Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Report Stage (Resumed)

Debate resumed on amendment No. 38:
In page 63, to delete lines 31 to 34 and substitute the following:
"(2) (a) A housing authority may, if a tenant has refused to pay rent for a specified period of no less than 3 months and has refused to engage with the relevant authority, make a request to the Minister for Social Protection to deduct from net scheme payments the amount of rent payable to the authority by the relevant recipient concerned and to transmit the amount deducted to the authority.".
-(Deputy Dessie Ellis)

Amendments Nos. 38 to 43, inclusive, are related and are being discussed together. Deputy Dessie Ellis was in possession.

Sinn Féin has tabled amendments Nos. 38, 39, 42 and 43, which deal with methods of deduction, hardship as a result of deduction, refusal of tenants to engage, the notification within ten days of a deduction from a tenant's social welfare payment and the compiling of a report within six months of deduction. Mandatory deduction from social welfare payments is a fundamental issue. At present it is 15% and Deputy Catherine Murphy has proposed 5%. A myriad of other charges are being introduced and I am opposed to the idea that someone will not have control of his or her own money. This 15% can be taken from a person on €188 a week. People aged under 25 receive only €100 a week and a deduction of 15% is a huge amount. The ability of the Department of Social Protection to take this percentage from social welfare payments is wrong and this series of amendments has been tabled in this regard.

I will allow the Deputy to speak again.

The Bill contains many good measures but it is my job to point out where I believe it has gone wrong and table amendments.

I responded to the Deputy on the previous occasion. I reiterate the 15% deduction is the total deduction and includes any social welfare overpayments. I clarified this previously.

Deputy Boyd Barrett gave a very good illustration of why deduction at source is a good idea. Last week he presented a case where a man was not paying rent but the rest of his family thought he was. The family ended up in huge arrears. This will not happen to a family with deduction at source. The intention is to protect tenants from going into very large arrears. It seems to be a sensible provision.

It is standard practice in the Department of Social Protection that no more than 15% of income is taken for any purpose, whether it be overpayments or deduction for rent arrears. Whatever rent is owed will be deducted, but we are specifically discussing arrears, which cannot go to more than 15% of the payment.

There are cases where people cannot afford it. I understand somebody getting into very serious difficulty with arrears and coming to an arrangement whereby it is deducted from social welfare payments.

However, it is wrong to legislate to make this mandatory and that is the big problem I have in this regard.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 42.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.

Níl

  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Dessie Ellis.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 64, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“(e) No single deduction permitted under subsection (2) and (3) may be made if it would reasonably cause undue hardship or suffering to the tenant concerned or their dependants.

(f) The Minister for Social Protection will as far as is practicable notify the tenant of the authorities request 10 working days before any commencement of deduction.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 67.

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Dessie Ellis; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 64, to delete lines 22 to 25 and substitute the following:

"(4) (a) A housing authority may if a tenant has refused for a specified period of no less than 3 months to enter into a rescheduling arrangement with the authority, make a request to the Minister for Social Protection to deduct from a relevant recipient’s net scheme payments an amount in respect of rent arrears due to the authority by that recipient and to transmit the amount deducted to the authority.".

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

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 64, lines 38 and 39, to delete "15 per cent" and substitute "5 per cent".

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

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 65, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"(e) No single deduction permitted under subsection (4) and (5) may be made if it would reasonably cause undue hardship or suffering to the tenant concerned or their dependants.

(f) The Minister for Social Protection will as far as is practicable notify the tenant of the authorities request 10 working days before any commencement of deduction.".

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 43; Níl, 65.

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Dessie Ellis; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 67, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"(16) The Minister for Social Protection and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government shall on a date no later than 6 months following the commencement of the deduction scheme compile a report on the subject which will be submitted to the relevant Oireachtas Committees for consideration.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 44 is in the name of Deputies Cowen and Ó Fearghaíl. Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 72, after line 31, to insert the following:

"Provision of housing units

59. In the provision of housing units, a local authority shall give priority to persons that have been responsible tenants in leased accommodation under the Rental Accommodation Scheme.".

This amendment addresses one of the critical aspects of the Bill. It is interesting that this legislation has attracted a lot of public and media attention, which quite rightly recognises that the piece of business before us is very much a mixed bag. There are a number of positive aspects to the Bill to which I alluded in my Second Stage contribution and, together with my colleague, Deputy Cowen, I have attempted to recognise and support them. Effectively, the introduction of the housing assistance payment, HAP, is a positive and constructive development when viewed in isolation. Giving responsibility for HAP is an entirely positive development in circumstances where we hope to see local authorities staffing their housing departments in such a manner as to allow these payments to be made. We take it that housing authorities will provide the level of staffing required to enable the HAP system to operate. The Minister, the Government and the Department would be commended on introducing a system that breaks down the poverty trap that has existed as a result of the rent allowance and we would all shout, "Hooray, this is really good" if that was all that was happening. Rather than having a situation in which we can be entirely positive, we see what is a positive development matched on the other side by an equally negative situation. We are looking at a situation where the Minister of State is effectively extending the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, into a new arrangement which will be called HAP. The amendment seeks to address how local authorities will manage their stock in a manner that serves the best interests of the tenants and, ultimately, of the community.

The Bill explicitly states that a person who gets HAP will come off the local authority waiting list. The Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, stated that explicitly on the last occasion. She said: "No. They will be taken off the housing list but they can go on a transfer list." To date, we have discovered, from officials in her Department who contacted Kildare County Council, that the local authorities have been told to take all the RAS tenants off the list, and when HAP comes in they will have to take them all off.

Earlier this week the Department's officials went before the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and stated, as the Minister of State said here in the House, that once tenants get HAP, they come off the list. The Minister of State's answer is that she will put them on a transfer list. The difficulty with the Bill is that it provides for the applicants to be taken off the lists that have existed traditionally and which constitute the manner in which local authorities and the State evaluate and enumerate those in the respective areas in need of housing. The Minister of State said she will put them on a transfer list, but there is nothing about the transfer list in the Bill.

There is nothing about any list in the Bill.

The Minister of State has admitted, and her officials have said, that they are coming off the local authority list because they are deemed to have had their housing needs met. There is nothing of equivalent status in the Bill to state that they will go on some other list and we know from experience, as was alluded to by Deputy O'Brien earlier during Leaders' Questions, that there is a wide variety of approaches to the issue of transfers in local authorities up and down of the country. Over the past couple of days I learned here that in Dublin, for example, one must be two years in a house and one can only be transferred in circumstances where there is extreme ill-health or anti-social behaviour of a high order. In Kildare, when there was a transfer list, there were not many transfers at the best of times but one could only be transferred once one had been one year on the list. For quite a period of time now, however, Kildare County Council has not agreed to any transfers at all. If the Minister of State's theory was to come into play, tenants would go on a list in Kildare, but, unfortunately, the list does not exist because the policy of the local authority is not to facilitate transfers at all. The reason it does not facilitate transfers is because there are costs associated with the transfer of tenants from one unit to another.

To get back to the amendment, it would be in everybody's interest to devise a system where what the Minister of State has in mind would happen.

RAS can be an example of that. In Kildare, for example, it would make sense that people who can avail of casual vacancies - all other things being equal and given that they may qualify - should be given preference where they can prove their tenancy in a RAS unit or a long-term lease unit. Such people who are in a position to demonstrate they are good tenants, pay their rent, maintain the property to a high standard and are not involved in anti-social behaviour should logically progress from temporary RAS or HAP accommodation to a permanent local authority house or one provided by a voluntary housing association. If we did it that way, we would be managing housing stock and social housing demand in the most effective possible manner. We would thereby achieve a situation in which estates, which are in fact communities, would comprise people who have demonstrated over a period their commitment to live an orderly life, respect their neighbours and pay rent. Ultimately, that would be good for all of us but that is not how things currently operate. That is what we were trying to achieve by tabling this amendment.

There is an inescapable logic in the amendment before the Minister. It is particularly inescapable when viewed against what the Minister of State says she wants to do in respect of housing assistance payments. She has not made provision in the Bill for what she says she wants to do. This is an opportunity to indicate that this is the direction in which she hopes to go.

Amendment No. 45 recognises that there is a real problem where RAS tenants are in danger of losing their homes due to an inability to keep up with rents or other issues. When RAS was originally introduced many years ago, people were given a commitment that when they signed up to it they would get another RAS property or would be considered a priority for local authority housing. It was understood that they would never be put out of their home and would be on a three, four or five-year contract with RAS.

In 2011, further changes meant that people going onto RAS were individually informed by the local authority that if they signed up to RAS they would be removed from the housing list, which is what happened. We have therefore ended up with a situation whereby many RAS people cannot get properties. I have been dealing with people who have been made homeless as a result of RAS, yet they were promised they would get places either under RAS or with the local authority. It is an absolute scandal that this has happened.

Some 30,000 people are currently on RAS. The Minister of State said the building programme will make 6,000 units available next year. Some 1,500 of those units are going to the RAS section so this is not permanent housing. It is not social housing in which people can get on and enjoy their lives. They can be thrown from Billy to Jack in such situations, whether under RAS or the rent supplement scheme. People are ending up out of their areas because they are offered a RAS property on the other side of the city. In addition, such people were removed from the housing list so they lost their time on record.

On the face of it, HAP, the housing assistance payment scheme, looks okay. The problem with it, however, is that people on the housing list will be removed from it. The Minister of State's officials made that clear at the meeting the other day. I specifically asked them if this meant that people who are removed will be deemed to get adequate housing, and they said "Yes". The Minister of State has not been very clear on this matter. She has argued that such people can go onto the transfer list, but according to the local authority rules tenants must be in a property for two years before they can go on a transfer list. The Minister of State is forgetting that rule which applies to all local authorities. Therefore, they go back to square one and still have to wait two years to go there. It is an absolute scandal.

Many people are now in danger of losing their position on the housing list. The problem with HAP will have to be worked out because we know that a lot of people got rental supplement top-ups. Once HAP starts to examine different individuals we will see large discrepancies. I do not know how local authorities or the pilot schemes will deal with it.

Can the Minister of State tell us what is the future of RAS? We have identified that there will be more rental accommodation schemes next year, so what will the future be? It is very similar to HAP. Some people on RAS are still on the housing waiting list, while others are not. Can we get a commitment from the Minister of State at some stage that she will re-examine the HAP scheme as it applies to people on the housing waiting list? We want a definitive answer that they will not be removed from the housing waiting list and will keep their position in the queue. That is very important.

I have had RAS tenants in my office who thought they would never be homeless. Some of them have ended up sleeping in their cars and even in skips or doorways. That is happening on the Minister of State's watch.

This amendment seeks to avoid a situation whereby people in RAS will be put out of their homes or will be denied another RAS place. They should be allocated a priority place, which would make sense. That is what was originally intended, but was never followed through because the rules changed in 2011.

We will have the same problem with HAP if we do not address this matter by establishing rules. We should not punish people who have been on the housing list for many years. We have to find a mechanism to state that housing is deemed inadequate. At the time, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin tabled a simple amendment concerning housing that was not adequate, but the Minister of State did not accept it. She should have done so because it would have solved this problem facing those on the housing list. In that case, local authorities could not claim that housing was adequate.

Under the provisions of the Bill as it stands, local authorities have the ability to put people out of their accommodation and off the list. That is not right.

I am seeking clarity from the Minister of State on the systems she intends to put in place.

Unfortunately, the systems to which she referred are not reflected in the legislation before us. That is the kernel of the problem. During our Committee Stage debate, Deputy Joan Collins stated:

I will ask again the question posed by Deputy Ó Fearghaíl. Is the Minister of State contradicting the officials from the Department of Social Protection who were before the committee today? They indicated that anybody in receipt of the HAP would be taken off the housing list.

The Minister of State replied:

No. They will be taken off the housing list but they can go on a transfer list.

Nothing in this legislation indicates that will be the case. That is all we are seeking. Is the Minister of State aware of any tenant, going back as far as she likes, who was in a rental accommodation scheme and subsequently obtained a house from a local authority? There is none in my county. When people went on RAS, they were taken off the housing list. When they go on a HAP scheme, they will similarly be taken off the housing list. The only provisions for transfer are accompanied by rules and regulations, as determined by individual local authorities. As the Minister of State will be aware, these determinations differ from county to county.

She has an opportunity with this Bill to address our concerns so that all local authorities play on a level pitch and, most important, those who have housing needs will be treated fairly. There should be no differentiation between one list and another. It is right that, in the event of a person moving from RAS or the HAP scheme to a council house, somebody from the list could then move onto the housing thereby made available on the scheme. A weight should be given to an applicant who has proven his or her willingness to adhere to the terms and conditions of an agreement. That could be regarded as an element in his or her suitability for obtaining social housing from a local authority or other housing authority.

It is time that we cut to the chase. We need clarity on the differing interpretations of this legislation reported in the media in recent days. A lot of people in here are determined to work for the betterment of those we are privileged to represent. We see this Bill as an opportunity to address an anomaly that existed under RAS. As we debate the final amendments, even though the Minister of State has not accepted any amendment, we ask her to listen to what is being said. If she believes her own assertions, she should give them the foundation they deserve by inserting adequate provision in this Bill so that all local authorities understand what is expected of them. We should not be comparing the different systems in Dublin, Meath and Offaly. She has the opportunity to introduce uniformity, fairness and equity by accepting these amendments or at least giving a commitment that when she brings the Bill before the Seanad she will amend it to ensure that nobody who accepts a short-term solution will be prevented from being offered the longer term solutions offered to others.

When RAS was introduced, I found myself talking people into it because they had no prospect of being housed. Depending on their position on the list, they were required to be renting for 18 months. In many cases, I tried to match a tenant with a landlord to make the scheme work because it offered people some element of security in a rented house. The tenancies were usually for approximately five years. This allowed people to go to work. This Bill is positive in that it attempts to deal with this poverty trap.

As the provisions contained in this Bill were piloted by Limerick City Council, that authority will be most familiar with what the Minister of State wants from the legislation. She worked closely with Limerick City Council on the trial, which is not yet complete. The trial should have been allowed to conclude before we proceeded with the legislation. We should have engaged in pre-legislative scrutiny on the provisions in the Bill but the time available did not allow for that. The Joint Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government held a number of hearings on the Bill, however, even if they did not constitute pre-legislative scrutiny. I understand why people outside the House might regard this as a spat between the Opposition and the Government but our concern centres on the intentions behind the Bill. As of 2013, some 44,300 rent supplement tenancies were transferred to rental accommodation schemes. We are speaking about a large number of people over and above the 90,000 who are on housing waiting lists. The housing waiting list is, therefore, substantially larger than 90,000 individuals or families. When officials from Limerick City Council appeared before the committee on 7 May, they stated:

The intention behind the formal scheme is that once households are supported by HAP they will be considered to have their housing needs met and will be removed from the housing waiting list. This is a fundamental change to overall housing policy where those in receipt of long-term rent supplement support remain on local authority waiting lists.

This statement is from the local authority which prepared the business case for these changes and which is leading on the new provisions. It is not simply an assertion from an Opposition Deputy. This is a fundamental shift in the way we deal with social housing. The private sector will predominantly be the providers of housing and payments will substitute for the prospect of a long-term home.

RAS is different from the HAP scheme in that under the former the landlord is paid 92% of the market rent. It is a discount but it relates to the market rent. The HAP scheme will be more rigid in that the level of payment will be set annually at a rent below the market rate. The number of landlords coming forward is likely to be lower than is the case with RAS. People are constantly dropping out of RAS. I dealt with one individual who was housed in RAS accommodation which the landlord is now selling. I can provide the name and address of this individual.

It is not a concoction but rather a firm case which occurred this week. The argument is there is an obligation to a participant in the rental accommodation scheme but the people affected were told there was no obligation and they needed private rented accommodation. As there was nothing to give them, they needed to apply for rent supplement. Others have similar stories. It does not matter what happens in theory, it is what happens in practice that matters. My concern about this Bill is that there is much in it that is good in theory but the element to make things happen in practice can be missing.

There are no houses to which people can be transferred. In addition to the 90,000 families on the waiting list there are a large number of people in the rental accommodation scheme, RAS. There will be new obligations applying to the housing assistance payment, HAP, as opposed to RAS, particularly with regard to the number of inspections that will happen. A delegation from Roscommon County Council indicated to a committee on 7 May the many issues that could pose difficulties in practice, including the number of inspections that must be made. With RAS there was one inspection at the start of a tenancy but it seems the inspection will now be an annual event. Authorities do not have the ability or numbers to make those inspections, which indicates there are many elements in practice that will not work.

As Deputy Ó Feargháil and I have said, there is no transfer list in Kildare and a person would just go to the bottom of a list if he or she goes off it for any reason, including not passing an assessment. Does this transfer list entitle people to go back on the list in the position they were when they were removed from the original list?

Will people have to fill out separate forms? Will the transfer list be a new initiative and what vehicle will be used to facilitate it? From the Limerick pilot, does it seem that this is a fundamental change to the overall housing policy, where those in receipt of long-term supplement support remain on the housing list? Has something happened since we started debating this Bill?

No. I have already stated that people will be eligible for a transfer.

There is no transfer list in some counties.

Allow Deputy Catherine Murphy put her questions.

Put that in legislation.

There is no transfer list.

There is nothing about lists in legislation.

Even in areas with lists, people will not get a transfer.

Deputy Catherine Murphy has the floor and we only have a short period left for debate.

The Minister of State should wake up.

I am fully awake.

She is not. There is no transfer list in some county councils.

We will be returning to this debate.

The Minister of State needs to set out, chapter and verse, whether the points system will still apply and whether people will be reinstated to a list in the same position. Is this a shift from direct provision to a system where the exclusive responsibility for social housing will delivered by the private sector through a market-led approach?

No. It is not a change.

It is very difficult to reconcile what local authority personnel appearing before committees have told us and the Bill we are debating, which has several identified issues. The officials from the Department are telling us one thing but the Minister of State is saying something else. I cannot see any area within the legislation to clarify the issues.

I have seen the experience of RAS from a council perspective since approximately 2006, when the scheme was introduced. Amazingly, in Dublin the private sector increased from 19% in 2006 to 32% by 2011. I have always felt that RAS simply lined landlords pockets again after the 2008 crash and was not able to solve the housing crisis in the city at the time. The scheme was introduced to allow people work and access rent allowance from the local authorities. HAP is very similar to RAS and there are no major differences. In the past two years we have seen a change in RAS and landlords are not buying into it like they have done with local authorities. Dublin City Council, for example, was able to offer tenants RAS accommodation and such people were taken off the housing list.

RAS has security of tenure for four years and a landlord or his or her family can either move back into the property or sell it, which would entail the tenant leaving. In the past two years there has been no other RAS accommodation for transfers. People who could not afford to stay in Dublin before or who moved because of jobs may want to return to an area and they must inform a tenant that they will be returning to their property. The tenant in such cases has nowhere to go and cannot get a property that allows rent allowance. Local authorities are aware that RAS accommodation is difficult to obtain. We are dealing with people from different parts of the social spectrum trying to get a home. It is madness but the local authority has washed its hands of the matter. Issues such as this are not dealt with by the Private Residential Tenancies Board as it is up to the tenant or landlords to deal with such matters.

We have tried to obtain transfers for tenants and I know a particular family with a disabled child in RAS accommodation. In many ways the system is reasonable because properties must have building energy ratings and be habitable. Moreover, a landlord gets his payment directly paid to a bank account. Nevertheless, the overall system is not working because landlords are leaving the scheme because they can get more money from renting privately. They will not touch local authority tenants, which is a problem. The supply of private rented accommodation is also decreasing.

How will the Minister get landlords to buy into the HAP system? Perhaps it will be better known, once the papers pick it up, as the "hapless" system. There is no accommodation out there and landlords will not be interested as they are pulling out of RAS. Rent allowance is not being accepted and landlords will certainly not participate in the new HAP scheme. The Minister of State has indicated that tenants will have to come off the housing lists and potentially go on a transfer list. As people have said, she is living in cloud cuckoo land. She has indicated she can implement a ministerial order to facilitate a transfer list but there is nowhere for people to transfer to. We have a housing supply crisis both in private and local authority housing. This needs to be addressed.

The same issues apply to rent allowance.

The Minister of State said in a statement:

This commitment in the Programme for Government followed on-going concerns about the evolvement of rent supplement into a long-term housing support; which it was never designed to be. [Which it was never designed to be, but it was lining the pockets of the landlords for the past ten to 15 years.] It was also one of the key reforms announced in the Minister for Housing and Planning's Housing Policy Statement in June 2011.

At that time I would have expected the Minister of State to be looking to see how to put rent caps on landlords for rented accommodation, identifying areas to build social housing or finding money to try to build social housing. That was two years ago.

We are doing it.

This legislation, which is the Government's main idea, is not going to work.

Will the Minister of State reconsider this proposal and call a meeting of all the Deputies who have spoken here? It is a shame that none of the Government Deputies have come into the House to debate this issue because they will have to deal with it in their constituencies. They will not understand how it will affect people in their local authority areas.

I support these amendments.

Debate adjourned.