I thank all the Deputies who raised the issue. We are ready to transfer to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government as soon as that Department has the necessary legislative arrangements in place. Deputy Durkan spoke about the long gestation period. A previous Minister spoke about this for nearly a decade. All I can say is that the first trial scheme in respect of the housing assistance payment should commence very shortly. One of the difficulties is that the local authorities, particularly during the boom, built up 88 different accounting and IT systems to calculate differential rents and so on.
As the Deputy's Fianna Fáil predecessors in this office came to understand, this was exceptionally difficult to change.
We have achieved a significant number of changes. I am disappointed that more local authorities have not placed more people and used the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, which gives security and allows people to take up work on the same terms and conditions as local authority tenants. I hope the housing assistance payment will come into force. The Department is ready to hand it over as soon as the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is ready to take it. There is a large demand for housing in certain areas because employment opportunities are provided by large multinational companies or, for example, at the airport in my area of Fingal.
Deputy Mick Wallace is correct that one of the reasons for the rise in rents appears to be that younger couples who wish to take out mortgages are finding that the banks have been very slow to lend and that their checking procedures are lengthy. The country needs to start developing and building specific accommodation in areas in which it is required. This would provide a stimulus for the economy and help to put building workers back to work. It is an option which would be beneficial for the economy and which the Government is examining.
The review of rents is extremely extensive. Deputies need to bear in mind that rents are falling in certain counties and certain parts of the country. Some areas are experiencing very severe pressure on rents, but equally a previous survey showed that the Department of Social Protection was paying the highest rents in a locality. That does not make sense either. The Department will announce a new scheme in June when the review findings are available.