a deposit, the deposit shall be paid by the landlord to the Board at the time of application for registration of the tenancy under Part 7 of the Principal Act and shall be held by the Board until—

(a) an application is made under subsection (3), or

(b) a dispute is referred to the Board for resolution under section 76 of the Principal Act.

(2) A landlord who contravenessubsection (1) is guilty of an offence.

(3) Where a landlord and a tenant jointly apply in the prescribed form for the repayment of a deposit by the Board to—

(a) the tenant,

(b) the landlord, or

(c) in part to the tenant and in part to the landlord,

the Board shall promptly repay the deposit in the manner specified in the application.

(4) Section 78 of the Principal Act is amended, in subsection (1), by substituting the following for paragraph (a):

"(a) the repayment of a deposit held by the Board to the tenant or the landlord or in part to each of them,”.

(5) A dispute in respect of matters referred to in section 78(1)(a) of the Principal Act that is referred to the Board for resolution shall be determined in accordance with the following principles:

(a) no amount of the deposit concerned shall be required to be repaid to the tenant if, at the date of referral of the dispute to the Board, there is a default in—

(i) the payment of rent and the amount of rent that is in arrears is equal to or greater than the amount of the deposit, or

(ii) compliance with section 16(f) of the Principal Act and the amount of

the costs that would be incurred by the landlord, were he or she to take them, in taking such steps as are reasonable for the purposes of restoring the dwelling to the condition mentioned in the said section 16(f) is equal to or greater than the amount of the deposit;

(b) where, at the date of the referral of the dispute to the Board—

(i) there is a default in the payment of rent or compliance with the said section 16(f), and

(ii)subparagraph (i) or (ii), as the case may be, of paragraph (a) does not apply, then there shall be repaid—

(I) to the landlord, the amount of rent that is in arrears or, as appropriate, the amount of the costs that would be incurred in taking steps of the kind referred to inparagraph (a)(ii),

(II) to the tenant, the difference between the amount referred to insubparagraph (i) and the deposit;

(c) where neither paragraph (a) or (b) apply, the deposit concerned shall be repaid in full to the tenant.

(6) No provision of any lease, tenancy agreement, contract or other agreement entered into after the commencement of this Act may operate to vary, modify or restrict in any way this section.

(7) Section 12 (1) (d) and (4) of the Principal Act are repealed.

(8) Section 115 of the Principal Act is amended by substituting the following for paragraph (i):

"(i) in the special circumstances of a dispute heard under this Part, a direction that the whole or part of the costs or expenses incurred by the adjudicator or the Tribunal in dealing with the dispute shall be paid by one or more of the parties,

(j) a direction that a specified amount of damages be paid for unreasonably refusing to agree to a joint application for the repayment of a deposit under section 2(3) of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2009.“.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 11, after line 41, to insert the following:

"10.—(1) Section 92 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting the following after subsection (4):

"(5) For the purposes of this section, and in particular to enable the Board to clarify for itself and for the parties any issue arising in relation to a dispute referred to it, the Board may—

(a) inquire into any relevant aspect of the dispute concerned,

(b) require either party to furnish to it, within a specified period, such documents or other information as it considers appropriate, and

(c) provide to, and receive from, each party such information as is appropriate.”.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 11, after line 41, to insert the following:

"10.—(1) The Board shall establish an investment account (the "account") into which deposits paid to it under this Part shall be deposited.

(2) The National Treasury Management Agency ("the Agency") shall manage the account on behalf of the Board.

(3) Moneys in the account shall be invested and the investments shall be realised or varied as occasion requires and the proceeds of any such realisation, and any dividends or other payments received in respect of moneys invested under this section, shall be paid into the Exchequer: provided that the Agency shall ensure that there is always within the account a sufficient amount of money to enable the Board to repay deposits to tenants and landlords under this Part.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 11, after line 41, to insert the following:

"10.—(1) (a) The Health Service Executive shall not make a payment of a supplement towards the amount of rent payable by a person in respect of his or her residence where the tenancy has not been registered in accordance with the provisions of Part 7 of the Principal Act, unless the tenancy is one which is not required to be registered under that Part, in particular because the tenancy is one with an approved housing body in the co-operative or voluntary housing sector.

(b) Paragraph (a) does not prevent the payment by the Health Service Executive—

(i) of such a supplement upon the creation of a tenancy, or

(ii) of assistance in the form of a deposit prior to the registration of the tenancy.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 14a:

In page 12, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

"10.—Any communications to a tenant or applicant in relation to any service or requirement under this Act shall be so communicated in writing and by electronic form where the tenant or applicant has provided a valid electronic address for receipt of such communication.".

I thank the Deputy for resubmitting this amendment about which we had some discussion on Committee Stage. As I indicated then I do not believe that we need to go down the road of placing a statutory requirement on housing authorities to communicate with their tenants or customers in writing and electronically. These are matters about which an authority is more than capable of deciding for itself according to the local circumstances and individual cases. I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 15 and 29 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 12, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"(xi) the provision, adaptation or improvement of housing for persons with a disability,".

The purpose of amendments Nos. 15 and 29 is to ensure adequate provision for promoting the independence of persons with a disability. The Bill goes some way to rectifying situations where significant sums of money are spent on the disabled persons grant scheme. The Bill will now facilitate a clawback for moneys expended in that area. The issue of dealing with disability in the area of housing should not be to create a segregated approach nor should it mean the creation of modifications to mainstream housing. The amendment proposes that as part of housing planning, there would be integration of housing programmes for people with disabilities into mainstream housing developments so that such persons would have an independent living arrangement within the housing programme. I will be pressing the amendment and I look forward to the Minister of State's response.

I ask the Minister of State to clarify whether a regulation exists that all newly built houses must provide wheelchair access. I understand there is such a regulation but it is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. Many new houses, either one-off houses or houses in estates, have inadequate wheelchair access. Have penalties been imposed on developers or those building one-off houses when they are not making necessary provision for wheelchair access? In some cases I have seen beautiful ramps up to front doors and then two steps to get into the house which renders the ramp useless. What is the regulation in this regard?

Amendments Nos.15 and 29 were also covered in our discussions on disability and housing related issues. I do not believe these amendments are necessary as their effect is essentially already comprehended by the Bill as it stands. I do not therefore propose to accept them. On the matter raised by Deputy McCormack, new houses are obliged to have wheelchair accessibility. I remind the Deputy that this is a planning matter.

What penalty exists where that condition is not met? Is it solely a matter for the planning authority to say that it is unauthorised development? Is this matter followed up when it occurs? It is a matter which inconveniences wheelchair-users and drives them crazy that this regulation is not being enforced. It is not good enough for the Minister of State to say it is a matter for the planning authority if it was a condition of the planning permission that wheelchair access should be provided. Has the Department any regulation in place? I have recently seen a number of planning applications where there is no condition about wheelchair access. If it is a requirement for the planning authorities they are not putting it in their conditions for granting planning permissions.

I did not state that it was a matter for the planning authorities, I said it was a planning matter. It is a planning matter and it has nothing to do with this Bill.

I do not wish to labour the point but who takes responsibility for the implementation of the regulation? Who is the responsible body to ensure this condition is included?

I suggest the Deputy put down a parliamentary question on the matter.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos 15a and 26a are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 15a:

In page 15, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

"(4) Local authorities shall review housing services plans on a six monthly basis.".

This legislation places considerable demands on housing authorities in terms of strategic planning through the development of housing service plans and housing action programmes. The making of rent and allocation schemes, statutory requirements on anti-social behaviour strategies and homelessness action plans and new purchase schemes in the form of incremental purchase, tenant purchase of apartments and affordable dwelling purchase arrangements. I am making statutory provision for these and other areas because they will provide a modern and efficient framework to assist housing authorities in meeting their housing responsibilities. However, I recognise that their implementation will be onerous. I do not propose to accept the amendment No. 15a proposed by the Deputy which would add unnecessarily to the workload without any obvious benefit. I am satisfied with the review provisions set out in section 17 which will provide sufficient flexibility in this area which the Deputy wishes to delete by way of an amendment No. 26a. I ask that both amendments be withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 16, to delete lines 4 and 5 and substitute the following:

"(b) the demand for social housing a outlined in the assessment of need in its administrative area conducted in accordance with section 21;”.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 16, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

"(c) the homeless action plan in its administrative area;”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 16, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

"(e) the needs of persons with a disability in its administrative area;”.

I believe this amendment is unnecessary as the intention is already accommodated within the text as it stands. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 16, to delete lines 27 to 31 and substitute the following:

"(2) (a) A housing services plan shall also have regard to the following and shall include such further information and priorities related to the following as the Minister may direct:”.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 16, line 32, after "supports" to insert the following:

"including but not limited to, tenancy services, supported housing tenancy sustainment, tenancy support and settlement, advice, advocacy and mediation services".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 21 to 25, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 17, line 6, after "to" to insert " and seek responses from".

These amendments to section 16 are unnecessary as the current formulation of paragraph (g) is sufficiently broad to cover the groups the Deputy’s amendments would explicitly reference. In addition, the new paragraph (e) inserted on Committee Stage specifically provides that a home consultative forum will form part of the consultative process where a housing services plan is being drafted. I do not propose to accept the amendments.

A broad range of organisations and groups come under the classification in this section. I propose that the range be broadened as much as possible and that the inclusion, as outlined in the amendments, be accepted by the Minister of State.

It would not help the formulation of the Bill to go to unnecessary lengths to draw from the text matters which it implicitly contains. I do not propose to accept the amendments. I refer the Deputy to paragraph 16(g) where the bodies to be consulted are clearly listed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 22 to 25, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 17, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following subsection:

"(2) Where the proposals submitted by bodies referred to insubsection (1) are not incorporated into the housing services plan, the housing authority shall furnish outline reasons for not incorporating those proposals.”.

When proposals are invited by an agency acting on the public's behalf, the proposals are listed and the agency may find it agrees with some of the proposals while disagreeing with others. The amendment places a responsibility on a statutory agency, in this case a local authority, when it disagrees with a submission to outline its reasons for doing so. This requirement goes beyond good manners. It places a level of accountability on local authorities to read reports and to give a clear position as to why suggestions are not being adopted.

Under the Part 8 structure, reports are already done in that way. The pros and cons are thrashed out, summarised and included in a copy of the report so that local public representatives can inform themselves before they vote on the report in the council chamber. I have come across Part 8 proposals with which local officials may have disagreed but whose validity was upheld in the council chamber. This amendment is a model of good practice in how to consult with the public and how local government should interact with the general public. I ask the Minister of State to accept it.

The addition of a statutory requirement on a housing authority to supply explanations for the reasons it might have for not fully taking on board proposals submitted during consultation on a housing services plan would not be appropriate. It would not serve any useful purpose in this instance.

It is important to strike the right balance between ensuring transparency in the forward planning processes of housing authorities and giving authorities the appropriate powers to do that effectively. The Bill as it stands strikes that balance and I do not propose to accept the Deputy's amendment.

I support the amendment in the interests of openness and transparency. To notify the public of its deliberations in this regard is the least a local authority should do. This stands to reason and I do not know why the Minister of State is not accepting the amendment. It seems to me to be common sense that a local authority would be obliged to give its reasons to the bodies concerned. I do no think it would harm anyone if the amendment were accepted. It would copperfasten the requirement for local authorities to give explanations for their deliberations.

It is the role of a housing authority to plan ahead for the provision of housing supports in its administrative area. I assume we all agree on that.

While we must provide for the maximum transparency in the strategic planning process and seek an input into the wider range of important issues and voices in the housing area, we must be also careful not to erode or over complicate the ability of a housing authority to plan ahead.

The important characteristic of this provision is that it will be undertaken in a public way and with appropriate consultation. There will be executive assessment by the manager and debate and adoption by elected members of the council. The Minister may for stated reasons require the housing authority to amend the draft plan so that the adopted plan takes full account of the matter specified in section 15. The adoption plan must be made available for public inspection, including on the Internet. In those circumstances, I ask Deputy Ciarán Lynch to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 26a not moved.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 19, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"19.—Each housing authority shall establish a process (in this section referred to as a "local homeless forum") within its administrative area for the purposes of developing and implementing a local homeless action plan. Each local homeless forum shall include approved bodies involved in the provision of housing and homeless services within the administrative area. Within 12 months of the passing of this Act and every 3 years thereafter, the local authority shall adopt a local homeless action plan. The plan shall be produced by the local homeless forum in each administrative area and shall:

(a) contain measures for the prevention of homelessness; the elimination of rough sleeping; the elimination of long term homelessness; the meeting of long term housing needs; the provision of effective provision of services for homeless people; co-ordinated funding arrangements;

(b) contain an overall vision, objectives, actions, output targets, timescales for achievement, indicative costs and proposed funding arrangements;

(c) be formally reviewed by the homeless forum on an annual basis;

(d) cover a three year period;

(e) in its preparation, approval, purpose, scope and structure be consistent with policies aimed at: eliminating long term homelessness; minimizing the risk of a person becoming homeless through effective preventative policies and services; ensure when a person becomes homeless they are assisted into appropriate long term housing.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 19, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"19.—Each housing authority shall establish a disability housing forum within its administrative area for the purposes of developing and implementing a local disability housing action plan. Each local disability forum shall include approved bodies involved in the provision of housing and housing support services within the administrative area. Within 12 months of the passing of this Act, the local authority shall publish a local action plan for housing people with a disability. The plan shall be produced by the local disability housing forum in each administrative area and:

(a) have four key aims; comprehensive assessment of the extent and nature of housing need; the meeting of unmet housing need, including support needs; the effective provision of services for persons with a disability in housing need; co-ordinated funding arrangements;

(b) contain an overall vision, objectives, actions, output targets, timescales for achievement, indicative costs and proposed funding arrangements;

(c) be formally reviewed by the disability housing forum on an annual basis;

(d) cover a three year period;

(e) take into account the national housing strategy for people with disability when that strategy comes into operation.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 19, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

"(c) ensure adequate provision of housing to promote the independence of persons with a disability;”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 20, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

"(2) (a) For the purposes of this Act a “homeless person” shall be defined as—

(i) a person who has no accommodation available to them other than a night shelter, a public place or external space,

(ii) a person who has no accommodation available to them other than a homeless hostel, transitional or temporary accommodation, sheltered accommodation; a person who has been released from state institutions such as penal, medical or care institutions; a person who has had to leave or cannot remain in their home due to domestic violence,

(iii) a person who has no accommodation available to them other than temporary accommodation with family or friends; illegal occupation of land; subject to legal orders to quit rented accommodation or repossession orders of privately owned accommodation; temporary structures, dwellings unfit for habitation or dwellings deemed by the housing authority as overcrowded, or

(iv) a person who in the opinion of the authority, is unable to provide accommodation from their own resources or is occupying accommodation which is inadequate or insecure.

(b) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that a person who had to leave or cannot remain in the home because of domestic violence is considered homeless.

(c) A person homeless by reason of domestic violence is eligible for the Priority Housing List under Exceptional Social Grounds.”.

This amendment defines "homeless person". At the risk of sounding repetitive, the absence of homelessness from the original Bill has almost become folklore. In fairness to the Minister of State, the guard has changed since the Bill was first published and as a result homelessness has been included. I commend him on taking on board the views of homeless groups and engaging with the MakeRoom campaign. However, while he has made amendments to the Bill following these consultations he has not remedied certain omissions.

I concur with the assertions of the MakeRoom campaign and homeless agencies that any strategy aimed at eliminating homelessness will have to begin by setting out a definition in legislation. It would be a glaring omission if we failed to define homelessness because local authorities will refer to the Bill. Local authority members are regularly faced with disputed figures on the numbers of homeless people in various parts of the country. My amendment would rectify that problem. As well as counting people who are living on the streets or in temporary arrangements, it offers a framework for eradicating homelessness.

While I would welcome a clear definition of "homeless person" I am not sure if we should accept all the definitions proposed in amendment No. 32. What is the current definition of "homeless person"? Does it merely mean a person who sleeps in a night shelter or on the street? Within a half mile of Leinster House one can see ten or 15 people asleep in doorways and other locations. Is a register kept of homeless people? We should be careful in adopting legislation which gives an overly broad definition of homelessness.

My amendment No. 33 is similar to amendment No. 32 and I am inclined to withdraw it in favour of that proposed by Deputy Ciarán Lynch. His amendment includes a number of additional definitions which I think would enhance the Bill. It is important that we define "homeless person". While the Housing Act 1998 provided the earliest legal definition of homelessness, it was overly restrictive and did not place a legal obligation on local authorities to provide services for the homeless.

The definition of homelessness developed by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, FEANTSA, must be included in our legislation in order to comply with human rights. This is the purpose of my amendment and amendment No. 32. A home-based definition is required which classifies homeless people according to their life situations. Such a definition should include rough sleepers, people who are threatened with eviction or suffering domestic violence and those who occupy inadequate housing. An inclusive definition would protect the most vulnerable in society.

I welcome the intervention by MakeRoom and wonder why the Government is reluctant to include a definition in the Bill. Some local authorities set good examples on dealing with homelessness but others have failed in their duties. Even the best authorities, however, cannot address the shortage of housing without adequate resources. I am aware of one family with four children in Dublin who have been on the homeless list for more than three years. They have lived in bed and breakfasts and temporary accommodation while the local authority's homeless section decided on their fate. That sort of insecurity is not good for the family, the local authority or society in general because it can lead to further problems. In the recent past, large numbers of people appeared to be sleeping rough in the Phoenix Park. There appear to be increasing numbers of people sleeping in doorways in this city. It will be interesting to learn, when the local authority statistics are compiled, how many people are sleeping rough. While this problem was being addressed there has been, as a result of the economic downturn, an increase in the number of people sleeping in cars and doorways and illegally occupying land and squats. Let us not forget this is happening at a time when a vast amount of new accommodation remains idle. It is important a definition of homelessness is provided and that from that definition flow the resources and duties required of us as a society, and of the local authority, to provide homeless persons with a roof over their heads, thus ensuring no person is homeless.

The key line missing from my amendment but included in Deputy Lynch's amendment is "a person who has had to leave or cannot remain in their home due to domestic violence". I regret there appears to be an increase in domestic violence and a growth of abuse in society. We must ensure that people facing that type of threat on a daily basis are given the opportunity to escape such circumstances. They must receive a classification which allows them to be properly and adequately housed elsewhere. I believe the definition will be enhanced by the inclusion of that provision. I hope the Minister of State will be able to accept this provision thus ensuring that a person homeless by reason of domestic violence is eligible for priority housing and does not end up languishing in a refuge for months or years before the local authority is compelled to act to house or rehouse him or her.

It is often said that a Government is judged on how it deals with the most vulnerable people in society. Clearly, the fact that the problem of homelessness was not dealt with during the Celtic tiger years makes it more difficult to remedy the situation now.

I commend the MakeRoom campaign which has lobbied me and other spokespersons on this issue in terms of getting the Government to accept a clearer definition of homelessness. Perhaps the Minister of State will say with what part of the definitions put forward by Deputies Lynch and Ó Snodaigh he is unhappy. I commend the Minister of State on his personal interest in tackling the homelessness issue, on his vision to eliminate homelessness by 2010 and the fact that he has accepted this is an issue requiring to be tackled in this legislation.

I thank the Deputies who have acknowledged the work we have been doing through the homeless strategy, which I launched in August 2008 and which has been a work in progress since then.

On amendments Nos. 32 and 33, we discussed Deputy Lynch's amendment in some detail on Committee Stage. The amendment proposed by Sinn Féin seeks to provide a new statutory definition of homelessness. I outlined to the select committee the practical actions being taken by my Department and local authorities to alleviate the difficulties of homeless people and to provide a consistent basis for practical implementation of the existing definition of homelessness across all local authority areas.

In addition, work is currently being undertaken by the homeless agency, in partnership with the Centre for Housing Research, to develop a position paper on the application of a statutory definition for the Dublin area. This paper will input into the review to be taken to the cross-departmental team on homelessness in consultation with the National Homeless Consultative Committee. In that context, the Government has decided the existing definition is adequate and does not require updating.

For the benefit of the House, the existing definition of "homelessness" as contained in section 2 of the Housing Act 1988 defines a person as homeless if (a) there is no accommodation available, which in the opinion of the authority, he or she, together with any other person who resides with him or her or who might reasonably be expected to reside with him or her, can reasonably occupy or remain in occupation of or, (b) he or she is living in a hospital, county home, night shelter or other such institution, and is so living because he or she has no accommodation of the kind referred to in paragraph (a) and he or she is, in the opinion of the authority, unable to provide accommodation from his or her own resources. Generally, the definition is interpreted as including persons living in temporary or insecure accommodation, people living in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation, hostels or HSE accommodation because they have no other accommodation available to them. Rough sleepers are also included in that category as are victims of family or domestic violence.

It is important to point out that a review is under way to see how the definition of homelessness is being applied operationally and to ensure it is applied consistently across all local authorities. We have been proactive in the homeless area. Also, I should point out for the benefit of the House that there has been in recent times a decrease of 41%, down from 185 to 110, in the number of people sleeping rough. A particular aim of the homeless strategy, which it is hoped will be implemented, is that nobody will remain in emergency accommodation, such as bed and breakfast accommodation, for more than six months. That is one of the three main aims of the homeless strategy. I do not intend to accept the amendments.

Much of what the Minister of State has stated in his reply is dependent on the interpretation of the provisions by one housing official as compared with another. One often finds that one has to argue a case on behalf of a constituent. I maintain that a person who can readily show there is not available to him or her a bedroom for sleeping should be included in the homeless category. I have come across a couple of people who were forced out of rented accommodation for one reason or another. I know of a mother with three children all of whom sleep in a living room because every other room in the House is full owing to the size of the family. They are unable to go to sleep until everybody has gone to bed and as such should be categorised as homeless. The alternative is for them to sleep in the street, thus qualifying as homeless persons. This mother and three children should be treated as a special category. The fact that a person living in a hostel can be regarded as a homeless person and that a mother with three children who is forced to sleep in a living room is not regarded as homeless appears peculiar.

If the Minister of State is unable to accept the amendments I would ask that he consider issuing guidelines to local authorities that are consistent with each local authority and to ensure it is not left to individual officers to decide whether a person should be on a homeless list. We need consistency among the local authorities. It should be a policy in each of the housing areas.

I am sorry I was late but there is one more point I wish to make. Section 18(3) states: "The manager shall provide a copy of the housing action programme to the Minister, the members of the housing authority and the members of any borough council or town council situated in the administrative area of the housing authority." I believe a Member of the Oireachtas should be included in this. This applies to other sections of the Bill as well. People come to Members of the Oireachtas who, because the dual mandate has disappeared, may be totally unaware of changes that were made by way of regulation and so on. They should be informed automatically. The section is correct in that it is an attempt to keep public representatives informed, but it should automatically include Members of the Oireachtas in view of the fact that the dual mandate is no longer in existence.

We were promised that when the dual mandate was abolished but we never got it.

It is a pity the Minister cannot find it in himself to consider the points included in this amendment. I still do not understand the reluctance to enhance the existing definition by accepting the definition of a homeless person. The definition as presented is adequate and this is an important issue. I welcome the practical actions being taken by the Department and local authorities in addressing homelessness. I hope the figures for those sleeping rough announced by the Minister are borne out over the next number of months. It might be anecdotal, but from what I have seen there seems to have been an increase. However, it may just be that there is a greater concentration in certain areas.

This era of recession is a challenge to everyone but particularly to those who are most vulnerable in our society. We should ensure we put in place the necessary protections for people who end up homeless and ensure that they have priority service from the local housing authority.

With regard to the point made by Deputy Barrett, I cannot deal with that matter under this amendment. On the issue of homelessness, rather than getting bogged down in the semantics of how homelessness is defined, providing a consistent basis for the practical implementation of the definition across local authority areas is a more meaningful approach in terms of delivering the necessary supports for homeless people. We have made it clear in the homeless strategy and in the course of our engagement with representatives of service providers in the MakeRoom alliance that we will be reviewing the application of the definition. I have outlined my reasons for not accepting the amendments and on that basis I ask the Deputies to withdraw them.

Will this Bill be going back to the Seanad?

Yes, presumably.

Could the Minister of State not table an amendment in the Seanad to have Members of the Oireachtas included in the list of persons to be circulated by the manager?

They are supposed to be included.

In any event, Deputy Lynch wishes to reply.

I thank the other Members for their contributions. In response to Deputy Barrett's comments, we are on Report Stage and there is no other chance to table an amendment, so perhaps the Minister might instruct local authority managers by means of a directive to ensure that the circular is issued to Oireachtas Members.

There are a number of points to be addressed, but the critical one is this: if we do not have a definition for a problem, how do we know when we have solved it? It is a goal shared by everybody on all sides of the House to eradicate the problem of homelessness rather than merely dealing with it. As Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, the inclusion of a reference to domestic violence in the definition of homelessness arises from the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 1996. The development of this Act was on one simple premise — that we must have a definition of domestic violence — and out of that definition of domestic violence a whole series of new legislation was created.

I do not accept the Minister's response that the existing definition as included in the legislation is inadequate. A series of reviews of this legislation seem to be taking place concurrently, but the place for reviews is in legislation. I do not know when we will see another Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill before the House — it could be in a couple of months' time or in a couple of years — so now is the opportune moment to deal with it. The amendment was drawn up in consultation with the MakeRoom campaign and the stakeholders have been included. It is not simply that the amendment is acceptable; it deserves to be included in the Bill. Thus, I am pressing the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 33 not moved.

Amendment No. 34, which arises out of Committee Stage proceedings, is related to Nos. 36, 38 and 39, and these amendments may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 20, line 22, after "support" to insert the following:

"with due regard to the desire of persons with a disability to sustain independent living".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 20, line 45, after "alternative" to insert "and appropriate".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 20, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following:

"(f) in the case of a person with a disability, the requirement to support independent living;”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 21, line 5, to delete "A household" and substitute the following:

"Save in exceptional circumstances relating to inability to pay rent a household".

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 21, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

"(e) the maximum period in which an applicant for social housing who is a person with a disability shall stay in accommodation unsuited to their needs.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 21, after line 47, to insert the following:

"(9) In carrying out a social housing assessment in the case of a person with a disability, a housing authority may disregard the accommodation that person is occupying where that person is currently living with others.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 40 arises from Committee Stage proceedings and is related to Nos. 44, 50 to 52, inclusive, 54 to 56, inclusive, 60 and 166. These amendments may be discussed together.

Is No. 53 included in the discussion?

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 22, line 2, to delete "before the commencement of this section" and substitute "before the coming into operation of this section".

Amendments Nos. 40, 44, 50 to 52, inclusive, 54 to 56, inclusive, 60 and 166 are drafting amendments recommended by the Parliamentary Counsel to replace the word "commencement" with the phrase "coming into operation" in seven places in the Bill, and the word "purchasing" with the phrase "the purchase of" in three places.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 40a:

In page 23, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

"(d) The Minister shall ensure that housing authorities allocate dwellings in a timely manner.”.

The commendable objective in this amendment is one with which everybody involved in the planning and delivery process would agree. However, it is neither appropriate nor necessary for inclusion as a statutory provision. I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive, are related and may be taken together.

To clarify, at the opening of the debate I indicated my intention to withdraw amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive, 46 and 47.

That is noted.

Amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 24, lines 33 to 35, to delete all words from and including "before" in line 33 down to and including "commencement" in line 35 and substitute the following:

"before the coming into operation of this section continues to have effect after such coming into operation".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 25, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

"(18) Before making or amending an allocation scheme, a housing authority shall provide a draft of the scheme or amendment to the scheme to housing authorities, voluntary sector housing and homeless service providers and other relevant bodies, who may respond to the proposed scheme or amendment to the scheme. The housing authority may amend the proposed scheme or amendment to the scheme. If the housing authority chooses not to amend the proposed scheme or amendment to the scheme they must explain the reasons in writing to the housing authority, voluntary sector provider of housing or homeless services or other relevant body if requested.".

This relates to an earlier amendment of mine. There is an obligation on local authorities not only to communicate correspondence to other partners in the area of social housing but to provide explanations of any submissions made. Instead of simply being presented with a finished product, there must be a draft process whereby the allocation scheme and how it is structured, if it is to be changed, can be examined by the relevant agencies and further submissions made where appropriate. It is a question of good local government practice.

If one can go so far as to describe it as a positive opportunity, the reduction in house prices has created a situation where we can look more creatively at housing strategies into the future, notwithstanding the possibility that local authorities may no longer have the resources to develop housing strategies. What is required is a dynamic between all the partners engaged in the housing sector, including homeless, voluntary and co-operative housing programmes. There must be a mechanism whereby other stakeholders can make a contribution at draft stage.

I support the amendment. The bodies referred to in the amendment should not be kept in the dark regarding proposed amendments to a housing allocation scheme. Deputy Barrett made the point earlier that Oireachtas Members should also be notified of any amendments. Local authorities seem to treat Members as second class public representative simply because we do not attend council meetings and cannot take officials to task face-to-face or in the presence of the press. All public representatives, including Oireachtas Members, should be notified of any amendments to housing allocation schemes. It makes no sense that the bodies referred to in this amendment are not automatically notified of proposed draft amendments. It is only logical that they would and should have an input into any changes.

This is an important amendment. I have been trying for some time to encourage the Minister to deal with the various allocation schemes and schemes of lettings. For example, Dublin City Council has submitted a draft to the Minister and it has gone back and forth for some time. There must be scope for discussion in order to ensure these schemes are fit for purpose. That is what the amendment seeks to do. It makes sense that those bodies working at the coalface and which have an understanding of the process should have an opportunity to offer advice. All that is required is that the draft be circulated. I agree with Deputy McCormack that Oireachtas Members should also be included in the process. However, what is most important is that those bodies in the voluntary sector, including NABCo, Clúid and so on, understand the types of schemes the local authority is operating and can ascertain whether there are any implications for their own operations. This is a reasonable and not particularly onerous proposal. A timeframe can be imposed in order to ensure there is no undue delay between draft and completion of an allocation scheme.

The making of an allocation scheme is a reserved function of the elected members of the housing authority. As such, it is a matter for those members to agree the terms of the allocation scheme in accordance with the legislative framework set out in the section. I do not intend to interfere with that. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Nobody disputes that it is a matter for the elected members to adopt a housing allocation scheme. However, when the draft of a scheme is introduced or amendments are proposed at draft stage, there is nothing wrong in seeking representations or submissions from the bodies referred to in this amendment. In the case of county or city development plans, for instance, drafts must be made available to all interested parties before elected members adopt the scheme. It would not in any way interfere with the rights and responsibilities of elected members if the draft of a housing scheme were to be made available to various bodies, including the Oireachtas, so that there is an opportunity to make submissions before the elected members ultimately adopt the allocation regulations.

With regard to the allocation scheme, if it is a reserved function, why does it end up going to the Minister? Obviously, the Minister gets to insert his or her tuppence worth. We are seeking to ensure the other stakeholders in this have some say or can give advice before the local authority members and the city or county manager have the final say in the scheme.

The Minister's resistance to accepting this amendment appears to be based on whether it is a reserved or executive function. Ultimately, the general public, stakeholders and agencies that deal with local authorities, be it the officials or public representatives, deserve the same quality and type of approach. Consultations should take place with public representatives as much as with staff in the city or county hall. The Minister, in discriminating between one as executive and the other as reserved, is not putting up a strong enough case to reject the amendment. The objective of the amendment is to provide for good practice guidelines. There should be such guidelines for elected representatives and full-time officials of local authorities.

The housing authority is the body with overall responsibility for the delivery of the housing programme, specifically with regard to assessments and allocations. The authority will undertake the assessment of need in accordance with the new arrangements to be set out in regulations. It seems appropriate that it would have full responsibility for making an allocation scheme for determining the order of priority for allocation of dwellings. An allocation scheme will be a public document. The amendment was considered and rejected by the select committee and I do not propose to accept it now.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 45a:

In page 26, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(c) attends a pre-tenancy course as required by the housing authority on the conditions of tenancy.".

This amendment was discussed briefly on Committee Stage when I referred to an important Government amendment, that was agreed, providing for a more comprehensive listing of housing services in section 10 of the Bill by including support other than the provision of accommodation or financial assistance to households who were formerly homeless or to tenants of dwellings of which the housing authority is the owner or dwellings which are provided under a rental accommodation type arrangement. The type of assistance envisaged is support services to assist formerly homeless tenants to sustain and continue their tenancies and supports generally to assist tenants of local authority owned dwellings. The supports would include settlement services, outreach, advice, tenant training in estate management, research support, production of tenant handbooks and the employment of tenant liaison officers. In the circumstances, I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 not moved.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 30, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

"28.—A tenant of a local authority who whether before or after the commencement of this section purchases a fee simple from the authority may alienate the fee simple without the consent of the authority.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 49, 69, 70, 75, 77, 78, 81 and 83 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 30, line 43, to delete "Part 3” and substitute “Part 3 or 4”.

These are stylistic and drafting amendments in Parts 2 and 3 of the Bill to delete or insert commas, to improve and clarify the meaning of text, to provide more accurate references and to delete unnecessary content. They have been recommended by the Parliamentary Counsel.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 34, line 28, to delete "its commencement" and substitute "its coming into operation".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 35, line 29, to delete "before the commencement of" and substitute "before the coming into operation of".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 35, line 38, to delete "after the commencement" and substitute "after the coming into operation".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 53 is proposed by the Minister and Deputy Ciarán Lynch and arises from Committee Stage proceedings.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 36, line 5, to delete "2007" and substitute "2008".

As promised at the select committee, I examined the citation of the Health Acts in conjunction with the Parliamentary Counsel. The correct citation is the Health Acts 1947 to 2008 and this amendment provides accordingly. I thank Deputy Ciarán Lynch for bringing this matter to my attention.

This is probably the only success I will achieve this afternoon so I might as well make the most of it. Every day I spend in the House I am usually surprised and boggled. When I moved the amendment on Committee Stage, it was abundantly clear it was a technical amendment. I do not know what the procedures are in minute detail but I am learning them as I spend more time in the House. There was a glaring mistake in the Bill. A date was misplaced and I cannot understand why it could not simply have been corrected on Committee Stage. Obviously, there are certain procedures and blockages, but in the wider debate on Dáil reform this is a classic example of how it could reform. Although a mistake was obvious and could be rectified there and then, it was necessary to go from Committee Stage to this Stage for "2007" to be removed from the Bill and "2008" to be inserted. The amount of work that had to be done again on Report Stage to rectify this defies belief. It is bewildering. I thank the Minister for taking on board the amendment, but he had to accept it anyway. The Act was cited incorrectly.

I thank the Deputy twice.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 37, line 1, to delete "purchasing" and substitute "the purchase of".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 37, line 3, to delete "purchasing" and substitute "the purchase of".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 37, line 4, to delete "purchasing" and substitute "the purchase of".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 57:

In page 37, line 26, to delete "subsection (5)” and substitute “subsection (5) or (6), as the case may be,”.

This amendment inserts in section 32(7) a reference to subsection (6) in addition to the existing reference to subsection (5) following the insertion of a new subsection (6) on Committee Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 58:

In page 38, to delete line 10 and substitute the following:

"(a) sections 28, 31, 32(8) and (9), 47(4), 48(5) and (6), 75(4), 76(5), 98 and 99;”.

Section 33 provides that interest is payable on overdue payments to housing authorities in respect of specified rents, loans or clawbacks. This amendment would enable housing authorities to charge interest on overdue payments in respect of three purchase scheme transactions, namely, payments due to housing authorities from purchasers under either the incremental purchase scheme or the tenant purchase scheme of apartments, in respect of the outstanding charge on properties at the expiration of the charge period arising from suspensions of the incremental releases on the authorities' charged share and under the tenant purchase of apartment scheme in respect of the outstanding charge on apartments following the resale and during the charge period.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 59:

In page 38, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following subsection:

"(5) Where exceptional circumstances arise such that arrangements undersection 34(2) cannot be put in place without causing undue hardship, a housing authority may cancel the obligation of a household to pay part or all of the moneys referred to in that section.”.

I cannot accept this amendment. The provisions already in the Bill for the operation of a hardship clause provide sufficient and appropriate steps that are also sufficiently flexible to allow housing authorities to operate them in a sensible manner. I ask the Deputy to withdraw this amendment.

How stands amendment No. 59?

I wish to press the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 60 was discussed already with amendment No. 40.

I move amendment No. 60:

In page 39, lines 1 and 2, to delete "the commencement of" and substitute "the coming into operation of".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 61 to 68, inclusive, and 68a and 68 b are related. Amendment No. 62 is a technical alternative to amendment No. 61. Amendments Nos. 61 to 68, inclusive, and 68a and 68 b will be discussed together. I call on Deputy Ó Snodaigh to move amendment No. 61.

Níl sé anseo. The amendment cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 61 not moved.

I move amendment No. 62:

In page 39, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

"(a) the taking of rapid and effective action to terminate the tenancy of any household where a member or members of that household have engaged in anti-social behaviour,”.

Anti-social behaviour in society generally, and in local authority housing estates, has become a plague of modern living to such an extent that facilities which in other countries would be seen as of benefit to a local community have now become a considerable burden for those communities. These include facilities such as a public park, an alley way, a grove or a woodland area that should add value not only to cost of people's homes but also to the quality of life in local communities.

The Minister of State proposes to introduce measures in the Bill to combat anti-social behaviour in local authority estates. When examined, however, those measures do nothing other than add further bureaucratic duties to local authority staff.

I propose actions that local authorities can take. These will not only create a local anti-social behaviour strategy for which an anti-social behaviour officer must tick off boxes but when that officer comes across such behaviour he or she will be able to take meaningful and direct action. I ask the Minister of State to support amendment No. 62 and the House to adopt it.

If amendment No. 61 had been moved we could have discussed amendments Nos. 61 to 68, inclusive, and Nos. 68a and 68b together. It has not been moved but this does not mean the amendments are not related. We will discuss amendments Nos. 62 to 68, inclusive, and Nos. 68a and 68b together.

Anti-social behaviour causes grave concern in certain cases. Many neighbours feel helpless in this regard and this amendment would certainly strengthen the possibility of achieving something concrete to deal with anti-social behaviour.

The situation can arise in local authority or other housing estates where neighbours are forced to move out because of anti-social behaviour rather the problems that affect neighbours being tackled. These matters can start very simply, among siblings of neighbours, with corrections or disputes in playgrounds. They build up to become a major problem for households when instead there should be a system of tackling them from the beginning by liaison officers, housing support agencies or agencies such as those mentioned in the amendment. These would be in a position to nip the behaviour in the bud before it develops into a major confrontation which destroys the lives, not only of those who engage in such behaviour, but also of their neighbours. Anti-social behaviour has a complete and absolute effect on the community and gives it a bad name. People say then that they would not take a house in estate X, Y or Z because there was anti-social behaviour going on and they would not like to live there. Others seek transfers out of such areas because of the anti-social behaviour.

The issue extends further. I do not know whether anything can be done about this but I raised the matter on Committee Stage. Is there any recourse for the local authority where anti-social behaviour can be proved beyond doubt and when the authority has investigated it? Eventually a tenant can be evicted for anti-social behaviour but by the time that stage is reached so much harm has been done that the problem is not resolved. Another person is made homeless and there will be repercussions against the person who reported the behaviour. If those situations could be tackled from the beginning it would be to the benefit of everybody in the estate as well as for neighbours.

There are also cases of anti-social behaviour among people on rent supplements in private estates. They receive taxpayers' money to pay their rent and if they engage in anti-social behaviour, the HSE, which supplies them with the rent supplement, has no recourse of any kind. It cannot evict anybody. I might ring up the HSE and report that in such and such a house the tenant on rent supplement is reported to be responsible for anti-social behaviour. I might ask for the situation to be investigated but I will be told the HSE can do nothing about it. It claims it neither evicts anybody nor stops the rent supplement, that it is not the business of the HSE but a matter for the Garda Síochána. Once the Garda Síochána is brought in, the job will be finished in any case because there will be no chance of reconciliation between neighbours if that happens.

However, let us consider a system whereby the health authority is able to investigate the anti-social behaviour and, if the matter is proved, can stop rent supplement for a fortnight or three weeks. The landlord would not be long coming then to sort out the anti-social behaviour if his rent were to be stopped for that period. At present, the landlord does not give a damn. He or she may live in another part of the country, or Europe, or the world and has no notion whatsoever of sorting out the anti-social behaviour as long as the rent arrives every week and the HSE continues to pay the rent supplement.

Perhaps the Minister of State cannot do anything about that in this Bill but it must be looked into at some stage. That type of anti-social behaviour must be tackled in situations where taxpayers' money is involved in paying the majority of the rent for the house in question.

I appeal to the Minister of State. This amendment may help to sort out anti-social behaviour at the beginning, which is the important time to tackle such behaviour. Amendment No. 62 and the subsequent amendments we are considering cry out for action to sort the matter out, to liaise with tenants and neighbours who start out by having small differences, such as "My Johnny hit your Rosie coming home from school" type of incident. Next, the parents are involved and then it becomes an unstoppable avalanche, a rolling snowball that cannot be stopped. Simple intervention at the beginning would eliminate much anti-social behaviour and the causes or perceived causes of injustices practised by one neighbour on another.

The type of anti-social behaviour I shall talk about is not a matter of Johnny hitting little Mary on the way home from school. It is more serious than that in parts of Dublin.

Sometimes that can be the start of it.

I hope that is all that people have to contend with in Galway.

It is called the city of tribes.

In some housing estates, ordinary, decent people are trying to live quiet lives in the face of drug dealing——

That is not limited to Dublin.

——and gangsterism. As Deputy Ciarán Lynch stated, there is no strategy to address the problem. We need action. People should behave in a normal and reasonable way. Someone might turn music up too loud the odd time or upset people with a party, but these things happen and are not consistent. Sometimes, all one needs to do is look at a house to know. A local authority house costs a great deal of money, yet it could be in tatters and loud music could be coming from it. Drug dealing could be destroying other families in the estate. Children might not be allowed out because of intimidation.

A signed tenancy agreement is a legal document. The matter should be addressed in this respect. The agreements should be changed to oblige people to behave in a normal and reasonable way. I am not saying that someone cannot open his or her mouth. Everyone living next door to anti-social behaviour knows what it is. People attending our clinics are fearful due to intimidation. Telling them to put their complaints in writing to a local authority is all very well, but the average person wants to live a quiet life and is afraid to make a written complaint. A housing inspector should knock on the offenders' doors and warn them that, if they do not adhere to the tenancy agreements that they signed, tidy their front gardens, remove all of the rubbish and stop being nuisances to the area, action will be taken. If there is no improvement, the authorities should go to court to get eviction orders.

Why should the majority of decent, ordinary people live with such horror every day of the week? Transferring the offenders from one estate to another would do no good because they would just continue acting in the same way. People must know that they are subject to rules and regulations. It should be pointed out to them when they sign their tenancy agreements that these are conditions with which they must comply, not aspirations.

No housing authority will devise a strategy to address anti-social behaviour. The tenancy agreement should be the strategy and outline what one can and cannot do in a local authority house rented from the taxpayer. It is only fair and proper that ordinary, decent people who want to live their lives properly should not need to put up with what is, in many cases, gangsterism. Such behaviour has previously led to flying squads threatening people and taking the law into their own hands. That is not the way to solve this problem either.

I ask that the House consider this matter seriously, as it is one issue in which the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, as the housing supremo, should insist on the wording of tenancy agreements. Likewise, it should insist that local authorities adhere to agreements and take action.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by previous speakers. There have been instances of appalling intimidation of ordinary, law-abiding citizens. They mind their houses and comply with every rule and regulation but are intimidated at every turn and have their houses stoned and egged and their windows broken. Crowds of gougers sit on walls throughout the night and intimidate people, including small children, womenfolk and the elderly. Many people who have lived in those estates all of their lives have left because they could not stick the situation any longer.

It is a sad reflection on society that we seem incapable of doing anything about this. I wish to put on record the types of action available for use. For example, a local authority can take action through a tenant liaison officer, but nothing ever occurs. Some estates in my constituency are virtually derelict. Like a virus, anti-social behaviour spreads from one end of an estate to the other. When the gougers realise that they can get away with it, they continue.

Deputy McCormack raised a question on private rented houses. The law exists in that respect and action can be taken through the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB. For example, rent support can and has been withdrawn. The HSE has always been reluctant to withdraw rent support, but I assure the House that it has done so more than once in the face of stiff resistance. However, there is the rule of law and no one should need to put up with the antics of lunatic neighbours simply because a State institution pays the neighbours' rent. That would be crazy.

We must recognise the fact that anti-social behaviour is no longer restricted to local authority areas. It just so happens that those areas are the ones over which the Department and local authorities have most control. There is an emerging absolute disregard for the property of others, any kind of authority and anyone who is weaker, smaller, younger or older than the perpetrators. I do not know what can be done. Unless it is done soon, however, a serious issue will arise and evoke a serious reaction from ordinary, law-abiding citizens. Anti-social behaviour is appalling. Incidentally, the Department is paying for major refurbishment programmes to repair the wanton damage done by people who could not care less.

I support these well-placed amendments. However, discussing the issue is of no benefit unless we do something about it. The PRTB can take action in respect of private rented property and the HSE is bound to withdraw rent support if a complaint is valid. The Minister of State must respond in some fashion to the antics of those who want to take over local authority housing estates to pursue their own lawlessness.

We are dealing with amendment No. 62. Hopefully, the genius who changed the screens so that we can no longer read the amendment numbers might fix the problem through Dáil reform. I missed my previous amendment, No. 61, because of it, but the amendments under discussion address the same issues, namely, anti-social behaviour and the rights and wrongs of local authorities in that respect.

I agree with Deputy Ciarán Lynch's amendment No. 62 because a rapid system of action is necessary after the normal system of checks and balances has been used. Eviction is to be used as a last resort after preventative and other interim processes, such as warning letters, interviews and case conferences, have been exhausted. It is a question of proportionality. The rapid system must not be used as a punishment. There must be a remedy, otherwise people will become homeless. While this will be through their own fault, society will need to address the problem.

Other jurisdictions use different schemes and we must consider how to take the best of what they do. The local authority in Glasgow made a presentation about what it does to address persistent anti-social behaviour. The family in question will be moved to a separate location and work will be done with them for a number of months until the problems are addressed.

Other Deputies have addressed the problems that can arise in detail. I could go on and on about incidents in private and public housing in my area, such as Dolphin's Barn and Rialto, which have been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently. There are even private landlords who are trying to address anti-social elements. The fact that rent supplement is not always paid to the landlord but to tenants can make landlords fearful they will lose the rent if they move against those tenants or challenge them.

There is a reluctance in some areas to allow social housing because of the reputation of some estates. The RAS scheme, where a landlord decides to take local authority tenants, often involves private estates where in the past local authorities might have bought houses.

This whole area also deals with voluntary housing schemes and how they address anti-social behaviour. The rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords must be spelled out. Potentially one or two bad tenants can bring down an entire area so we must ensure the proper supports exist for the local authority to address this. If there is drug dealing, it is a matter for the gardaí and requires additional support.

Some of the problems can been addressed through extra resources for the local authority. In my area in some houses they were breeding vicious dogs. No one knew about it because the neighbours were not saying anything. Eventually the local estate management officers were informed and they acted quickly because the matter was covered by the tenancy agreement. The problem then arose that the family reacted against the neighbours who they presumed were the ones who "squealed" on them. It was not the neighbours, it was someone else who was concerned about animal welfare.

There is also the issue of tenants on drugs or who are drunk who destroy the property and then expect the local authority to fix it. That cannot continue. Even if the tenant is evicted, there is a huge loss to the local authority because it must spend time and money doing up that house. There are persistent offenders, with threats, robberies, joy riding, intimidation and even prostitution in some of these houses.

The promotion of good estate management is of vital importance and measures to address anti-social behaviour are key. It is important that local authorities are seen to take the sort of rapid and effective action that is called for in this amendment. If it does not happen it discourages other tenants from coming forward with information about abuse of the property of the people, paid for through their taxes. If they do not see any response from the local authority or gardaí, they will do what many people are doing, they will keep their heads down, say it is nothing to do with them and hope the matter will go away.

I urge the Minister of State to consider the amendments dealing with anti-social behaviour. They are intended to ensure local authorities are not handcuffed but that they are free to deal with the issue as effectively as possible within the confines of human rights legislation. Other tenants and neighbours, however, also have rights. There are duties incumbent on local authorities as landlords and rights and responsibilities for tenants.

On Committee Stage there was a detailed discussion of issues relating to anti-social behaviour. Today we have seen again that many Deputies have contributed because there are always strong feelings about this issue.

Section 35 of the Bill contains significant provision to strengthen existing powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, including the introduction of anti-social behaviour strategies by housing authorities to provide for co-operation between bodies, procedures for the making of complaints, initiatives for the prevention and reduction of anti-social behaviour and other amendments to the 1997 Act.

I outlined to the committee why certain Opposition amendments were inappropriate and unnecessary and why it has not been possible to bring forward further amendments in this area due to legal proceedings that are currently underway. These arguments continue to apply and I do not propose to accept any of the amendments.

I wish the State and the local authorities well in those cases because if the worst happens much of the good work done by local authorities will be lost. We have prepared legislation before to deal with what might arise in the event of a court case. I ask the Minister of State to ensure if the courts find against a local authority that emergency legislation is in place in order that the whole tenancy agreement system is not put at risk by an adverse court decision. Even without waiting for an adverse decision we should prepare more robust legislation to ensure that whatever happens in the court, even if it is favourable, local authorities have additional powers to address anti-social behaviour at all levels.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 63:

In page 39, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"(a) procedures for the rapid termination of the tenancy of any household where a member or members of that household have engaged in anti-social behaviour;”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 39, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

"(d) formal detail of how the housing authority plans to implement and resource its anti-social behaviour strategy;

(e) rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords;

(f) protocols and procedures for responding to anti-social behaviour that are compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights;

(g) protocols and procedures for evictions that are compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 40, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

"(d) relevant residents, community and voluntary sector organisations,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 66:

In page 40, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"(6) Without prejudice to any power conferred by the Act of 1997 or otherwise, a housing authority may without notice terminate the tenancy of any tenant who has engaged in anti-social behaviour.".

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 54; Níl, 64.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lee, George.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 67:

In page 40, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"(6) For the purposes of this section domestic violence is included within the term anti-social behaviour, and guidelines under this section shall ensure that victims of domestic violence are not disadvantaged or put at increased risk as a result of the operation of anti-social behaviour powers.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 68:

In page 40, to delete lines 11 to 16 and substitute the following:

"(7) A person against whom steps are taken to prevent or address anti-social behaviour shall not have any right of action against the housing authority in respect of any allegation that the housing authority has not complied with the anti-social behaviour strategy.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 68a:

In page 40, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"(8) The anti-social behaviour strategy shall make provision for the monitoring of behaviour of an applicant for a dwelling under this Act and take into account any breaches by a household, or any member thereof, of the anti-social behaviour strategy in determining their candidacy for the provision of a dwelling under this Act.".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 68b not moved.

I move amendment No. 69:

In page 47, line 23, to delete "casual vacancies, re-appointment" and substitute "casual vacancies and re-appointment".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 70:

In page 48, line 47, before "where" to insert "insubsection (1)”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 71 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 72, 102, 104, 111, 156, 158, 159 and 160 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 72:

In page 50, to delete lines 35 to 37 and substitute the following:

"(f) such other terms and conditions relating to the sale of the dwelling as may be prescribed for the purposes of a transfer order.”.

These amendments substitute a revised provision in eight places in the Bill to make it clear that it is the Minister, not the housing authority, who will prescribe such other terms and conditions relating to the transfer order for incremental purchase, an apartment complex transfer order, an apartment transfer order, an apartment assignment order, a direct sales agreement under Part 5, an affordable dwelling purchase arrangement, an affordable dwelling transfer order and an open market dwelling.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 73:

In page 51, line 3, after "shall" to insert the following:

", subject to such regulations as may be made undersection 49,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 74:

In page 51, line 37, after "purchaser" to insert "or a member of his or her household".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 75:

In page 52, line 45, to delete "section 40(4), 48(5) or (6)” and substitute “section 47 or 48”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 76:

In page 53, to delete lines 4 to 7 and substitute the following:

"(14) (a) On the occurrence of the earlier of the events specified in subsection (4)(a) and subject to the terms and conditions of the transfer order and of the charging order having been complied with, the housing authority or approved body, as the case may be, shall, where requested to do so by the purchaser, execute a deed of discharge in respect of the charging order.

(b) The housing authority or approved body, as the case may be, shall be liable for any expenses incurred in the execution and registration of a deed of discharge but shall not otherwise be liable for any expenses incurred by a purchaser under this section or under section 47 or 48.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 53, line 9, to delete ", in accordance withsubsection (3),”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 78:

In page 53, line 13, to delete "charging order" and substitute "transfer order".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 79 and 146 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 79:

In page 53, to delete lines 28 to 36 and substitute the following:

"(3) (a) Where a housing authority or approved body has suspended the reduction of the charged share under subsection (1), the housing authority or approved body, as appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable thereafter, notify the purchaser in writing of the suspension and the reasons for the suspension.

(b) The housing authority or approved body, as the case may be, shall, on the expiration of the charged period, give a statement to the purchaser in writing, in the prescribed form, indicating the amount of the charge outstanding under the charging order on the date of expiration of the charged period, which amount shall be expressed as a percentage of the market value of the dwelling, equivalent to the charged share of the housing authority or approved body, as appropriate, in the dwelling on that date calculated in accordance with subsection (2).”.

These amendments relate to the provisions already set out in Part 3 and Part 4 which allow a housing authority or an approved body to suspend incremental releases to a purchaser of a dwelling of incremental purchase arrangements or a housing authority to suspend incremental releases to a purchaser of an apartment under a new tenant purchase scheme for apartments where the purchaser or a member of the purchaser's household fail to comply with the terms and conditions of purchase.

The amendments specifically require that where a housing authority or an approved body under Part 3 or a housing authority under Part 4 invoke the suspension provisions they must notify the purchaser that releases have been suspended and of the reasons. At the end of the charge period, the housing authority or the approved body must then notify the purchaser of the amount owed by them to either the housing authority or approved body in respect of the amount of the charged share not released as a result of the suspension.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 80:

In page 53, line 40, to delete "apartment".

Section 47 deals with the suspension of the reduction of the charged share under Part 3 on the incremental purchase arrangements. Section 47(4)(b) mistakenly refers to “apartment purchaser” rather than to “purchaser” and this amendment deletes the word “apartment”. The purchase of apartments is dealt separately in Part 4.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 81:

In page 53, line 46, to delete "section 45(2)(a) to (f)“ and substitute “section 45(2)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 82:

In page 53, after line 46, to insert the following:

"(6) (a) For the purposes of this section, the market value of a dwelling shall be determined by the housing authority or approved body, as appropriate, or, where the purchaser does not agree with the market value so determined, by an independent valuer nominated by the purchaser from a panel of suitably qualified persons, established by the housing authority, who are of a class or description prescribed under section 49.

(b) The housing authority or approved body shall not be liable for any expenses incurred by the purchaser under paragraph (a).”.

This amendment is necessary to extend the provision for resolving disputes on the market value of the dwelling to provisions covering the suspension of the charge in section 47. It inserts into the incremental purchase suspension process a mechanism for resolving disputes between a purchaser and housing authority or approved body over the market value of a dwelling similar to that in place in section 48 with regard to the resale of dwellings during the charge period. It provides that in such a dispute the purchaser can nominate an independent valuer from the panel of valuers established by the housing authority to determine the market value of the dwelling. The cost of the external valuation is to be borne by the purchaser.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 83:

In page 54, line 2, to delete "undersection 46”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 84:

In page 55, to delete lines 1 to 5 and substitute the following:

"(8) (a) Subject to paragraph (b), where a purchaser resells a dwelling which is subject to a charging order the charged period of which has expired and in respect of which the amount referred to in section 47(3) has not been paid in accordance with that section, section 46(12) applies.”.

This amendment substitutes a new subsection 48(8)(a) which corrects a cross-reference to section 47(3) and redrafts the provision for clarity purposes only.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 85:

In page 55, line 32, after "authority" to insert "or approved body, as the case may be,".

The Bill provides that housing authorities and approved bodies may make dwellings available for sale under incremental purchase arrangements. Under arrangements for the resale of such dwellings the Bill provides that where a vendor does not agree with the market value as determined by the housing authority or the approved body, the vendor may seek an independent valuation from a panel of valuers. As it stands, the Bill provides that a housing authority is not liable for the expense incurred by the vendor engaging an independent valuer. Provision is now being made to ensure that the approved bodies in a similar way will not be liable for such expense either.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 86:

In page 56, line 17, to delete "section 46(5)” and substitute “sections 46(5) and 47(3)”.

The paragraph as currently drafted allows the Minister by regulation to prescribe the form of statement which a housing authority must give to a purchaser on request settling the number of incremental releases that had occurred to date. A similar power to prescribe the form of statement which an authority must give to a purchaser on suspension of the charge in accordance with section 47 is also required. This amendment allows for this provision with regard to section 47(3).

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 90, 98 and 99 are related to amendment No. 87 and they will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 56, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

""apartment complex transfer order" has the meaning given to it bysection 59;”.

Amendments Nos. 87 and 90 provide for the insertion of definitions in section 50 for the terms of "apartment complex transfer order" and "apartment transfer order" rather than referencing them in section 57. This will assist the reader of Part 4 dealing with the tenant purchase of apartments. Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 are consequential.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 88, 89, 91 to 93, inclusive, 95, 97, 101, 103, 106, 108, 110, 113 to 115, inclusive, 118 to 121, inclusive, 123, 127, 133 to 141, inclusive, 143 to 145, inclusive, 147 and 153 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 56, line 40, to delete "section 65(1)” and substitute “section 65(1)(b)”.

This large grouping contains stylistic and drafting amendments to Part 4 to delete or insert commas, improve and clarify the meaning of text, provide more accurate referencing and delete unnecessary content. They were recommended by the Parliamentary Counsel and I ask the House to support them.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 56, line 43, to delete "(including a community apartment)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 90:

In page 57, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

""apartment transfer order" has the meaning given to it bysection 60;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 91:

In page 57, line 28, to delete "on the open market".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 92:

In page 61, to delete lines 19 to 22 and substitute the following:

"(3) The housing authority may, with or without modification, adopt the draft proposal, submitted to it undersubsection (1), to designate the apartment complex (in this Part referred to as a “section 53 proposal”).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 93:

In page 63, to delete lines 2 to 9 and substitute the following:

"

Class of apartment complex determined by the number of apartments comprised therein of which the housing authority is the apartment owner

Minimum number of tenants in apartment complex willing to serve as directors of management company

Minimum proportion of all tenants in apartment complex willing to serve as directors of management company

(1)

(2)

(3)

".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 94:

In page 63, lines 34 and 35, to delete all words from and including ", in accordance" in line 34 down to and including "section," in line 35.

The text proposed to be deleted from section 56(1) is not necessary following a Committee Stage amendment that extended section 32 to empower the Minister to make regulations on applications to purchase apartments under Part 4. I ask the House to support the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 95:

In page 64, line 28, after "apartments" to insert "in the designated apartment complex concerned".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 96:

In page 65, line 8, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

Section 57 deals with the establishment and objects of the management company which is a cornerstone of the apartment sales scheme. Provided that the provisions of section 56(5) have been complied with the housing authority must establish a management company for the designated apartment complex. The reference to "may" in the Bill as currently drafted implies that the housing authority has some discretion in this matter. The amendment makes it clear that once the previous steps in the process have been taken the establishment of a management company is mandatory on the authority.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 97:

In page 65, line 13, to delete "where there are at least 5 but not more than 6" and substitute "where there are not more than 6".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 98:

In page 65, line 29, to delete "made undersection 59”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 99:

In page 65, line 36, to delete "made undersection 60”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 100:

In page 67, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

"(7) For the purposes ofsubsection (2)(h), “shadow director” and “connected person” have the same meanings as they have in the Companies Acts.”.

The provisions of section 58 relate to the annual meetings and reports of management companies established under the Companies Acts in designated apartment complexes. However, the section does not define the expressions of "shadow director" and "connected person" used in subsection 2(h). The amendment proposes to reference these two terms to the definitions contained in Part IV of the Companies Act 1990.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 101:

In page 67, line 13, to delete "or demise".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 102:

In page 67, to delete lines 47 and 48 and substitute the following:

"(e) such other terms and conditions as may be prescribed for the purposes of an apartment complex transfer order.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 103:

In page 68, line 9, after "order" to insert "for the purposes ofsection 59(1)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 104:

In page 68, to delete lines 42 to 44 and substitute the following:

"(f) such other terms and conditions relating to the lease of an apartment to the housing authority under this section as may be prescribed for the purposes of an apartment transfer order.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 105:

In page 68, after line 48, to insert the following:

"(5) In this section "material improvements" means improvements made to an apartment whether for the purposes of extending, enlarging or converting the apartment but does not include internal decoration and repair.".

The expression "material improvements" is defined in section 2 for the purposes of Parts 3 and 5 of the Bill only. However, as the expression is used once in Part 4, it requires definition here also. The amendment provides accordingly.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 106:

In page 69, line 5, after "granted" to insert "to the housing authority".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 107:

In page 69, line 10, to delete "authority; and" and substitute the following:

"authority, subject to any lease referred to insection 59(2)(b)(ii), and”.

The transfer of ownership of a designated apartment complex by the housing authority to a management company under section 59 is specified in subsection 2(b)(ii) to be subject to any existing lease between the housing authority and the purchasers of apartments sold under section 90 of the Housing Act 1966. Section 61 sets out the steps for restoring ownership of the complex to the housing authority in the event that no apartment is sold under Part 4 within the initial selling period. The proposed amendment makes clear that this transfer of ownership is also subject to any existing leases between the housing authority and the purchasers of apartments sold under section 90 of the Housing Act 1966. The effect of the amendment is that the management company transfers back to the housing authority leases which the authority originally granted to section 90 purchasers without otherwise affecting the terms of the leases. I ask the House to support the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 108:

In page 69, line 33, to delete "referred to" and substitute "specified".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 109:

In page 70, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(3) The Minister may by directive provide for a discount on the sale price of an apartment under this section where the sale is to a tenant who has been recorded by the council concerned as having requested the option of purchasing the apartment prior to the commencement of this section but who has been precluded from doing so by the absence of legislative provision in that behalf.".

The purpose of the amendment is to bring to a positive conclusion a long-standing problem by correcting an unjust and unfair anomaly affecting a specific group of local authority tenants. I first encountered the problem in 1992 while knocking on doors in the Ballyphehane area of Cork. A lady explained to me that she was prohibited from buying her home because it was a flat, whereas local authority tenants living in houses were able to purchase their homes. On my election to Cork City Council, I pursued the matter and quickly discovered that the problem did not reside with the council but with national legislation prohibiting certain council tenants from purchasing their homes.

In the intervening years, Deputy Kathleen Lynch and I and many others have sought to have legislation introduced to afford council tenants living in flats the right to buy their homes. A long time has passed — the Celtic tiger has come and gone, a property bubble has burst and the economy has fundamentally changed — and those who sought to buy their homes in the past have grown older and their financial circumstances have changed. The age profile of many of them prevents them from acquiring a mortgage because the minimum term of mortgages under standard arrangements is 20 years.

The amendment proposes to give tangible recognition to the campaign waged by tenants affected by the prohibition. I accept the legislation solves the overall problem by providing for the establishment of a legislative framework enabling tenants to purchase local authority flats. The Minister of State and his officials have done considerable work on the issue, as have other parties who were included in the design process for the new mechanism. Notwithstanding their efforts, however, under this legislation tenants who have been waiting for ten years or more to purchase their homes will pay exactly the same price as all other tenants who avail of the scheme. This provision is unfair and it is unfortunate the Minister did not address this anomaly in the Bill.

The inclusion in the Bill of a new mechanism enabling local authority tenants to purchase flats is due to the campaign conducted by residents of flats in Cork and Dublin seeking the right to purchase their homes. These local authority tenants have lobbied their public representatives on this issue for a decade or more. Having introduced the legislation only a couple of weeks ago, the Minister is rushing it through the House. Given the significance of the issue I raise, both in the past decade and no doubt in future years, it deserves to be debated in the House.

The legislation will radically alter the tenant purchase scheme. In the past, a tenant purchasing a home entered into an agreement with a local authority and received a discount of 3% on the property value for each year of tenancy, up to a maximum of ten years. In other words, tenants could obtain a discount of up to 30% on the value of the property. The legislation replaces the current discount mechanism with an equity discount of between 40% and 60%. As I noted, the new scheme will be available to new tenants as well as established tenants and, as such, does not take account of the years during which residents of flats were prevented from buying their homes.

As an Opposition spokesperson on housing, I am aware that I am constrained by Standing Orders in terms of the amendments I may table. For this reason, I chose not to take a prescriptive approach to this issue. The amendment was written with two considerations in mind. First, I sought to ensure it would not have financial implications that would result in it being ruled out of order, thus preventing debate on the issue and precluding the House from finding a solution to the problem. Second, I sought to give sufficient flexibility to the Minister to produce a satisfactory outcome. Ultimately, the amendment provides for a win-win scenario. If passed, it will provide for the establishment of a mechanism to rectify the problem I have described by allowing the Minister to introduce an appropriate discount by means of a directive.

I understand it will be some time before local authorities implement the provisions of the legislation, once enacted. The Minister has ample time to consider this amendment over the summer recess and when we return in the autumn and the sales start to go through the local authority systems, a proper discount system would be in place.

The amendment also aims to ensure a scenario does not develop whereby people who have not qualified, but who see an opportunity to slip into a programme that was not intended for them, can avail of it. The wording of the amendment is clear. It refers to those who have been recorded as having tried to make a purchase in the past, but who have been prohibited from doing so. The Minister is aware that more than 100, if not 200, test cases are pending in the courts in this regard. The issue has gone as far as the High Court. Rather than allow this issue to linger and fester on the steps of the courts, this amendment offers a clear solution. These court cases could be sidelined and the issue resolved through the acceptance of this amendment.

I welcome the overall legislative framework the Minister of State has put in place for the sale of flats. Some anomalies may arise with the operation of the legislation and further examination may be needed. However, I recognise what has been achieved overall. The Bill has been in the making for some time, but the issue has existed for many years. The framework that came to us on Committee Stage has an obvious shortcoming, it does not cater for the people who have caused this legislation to be made. The people responsible for the legislation before the House are not the Opposition Members who have put forward amendments or the Minister of State who has inserted a complete section regarding the sale of flats, but the people who have been campaigning for more than a decade for the right to buy their homes. One further piece of work remains to be done in that regard, namely, to include this amendment.

I do not believe there is any area in the country with a significant urban population that does not have a complex of local authority flats. These are usually three-storey blocks with ten or 12 flats in each. In Cork, the only area about which I am qualified to talk, most people who live in these local authority flats find themselves in a peculiar situation. I am aware, however, there have been several court cases with regard to flats in Dún Laoghaire and other parts of Dublin. The issue affects most major urban areas in the country.

What is unusual is that some people in Cork purchased their flats in 1994. When these people decided to purchase, the rent they had paid was taken into account, which meant most of them had little to pay to complete the purchase of their flats. A considerable number of people made an effort to purchase their flats at that stage, but were not successful because their homes were not for sale. Therefore, I do not believe it is fair for the Minister of State to say these people will be treated in the exact same manner as people who have suddenly decided now they want to purchase their flats. These people have gone to considerable effort to make their case. They could have gone to the local authority some years ago and said they wanted to move elsewhere because they were not permitted to purchase their homes. They could have decided to move to a house they could purchase. However, they did not do that. They stayed in their communities because they liked living there. They contributed to their communities and were the main contributors to the upkeep of the properties in which they live. They cut grass, contributed to the development of their community and paid rent, in the good times with the differential rent system. They paid a sizable rent, more than £100 in some cases and now well over €100.

The Minister of State cannot dismiss their case as if they were suddenly new kids on the block.

These people are entitled to be heard and recognised. They have consulted solicitors on the issue. They thought their case might be recognised through the courts or the law. They are now relying on this legislation. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider the amendment. It is the way to solve this problem. If the problem is not solved through this legislation, it will not go away. It will continue to fester and will be an issue at every election. These are determined people.

The Minister of State must note that, 20 years on, the legislation calls for these people to seek a mortgage to purchase their flats. We all know mortgages are time constrained. These people are now 20 years older. One woman, for example, has been trying to purchase her flat for the past 15 years. She had a good income and her husband had a good job, but now her husband can no longer work because of chronic arthritis. What recognition is there in the legislation for her efforts to purchase her flat? Where does it recognise that when she had the financial means to purchase her flat, she was not allowed to do so? Now she is being told that because of the financial situation, her home is beyond her reach. That is neither fair nor just. This amendment allows us a way around that.

We are not saying there should be a free for all or that everyone should be given this opportunity. What we are saying is that those who were prevented from buying their homes when they could should be given favourable consideration. It is straightforward and a matter of common justice. Above all else, that is what we should keep in mind when making legislation here. The amendment would give us a way out and I appeal to the Minister of State to give it serious consideration. If it is necessary for him to take it away for consideration, that is fine. Perhaps the officials need a second look at it. None of us would have a problem with that. However, the Minister of State must move on regardless today and leave these people sorer than they were to begin with.

I compliment Deputy Ciarán Lynch on this well-crafted amendment which allows the Minister of State the opportunity to address properly an issue that has over the years caused many people who live in local authority flat complexes to question the tenant purchase scheme.

The area I represent includes the south-west inner city, which has the highest concentration of local authority flats of anywhere in Europe. Many of the people in those flats are proud of their origins and of where they live, and have spent a good deal of money doing up their homes. Some of their homes resemble palaces; a similar pride in one's home might not be evident in many of the most expensive houses in the country. These people want to continue to live in their homes, but they would like to own them.

I have always had a problem with regard to the sale of local authority housing stock. The reason for my concern is that the moneys from such sales have not been properly reinvested in other local authority housing. That said, there is a way to deal with this at local authority level. Councils could take a decision that moneys returned should be reinvested or they should purchase or build 1.5 homes for every home sold. There should be a mechanism in place.

That should not prevent us from looking at all of the problems, anomalies and challenges of allowing people to purchase flats. Quite a bit of work has been done on this Bill which addresses some of those issues. There are still significant challenges out there, in terms of shared balconies, charges and the like, and I wish those who will be dealing with them at local authority level the best in trying to deal with the intricacies of the challenges.

This is a fair mechanism within the restrictions often put in amendments to allow the Minister to examine the issue again and reward these people for their patience in trying to deal with the discrimination that has occurred. Everybody else in local authority housing was able to benefit from the Millennium scheme. I have been dealing with some who did not benefit from it and are still looking for homes to be sold to them at the price they were offered some time ago.

People have waited and have asked local authorities time and again for permission to buy. I do not know how many questions I have asked about this since I was elected in 2002, but once or twice a year I have asked what the delay was in addressing the tenant purchase scheme for flats. It is appropriate that some recognition is given to the people who went to the trouble of recording their desire to purchase the flats. Everybody else can be dealt with in the normal scheme of things set out here and that is important.

It is important we are moving to that stage because it will create a better environment in many flat complexes, where there will be a mix of those who own their own flats and those who are living in local authority housing. That mix of people has worked well in the housing schemes, such as Part V and others, across the city. It creates challenges for everyone but it is the way forward and that has been accepted by everyone.

The only alternative I can see to the discount suggested is that the Minister of State agree that the sale price be set at the market value at the time these people expressed an interest. That would create a significant burden, namely, trying to figure out what the price was on a certain date ten or 15 years ago. That is why I am inclined towards setting a discount based on the time at which the people expressed an interest. Hopefully the Minister of State will be able take to it on board, even at this late stage, because it does not force him to do anything today. Rather, he can produce a directive or a regulation to the local authorities in line with what is proposed in this amendment.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to speak on this Bill, particularly amendment No. 109. I strongly support the amendment and I commend Deputy Lynch for tabling it. I support it because it sorts out the legislative aspect of the whole issue and debate. It is a strong, fair and decisive amendment and offers a solution to the particular problem.

In recent days there has been much talk about the property bubble and the IMF report. This is a real amendment and deals with a real problem faced by the families and tenants concerned. We do not have enough discussion in the House on the rights of tenants. This amendment puts the rights of tenants into the legislation. Our history is steeped, going back to the time of Michael Davitt, in protecting and defending the rights of tenants and in 2009 we need a Michael Davitt approach. This amendment is part of that approach and tradition. It is very important.

I also agree strongly with Deputy Ó Snodaigh when he referred to flats and the need for a mix in different complexes. That is a sensible option. In areas where it has happened, it has been a very progressive development and has also built up stronger communities. It is a very important part of the amendment.

I urge the Minister of State to listen to the different views on this side the House and support amendment No. 109. There are many positive aspects in the Bill, as I said earlier, in previous debates and outside the House. The issue of housing is still significant, despite the 12 years of the Celtic tiger, and there is still a crisis in the country. We have to face this reality politically and examine the people and speculators out there who own many houses while there are families that cannot own, get or buy out their own dwellings. This is an absolute disgrace, after 12 years of massive wealth in the country.

In my constituency many apartments and houses are lying empty — I understand some 1,000 in Dublin North-Central — and yet many families are looking for houses. This is also part of the issue. I welcome the positive aspects of the Bill, but I urge the Minister to look again at amendment No. 109 and support it.

I thank Deputy Lynch for tabling this amendment. The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is long awaited. When I served the inner city for nine years as a city councillor, there were 18 flat complexes, three of which have now been demolished. I pay tribute to the people living in those flat complexes for the way they have lived, sometimes in very difficult times, such as when they had problems with maintenance.

I always found, in all the of the complexes, genuine, decent Dubliners who were rooted in the communities where they lived and, above all, cared about each other. It is sad to think it has taken this long for an amendment such as this to be tabled in a housing Bill. When my mother and father bought their house on Thomas Davis Street in 1976 for £3,000, Tyrone Place was across the road. Tyrone Place is still there today and was built 47 years ago. I know people who live there — I grew up with their children — and are still paying large rents.

"Mr. B" has lived in his flat for 47 years, pays €60 per week for it and is 79 years of age. His family are all long gone and have moved on but he is still there. "Mrs. K" has lived in a flat complex for 50 years. She lives there with her husband and they are paying €92 per week. Their family is long gone.

Ashgrove Centre on Cork Street consists of maisonettes. In 1988 the council promised the residents they could buy the maisonettes. They signed the agreement papers and at the last minute the rug was pulled out from under their feet, leaving them desolate.

I have served on the city council for the last nine years, with other people such as Deputy Ó Snodaigh, and we have examined how housing and flat complexes are run. It is very sad that people were not allowed to buy their own property. It would have made a major difference to people's lifestyles and those who have already put a lot of money into their property would have something to hand on to their children in the future.

It is a joke not to put this amendment into the Bill when we have gone this far. These people have rights. The people who live in flat complexes and maisonettes for generations have been faithful tenants of Dublin City Council and other councils. They have been left waiting on the sidelines and have not been allowed to take part in the process.

If nothing else comes out of this Bill the people who live in complexes in Dublin South-Central, including Tyrone Place, Basin Street, Islandbridge Court, Sarah Place, Mary Aikenhead House, Oliver Bond Street, Watling Street, School Street, St. Audeon's Terrace, Meath Place, Dolphin House, Summer Street, St. Teresa's Gardens, St. Michael's Estate and Bernard Curtis House and a few others, should be given the opportunity to be able to invest in the property in which they have lived and from which they have built up the community. It is a reflection on how we view people in society. It is sad that people I grew up with and who were my mother's neighbours and friends are still no further advanced in owning anything for themselves. They have been faithful tenants of the council and, above all, they have made exceptional communities, which is why people are still living in these complexes after 50 years. If nothing else is to be changed in the Bill, this is a real opportunity for the Minister of State to stand up and be counted.

I commend Deputy Ciarán Lynch for putting the amendment forward and the many Members who have spoken on it. In my short time in the Dáil in the past two years, I have raised the issue on two or three occasions. I ask the Minister of State to go back to the drawing board, to reconsider and to accept the amendment. If many people will never own their own property because they are too old, he can at least give a future to their families who are living beside them in their communities.

I support the amendment. What Deputy Byrne said in regard to Dublin applies equally in Galway or any other area where there are local authority flat complexes or maisonettes. The Bill has been promised for many years and I was told several times it would come to the House in the next session. Finally, it is before the Dáil. It is simply a matter of the Minister of State acceding to this amendment to allow people in those complexes who have made inquiries through their public representatives and directly to the city councils, which are the authorities generally involved, to proceed with buying out their accommodation. They were always told that legislation would have to be introduced and that the local authority could do nothing about it.

House ownership is very important to the Irish people. It is bred in their psyche and people like to have the pride of owning their homes. In my experience, even as tenants these people have looked after their homes very well and improved them, even at their own expense in many cases where they could not wait for the local authority to do the necessary repairs and, in some cases, they improved them beyond the standard the local authority would have been able to achieve. We should allow those people this opportunity through the Bill, which is the only opportunity we will have, although not all will avail of the opportunity. As I noted on Committee Stage, given the way the Bill is laid out, if more than 25% of the residents of a flat complex or maisonette area do not agree to buy out their property, they will be denied this opportunity, which is very unfair and penalises those who want to buy their property.

In my time on Galway City Council, when such matters were raised we were told it was simply not possible according to the current regulations to allow people in flats and maisonette complexes to buy out their properties. We have had to wait since that time, perhaps ten years or at least since the dual mandate was abolished, before reaching the stage where the legislation is in the Dáil. We would be letting down those who made representations to Oireachtas Members as well as to many council members if we did not support this amendment.

While I anticipate the amendment will go to a vote, I appeal to the Minister of State not to allow it to do so. He should concede this is a logical and fair amendment which would satisfy needs and give people an opportunity to purchase their homes. As Deputy Byrne said, these people have been part of their communities for perhaps ten, 20 or 30 years, and in some cases for generations. To deny them the opportunity to own and look after their own homes is a retrograde step. I make a serious appeal to the Minister of State who, though he does not represent an urban area, understands the reality of the situation in urban areas, where this mainly applies.

If this amendment is not accepted by the Minister of State, the tenants of those complexes will be treated as second class citizens compared to their counterparts in local authority housing, perhaps just across the road from them. It is clear discrimination in regard to flat and maisonette complexes. The Minister of State should be big enough to accept this amendment or, if it must be rewritten in some manner, to make a change to what is currently proposed. If this legislation goes through as it stands, the opportunity will forever be denied to those people, which is not fair.

Like previous speakers, I am disappointed the Minister of State has not included an amendment in regard to the ownership of flats for local authority tenants. Clearly, my party fully supports the Labour Party amendment and we wish to commend and thank Deputy Ciarán Lynch for bringing it forward. It is discriminatory and very unjust that local authority tenants cannot purchase their own homes. It is a proven fact that if people own a property, they will be more respectful of it and appreciate it much more than if they rent the property. Many of my colleagues have raised this issue consistently, including Deputy Catherine Byrne and Deputy Bernard Allen from Cork, who has been very critical of the Government policy not to allow people to own their own flats.

There is clearly something wrong if the Minister of State is not willing to accept this very reasonable amendment. All we seek is fairness and for this unresolved issue to be fully dealt with.

To date, there has been no legislation on the Statute Book with regard to the purchase of flats or apartments.

That is correct.

There were a number of attempts over the years to put such legislation in place but they all faltered. On 1 October 2008 on Second Stage of the Bill in the Seanad, I indicated I would bring forward an amendment on Committee Stage in the Dáil to make provision for such. On 5 March 2009, I put that on the record of the Dáil on Second Stage. I was as good as my word on Committee Stage on 9 June, only a few weeks ago, when I came forward with such an amendment following many months of involvement with the Attorney General. The Bill gives, for the first time in the history of the State, the right to people living in apartments and flats to purchase them.

I do not propose to accept the amendment. It seeks to give existing tenants the option of securing discounts under the new incremental purchase scheme based on the length of tenancy. Tenancy related discounts are a feature of the existing tenant purchase scheme for houses. However, under the new incremental purchase arrangement the discount is based, within limits, on the financial circumstances of the households. This is a far more equitable way of tailoring the discount to the needs of individual applicants. Members should appreciate what is involved. The specific terms and conditions of sale to tenants, including the discounts available which will be more generous than those on offer under the existing tenant purchase scheme for local authority houses, will be determined through regulations rather than through primary legislation.

Under this arrangement there will be a discount of between 40% and 60% and individual circumstances will be taken into consideration. This is a very generous scheme tailored for the individuals who wish to purchase.

However, it is tailored for everyone.

The measures apply to new applicants but what about existing homeowners?

I listened to the Minister of State's response and he has missed the point. Legislation has been introduced for the sale of flats and I give credit to him for this. However, for more than ten years parliamentary questions have been put asking when this legislation would be delivered. The implication of all those parliamentary questions was that an inherent injustice was being done which the Minister of State will not recognise. Those people on behalf of whom the parliamentary questions were put are not recognised in the Bill. The reason the measures have been included is because of all those parliamentary questions. The Minister should not come to the House and claim to have introduced measures off the top of his head. He did not do so and the measures were included because of campaigning and as a result of no other means. The Minister of State is disguising things behind incremental purchases and other arrangements. Those who have waited for more than a decade in this State to buy their own home will pay the same price on Monday morning as someone who walks in off the street. This is unfair and the amendment would allow the Minister of State to rectify that situation.

These people did not wish to buy property for an investment such that they could take off to Spain or Portugal to establish a phone company. When investors were being given tax breaks by the Government and the property bubble was being created, these people were trying to pay for the roof over their heads and to turn their house into a home. They are still waiting to do so. These people seek a recognition that they wished to buy their own home and the House prohibited them from so doing. I call on the Minister of State to accept the amendment and acknowledge the purpose of all the parliamentary questions referred to.

The principal reason I am riled up is the absence of the Minister, Deputy Gormley. This time last year he was in Cork, running throughout the city and county when he should have been on Haulbowline Island. At the time he met with tenants in Cork city who had been campaigning to buy their flats for several years. He told them everything would be fine and that they would be looked after. However, here were are on the other side of the local elections and those tenants have been left high and dry. The Minister of State should mark my words: this issue will not conclude this evening upon the conclusion of the debate. It will run on and although it contains many positive aspects, this is the legacy of the legislation introduced by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. Justice for those seeking the right to buy their homes should have been a core aspect of the legislation but they have now been left abandoned, high and dry.

I presume the Minister, Deputy Gormley, will return. Perhaps he will abstain on the vote since he made those promises to people in Cork and other areas. The Minister did not give much credit to the Minister of State when he was in Galway and he made the same point and indicated this is what he was planning.

I presume the if the Acting Chairman, Deputy Charlie O'Connor, were not in the Chair he would be on the floor advocating the acceptance of the amendment because he is a champion of the people he represents. It is a pity he is confined to important duties in the Chair rather than on this side of the House because I am certain he would speak in favour of the amendment.

Members will note the Chair should not be drawn into the discussion.

We know the Acting Chairman has such concerns.

Let me put it that I know the form and I will say no more about it. I seek clarification on the matter of 25% before the Minister of State forces a vote. Even if the amendment is not passed the Bill is not as clear as people believe because it does not lend the right to people who walk in off the street to buy an apartment, as Deputy Lynch remarked. My understanding of the Bill from Committee Stage is that 25% of tenants of any complex must sign up to enter the scheme and that there would be a plebiscite of the tenants in a given local authority scheme. Such people might receive a ballot paper indicating if they are in favour of buying out the apartment. Some people may not fill in such forms and others may believe they are being forced to buy the apartments because of such a process. They might not vote or indicate they have no interest in buying the apartments. Such people might take the view that if they voted "Yes" they would be forced to buy the apartment. We should clarify the matter of 25% as well. What is the position if 25% of the people in any complex do not vote? I understand 25% was the figure mentioned on Committee Stage and I call on the Minister to clarify the matter. The proposal may be null and void in such circumstances and no one in such a complex would then be allowed to buy an apartment. It is a very serious matter for the tenants and if only 15% or 20% of them wish to buy out the apartments in a complex such people should be allowed to do so.

Is the figure 25% of the entire complex or does it only apply to a block? If it refers to a block then I would accept that. However, what if there is a block of eight and there is one on every landing?

I understand it is ten.

It is an interesting debate and it is a pity the matter has not been teased out more. However, I did not attend Committee Stage for which I apologise.

There is no recognition in what has been presented thus far of the length of time for which the individuals in question have requested purchase. They have been discriminated against from the time they expressed an interest to the council and they were blocked because the system was not in place to allow them to purchase a local authority dwelling. I use the term "dwelling" rather than home.

I refer to the 40% and 60% discounts to which the Minister of State mentioned. I understand the Minister of State has suggested the commitment is that from a given day, those who applied on that day will only receive 40% while those who previously applied would benefit in the order of 60%. That, at least, is a recognition of what we seek, that is, a recognition from the State and the local authority that those who applied prior to a given date would benefit from such an application or, at least, have been recognised. If that is not the intention of the 40% and 60% discounts then a percentage must be applied above that amount. That is the only fair and reasonable way of dealing with the anomaly created which has prevented people from purchasing local authority apartments to date.

I was somewhat taken aback with the Minister of State's response. Deputy Ciarán Lynch made a clear point and the remarks of the Minister of State have clarified a good deal. People do not seek charity, they seek justice. We spent the past week in the Chamber discussing justice and the case of people who had been let down by society, but we are here again doing exactly the same thing. We are letting down a certain sector of people because they live in a certain place and they have been classed as a certain kind of citizen. This is wrong and it is unjust. People are not looking for anything else but just to be rewarded for being dedicated and loyal tenants to the State and to the councils around the country. They have put up with a lot of hassle and rubbish and untidy places down through the years. This is the Minister of State's opportunity because the ball is in his court. He has a real chance of making a bit of history here and he should grasp that opportunity with both hands this evening. This is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before this House and if the Minister of State wants, he can do this and I know he will have the support of many people in his party. This is a small price to pay to allow people have an opportunity to buy their own homes.

There is an old saying that the Ritz is available to everyone, in other words, anyone with enough money can go into the Ritz. This Bill is a little like that old saying. The Government is offering people the chance to buy their home but there is a condition of sale which will make it impossible for them to buy. The Minister of State's reply was most disingenuous but I am not certain that I blame him. I think he has been convinced by the argument that this is a good deal but he has failed to take a serious look at the people who are now in their late 40s and early 50s, who have been trying to buy their homes for 20 years. There is no recognition of their effort. As Deputy McCormack said, when the forms come through the door from the local authority, most of those people will not fill them out for the simple reason that they filled them out 20 years ago and nothing came of it. Now they are no longer in a position to get a mortgage that will cover the entire cost of purchase. The Minister of State must recognise this fact. Even with the 40% equity, these people must also be given the 30% discount because they would have got that anyway. Someone in an apartment for the past two years and who decides to purchase will be given the same deal as those people. They have been paying rent, maintaining their properties and maintaining entire communities, as Deputy Catherine Byrne said. They could have left, they could have walked away but they did not; they stayed. If it was not for them, we would have bigger trouble than we have now in the form of anti-social behaviour.

I ask the Minister of State to take another look at this amendment and to use his common sense. He knows as well as I do that this is a good amendment that will save us all an awful lot of grief.

I appreciate the comments made by Deputies which I know are heartfelt. However, there is not a full understanding of what I am doing in this Bill——

The trouble is that we understand.

That is an insult.

While discounts have been related to the length of tenancy for many years in the tenant purchase schemes for houses, I would question the logic of granting a subsidy to a person to buy a property solely on the basis of the length of time which he or she has been subsidised in renting that property. It seems to me, as Minister of State with responsibility for housing, that it is a much fairer approach to tailor the subsidy to a person's capacity to pay for the property and that is what this legislation provides for. This is worth reflecting upon. Subsequent to the legislation being enacted, I will be bringing in regulations rather than primary legislation.

It is a question of live horse and get grass.

Some of the comments made are way off the mark and are not up to speed on what is happening. I noted the heartfelt comments, especially from Members from the Cork area, but this legislation is tailored towards the capacity of a person to pay. The other matters regarding percentages for the plebiscite or the number of people who would buy properties were dealt with on Committee Stage. The Bill has a very generous approach to the sale of property when a person's ability to pay is taken into consideration. On that basis, I cannot accept the amendments and I will be dealing with the matter by regulation.

What about the 30%?

I call Deputy Lynch for a concluding contribution and without interruption.

The Minister of State seems to be very confused——

I assure the Deputy I am not confused at all.

There are two entirely separate issues which the Minister of State is combining in his responses——

I do not accept that for a moment.

There is the structure in which he is allowing the sale to take place and this is a radical change. The existing tenant purchase scheme of the 3% over a ten-year period, maximising to 30%, will not be available to those who buy flats, regardless of whether they have been trying to buy for the past ten years or are trying to buy it next week. This scheme is now gone and what is being introduced is a different type of tenant purchase scheme. The Minister of State is correct in that it is based on ability to pay or affordability. What is happening here is a unique and anomalous situation where people have been willing to pay for the past ten years but the councils would not take their money because the House did not provide the legislative framework to allow the money to be taken from them.

It is being provided now for the first time in history.

Yes, but the Minister of State should not claim the credit. I give his Department the credit for putting the Bill together but the motivation, rationale and instigation did not come from the Minister of State — far from it. It came from those people who live in Blackpool, Ballyphehane and the other parishes referred to in earlier contributions this evening. That is the reason the Bill is before the House, not because of any idea of the Minister of State. I do not expect him to understand this because this is an urban issue and he may not be familiar with urban issues——

The Minister of State's management of the issue is at question. This has been a core question related to the Bill since it came before the House. The question was when would there be a legislative framework for the sale of flats. Every Deputy who raised this question was informed that the legislative framework would be in place when the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was dealt with by the Dáil. That framework was not included in the Bill when it came before the Dáil; it only came in two weeks' ago. The Minister of State has not given enough time for the Bill to be debated in detail and he is covering up the absence of a proper debate on this issue. At the eleventh hour we have to appeal to him to rectify something because the Bill has been mismanaged with regard to the affordability factor. People cannot get a mortgage at this stage because they will be unable to clear that mortgage before the age of 65.

I will pause while the Minister of State confers with his officials. I refer to an anomaly with regard to incremental purchase which has been created by the Minister of State. The mortgage must be taken out over a minimum of 20 years.

Those people would be 70 then.

None of these people can get a mortgage over a 20-year period because they are too old. They have grown old waiting for this legislation. A person of 50 years of age cannot avail of incremental purchase because he or she will be unable to clear a mortgage before the age of 65. I was hoping the Minister of State would see the sense of my amendment. I regret the way in which this matter has been introduced at the eleventh hour leaving little time for debate. I made this point to the Minister of State on Committee Stage. A week later, because it took me a week to get a briefing from the Minister of State's officials, I explained the difficulty to the officials.

I had hoped the Minister of State would bring forward an amendment so I could withdraw my amendment but that has not happened. The aspirations and hope that this House would rectify a long-standing injustice have been denied. They will be unable to buy their homes. They will be forced to return to the courts instead of having the matter dealt with by legislation. The Minister who met the people concerned in various parts of the country does not have the decency to come to the House and contribute to this debate.

When Deputy Kathleen Lynch and I met a number of residents in Cork city last Monday night we told them we would be dealing with this matter in the Dáil this evening and that we hoped to bring this issue to a successful conclusion. I do not say this in an adversarial way but simply to bring common sense to the Minister.

This is a small issue. It affects no more than 200 or 300 people in the entire country. It will not create a massive cash flow problem for any Department. In fact, if the discount was to be made by way of equity it would not cost the State a penny, because it would be a notional cost.

The Minister of State has done a great deal since he came to the Department. His predecessor was chased around the House on this issue for many years and did nothing about it. Deputy Finneran has, at least, done something. Unfortunately, he has missed the key aspect of this section of the Bill, which is fair play and long overdue justice. The right to buy should be put in place and a long-standing injustice rectified. It is a great pity the Minister of State cannot see that.

There is no question of a mortgage having to be over 20 years. The Deputy is incorrect in that.

What is the timespan?

This is an incremental purchase scheme. It will be based on and tailored to a person's capacity to pay. That will be determined by regulation once the legislation is passed.

It will be determined by mortgage providers.

That is the most important part of the measure. I reiterate that.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 65.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lee, George.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 110:

In page 70, line 20, after "proceed" to insert "(within the meaning ofsection 56(7))”

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 111:

In page 71, to delete lines 15 to 17 and substitute the following:

"(d) such other terms and conditions relating to the sale of an apartment as may be prescribed for the purposes of an apartment assignment order.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 112:

In page 71, lines 20 to 22, to delete all words from and including "calculated" in line 20 down to and including "refundable" in line 22 and substitute the following:

"determined in accordance with such method as may be prescribed undersection 77 which deposit, subject to subsection (7), shall not be refundable”.

The intention of section 64(6) is to provide that a deposit shall not be refundable if the tenant withdraws from the sale for any reason or at any time before the expiration of six months from the date from which he or she signs the apartment assignment order. In other words, apart from subsection (7), the tenant is only entitled to a refund of his or her deposit where he or she withdraws more than six months after signing the apartment assignment order. The word "not" was inadvertently omitted from the text of the relevant amendment on Committee Stage. Amendment No. 112 will restore that text.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 113:

In page 72, lines 15 and 16, to delete all words from and including "good" in line 15 down to and including "complex" in line 16 and substitute "good estate management".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 114:

In page 72, line 23, after "lapsed" to insert "undersection 55(3)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 115:

In page 72, line 30, after "to" to insert "an".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 116:

In page 74, lines 42 and 43, to delete all words from and including "with" in line 42 down to and including "meeting" in line 43 and substitute the following:

"with the approval of a 60 per cent majority vote of the members present and voting at the meeting".

Section 67(6)(a) refers to the apartment complex service charge being amended at a general meeting of the company’s members, with the approval of 60% of those present and voting at the meeting. Subsection (6)(b) provides that where over 75% of the members present and voting do not approve of the proposed charge, the existing charge shall remain in place until the adoption of a new charge. The provision, as drafted, could be read as implying that each member present has only one vote on the service charge. However, as section 65(3)(a) makes clear, a person who owns more than one apartment in the complex, notably the housing authority, has one vote in respect of each such apartment. Therefore, the housing authority and any other multiple apartment owners, if present, should be counted separately for each apartment it owns, for the purpose of both voting and calculating the 60% and 75% threshold. These amendments clarify this matter.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No.117:

In page 74, lines 45 and 46, to delete all words from and including "75" in line 45 down to and including "vote" in line 46 and substitute the following:

"a 75 per cent majority vote of the members present and voting at the meeting".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 118:

In page 76, line 11, to delete "established pursuant tosection 68”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 119:

In page 76, line 18, after "incurred" to insert the following:

", in respect of the designated apartment complex concerned".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No.120:

In page 76, to delete from " to (c),” in line 23 down to and including “concerned.” in line 24 and substitute the following:

"to (c).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 121:

In page 76, line 40, to delete "section" and substitute "Part".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 122 arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 122 and 129 are related and both may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No.122:

In page 76, lines 43 and 44, to delete all words from and including "applying" in line 43 down to and including "charge" in line 44 and substitute the following:

"applying the method of apportionment specified insubsection (4)(a) or (b), as appropriate”.

Amendments Nos. 122 and 129 make clear that the method of apportioning the sinking fund contribution over apartments will be the same as those used for apportioning the apartment complex service charge. The amendments make clear that this applies where apartments are being sold on the complex under section 90 of the Housing Act 1966.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 123:

In page 77, line 3, to delete "over" and substitute "between".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 124 to 126, inclusive, 128 and 130 to 132, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 124:

In page 77, lines 6 and 7, to delete all words from and including "being" in line 6 down to and including "subsection" in line 7 and substitute the following:

"being less than €200 or such other amount as may be prescribed for the purposes of this subsection".

These amendments are being made to section 68, which requires the management company to establish a sinking fund for the purpose of spending on refurbishment, improvement or maintenance of a non-recurring nature, and to levy a sinking fund contribution on apartments each year. As currently drafted, the section provides that the management company shall not operate an estimate of a sinking fund contribution that, when apportioned over apartments in the complex, results in a charge on any apartment that is less than the amount prescribed by the Minister.

Amendment No. 124 introduces a threshold of €200 as the amount that may be prescribed by the Minister for this purpose. Amendments Nos. 125, 126 and 128 set the same thresholds to allow the management company, without reference to members, to adopt a sinking fund contribution that on apportionment across apartments results in the lowest charge on any apartment that is equal to €200, or an amount as may be prescribed by the Minister. However, where the company estimates sinking fund contribution results on apportionment in a charge on any apartment that exceeds €200 or an amount that may be prescribed by the Minister, the contribution must be adopted by a general meeting of members convened for that purpose. The company members are precluded from adopting a contribution that, on apportionment, results in a charge on any apartment that is less than €200 or an amount that may be prescribed by the Minister.

Section 68(6) empowers the Minister to make a regulation in respect of classes of expenditure for items that may be financed from the sinking fund in respect of thresholds of expenditure that must be approved by members. Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 are drafting amendments to improve the clarity of subsection (6). Amendment No. 132 extends the matter the Minister may prescribe in regulations to include any other amount for the purpose of subsection (3), having regard to the average level of service charge in the designated apartment complexes.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 125:

In page 77, lines 10 to 12, to delete all words from and including "is" in line 10 down to and including "subsection" in lines 11 and 12 and substitute the following:

"is equal to €200 or such other amount as may be prescribed for the purposes of this subsection".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 126:

In page 77, lines 17 and 18, to delete all words from and including "exceeds" in line 17 down to and including "subsection" in line 18 and substitute the following:

"is more than €200 or such other amount as may be prescribed for the purposes of this subsection".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 127:

In page 77, line 22, to delete "over" and substitute "between".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 128:

In page 77, lines 25 to 27, to delete all words from and including "being" in line 25 down to and including "subsection" in line 27 and substitute the following:

"being less than €200 or such other amount as may be prescribed for the purposes of this subsection".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 129:

In page 77, lines 31 to 33, to delete all words from and including "the amount" in line 31 down to and including "charge" in line 33 and substitute the following:

"the amount being apportioned between each apartment in the designated apartment complex on the same basis as the apartment complex service charge is apportioned

(a) in accordance with section 67(7), or

(b) in the case of a designated apartment complex where the housing authority has sold one or more than one apartment under section 90 of the Principal Act, in accordance with section 67(8)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 130:

In page 77, line 39, to delete "prescribing—" and substitute the following:

"prescribing all or any one or more of the following:".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 131:

In page 77, line 41, to delete "sinking fund, and" and substitute "sinking fund;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 132:

In page 77, line 44, to delete "members." and substitute the following:

"members;

(c) any other amount for the purposes of subsection (3) having regard to the average level of service charges in designated apartment complexes.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 133:

In page 79, line 1, to delete "by the Minister".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 134:

In page 79, lines 15 and 16, to delete "works referred to insection 68(1)“ and substitute the following:

"any of the works referred to insection 68(1)(a) to (c)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 135:

In page 79, lines 36 and 37, to delete "the good management of the apartment complex" and substitute "good estate management".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 136:

In page 80, line 19, to delete "works to be carried out undersection 68(1)” and substitute “works concerned”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 137:

In page 80, lines 20 and 21, to delete "works undersection 68(1)” and substitute the following:

"any of the works referred to insection 68(1)(a) to (c)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 138:

In page 81, line 17, to delete "fund" and substitute "apartment complex support fund".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 139:

In page 81, line 29, to delete "fund" and substitute "apartment complex support fund".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 140:

In page 81, line 30, to delete "fund" and substitute "apartment complex support fund".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 141:

In page 81, line 33, to delete "fund" and substitute "apartment complex support fund".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 142:

In page 83, line 39, after "shall" to insert the following:

", subject to such regulations as may be made undersection 77,”.

Section 74(1) provides for the making of a charging order in the prescribed form and for the period specified in the order. Section 77 provides for the Minister to make regulations in respect of the minimum period within which a housing authority shall fix the minimum period for which a charging order shall apply, which period shall not, in any case, be less than 20 years from the date of the apartment assignment order. The amendment links section 74(1) with this regulation-making power in section 77.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 143:

In page 86, lines 1 and 2, to delete ", in accordance withsubsection (2),”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 144:

In page 86, line 14, to delete "purchaser" and substitute "apartment purchaser".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 145:

In page 86, line 17, to delete "purchaser" and substitute "apartment purchaser".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 146:

In page 86, to delete lines 20 to 28 and substitute the following:

"(3) (a) Where a housing authority has suspended the reduction of the charged share under subsection (1), the housing authority shall, as soon as practicable thereafter, notify the apartment purchaser in writing of the suspension and the reasons for the suspension.

(b) The housing authority shall, on the expiration of the charged period, give a statement to the apartment purchaser in writing, in the prescribed form, indicating the amount of the charge outstanding under the charging order on the date of expiration of the charged period, which amount shall be expressed as a percentage of the market value of the apartment, equivalent to the charged share of the housing authority in the apartment on that date calculated in accordance with subsection (2).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 147:

In page 86, line 38, to delete "(a) to (d)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 148:

In page 86, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

"(6) (a) For the purposes of this section, the market value of an apartment shall be determined by the housing authority or, where the apartment purchaser does not agree with the market value so determined, by an independent valuer nominated by the apartment purchaser from a panel of suitably qualified persons, established by the housing authority, who are of a class or description prescribed under section 77.

(b) The housing authority shall not be liable for any expenses incurred by an apartment purchaser under paragraph (a).”.

This amendment inserts into the incremental release suspension process a mechanism for resolving disputes over the market value of an apartment involving an apartment purchaser and a housing authority. The mechanism is similar to that in place in section 76 with regard to the re-sale of apartments during the charge period. It should be noted that section 77(1) specifically empowers the Minister to prescribe the qualifications and experience of persons to determine the market value of an apartment within the meaning of section 75.

Amendment agreed to.

As it is now 6.30 p.m., I am obliged, in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day, to put the following question: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and not disposed of, are hereby made to the Bill, Fourth Stage is hereby completed, and the Bill is hereby passed."

I thank Deputies for their contributions, help and suggestions along the way. I might not have been able to accept every suggestion, but we tried to accommodate them as best we could.

Question put and agreed to.

The Bill which, considered by virtue of Article 22. 2. 2° of the Constitution, is a Bill initiated in Dáil Éireann, will now be sent to the Seanad.

A message shall be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.