I raise a particular matter in relation to the overall housing crisis and Ballymun families who are trying to find accommodation within the Ballymun area. The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007 introduced a provision whereby regenerated areas could be exempted from the delivery of rent supplement to those who wished to apply in them. In 2008 a circular issued from the Department of Social Protection to the Ballymun office to ensure it would be prevented from allowing rent supplement within the regenerated Ballymun estate. I commend those who introduced the provision at the time, when it was the right decision. Ballymun was undergoing a massive overhaul in the largest urban regeneration project in Europe. It has been largely successful, notwithstanding the bee in my bonnet about the continuing lack of a shopping centre. I agreed with Deputies of the day and commended the endless efforts they made to ensure a ban was imposed on allowing further rent supplement payments within the Ballymun area. The aim was to ensure people would come in to buy private apartments and that there would be a social mix in Ballymun. Whether that aim has been successful is a matter we will allow the people to decide.
My issue is that in 2014 we have a massive housing crisis nationally, particularly in Dublin and other urban areas. Zooming right down to Ballymun, we find that the rent supplement ban is still in place in Ballymun. I do not know if it is a good idea to remove it, but we must consider the issue. People come to me every week who cannot find a place to live. Some of them would be able to find private accommodation in Ballymun through the payment of rent supplement if the ban was lifted. I emphasise that I am not asserting that the ban should be lifted. I am seeking an in-depth examination to determine whether we need to review it. The fact is that there are empty apartments in Ballymun, while people from the area cannot obtain rent supplement and are forced to move elsewhere. We must find a solution to allow some of the vacant units in Ballymun to be occupied. I do not know exactly how many are vacant, but it is a matter people question. While I do not believe there are as many vacant as people say, we need an innovative solution.
I re-emphasise that I am not necessarily saying we should do away with the ban introduced in 2007, but we need a solution to address the needs of people living in Ballymun today. They do not have homes in which to live and are finding it difficult to find homes in their native area. Given that the matter is the responsibility of the Department of Social Protection, I ask the Minister if her officials can investigate alternative solutions through the rent supplement scheme or another payment process to solve the crisis faced by people in Ballymun in trying to find accommodation within their own area. We have people who do not have homes or are finding it hard to find them. We also have empty units in Ballymun. Can we solve the problem for local people?