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People deserve decent housing.

Byline: ROISIN SHORTALL Independent TD writes for the Irish Daily Mirror

OVER the past few weeks the Dail has been debating a new Bill that changes some of the rules for public housing.

Overall, the Bill makes some welcome changes.

It introduces a new housing support, called the Housing Assistance Payment, which will replace Rent Supplement.

Of course, this is no substitute for providing more council housing but it's a welcome change as it will make it easier to qualify for housing support and to take up a job while doing so.

The new payment will be run on a pilot basis at first in a small number of local authorities.

The Bill also makes it easier for Councils to deal effectively with any tenants who are engaging in anti-social activity.

However, it also introduces a sneaky new rule which means that anyone who takes up the new HAP scheme will automatically lose their place on the main housing waiting lists.

Currently, 90,000 households, perhaps 200,000 people, are on council waiting lists.

I supported the commitment to develop a new housing support scheme to replace the rent supplement and remove the poverty traps. That scheme makes a lot of sense but nobody expected for a moment that, by introducing it, the Government would at the same time deem people to have their housing needs met, such that people would effectively lose their places on the housing waiting list.

New is one forward and steps It should be a good and positive scheme to remove poverty traps and enable people in the private rented sector, with the support of the Government, to take up work and not lose rent support euro for euro.

What should be a very good scheme, however, will turn out to be a very bad one for social policy reasons, but also a very unpopular one because people will not be prepared to give up their position on a council housing list, having been waiting patiently for perhaps five to 10 years.

This is no substitute for council housing.

For most of these, this new rule represents one step forward and two steps back.

It means that while it may become a little easier to get temporary rental accommodation, it will become almost impossible to get a council house. This new rule means that if they take up the HAP scheme they can rule out the chances of a permanent home for a very long time.

It will allow the Government to say that they have dealt with housing waiting lists when all they may have done is found temporary accommodation for families.

rule step two back Indeed, it will mean Councils will become more and more focussed on short-term fixes for people on their housing lists rather than long-term solutions. This is in no one's interests.

There appears to be a fundamental lack of understanding in the Department of the Environment about how this new rule will affect families and a refusal by officials and Ministers to admit that they may have got it wrong.

Fine Gael and Labour received a wallop in the recent local and European elections and one of the lessons supposedly learnt was that they needed to listen more.

Sorry to say, they are still not listening.

New rule is one step forward and two steps back

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Title Annotation:Editorial; Opinion Columns
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 30, 2014
Words:567
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