Is it agreed to sit until the Bill has been concluded? Agreed. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Molloy, and his officials.
Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, 2001: Committee Stage.
Have we been circulated with a new list of amendments?
They were submitted in the normal way.
To whom were they submitted?
They were submitted to the Bills Office.
The amendments faxed to my office yesterday are different from the amendments before us. This is the first time I have seen them.
Shall we discuss the Bill now?
While you may be in a position to discuss it, I am not because I have not seen the amendments before.
These are the only amendments submitted to the Bills Office.
I presume it was the Bills Office which faxed the amendments to my office yesterday. They are different from the amendments printed on the list. I am not in position, nor do I have time, to read them or absorb their intent.
At this stage all we can do is check out the matter. It is proposed to group the following amendments for the purpose of the debate: amendments Nos. 5 and 10; Nos. 6, 12 and 13; Nos. 7 and 8; Nos. 16 and 17; Nos. 18 to 22, inclusive, and 32; Nos. 24, 26 to 29, inclusive, and 39; and Nos. 37 and 38. All other amendments will be discussed individually. Is that agreed?
Will you clarify the grouping list you just read out by going through them again a little more slowly, please? They do not seem to correspond to my list.
It is proposed to group the following amendments for the purpose of debate: amendments Nos. 5 and 10; Nos. 6, 12 and 13; Nos. 7 and 8; Nos. 16 and 17; Nos. 18 to 22, inclusive, and 32; Nos. 24 and 26; Nos. 27 to 30, inclusive, and 39; and Nos. 37 and 38. All other amendments which are not grouped will be discussed individually. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, subsection (1), line 2, before "Housing" to insert "the".
This is a minor drafting amendment.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 5, line 12 to delete "the opinion of the housing authority concerned," and substitute "accordance with such procedures as may be prescribed,".
The definition of "market value" proposed in the Bill states that the market value for affordable and shared ownership houses will be the price which in the opinion of the housing authority concerned might reasonably be obtained in respect of such house if sold on the open market. In my view it is unwise to leave this to the discretion of the housing authority concerned as it may not be the best judge of the market value of a property. If there is a dispute between the individual attempting to purchase under the affordable housing scheme or under the shared ownership scheme, under this definition the person has no choice but to accept the opinion of the housing authority concerned. It is not entirely clear how the housing authority concerned will arrive at the market value. Officers who administer the affordable housing schemes or the shared ownership schemes may not be qualified in property valuation and may not be able to make a professional estimation of the market value. My amendment provides that "the opinion of the housing authority concerned" be deleted and replaced with "accordance with such procedures as may be prescribed". The Minister could then make regulations which would set down a procedure whereby the opinion of two or three valuation experts might be obtained and certain considerations taken into account.
This amendment would require the making of regulations specifying the matters to be taken into account in determining market value for the purposes of section 9, the control on the resale of affordable houses, and section 10, which deals with shared ownership lease - purchase of interest of housing authority in house or sale of house.
The making of such regulations would reduce the flexibility of local authorities to take account of local market conditions that may vary greatly from one local authority area to another. It would also be contrary to the trend of devolving as much power and decision making as possible to the local level.
The definition of "market value" in section 5 is consistent with the definition used to calculate the sale price of a house under a tenant purchase scheme as provided in the Housing (Sale of Houses) Regulations, 1995. In the case of tenant purchase, these regulations do not prescribe the way in which market value is to be calculated. However, in practice, the market value is assessed by the authority's own professional valuer or a valuer engaged by the authority. Where disputes arise in relation to the calculation of market value, local authorities have been advised to refer the matter to the Valuation Office for adjudication. While the final decision still rests with the local authority, these arrangements have worked satisfactorily in relation to the tenant purchase scheme without the need for regulations.
The definition of "market value" as contained in section 5 is satisfactory and appropriate to enable local authorities to carry out their functions under the Bill in an effective manner, and therefore I ask the Deputy to withdraw this amendment.
What happens if a shared ownership applicant or a person on the affordable housing scheme disputes the market value which the local authority puts on a dwelling?
Both parties are advised to refer the matter to the Valuation Office for adjudication on the dispute.
That is just advice. If the local authority decided not to do that then the individual would have no come-back.
I am not aware of major disputes arising and the Department is not aware of any issues that have not been resolved at a local level. Prospective purchasers may obtain a valuation from their own valuer as does the local authority. The Valuation Office adjudication is always available. I would be interested to know if the Deputy has found that this is an issue which arises regularly.
My experience of it is similar to what the Minister of State has described; there are often disputes between the local authority and purchasers. It arises more often in the area of tenant purchase than anywhere else. There is usually some mechanism devised, for instance a third party view such as the Valuation Office. What happens in practice is, by and large, satisfactory but that is not what is provided for in the legislation, which says the market value is whatever the housing authority says it is. The legislation must be brought into line with practice.
The local authority is acting in the public interest. If there is a dispute about valuation between a prospective purchaser and the local authority it can be resolved only with the agreement of the local authority which has the responsibility of ensuring the public interest is protected in relation to valuation. It is however a negotiable position and in practice local authorities and purchasers have succeeded in agreeing an acceptable price.
I will not pursue this matter further today and withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 7, subsection (2), lines 1 to 3, to delete paragraph (d).
We are now seeing the adoption of schemes at local authority level for the allocation of affordable housing. The problem is there will be more schemes for the allocation of affordable housing than there are affordable houses available. One of the issues which needs to be looked at is the adoption of schemes of letting priorities and the allocation of affordable houses. The degree of inflexibility entering this area stems from the fact the Minister's Department is effectively insisting on a standardisation of these schemes, which does not take account of local circumstances.
I am focusing on the requirement that in adopting a scheme for the allocation of affordable houses a housing authority would have to have regard to the distance of affordable housing from places of employment. As I understand it, local authorities are interpreting this - it was sent out in the guidelines from the Department to local authorities in respect of schemes - to mean that the further one is from one's place of employment, the higher the number of points one is awarded if a points scheme is being adopted. That is not necessarily a good idea. There are many good reasons people should be provided with houses close to their place of employment. There is as strong a reason for that as there is for saying if one lives a long distance from one's place of employment one should receive higher points.
This is probably an invidious provision to include in the scheme because the applicant in many respects does not have a great deal of choice regarding their place of employment. Also, a person's place of employment might change. How does one define place of employment? It might be better to leave this provision out of the scheme thereby leaving it to the local authority to decide whether it wishes to include a provision in its scheme which relates to place of employment.
Amendment No. 4 provides that the scheme of allocating priorities would be a reserved function. Does that meet with Deputy Gilmore's point?
Not necessarily. The scheme of letting priorities is a reserved function but it is still subject to ministerial approval. It would have to, in any event, comply with the terms of the legislation. What is the purpose of paragraph (d)? My understanding of Government policy is that there should be a reduction in the commuting distance between a person’s place of residence and place of employment. That would seem to imply that the nearer one is to one’s place of employment the higher should be one’s priority. Local authorities are interpreting this to mean the further one is from one’s place of employment the higher the number of points one should receive.
I have no experience of that. Deputy Gilmore, during his Second Stage contribution, drew attention to the fact the Dublin commuter belt now extends to places such as Gorey, Athy, Mullingar and Ardee. He also referred to the wear and tear on individuals who must drive to work from these increasingly remote suburbs and the strain imposed on children who will not see their parents from early morning until late evening.
In that connection, I was surprised to note that the Deputy was tabling this amendment. He is suggesting, through the deletion of paragraph (d) that the housing authority should take into account the distance of affordable housing from places of employment of persons applying for affordable housing when establishing schemes to determine the priority to be given to such applicants. The Deputy will be aware that section 98 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 contains similar provision in relation to the making of a scheme by a planning authority for the allocation of further houses provided under Part IV and Part V. The provisions under Part V were debated at length by this committee.
It is in the best interests for potential applicants for affordable housing and housing authorities that distance from employment should be a factor in determining allocation of priorities. The priorities can be determined by the elected representatives by way of reserved function which is covered in the following amendment. I accept the Bill as published is silent on the issue. It did not say who would make such determinations or whether it would be an executive or reserved function. We propose to make it a reserved function which would mean locally elected councillors will have a major say in the adoption of their scheme of priorities for the allocation of affordable houses. It is not subject to ministerial approval.
What are local authorities being asked to do? If this is being done on a points basis which is how local authorities intend to do it——
Not every local authority.
Will one receive more points the further one is from one's place of work or more points the nearer one is to one's place of work?
The points system is not operated by every local authority. I know it is used in the Deputy's constituency but I am not familiar with how it operates. It has not operated in any of the areas which I have been elected to represent. A reserved function means it will be a matter for the members of the authority to decide. It would appear to me that if one was to introduce a points system then those nearer the area should be awarded higher points. One could work it both ways.
What is the purpose of the wording? Does "distance" mean the furthest away or the nearest? What is the intent of the legislation?
It is one of the factors that members can take into account when awarding their points or determining their scheme of priorities.
How is that going to work? Supposing one has——
I do not see the sense in awarding high points towards acquiring affordable housing in Dublin for a person living in Athlone.
Suppose, for example——
If I was a member of a local authority deciding this matter, I would concentrate on building houses for people in my own area.
If there are two applicants for affordable housing in Oranmore, one living in or close to Oranmore and the other in Moycullen with both working in Ballybrit, which would be given priority under this scheme, given that the first applicant would be nearer their place of employment and the other would have to incur huge costs travelling to and from work? Which of the applicants are advantaged by paragraph (d)?
That is a matter for the local authority. I cannot adjudicate on hypothetical cases. Other factors are taken into account. This is not the only factor about which an official will make a determination, as the Deputy knows. It is not reasonable to highlight one of the aspects which will be taken into consideration.
I am arguing that the Bill should be silent regarding distance between a person's residence and place of employment. We should leave it to the local authorities to administer the scheme.
It would be better to omit it if it is causing confusion. The intent is covered under section (c), the residency consideration.
It is very legitimate to take into account the length of time a person is living in the functional area of the local authority. There was a time when such things were not taken into consideration.
That is the point I am making. We should keep paragraph (c) and delete paragraph (d).
It is not the determining factor. It is a factor in a group. Section 98 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 contains a similar provision in relation to the making of a scheme by an authority for the application of affordable houses under Part V. I do not see the difficulty with this. I accept Deputies have a difficulty with this but I do not. I do not see it as a major determining factor. Paragraph (e) gives the local authority the right to consider any other matter it thinks is appropriate to be taken into consideration. It is very open.
I think you will have to put the question, Chairman. The Minister is obviously not——
Let us say 15 affordable houses were being built in Oughterard and all but one had been allocated. If the two remaining applicants came from Lettermore and Rosscahill it would make more sense to give the house to the person from Rosscahill who has been living in the area.
I will have to supply Deputy Mitchell with a map.
I assumed Deputy Gilmore, being from Galway, knew what I was talking about. I accept there would be a slight——
I could probably name some of the applicants. The Minister's scenario is all right provided Galway County Council decided that "distance" meant shortness of distance as opposed to length of distance. Galway County Council could decide it is the distance from affordable housing from place of employment and could decide on length of distance. One of the applicants might be working in Clifden and the other in Lettermore. To whom does this apply?
I do not think we should be seeking to allocate houses here.
We are trying to find out what this means. Does it mean length of distance or shortness of distance?
The council will make its decision taking all factors, including distance, into consideration.
This will create a mess. That consideration will give rise to all kinds of anomalies and difficulties.
Let us wait and see.
Will the people be happy?
We will find out very shortly.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 7, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) the making of a scheme under this section and the making of an amendment to any such scheme shall be reserved functions.".
The Bill as published is silent on whether the making of a scheme of allocation priorities for affordable housing is an executive or reserved function. Under section 98 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 the making of a scheme of allocation of priorities for affordable housing is a reserved function. Similarly under section 11(6) of the Housing Act, 1998 the making of a scheme of letting of priorities for local authority housing is also a reserved function. This amendment which inserts a new subsection (4) into section 8 is being made to provide that the making of a scheme of allocation priorities for affordable housing provided in accordance with section 6 is a reserved function.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 10 are related and may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, subsection (3)(e)(i), line 3, after “purchaser” to insert “, and any such allowance shall be deducted from the proceeds of sale before the amount so payable is calculated”.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 10 relate to the claw-back provisions which apply in the case of the first resale of houses originally made available to a purchaser by a local authority under the affordable housing or share ownership schemes. The provisions as originally drafted do not make it explicit that where material improvements have been made by the purchaser to the house the value of these improvements should be deducted from the sale price. This net amount will then be used as the basis for the calculation of the amount to be repaid to the housing authority. These amendments seek to clarify the position.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 12 are related and amendment No. 13 is alternate to amendment No. 12 and all may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 8, subsection (4), line 12, after "housing" where it secondly occurs, to insert "or for the improvement or refurbishment of existing housing".
I tabled amendments Nos. 6 and 12 on foot of Deputy Olivia Mitchell's amendment No. 13. The Deputy has proposed that any moneys arising for the local authority in the event of the sale of a house under the shared ownership scheme should be used for the improvement, refurbishment or upgrading of existing stock. I thank Deputy Mitchell for raising this point. I am advised that the wording of my amendments, which do not alter the spirit or substance of the Deputy's amendments, are more appropriate.
Amendment No. 6 also amends the provisions relating to the affordable housing scheme to provide that moneys available to a local authority from the first resale of a house by a purchaser under the affordable housing scheme may also be used by the authority for the improvement and refurbishment of existing housing stock. I would ask Deputy Mitchell not press her amendment having regard to those which I have tabled in this regard.
I am quite happy to withdraw my amendment.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 8, subsection (2), lines 18 and 19, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following:
"(a) notification of the housing authority by the purchaser of the proposed sale of the purchaser’s interest in the house;”.
Section 10 provides for controls including a claw-back of profit on the first resale of a house purchased under the shared ownership scheme and also provides controls on the purchase of the interest of the local authority in the house in the event of either set of circumstances arising within 20 years of the date of the shared ownership lease. The current wording of section 10(2)(a) states the purchaser, the person granted the terms of the shared ownership lease of the house, must notify the housing authority of their intention to sell the house regardless of whether the housing authority retains an interest in the house. Amendment No. 7 is to clarify that the housing authority need only be notified by the purchaser of a proposed sale where a shared ownership lease still exists by virtue of the housing authority retaining an interest in the house. Amendment No. 8 is consequential on amendment No. 7.
Perhaps the Minister of State could clarify whether it is necessary to notify the housing authority.
If a person buys the balance of the house and is the full owner, there is no need to notify the housing authority. That was an omission in the Bill as originally drafted.
It does away with that need.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 8, subsection (3)(a), to delete line 26 and substitute the following:
"(ii) sells his or her interest in the house,".
As Deputy Gilmore is not here, amendment No. 9 cannot be moved.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 9, subsection (3)(e)(i), line 18, after “purchaser” to insert “, and any such allowance shall be deducted from the proceeds of sale before the amount so payable is calculated”.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 9, line 22, to delete "decoration" and substitute "decoration,".
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 9, subsection (4), line 30, after "housing" to insert "or for the improvement or refurbishment of existing housing".
I draw the Minister of State's attention to what I wanted to do in amendment No. 9 and I give notice that I will resubmit it on Report Stage. One of the issues arising now in terms of the buy-out of the local authority's equity by shared ownership participants relates to what they are being charged. It has been drawn to my attention that under the shared ownership arrangement, a participant makes two payments. One is a loan repayment which he or she makes either to the local authority or to the lending agency and the second is a rental payment which the participant pays to the local authority, but for which the participant does not get any benefit other than participation in the scheme. Unlike rental payments which are made by a tenant in the normal way, a participant in a shared ownership scheme does not have any right, for example, to maintenance service from the local authority. It is a payment which is made to the local authority without any return on it.
Some account should be taken of the rent which has been paid by the participant in the shared ownership scheme when he or she buys out the local authority's equity in the shared ownership dwelling. A tenant purchaser, for example, gets a discount on rent which has been paid on a dwelling for which the local authority had maintenance responsibility. However, there is no credit given for the rent which has been paid on a shared ownership dwelling where there is no maintenance responsibility. I would like the Minister of State to consider my proposal in amendment No. 9 that when the shared ownership dwelling participant is buying out the local authority's equity, account should be taken of the rent which has been paid by that participant.
We are not discussing that amendment now. The Deputy has elaborated on the thinking behind it and he will resubmit it on Report Stage. We will respond to the points he has made at that stage.
Amendment No. 14 is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Revenue.
Is this enabling legislation?
The amendment proposes the addition to section 12 of a further category of body to which the Minister may grant money for purposes including research and the promotion or provision of houses or sites. Notwithstanding that the Minister may already have a non-statutory or other power to make such grants, the inclusion in the Bill of a provision giving him a new statutory power to make grants would have the effect of imposing a new potential charge on the Revenue within the meaning of Standing Order 141(3).
There is nothing in the specific wording of the section which precludes my Department from making funding available to local authorities where necessary and appropriate for carrying out research or other related work in the housing area. Last year, for example, a total of almost €618,000 was paid out to local authorities by my Department to assist them in engaging consultants in the preparation of their housing strategies under Part V of the Planning and Development Act.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 11, lines 10 to 15 to delete subsection (2) and substitute the following:
"(2) The Minister may, from time to time, in the interests of consumer protection or for the purposes of his or her functions in relation to housing or the development and co-ordination of housing policy or relevant financial and economic policies, require mortgage lenders to provide to the Minister such information as the Minister specifies, including the following:".
The effect of the amendment is to delete the word "and" between the four sub-clauses in the subsection and replace it with the word "or". The amendment is required as the Bill currently requires all the purposes set out to be met in order for the Minister to seek information from mortgage lenders. That was not the original intention. The Minister should be free to seek the information for any of these purposes or a combination thereof.
I have received clarification from the Bills office that preliminary lists of amendments are issued first. When corrections are made, they are contained in the final amendment lists. That is to advise Members of what amendments will arise.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 are related and both may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 12, lines 17 and 18, to delete "to a tenant".
Section 56 of the 1966 Housing Act provides that housing authorities may "erect, acquire, purchase, convert or reconstruct, lease or otherwise provide dwellings and such dwellings may be temporary or permanent". Section 58 of the same Act empowers local authorities to carry out management and control functions and charge such rent or other payment for the tenancy as they see fit in relation to dwellings which they own. Section 58 is being amended in this Bill to enable the housing authority to carry out management and control functions, including the making of charges by way of rent or otherwise, in respect of dwellings being provided by them under contract or leasing arrangements where they are not the owners of the dwellings.
The purpose of the new subsections 1B and 3B which have been inserted in section 58 in the published Bill is to remove any doubt that housing authorities can perform management and control functions and charge rents in relation to dwellings procured by them through arrangements with owners of private accommodation. These amendments clarify that there is no need to make specific reference to a tenant in subsections 1B and 3B. There is a possibility that the new provisions as drafted could be construed as not applying for periods when the accommodation is vacant, which is not of course the intention.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 12, line 42, to delete "to a tenant".
Amendment No. 18 is in the name of Deputy Olivia Mitchell. Amendment No. 19 is consequential; amendments Nos. 19 to 22, inclusive, are related and amendment No. 32 is an alternative to amendment No. 20. The amendments may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 13, before section 16 to insert the following new sections:
"16.-The Act of 1997 is hereby amended by the insertion of the following new sections 3B and 3C after section 3A-
3B.-(1) Where, without lawful authority, a person erects, places, occupies or otherwise retains a temporary dwelling in a public place and such public place is not a site provided, managed or controlled by a housing authority under section 13 of the Housing Act, 1988, (as amended by the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998) nor a site provided or managed under section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992, the local authority for the area in which the public place is located may (and shall where the number of temporary dwellings is such as to obstruct or interfere with the use or enjoyment by any person of any public or private amenity, including a visual amenity, or any public or private facility or with the maintenance of any such amenity or facility) serve a notice on that person requiring that person, within a specified period, to remove the said temporary dwelling from that public place.
(2) A notice under subsection (1) shall specify-
(a) the location and description of the temporary dwelling to which it relates;
(b) the specified period, being not less that 24 hours and not more than 72 hours from the time at which the notice is served; and
(c) the statutory consequences of failure to comply with the requirements of the notice.
(3) Where, before the expiry of the period within which the requirements of a notice under subsection (1) are to be complied with, the temporary dwelling to which the notice relates is removed to a location in which it may lawfully be retained by the person concerned and the local authority would not be entitled to serve another notice under subsection (1) in relation to that location, then subsections (4) and (5) shall not have effect.
(4) Any person on whom a notice under subsection (1) is served who fails in any respect to comply with any requirement of the notice shall be guilty of an offence.
(5) Where the requirements of a notice under subsection (1) have not been complied with in all or any respects, then, without prejudice to any other provisions of this section or this Act, the local authority shall, without further notice, remove or procure the removal of the temporary dwelling from such public place.
(6) Any person who obstructs or impedes or assists a person to obstruct or impede a local authority in exercising their functions under this section shall be guilty of an offence.
(7) Where a temporary dwelling has been removed by a local authority under this section without the presence or knowledge of any person claiming to own, occupy or otherwise retain it, the authority shall serve upon each such person whose name and address can be ascertained by reasonable enquiry, a notice informing him-
(a) of the address of the place where it may be claimed and recovered, and
(b) of the powers and duties of the authority under subsections (8), (9) and (10).
(8) Possession of a temporary dwelling removed by a local authority under subsection (5) shall be given by the authority to a person claiming possession of it on his satisfying the authority that his claim thereto is bona fide if, but only if, the person makes a declaration in writing that-
(a) he is the owner of the temporary dwelling, or
(b) he is authorised by its owner to claim it, or
(c) he is, for a specified reason, otherwise entitled to possession of it,
and he pays the amount of any expenditure reasonably incurred by that authority in removing and storing the temporary dwelling.
(9) A local authority may dispose or procure the disposal of a temporary dwelling removed by the authority under this section unless, within one month from the date of its removal or, where a notice is served in respect of it under subsection (7), from the time at which the notice is served it is claimed in accordance with subsection (8) and removed from the place where it is stored by the local authority.
(a) a local authority becomes entitled to dispose or procure the disposal of a temporary dwelling by virtue of subsection (9),
(b) the name and address of the owner of the temporary dwelling is or can be ascertained by the authority by reasonable enquiry, and
(c) the temporary dwelling is, in their opinion, capable of being sold,
then the authority shall be entitled to sell the temporary dwelling for the best price reasonably obtainable and upon doing so shall pay to the person who was the owner of the temporary dwelling at the time of its removal a sum equal to the proceeds of such sale after deducting therefrom any expenditure reasonably incurred by the authority in its removal, storage and sale and any expenditure incurred by that or another local authority in the provision of the temporary dwelling.
(11)(a) A notice under subsection (1) may be served on a person in either or both of the following ways:
(b) in accordance with section 3 of the Principal Act, and
(c) at the discretion of the authority, by affixing it in a conspicuous position on or near the temporary dwelling to which it relates.
(d) Section 3(5) of the Principal Act shall apply to a notice affixed in accordance with paragraph (a) (ii).
(12) Any person guilty of an offence under subsection (4) or (6) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of £1,000 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
(13) (a) The powers and functions conferred by this section are additional to the powers and functions of a public authority under any other enactment or rule of law.
(b) The provision of this section shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998, or in the Act of 1992.
(14) In this section-
"public authority" means-
(a) the Government,
(b) a Minister of the Government,
(c) a local authority,
(d) a health board, and
(e) any other body established-
(i) by or under any enactment (other than the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1990), or
(ii) under the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1990, in pursuance of powers conferred by or under another enactment, and financed wholly or partly by means of monies provided, or loans made or guaranteed, by a Minister of the Government or the issue of shares held by or on behalf of a Minister of the Government, and a subsidiary of any such body;
"public place" means any street, road or other place to which the public have access whether as of right or by express or implied permission and whether subject to or free of charge and any property or other land owned or occupied by or leased to public authority;
"temporary dwelling" means any tent, caravan, mobile home, vehicle or other structure or thing (whether on wheels or not) which is capable of being moved from one place to another, and-
(a) is or was used for human habitation, either permanently or from time to time, or
(b) was designed, constructed or adapted for such use.
3C.-(1)Any person or persons who is or are lawfully entitled to possession of any land, either as owner, lessee, tenant or otherwise, (in this section referred to as the "owner") may apply to the District Court for a general excluding order against any person (in this Act called "the respondent") who erects, places, occupies or otherwise retains a temporary dwelling on such land (in this Act referred to as "the relevant property").
(2) Where following an application under this section, the District Court, or the Circuit Court on appeal from the District Court, is of opinion that the respondent does not have lawful authority for so erecting, occupying or otherwise retaining a temporary dwelling on the relevant property, it shall by order (in this Act referred to as a "general excluding order")-
(a) direct the respondent if residing on the relevant property to leave the relevant property within a specified period not being less than 24 hours or more than 48 hours from the time at which notice of the making of the order is served upon the respondent (in this Act called ’the specified period’);
(b) direct the respondent to remove such temporary dwelling from the relevant property within the specified period;
(c) prohibit the respondent, whether or not the respondent is or is not residing at or on the relevant property, for the period during which the order is in force, from entering or being in the vicinity of the relevant property;
(d) prohibit the respondent from causing or attempting to cause any intimidation, coercion, harassment, or obstruction of, threat to, or interference with the owner or with any occupant of the relevant property or any person or persons residing adjacent to the relevant property or from engaging in any anti-social behaviour to the detriment of any person or persons in the vicinity of the relevant property.
(3) The burden of establishing that the respondent has lawful authority as referred to in subsection (2) shall be borne by the respondent.
(4) A general excluding order, whether made by the District Court or the Circuit Court on appeal from the District Court, shall, subject to subsection (5), expire three years after the date of its making or on the expiration of such shorter period as is specified in the order.
(5) On or before the expiration of a general excluding order to which subsection (4) relates, a further general excluding order may be made by the District Court, or by the Circuit Court on appeal from the District Court, for a period of three years or such shorter period as specified in the order and the order shall take effect from the date of expiration of the first-mentioned general excluding order.
(6) Sections 4 to 12 shall apply, with any necessary modifications, to a general excluding order under this section and for this purpose references in those sections to-
"excluding order" shall be construed and have effect as including a reference to a general excluding order;
"interim excluding order" shall be construed and have effect as including a reference to an interim general excluding order;
"house" or "housing estate" shall be construed and have effect as including a reference to the relevant property; and
"tenant" shall be construed and have effects as including a reference to an owner making an application under subsection (1).
(7) A notice of the making of an application under subsection (1) or of the making of a general excluding order may be served on a person in either or both of the following ways:
(i) in accordance with section 3 of the Principal Act, and
(ii) by affixing it in a conspicuous position on or near the temporary dwelling to which it relates.
(8) In this section 'land' shall have the same meaning as in the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Act, 1971.'.".
I do not intend to speak about the amendments at great length because we are probably all familiar with every aspect of the matter. I welcome the fact that the Minister of State has accepted section 4 of my Bill and incorporated it in amendment No. 32. It will remove an ambiguity in the Bill and, by extending it to public and private amenities, give added strength to local authorities in dealing with unauthorised encampments in the vicinity of halting sites.
Much as I appreciate the inclusion of the amendment, on its own the section will not make a real difference because the local authorities operated the one mile zone until relatively recently when it started to be called into question by Traveller groups. The reason local authorities are no longer using this power is not the ambiguity in the section, but the fact that it is the subject of a court challenge which maintains that no section of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Bill is valid until all sections have been implemented. This means that the power does not apply unless there are transient sites and all Travellers are accommodated. Amendment No. 32 does not deal with this matter, which forms the basis of one of the pending court challenges and is inhibiting local authorities from taking action.
However, even if the case was not pending, the amendment on its own does not make it easier, cheaper or quicker for local authorities to deal with the real problems which occur in the vicinity of halting sites as it will still be necessary to get the names of the Travellers involved, go to court, wait for a High Court injunction and enforce it. The whole process is so tortuous that local authorities are reluctant to do anything about it and even in areas where local authorities hope to build a second halting site they find the procedure so difficult to implement that they have decided not to proceed.
There is a whole range of problems of which the Minister of State must be aware. He has held meetings with the Dublin local authorities. I am not sure why we are fixated with Dublin because the problems which I highlighted when publishing my Bill were countrywide. The requirement on only the Dublin local authorities to provide transient sites will cause additional problems in the region. The sites will be filled immediately and will act as a magnet and the local authorities do not have additional powers other than the one mile zone.
I could show the Minister of State real sites in my constituency, one on Stocking Lane in Rathfarnham, one in Ballinteer and one in Kilternan, which are causing major problems for local residents and where the one mile zone does not apply and cannot be implemented. I raised this matter with the Minister of State when the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Bill was being enacted. They are practical problems which need to be addressed. The public's attitudes are hardening against halting sites. I am aware that a site is due to open quite near to where I live which I support - I wish the local authority would get on with it. However, because an illegal encampment has started up just down the road from it local residents, when they see what goes on at unauthorised sites, will be wholly opposed to the official site.
These sites, particularly the large ones, must be controlled. If one, two or three caravans are tucked in out of the way, nobody is bothered, but when we have circumstances like those in Stocking Lane where there are 40 caravans on both sides of somebody's driveway the matter becomes intolerable. If we tell people we do not have a law to control these sites and ask them to live beside one and run the gauntlet every time they come out of their home onto the public road, effectively we make them prisoners in their own homes. It is not right that we cannot give them some protection. The Garda and the local authority cannot do anything and now the legislators are refusing to do anything as well.
Members of the Travelling community are equal citizens who require the provision of proper housing for themselves and their children to rear their families and try to live in modern day conditions like everybody else. Government policy, regardless of political party, has consistently been to try to achieve a position in which adequate provision is made for all Traveller families living in this country. Travellers have their own preferences with regard to halting sites. Some like to live in caravans which allows them to move around several times a year, others have caravans which they do not move, others are happy to live in group housing among themselves, while others are happy to integrate into local authority housing schemes. These various accommodation types are being provided for under Government policy.
I am pleased that 344 Traveller families were accommodated last year under the various accommodation types for meeting their needs, namely, halting sites, group houses, refurbished halting sites, refurbished housing schemes and standard housing. The largest number of them buy into standard housing. Last year's figure is the highest ever recorded and we must continue to provide these kinds of facilities.
What we are discussing is a situation which arises during the summer months, in particular, when large numbers of Traveller families, sometimes trailer families many of whom have houses, take off for the summer and park in very large numbers on sites with totally inadequate facilities. In some cases they have seriously abused these areas and left an enormous amount of litter, dirt and mayhem behind and in all cases the local authority was left to clear up the mess. The law did not appear adequate to deal with this matter. This is the reason I held the meeting with the various local authorities in Dublin, not because we are pushing transient sites in Dublin.
Under the housing strategy for Travellers, it is a requirement that transient sites be provided in addition to meeting the housing needs of those Travellers living on the roadside of which there are 1,000 families, a fact which is not to our credit. Despite the fact that we are making some progress, the Traveller population is constantly increasing. I indicated in my speech on Second Stage that I would consider the proposals in the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill on unauthorised encampments presented by Deputy Olivia Mitchell and that any proposals in this regard which I might have could be dealt with on Committee Stage. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the context in which the Private Members' Bill was introduced by Deputy Mitchell. I am aware it was with the intention of providing a mechanism for dealing with the very serious circumstances which have recently emerged due to the large scale of encampments and the activities with which they are associated.
I visited one of the areas affected by such unauthorised encampments in south County Dublin late last year and was shocked by what I saw. The amenities of the area were destroyed and rendered unusable as a consequence of the large numbers of such encampments based there. I stress that incidents such as this also arise, and have arisen for many years, in other parts. This must not be allowed to happen again anywhere in the country.
I acknowledge the considerable amount of work which went into drafting the Private Members' Bill which is also reflected in the amendments tabled by Deputy Mitchell. What has become clear in the course of the last year or two is that the existing law on unauthorised encampments provided for in the Housing Acts has been overtaken by circumstances and is no longer adequate to deal with all circumstances involving such encampments. The Government has also been giving consideration to what changes to existing legislation may be appropriate and to the provisions in the Private Members' Bill, which are, again, set out in these amendments.
The amendments address some of the main problems which have arisen recently from large scale unauthorised encampments. They are constructive efforts to address this serious issue and I do not propose to engage in the business of finding fault with them just for the sake of it. I will comment briefly on various points which arise from the amendments.
Amendment No. 32 and amendment No. 20 in Deputy Olivia Mitchell's name provide for the amendment of section 10 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992, as amended by the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998. Section 10 of the 1992 Act provides powers for local authorities to remove unauthorised temporary dwellings from public places depending on the circumstances. These amendments seek to widen the circumstances under which the provision applies and also widen the scope of the power to circumstances in which nuisance is caused to any dwelling within the one mile radius of approved Traveller accommodation.
Official amendment No. 32 proposes to extend the specific criteria under which the provision may be applied to include the use or occupancy of the temporary dwelling in addition to its being one of a number of such temporary dwellings. It widens the scope of the power to include circumstances in which nuisance is caused to any dwelling within the one mile radius and not, as at present, dwellings in the immediate vicinity of the approved accommodation. This will give each dwelling within the one mile radius of Traveller accommodation protection in the event of any such dwelling being affected by an unauthorised temporary dwelling. It widens the grounds on which the power may be used in circumstances where obstruction of, or interference with, public or private amenities is caused by a temporary dwelling. This will allow it to be used where obstruction or interference is caused to amenities, even if a temporary dwelling does not directly impact on dwellings in the area.
The amendment differs from Deputy Mitchell's amendment in that it will not make use of the power mandatory on a local authority. This will ensure that the local authority will have discretion to continue to permit those Traveller families in need of permanent accommodation to remain on land pending the provision by the authority of permanent accommodation for the families.
Amendment No. 18 in Deputy Mitchell's name proposes to give additional powers to local authorities to remove temporary dwellings from a public place. This proposed power does not take into account the link between a local authority's power to move a temporary dwelling and its duty to provide alternative accommodation. This link has been established in both the existing legislation dealing with this issue, except in the limited circumstances provided for in relation to the one mile radius from approved Traveller accommodation, and case law. It is unlikely that the courts would support this proposed power if it were challenged. The legal advice available to me supports this view.
Amendment No. 18 also proposes that landowners would have access to the District Court to which they could apply for general excluding orders against temporary dwellings on their lands. While this is a proposal which warrants careful consideration and would tie in with existing housing legislation, it would still require landowners to go through the courts system, possibly involving costly appeals to the Circuit Court.
Amendment No. 21 would create an offence of placing a temporary dwelling on any land without the owner's consent. There are practical difficulties with this provision as drafted. The main problem I envisage with this provision is that, while provision is made for the arrest and possible charge of a person suspected of having committed an offence, it would still be a matter for the landowner to arrange for the removal of the temporary dwellings, which in normal circumstances would be done under the supervision of the Garda. This could be a very challenging exercise for a private landowner and the engagement of costly security services would most likely be necessary.
I ask the Committee to accept official amendment No. 32. We are still finalising our response to amendments Nos. 18, 19, 21 and 22 and will return to the issues they raise on Report Stage. As I will be in a position deal with the substance of the issues covered by amendments Nos. 18, 19, 21 and 22 by way of an official amendment tabled on Report Stage, I ask Deputy Mitchell not to press these amendments at this stage. While we have not yet finalised our response, we will be in a position to do so by Report Stage. I assure the Committee that we have not been leaving the dust to settle on the issues raised by these amendments. Since the publication of Deputy Mitchell's Private Member's Bill, my officials have been giving it very careful consideration and have been obtaining legal advice on its various aspects.
The committee will appreciate that these amendments raise very serious and fundamental questions relating to unauthorised dwellings and the appropriate mechanisms to deal with them. It is incumbent on us as legislators to produce a fair and measured response to deal with this issue which takes considerable time.
I thank the Minister of State and appreciate his response. I realise that there are issues which need to be addressed which my Bill did not address. We will deal first with the Minister of State's amendment No. 32vis-à-vis my amendment No. 20 which is similar except that the former uses the word “may” whereas mine uses “shall”. The only circumstance for which I made it mandatory for the local authorities to act was the one mile zone. Everything else is left to the discretion of the local authorities. The reason I felt it had to be mandatory is that this is the issue which will persuade and encourage local communities to accept halting sites, group housing schemes and other schemes which are being resisted because the proliferation of unauthorised caravans and other reasons which we need not discuss in detail.
The unauthorised caravans are the long-term problem and they are causing problems for Travellers who genuinely do not have somewhere to go and for the most part are not the ones causing the problems. It is the Travellers who have left houses and taken to the road who are causing the problems. I urge the Minister of State to reconsider this aspect of the amendment which would compel local authorities to give a minimum guarantee to residents of both the halting site and the surrounding one mile zone. This is the minimum one can offer, particularly in built up communities where people live in very close proximity to halting sites.
I am aware the Minister of State visited the site on the Dodder, which is the most public one. However, there are others around the country. The Minister of State said it should never happen again. He should be made aware that it is happening again just a couple of miles away on Stocking Lane where people are being asked to put up with intolerable conditions created by Travellers who clearly have left accommodation in counties Cork and Kerry. They have no reason to be there as it is not a trading area.
The Minister of State said the problem is confined to the summer months. This is a myth, February and March cannot be regarded as summer months. The real problem is being caused, not by what could be described as homeless Travellers with nowhere to go, but by transient traders. The issue which I try to manage is the transient site. The legislation is so open-ended that we must change it. It means that irrespective of how many Travellers turn up unannounced in an area, the local authority is responsible for providing a transient site for them. That is not practical, feasible or achievable. Hoteliers could not do it, nobody could do it. That is the law and it is being pursued by Traveller groups as a reasonable objective, but it is not. I accept the Minister's bona fides that he will try on Report Stage to address some of the other aspects of my amendments. I will resubmit them on Report Stage. However, I would like to press amendment No. 20 which is critical.
I am disappointed that on a Bill that deals with housing we are spending more time discussing Travellers than the provision of housing for people who need it, be they on local authority housing lists or seeking affordable housing. Under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998 all local authorities were required to adopt, within six months, Traveller accommodation plans. Those plans were to be implemented within a five year period. That has not happened. The Minister gave us a figure of 334 Traveller families who have been accommodated. That is a far cry from the number who live on the roadside. It appears that none of the high hopes for the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998 and the Traveller accommodation plans will be implemented within the five year period. Regardless of how one views the problem, if the accommodation has not been provided we will end up with Travellers camping in unauthorised encampments.
The real problem - I do not think we are giving it sufficient attention - is that official accommodation is not being provided. I accept a particular problem has emerged in recent summers with very large groups of what the Minister has described as trading Travellers travelling in convoy and camping in very large numbers in high amenity and recreational areas. Deputy Mitchell's way of approaching this - the Minister appears to have some sympathy with it - is not the way to go. First, I do not believe this is a problem which requires additional legislation. No matter what legislation is enacted we will have problems with enforcement. If local authorities do not provide accommodation for Travellers who do not have accommodation - I draw a distinction between those who live on the roadside because they do not have permanent accommodation and those who travel by choice during the summer months - then having legislation under which they can be moved on simply moves the problem from one area to another. Second, no matter what legislation we have - even if what Deputy Mitchell proposes were legislated for tomorrow - the enforcement issue still remains. Who will enforce it? How will it be enforced? One can argue that the laws which exist are not being enforced. The parks by-laws and the litter and public order Acts which would be enforced in other circumstances are not being used when, for example, a large body of Travellers camp in a public park. The legislation being proposed by Deputy Mitchell does not stand any greater chance of being enforced. The problem is enforcement and it relates to the fact that no official accommodation is being provided.
I support amendment No. 32 as proposed by the Minister. In fact, when the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998 was being debated, I supported the concept that there could not be unauthorised encampments within a one mile radius of an official halting site or a group housing scheme. I saw that as a way to encourage communities to take a positive and constructive attitude towards the settlement of Travellers. It has to be recorded that a number of communities have done this and that is to their credit. The one mile radius arrangement should be enhanced.
The Minister's amendment seeks to widen the scope of section 16 to include a temporary dwelling which causes a nuisance or obstruction to the occupants of a site or another dwelling or dwellings within a one mile radius of that site.
That is included in other legislation.
Let us examine what that means. What is understood by that is that a Traveller who pulls up a caravan within a one mile radius of an official halting site can be moved on. What happens, if within the one mile radius, an applicant who is on the housing list erects a temporary dwelling or caravan - as some are doing - in the back garden of the family home and the family next door complains? Let us be clear on this because it could raise issues of constitutionality. Are we creating special laws for Travellers or will this have general application? I would like clarification on that matter.
The Minister said he will introduce new amendments to address amendments Nos. 18, 19, 20 and 21 tabled by Deputy Mitchell. It is, of course, a matter for the Minister to introduce what he wishes. Amendments Nos. 18, 19, 20 and 21 are fairly substantial legislative proposals. We do not know what amendments the Minister is proposing to introduce. It is not sufficient to simply state that these amendments will be given Committee Stage consideration. Such amendments, if introduced, should be recommitted to Committee because they address specific areas. A great deal of time has elapsed since Deputy Mitchell first proposed this Bill. It is not acceptable that such substantial legislative proposals would be made on Report Stage in the dying days of this Dáil. I will be seeking to have these amendments recommitted if they are introduced on Report Stage.
It is important that we differentiate between the position of Traveller groups involved in large scale unauthorised encampments some of whom do not lack permanent accommodation and that of families who are forced to live in terrible conditions on the roadside because of the absence of permanent accommodation. Such people are trying to get on with their lives as best they can. Deputy Mitchell focused on the point with which we are dealing. We all agree that we are referring principally to people who have accommodation elsewhere and who are not without a home as such but at the same time cause a nuisance, obstruction and destruction to amenities. In many cases poor Traveller families who do not have permanent accommodation are permitted by local authorities to remain on public lands, such as unused sections of roadway left over after road realignments, pending the provision by the authority of permanent accommodation for the families concerned. The presence of such Traveller families on the land generally does not give rise to any major local objections as they consist of relatively small groups and do not engage in objectionable behaviour. I am very concerned that conditions for this latter category of Traveller family could be made even worse as a result of the fall-out from the large scale encampments which have been in the news recently. It is important to make that point.
It is important also to highlight the progress made in relation to finding and providing accommodation for Traveller families. The number of families in local authority or local authority sister accommodation has increased to 4,133 in 2001, an increase of more than 300 families on the previous year. The increase applies over all the various categories of accommodation. I mention this to show that even though a large number of families still await accommodation, over the years the local authorities and the State have made a big investment in seeking to provide accommodation for them.
I regret that the Traveller accommodation programme is not advancing at a faster rate. We went to great trouble to pass the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act. We placed certain responsibilities on the housing authorities in relation to drawing up strategies, acquiring sites, drawing up plans and providing the facilities. We are now at the implementation stage. While it is encouraging to see the figures increase, the increase is not enough if we are to deal with this matter in the timespan set out by the task force. I appeal to local authorities to endeavour to identify sites and to provide suitable accommodation for them. The State has never reneged on providing the necessary funding for any plans put forward by the local authorities to provide accommodation for Travellers. I would go so far as to say that in some cases, not many, we were prepared to pay quite substantial sums of money to ensure accommodation was provided in certain locations where land and building costs were high. We did not balk at that and approved of some very expensive acquisitions in order to house those families. That, I hope, shows our intent and our commitment in this area.
If I were to accept amendment No. 20, proposed by Deputy Mitchell, which seeks to make it mandatory, it could mean families who have been allowed to stay on lands for a long time would be evicted, especially if a number of people in the settled community requested this, as provided for, even in cases where the local authority did not want them moved on. A small number of local people might decide to have them moved on. That would be a retrograde step. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.
I have proposed amendment No. 32 and I will come back to the bigger issue raised by Deputies Mitchell and Gilmore. I take on board what has been said. It is a question of enforcement to a certain extent. The difficulty at present is that the responsibility has been placed on the Housing Authority which has a duty in this area which the courts have identified. Where the duty has not been fulfilled the courts have not supported the application to have illegally parked settlements moved on. Local authorities must have the power to act in circumstances where it is deemed necessary and essential. That was the intent of the amendments proposed which will be brought forward on Report Stage.
I heard what Deputy Gilmore had to say. We will look at that, conscious of the time factor. Given that the time available for holding committee meetings is ticking away, I do not think any of us would want to unduly delay proceedings on Report Stage. I cannot accept the amendment as worded; instead of "shall" I propose "may".
I could speak endlessly about this matter. I welcome the clarification, the copperfastening of the one mile zone and the slight change in paragraph (c)(iii). That provision did not help to resolve any of the problems in my constituency. Nevertheless, I think the change will help.
In regard to the words "may" and "shall", if the local authorities do not implement the legislation in respect of the "one mile radius", those who will suffer are the Travellers who have no accommodation. Those who are leaving good, secure and expensive accommodation and parking where they can cause most disruption to other people, as they are doing at present in my constituency, are not helping those who are in genuine need of accommodation. We will never get accommodation for those who genuinely need it unless we can offer that clearance around a halting site or group housing scheme.
Is the amendment being pressed?
Just amendment No. 20.
I move amendment No 20:
In page 13, before section 16, to insert the following new section:
"16.-Section 10 of the Act of 1992 is hereby amended by the substitution in subsection (1) of the following paragraph for paragraph (c):
"(c) is within a one mile radius of any site provided, managed or controlled by a housing authority under section 13 of the Act of 1988 (as amended by the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998, or any other traveller accommodation provided, managed or controlled by a housing authority under the Housing Acts, 1966 to 1998, or any traveller housing accommodation provided or managed under section 6 and the housing authority within whose functional area such temporary dwelling has been erected, placed, occupied or otherwise retained is of the opinion that, whether by reason of being one of a number of such temporary dwellings or by reason of its use, occupancy, the manner of upkeep of it or the surrounding area or otherwise, such temporary dwelling or any occupant thereof-
(i) is causing a nuisance or obstruction to the occupants of that site or traveller accommodation or to the occupants of any other dwelling or dwellings within a one mile radius of that site or that traveller accommodation or within the vicinity of such temporary dwelling, or
(ii) creates a risk to the quality of water, sanitary, electrical or other services associated with that site or traveller accommodation or any other dwelling or dwellings within a one mile radius of that site or traveller accommodation, or within the vicinity of such temporary dwelling, or
(iii) obstructs or interferes with the use or enjoyment by any person of any public or private amenity (including a visual amenity) or any public or private facility or with the maintenance of any such amenity or facility the housing authority concerned shall serve a notice on that person requiring that person, within a specific period, to remove the said temporary dwelling."
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 15, to delete lines 19 to 34.
Subsection (6) was drafted as a saver in the event that the provisions of the Local Government Act, 2001, in relation to local authority titles was not brought into effect before the enactment of this Bill. However, since the relevant provisions of the Local Government Act were commenced on 1 January 2002, subsection (6) is no longer relevant and it is deleted by this amendment.
Amendments No. 24 and 26 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 16, paragraph (c)(ii), line 7, after “Act” to insert “which is related to the provision of housing”.
On Second Stage I drew attention to the fact that the Bill provides for an increase from €1.5 billion to €6 billion in the borrowing limits for the Housing Finance Agency. I do not have a difficulty with increasing the borrowing limits for housing purposes. I would like to see many more houses built but it appears the Bill is designed to allow for borrowing for purposes other than housing. The schedule of enactments under which borrowing can be made include the Housing Acts, 1966 to 200, the Housing (Private Rented Dwelling) Acts, which are fine, the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Acts, the Waste Management Acts and the Water Supplies Acts. There may be some impact on sanitary services and water supply services in relation to the provision of housing. The purpose of these two amendments is to make it clear that the increased borrowing is for the purposes of the provision of housing and that this Bill will not be used as a back door for borrowing for other infrastructural purposes, which may be a perfectly legitimate way to proceed. However, if that is the case, it should be explained and arguments in support of that should be put forward. I would not necessarily be obstructive to that but this is housing legislation providing for additional borrowing and it should be made clear that the additional borrowing being provided for in this legislation is for purposes which are related to the provision of housing.
These amendments propose that part of the function of the Housing Finance Agency in relation to the enactments listed in Schedule 2 should be restricted to borrowings which are directly related to the provision of housing. I acknowledge that the provisions in section 17 to allow the HFA lend to local authorities for non-housing capital purposes is a departure from previous practice. In the area of water services, it is required primarily to allow local authorities comply with the implementation proposals for water services pricing policy as agreed by the Government in late 1998. Known as the Government's water pricing framework, this policy document includes the provision of State loan finance to local authorities to meet the share of non-domestic costs to be funded over time by capital contributions from non-domestic users. The framework is in keeping with the application of the polluter pays principle and, in particular, the requirements of the European Union water framework directive. The provision of loans by the HFA will facilitate and assist local authorities in the recovery of marginal or capital costs for water services schemes. Repayment of these loans will be funded entirely through non-domestic capital contributions.
While I am not prepared to agree to Deputy Gilmore's amendments, I should point out that indirectly these extended borrowing powers will benefit the provision of housing in certain ways, for example, by virtue of changing the way in which local authorities are funded for water services, effectively rowing back on 100% Exchequer grants where there is a commercial element to a scheme. We will be able to do more with the available water services funding and commit it to schemes directly related to the provision of housing under the serviced land initiative, the rural towns and villages initiative and the main water services programme.
The Government's decision to provide the HFA with powers to lend to local authorities for waste infrastructure also recognises the potential need for authorities to obtain the financial resources required to provide the integrated waste services in accordance with local and regional waste management plans. In particular, it was intended that local authorities, when entering a joint venture, would be in a position to raise equity, if required, as part of a public private partnership where such a project related to the provision of infrastructure identified as necessary in an authority's waste management plan. I ask the Deputy, therefore, to withdraw the proposed amendments.
I thank the Minister of State for his response which makes me all the more determined to press these amendments. I do not have any objection to borrowing for the provision of necessary infrastructure, whether it is waste infrastructure, water supplies, sanitary services or whatever, but the Government should be honest about what it proposes to do. The Minister for Finance came into the House on budget day and, like a latter day Houdini, held up a budget, asked us to blink and told us "no borrowing". We now know that substantial borrowing is being proposed and what is being provided for in this Bill is an increase in borrowing from €1.5 billion to €6 billion which, by any standards, is substantial.
I do not object to borrowing for capital purposes. My party supports that. However, it should be introduced on its own and the proposal that it is intended to borrow to provide waste infrastructure, water infrastructure and so on so should be put to the House so we can debate the matter. The Government is being sly in introducing substantial increases in borrowing in the miscellaneous section of a housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. I object to that because the borrowing limits of the Housing Finance Agency which the House should permit in this Bill are related to the provision of housing.
I accept that the provision of sanitary services, water and so on goes with the provision of housing and I agree that there can be borrowing for those purposes provided it is related to housing. However, the Minister has now told us for the first time - we were not told this on Second Stage or in any public statement of which I am aware at the time the Bill was published - that the borrowing for the water supply aspect has to do with the Government's water pricing policy and with the implementation of the water framework directive.
There are issues arising from the implementation of the water framework directive and the water pricing policy including, for example, the future question of charging for domestic supplies of water and so on. This has been a controversial issue in the State for some time and the question of the implementation of the water framework directive should be debated openly. I will not agree, and the House should not agree, to back door borrowing by the Government or allow it to be done in this way because it is quite a departure for the norm. The Housing Finance Agency has a fairly limited remit in terms of the provision of finance for housing and it is not acceptable to use the instrument of that agency as the vehicle for borrowing for a whole range of infrastructural purposes. I object strongly to this and I have tabled an amendment to limit the borrowing solely to the provision of housing or to the provision of infrastructure related to the provision of housing.
The increase in the HFA borrowing limit is to enable an expansion of the local authority housing programme and to enable local authorities to borrow from the HFA for other capital purposes. Local authorities borrow from the HFA only where they have a stream of income, that is, mortgage payments or rents to meet the repayments on the borrowings, and this will continue to be the case. The situation is different from that which pertains in relation to Exchequer borrowing where there is not a dedicated stream of income available to meet repayments and, consequently, repayment must be met either through taxes or further borrowings. It was to such Exchequer borrowing the Minister for Finance was referring when he said he was budgeting for an Exchequer surplus and he would not be borrowing this year. The increase in the HFA borrowing limit is unrelated and represents merely a development of current policy and practice for the financing of the local authority housing programme.
In line with international practice and emerging European Union policy, Ireland is making the full cost of water and waste water services to all sectors transparent and is securing full cost recovery in the case of non-domestic users. To facilitate this a policy framework was developed to comprehensively apply the polluter pays principle for water services, infrastructure and operation. The framework, which was agreed by Government, represents significant progress towards a more sustainable approach to water services management in respect of the non-domestic sector by fully internalising the cost of water usage and waste water generation.
The Government's water price framework provides for the collection of capital contributions by local authorities for non-domestic users in a structured and uniformed manner and in accordance with the polluter pays principle; operational costs in respect of the non-domestic water and waste water services to users is to be recovered in full; the provision of loans facilities for non-domestic water services merged with capital costs and the loan charges which accrue on the basis of such borrowing will be recovered from such non-domestic users; completion of the metering of all non-domestic users by 2006; and continuing funding, in a transparent way, of the costs of providing water and waste water services to domestic users through the Cabinet budget and, in the case of operational costs, through the local government fund in a manner consistent with efficiency and environmental sustainability.
The full operational costs of providing households with water services will be met from the local government fund. The capital costs by this Department to reintroduce domestic charges, as suggested, which the Government does not have any intention of doing, would require a change in the law and, thus, would require a decision of the Oireachtas. I do not envisage the difficulties Deputy Gilmore seems to envisage with this measure. This is a modern way of doing things in an economy that is expanding rapidly, which has great demand for increased levels of infrastructure and a great housing need. It is essential that we do these things and avail of the PPP option where it exists.
I also raised this matter on Second Stage because it is the most significant provision in the Bill. It represents a total change of approach. Like Deputy Gilmore, I am not totally opposed to this change, but it was hardly mentioned in the explanatory memorandum and it did not appear in the Minister's press statement despite it being the most significant provision in the Bill.
I have no problem with the implementation of the polluter pays principle. Direct capital grants will no longer be available to local authorities for waste facilities other than recycling facilities. That means local authorities will, or could, go to the Housing Finance Agency to borrow money. If they borrow money, they would have to pay it back. That means they would charge not only for the cost of collecting and disposal but also for capital costs. These would represent enormous increases in charges on the public. That is why I felt this was done by sleight of hand and that it should be explained to the public that this is exactly what will happen.
Whatever about waste management where at least, in theory, everyone creates some waste and would, in some way, have to pay for its disposal, the provision of water is different. Taking an extreme example, if the local authority in my area was to borrow to cover the cost of replacing the piping system, including the mains and distribution system, which is required, who would pay for that, given that households cannot be charged for the water or distribution system? Would the few commercial users have to pay for the cost of everybody's water system? If that is the case, it does not seems fair. It would represent an enormous burden on businesses and drive them out of one county.
I do not understand the purpose of section 10(b) of the amendment. It states the Minister for Finance may advance money from the central fund to the agency to enable the agency to perform the borrowing functions under the provisions. Does that mean the agency can borrow from the Exchequer? Is that the nub of it? I take it the finance agency can borrow from the Exchequer or get the National Treasury Management Agency to borrow for it? Is that what these amendments are about?
Yes, in certain circumstances.
It could also borrow on the open market?
Yes, the National Treasury Management Agency can borrow on the market and pass it on to the HFA.
The HFA cannot do that?
It can continue to do that, but there is no point in having two major State agencies operating in the market together, as they could end up competing with each other. With the major increase in housing output on the public side, substantial sums of money will have to be borrowed. The two agencies could affect each other in the market. Therefore, it was deemed more rational to have one agency operating in the State.
That was a point of clarification. What happens in the case of a water system in an existing area, where there is no new development to which the costs can be passed?
The State pays for all domestic supplies. Where there are non-domestic users, the State will not pay, the polluter will pay in that case.
I am talking about the capital costs of a new system in an area that is developed. Does the State pay 100% of the capital costs in that case?
Where there are no non-domestic users?
No, in an ordinary mixed area, who would pay the capital cost of the system?
The domestic element would be paid by the Exchequer and the non-domestic element would be required to make a capital contribution over time.
As part of their charges? These would be existing businesses?
It would reflect the marginal capital costs of providing them with services. If one is building a water scheme with a certain capacity, one could calculate what the capacity requirements would be for domestic users and what percentage would be required for the non-domestic users. The cost of providing the non-domestic aspect of it could be quantified in cash terms and charges could relate to seeking to recover some of that cost form the non-domestic side over time.
There will be a whopping increase in charges for domestic users compared to non-domestic users.
That reflects the polluter pays principle.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 16, line 7, to delete ", and" and substitute ";".
The current wording of section 7(a) is ambiguous as it provides that the provision of money by the HFA to local authorities necessitates a similar provision to be approved for voluntary bodies, which is clearly not the intention. This amendment clarifies that the HFA can lend to local authorities and approved voluntary bodies for the range of purposes for which they are approved.
Amendment No. 27 is consequential on amendment No. 28, amendments Nos. 29 and 30 are related and amendmentNo. 39 is consequential on amendments Nos. 30 and 31. Therefore, amendments Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30 and 39 can be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 16, line 40, to delete "and".
Amendment No. 27 is of a minor drafting nature and it has been made to allow for the insertion of other amendments.
The purpose of amendments Nos. 28, 29 and 30 is to provide flexible financing arrangements to enable the Housing Finance Agency to raise funds at the cheapest rates that would ensure co-ordination of the issue of HFA paper and Exchequer paper. The co-ordination issue arises due to the increase in the borrowing limits of the HFA from £1.5 billion to €6 billion as provided for under section 17 of the published Bill. If both the HFA and the National Treasury Management Agency were in the market separately seeking funds at the same time, it could mitigate against either party achieving the cheapest rates. It would be more appropriate in those circumstances to have the State sector funding requirements co-ordinated through the same issuer.
Amendment No. 28, the first substantive amendment in this group, enables the NTMA, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to act as an agent of the HFA in the issue of HFA paper, that is, bills, commercial paper, bonds, etc. Savings would arise from the NTMA's presence in the markets and co-ordination of timing of issuance of both NTMA Exchequer paper and HFA paper.
Section 10(1) of the Housing Finance Agency Act, 1981, empowers the HFA to borrow. Sections 10 (1)(a) and 10(2) of the Act and section 3 of the Borrowing Powers of Certain Bodies Act, 1996 sets out the instruments which HFA may use to carry out this borrowing function. The amendment also provides that the National Treasury Management Agency must comply with a request by the HFA to act as its agent. It also makes necessary provision to enable the NTMA to manage the indebtedness arising from any borrowing it undertakes on the HFA’s behalf. This management will be carried out under such terms and conditions as are agreed by the two agencies.
The amendment also makes provision for the Minister for Finance to revoke his consent to the NTMA acting as an agent of the HFA. The amendment, through the insertion of subsection 10(b), also provides that the NTMA may make repayable Exchequer loans to the HFA. This will enable the NTMA to raise funds in the name of the Exchequer and to on-lend these moneys to the HFA. As the sovereign can always raise funds more cheaply than other organisations, it will enable the HFA to raise funds at the cheapest possible cost. The amendment also provides that these advances shall be repaid to the Exchequer on such terms and conditions as will be determined by the Minister for Finance. This will enable the Minister for Finance to set repayment schedules and interest rates in relation to loans. While there is usually a standard Exchequer lending rate applied to Exchequer loans, the intention here is that the interest rate may vary with each loan so that the NTMA can pass the advantage of low Exchequer borrowing rates on to the HFA. Some drafting issues have arisen with this amendment and I might bring forward a further amendment on Report Stage. However, this will not involve any substantial change to the provision.
Amendment No. 29 enables the NTMA, acting in the name of the Exchequer, to engage in financial derivative contracts such as swaps and foreign exchange contracts for the purpose of managing the HFA's debt. It is similar to the existing section 54(7) of the Finance Act, 1970 which provides for the use of such instruments in respect of the national debt. Section 3 of the National Treasury Management Agency Act, 1990 provides that the Government may delegate by order to the NTMA functions specified in the First Schedule to that Act.
Amendment No. 30 provides for the delegation of the power of the Minister for Finance to the NTMA to enter into swaps, foreign exchange contracts, etc. for the purposes of managing the HFA debt. It also provides for the delegation of the making of Exchequer advances and the setting of terms and conditions on interest rates and loans from the Minister for Finance to the NTMA. The provision is included for efficiency purposes by providing for direct contact between the NTMA in raising funding and the HFA without the Department of Finance acting in a middle man role.
Amendment No. 39 relates to the Long Title of the Bill, which is being changed to take account of other amendments before the committee in relation to the Finance Act, 1970 - amendment No. 29, the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act, 1982 - amendment No. 35, the National Treasury Management Agency Act, 1990 - amendment No. 30, the Dublin Docklands Development Act, 1997 - amendment No. 33 and the Planning and Development Act, 2000 - amendment No. 34.
I am happy with the amendments.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 16, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:
"(d) by inserting the following after section 10:
10A.-(1) In this section "National Treasury Management Agency" means the National Treasury Management Agency established by the National Treasury Management Agency Act, 1990.
(2)(a) Subject to the prior consent of the Minister for Finance, the Agency may request the National Treasury Management Agency to perform, on its behalf, its borrowing functions under-
(i) subsections (1), (1A) (inserted by the Housing Finance Agency (Amendment) Act, 1985) and (2) of section 10 of this Act, and
(ii) section 3 of the Borrowing Powers of Certain Bodies Act, 1996.
(b) Where a request is made under paragraph (a) of this subsection, the National Treasury Management Agency shall perform those borrowing functions on behalf of the Agency.
(c) The National Treasury Management Agency shall exercise the function of the Agency in relation to the management of the indebtedness of the Agency incurred by the Agency under the provisions referred to in paragraph (a) of this subsection.
(3) The Minister for Finance may on the terms and conditions that may be agreed by the National Treasury Management Agency with the Agency, revoke his or her consent given under subsection (2) of this section.
10B.(1) The Minister for Finance may advance moneys from the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof to the Agency, on such terms and conditions as that Minister thinks fit, to enable the Agency to perform the borrowing functions under the provisions referred to in section 10A(2)(a) of this Act.
(2) Advances under subsection (1) of this section shall be repaid to the Exchequer subject to the terms and conditions that the Minister for Finance may determine.',
Deputy Ó Caoláin wishes to convey his apologies to the committee. He is unable to attend.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 16, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
18.-Section 54 of the Finance Act, 1970 is amended by inserting the following after subsection (7) (inserted by the Finance Act, 1983):
'(7A) The Minister for Finance may engage in such transactions of a normal banking nature with the Housing Finance Agency and with other persons-
(a) in connection with the performance by the Housing Finance Agency of its borrowing function under-
(i) subsections (1), (1A) (inserted by the Housing Finance Agency (Amendment) Act, 1985) and (2) of section 10 of the Housing Finance Agency Act, 1981, and
(ii) section 3 of the Borrowing Powers of Certain Bodies Act, 1996,
(b) for the purposes of the better management of the indebtedness incurred by the Housing Finance Agency under the provisions referred to in paragraph (a), and may, for the purpose of those transactions, issue such funds from the Exchequer, as the Minister for Finance considers appropriate, and the expenses and other costs incurred by the Minister for Finance in connection with or arising out of those transactions shall be charged on the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof.’.”.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 16, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
18.-The first Schedule to the National Treasury Management Agency Act, 1990, is amended-
(a) by inserting the following after paragraph (gg) (inserted by section 163 of the Finance Act, 1997):
'(ggg) section 54 (7A) (inserted by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002) (in so far as the provision relates to the engagement in certain transactions of a normal banking nature) of the Finance Act, 1970,’,
(b) by inserting the following after paragraph (q) (inserted by the Nítrigin Éireann Teoranta Act, 2001):
'(r) section 10B (inserted by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002) of the Housing Finance Agency Act, 1981,’.”.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 16, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
18.-The Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act, 1982 is amended by inserting the following after Part III:
28.-(1) The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, make regulations for the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of allowances to persons who are, on 25 July 2002, tenants of dwellings to which section 8(1) relates-
(a) whose entitlement to retain possession of the dwellings concerned subsists after 25 July 2002 by operation of law or otherwise,
(b) whose rent-
(i) is determined in accordance with such terms and conditions, or
(ii) is less than such amount,
as the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs may specify in those regulations,
(c) who would otherwise suffer hardship by reason of increases in the rents of their dwellings.
(2) Entitlement to an allowance and the amount and the payment thereof shall be subject to such terms and conditions as may be specified in the regulations.
(3) Subsections (2) and (3) of section 4 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993, shall have effect in relation to regulations under this section and the regulations may apply (with or without modification), or make provisions corresponding (with or without modification) to, any other provisions of, or any provisions made under, that Act.
(4) Any expenses incurred by the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs or any other Minister in carrying this section into effect shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.'.".
This amendment to the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act, 1982 has been moved on foot of the view that the 1982 Act does not contain a statutory authority for the making of rent allowance regulations by the Minister for Social Community and Family Affairs that would allow the continued payment of rent allowance to successor tenants who will cease to be protected under the 1982 Act on 25 July of this year.
The view of the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs is that, notwithstanding that section 23 allows rent allowance regulations to be made in respect of dwellings which were rent controlled on 26 July 1982, section 8(3) renders Part II of the Act, and therefore section 23, inapplicable where the tenant ceases to have an entitlement to retain possession of the dwelling under the Act. That Department has suggested an amendment to section 23 to insert a reference to the "tenants on 25 July 2002" of such dwellings. This amendment will enable the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs to make regulations providing for the payment of rent allowance to tenants as at 25 July 2002 of formerly rent controlled dwellings.
I welcome this amendment. It is just an enabling measure. It does not deal with the level of the allowance that will be paid.
That will be in the legislation.
When will that happen? These people will be in difficulty soon.
The Minister could make regulations.
It arises this summer, which is soon.
It will be introduced well in advance of 25 July. It will have to come before Government and a memorandum is being drafted for Government at present.
Will it be done while the Government is still in office?
I suspect whoever is in Government will be glad to help these people.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 16, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
18.-Section 10 (as amended by the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992 is amended in subsection (1) by substituting the following for paragraph (c)-
'(c) is within a one mile radius of any site provided, managed or controlled by a housing authority under section 13 of the Act of 1988 (as amended by the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998), or any other traveller accommodation provided, managed or controlled by a housing authority under the Housing Acts, 1966 to 2002, or any traveller housing accommodation provided or managed under section 6 and the housing authority within whose functional area such temporary dwelling has been erected, placed, occupied or otherwise retained is of the opinion that, whether by reason of its use or occupancy or by reason of its being one of a number of such temporary dwellings or otherwise, such temporary dwelling or any occupant of the temporary dwelling-
(i) is causing a nuisance or obstruction to the occupants of that site or traveller accommodation or to the occupants of any other dwelling or dwellings within a one mile radius of that site or that traveller accommodation, or
(ii) creates a risk to the quality of water, sanitary, electrical or other services associated with that site or traveller accommodation or with any other dwelling or dwellings within a one mile radius of that site or traveller accommodation, or
(iii) obstructs or interferes with the use or enjoyment by any person of any public or private amenity or any public or private facility or the maintenance of any such amenity or facility, within a one mile radius of that site or traveller accommodation,
the housing authority concerned may serve notice on that person requiring that person, within a specified period, to remove the said temporary dwelling,'.".
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 16, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
18.-Section 25 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act, 1997 is amended-
(a) in subsection (7)-
(i) in paragraph (a), by substituting ’paragraphs (b) and (c)’ for ’paragraph (b)’, and
(ii) by inserting the following after paragraph (b):
'(c) for the avoidance of doubt, a certificate issued under paragraph (a)(ii) may include the following:
(i) in the case of a development wholly or partly for the provision of housing, a condition requiring that a percentage, not being more than 20 per cent, specified in the certificate, of housing being provided for in the development to which the certificate relates shall be provided for social or affordable housing;
(ii) a condition requiring the payment of a contribution towards any expenditure that has been, is being, or is intended to be incurred, by or on behalf of-
(I)Dublin City Council, in respect of the provision of public infrastructure and facilities that benefit or facilitate development in the area to which the planning scheme concerned relates;
(II) the Authority, in respect of the provision of public infrastructure and facilities in accordance with its functions under section 18 or to give effect to the master plan or the planning scheme concerned;
(iii) a condition relating to any matter which the Authority considers is in furtherance of the master plan or a planning scheme,',
(b) by inserting the following after subsection (7):
'(8) In this section-
"house" includes any building or part of a building used or suitable for use as a dwelling and any outoffice, yard, garden or other land appurtenant to or usually enjoyed with that building or part of a building, and, where appropriate, includes a building which was designed for use as 2 or more dwellings or a flat, an apartment or other dwelling within such a building, and "housing" shall be read accordingly;
"the provision of public infrastructure and facilities" means-
(a) the acquisition of land,
(b) the provision of open spaces, recreational and community facilities and amenities and landscaping works,
(c) the provision of roads, places for the parking of vehicles, bridges, sewers, waste water and water treatment facilities, drains and watermains,
(d) the provision of bus corridors and bus lanes, bus interchange facilities (including car parks for those facilities), rail and light rail transport and any other infrastructure to facilitate public transport,
(e) the provision of cycle and pedestrian facilities and traffic calming measures,
(f) the refurbishment, upgrading, enlargement or replacement of roads, places for the parking of vehicles, bridges, sewers, waste water and water treatment facilities, drains or watermains, and
(g) any matters ancillary to paragraphs (a) to (f).’.”.
This amendment is proposed to insert avoidance of doubt provisions into section 25(7) of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act, 1997. Its aim is to clarify and elaborate on the powers of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to attach conditions requiring the payment of contributions towards expenditure incurred by or on behalf of Dublin City Council or the authority itself in respect of the provision of essential public infrastructure and facilities in the Docklands area. The amendment also covers the application of conditions in relation to social and affordable housing provision.
Under section 25 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act, 1997, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority can make a planning scheme for the Custom House Docks area or any part of that area or any other area specified for that purpose by the Minister. Under section 25(7) of the Act, where the authority certifies a development in an area as being consistent with a planning scheme for that area, this is deemed to be exempted development. The purpose of this is to provide a fast track planning system for the development of the area to which the planning scheme relates. Under section 25(7)(a)(ii), the authority may issue a certificate confirming that the project in question is consistent with the relevant planning scheme. The Act as it stands provides that the certificate “may contain such conditions in relation to the carrying out of the development as the Authority considers appropriate”. It is in this context that I am introducing this additional paragraph to section 25(7) to include the avoidance of doubt provisions as proposed.
The Dublin Docklands Development Authority is in the process of implementing a major new phase of the master plan for the Docklands area. The vast bulk of development carried out in the initial phases was carried out on lands which were in the ownership of the authority. In future, development will be taking place on land not in its ownership. In January 2001, my colleague, Deputy Dempsey, approved a planning scheme for the Grand Canal Docks covering a 38.2 hectare area. A second planning scheme is before the Minister for the North Lotts part of the Custom House Docks area, comprising 33 hectares covering an area from the end of the IFSC2 at Guild Street to the Point Depot.
Obviously, given the urban regeneration objectives that have been set down in the framework legislation and the master plan for the Docklands, the provision of public infrastructure and facilities is essential to the attainment of these objectives. It is essential that the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has certainty that it can apply conditions requiring developers to make contributions to the provision of this infrastructure to support future development.
It is appropriate that developers benefiting from fast track planning under section 25 should be required to pay contributions for the provision of vital public infrastructure and facilities. Clearly, the developments taking place in an area under planning permission from Dublin City Council would have conditions requiring the payment of such contributions attached to them; this is the norm generally in the modern planning process. It is logical, therefore, to apply such conditions when certifying planning schemes under section 25. Otherwise the cost of such infrastructure, which would be substantial, would fall to be paid directly by the authority and the Dublin City Council without recourse to seeking contributions for the profitable developments which will benefit from these services. It is also important that their powers for applying conditions for social and affordable housing provision are clarified. The proposed amendment is in line with the stated target for social and affordable housing contained in the master plan.
I understand what the Minister is trying to do. It is all about the avoidance of doubt, but this is really a point of clarification. From the wording it would appear the plan to provide up to 20% of social housing in any scheme is not mandatory in the Dublin docklands.
This is to clear up any doubt.
It now becomes mandatory?
This is an avoidance of doubt provision.
It is to copperfasten any doubt about possible legal interpretations of the existing regulations. This is being done by confirming specifically in the Bill that the right to charge contributions to developers and to require certain conditions such as the 20% provision, have full statutory backing.
The wording states, "For avoidance of doubt a certificate issued under paragraph (a) may include the following, a condition requiring not more than 20% . . . ”.
That is already in the master plan.
But it only states "may include".
It means may authorise - that one may do it.
So it is not mandatory?
It is in the master plan. It is what they intend to do and what the Minister has adopted, so it is required in the master plan.
I follow the Minister's point.
Amendment No. 34 reads:
In page 16, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
"18.-Section 49 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 is amended in subsection (7)(c) by substituting ’waste water’ for ’waste, water’.”.
This amendment is to delete a comma that was inserted in error during proofing of the Planning and Development Bill, 1999. It unfortunately gives a different meaning to the relevant section and must be deleted. Section 49 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, enables the planning authority to attach conditions to planning permission requiring a development contribution to be paid to facilitate a specified public infrastructure project or service, including one provided by way of public private partnership, in addition to a general contribution. Subsection (7) sets out the types of public infrastructural project or services for which these contributions may be charged. This includes particular rail or light-rail public transport projects such as Luas. The first contribution scheme under this section which came into force on 11 March, will help to pay for an extension to Luas in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area. It also includes particular new roads and new sewerage, waste water, water treatment facilities, drains and water mains. The provision is currently provided for in the Act but prevents the preparation of a scheme to allow for the provision of a particular waste water treatment facility. As these are likely to be provided in certain cases by way of PPP in future, this could present significant difficulties for local authorities in funding these facilities. We are proposing this amendment to provide for that.
I am very supportive of it.
We are advised that amendment No. 34 is out of order. It is not relevant to the provisions of the Bill as read a Second Time and is, therefore, outside the competence of this committee under Standing Orders. I understand the Minister may raise this matter again on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 17, to delete line 16.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 17, line 17, to delete "2000" and substitute "1995".
I move amendment No. 38:
In page 17, to delete line 19.
This amendment relates to borrowing under the Housing Finance Agency. I was concerned about the cost to businesses of carrying the whole capital and usage costs of water provision. Deputy Gilmore was obviously concerned about waste management. I will withdraw the amendment based on the explanation the Minister has provided. I am sure that when ratepayers discover it I will be hung, drawn and quartered, but I think we all will be.
Amendment No. 39 has already been discussed with amendment No. 27.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 3, lines 20 to 21, to delete all words from and including "HOUSING" on line 20, down to and including "1989," on line 21 and substitute the following:
FINANCE ACT, 1970, THE HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY ACT, 1981, TO AMEND THE HOUSING (PRIVATE RENTED DWELLINGS) ACT, 1982, THE BUILDING SOCIETIES ACT, 1989, THE NATIONAL TREASURY MANAGEMENT AGENCY ACT, 1990, THE DUBLIN DOCKLANDS DEVELOPMENT ACT, 1997, AND THE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT ACT, 2000,".
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their input into this Bill. I also wish to thank members of the committee for their contributions and for facilitating Committee Stage. I thank the Clerk of the Select Committee, the staff of the Bills Office, support staff and the staff of the committee secretariat for their assistance.
On my own behalf and on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Local Government, I wish to thank you, Chairman, and the Opposition spokespersons for having dealt with the Bill so expeditiously. I hope it will be of benefit to many people. We still have some way to travel with it on Report Stage and in the Seanad, so we are not there yet.
I would also like to thank you, Chairman, and the Minister of State and his officials. We will be seeing quite a bit of each other over the next few days.