NAMA leasing is not good deal for state or those in need of housing

Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has branded the leasing initiative involved in the release of NAMA units for use as social housing as poor value for money and a scheme which will see the state pay twice for housing it will not keep control of.

He made his comments following the Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan’s refusal to address these issues and her claims this was a good deal.

Deputy Ellis said:

“I welcome the prospect of the use of NAMA property for social housing but there are a lot of questions to be answered.

“We are paying out nearly half a billion for Rent Supplement and the Rental Accommodation Scheme which add not one housing unit to the stock of the state or voluntary organisations. And now the state wants to pay twice for NAMA units which it will most likely return to the hands of developers through NAMA in the long term.

Sinn Féin Ballymun Representative Noeleen Reilly further added “The state needs to invest in housing. We need more than a short term band aid solution which is only pushing the lack of social housing forward into the future. We need to support voluntary housing in providing homes and start to actually build and buy homes.

“Leasing has been a failure in terms of provision and value. A lease for 11 years, the average currently, costs roughly 66,000 euros while the average cost of purchasing for social housing is 169,000 euros which serves the state for much longer and provides tenants with security.

“We are in the dark on how this use of NAMA units will work and the progress in assessing the units currently being considered for their suitability as housing. We also must provide for people who require single bedroom units which were lacking in previous agreements between NAMA and voluntary housing units despite huge costs.

“The minister must be clear in these issues, she must demand clarity from NAMA and she must work to insure that whatever is done is sustainable and value for money and not yet another bargain for developers at the expense of the public purse and those in need of housing.”

Government attacking disadvantaged communities with CE cuts

Speaking during a Dáil debate on the Government’s proposed cuts to community employment funding, Sinn Féin Dublin Northwest TD Dessie Ellis accused the government of“attacking disadvantaged communities”.

“The Government is proposing to cut €27.5 million from the community employment scheme budget in 2012. This is exactly the same amount of money as the Government allowed NAMA to spend on legal fees to private companies since 2010.”

Local Representative Noeleen Reilly attended a protest on CE cuts outside Leinster House on the day Sinn Féin put forward a Private Members’ Bill on Community Employment Cuts.

She stated “Under pressure from a strong campaign Minister Burton has announced a review of the proposed cut. This is nothing more than a smoke screen to give cover to the embarrassment of Labour backbenchers faced with local anger over the cut.
“The decision to cut this funding is nothing more than an attack on disadvantaged communities. It is an attack on the long term unemployed, on older people and people with disabilities.

“What is worse is that the Minister in her speech yesterday tried to hide behind the Troika, blaming them for ‘not recognising the social value of CE’. Worse still the Minister selectively quoted academic research to justify her decision to attacks community employment schemes.

“Community Employment schemes provide a valuable service to both the unemployed and to disadvantaged communities. Cutting their funding is wrong. Indeed at a time of rising unemployment and social inequality the Government should be increasing investment in community employment.”

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Government and local authorities must stop offensive on social housing

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Dessie Ellis TD has called on the government and local authorities to stop their offensive against social housing and to make serious efforts to develop a fit for purpose public housing system. He made his comments in light of the practice of Dublin City Council of removing people in the Rental Accommodation Scheme from its housing waiting list.

Deputy Ellis continued;

“The Tánaiste today incorrectly said that this was not happening in every case. The local authorities are removing people from the waiting lists if they are on RAS or going on to RAS which does not solve the housing crisis but does conceal the extent of the problem.

“The council and the government are attempting to make local authority housing a thing of the past. They have sought through every measure of recent memory to either deplete or damage the social housing stock with sell off schemes, no attempt to replenish and the continued refusal to properly address long running maintenance and repair issues.

“The council now removes those housed with private landlords through RAS from their waiting lists. This is a further sign of their offensive. The aim is to make local authority housing only available to the most in need and force everyone else to seek housing in the private market. This is not good for local authorities or the quality of housing.

“RAS, Rent supplement and other methods of subsidising private housing were not a solution but really an emergency measure. They have become less secure methods as funding has been cut and rents have gone up. Rent supplement perpetuates the poverty trap. Landlords can decide to sell the RAS accommodation in the middle of the tenancy period. Security is essential for providing good housing and this is not available through these measures.

“The long term solution is a viable public housing stock with mixed and secure tenure. This will allow communities to develop and people to step out of the cycle of poverty as well as bringing much needed funds to local government.”

Sinn Fein activists call on Dublin City Council to answer question on personal information passed to Greyhound Waste Services

Dessie Ellis TD and Local Representative Noeleen Reilly have called Dublin City Council to clarify exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound following the Office of the Data Protection Commission announcement that it is investigating the Council.

Deputy Ellis said:

“Sinn Féin consistently opposed the privatisation of Dublin City Council’s waste collection service and many of our reasons for doing so have come to pass.

My constituency office has been inundated with calls from very angry residents whose bins were not collected and who were also alarmed to hear that Dublin city council had passed on their details without permission.

Local Sinn Féin representative Noeleen Reilly further added “Increased charges are on the horizon, the waiver scheme is in jeopardy, the company’s payment method is causing a problem and, to rub salt into the wounds, it appears the Council management may have provided information about debts owed to Greyhound Recycling and Recovery.

“Dublin City Council management need to publically clarify, as a matter of urgency, exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound about its 140,000 customers and, if debt information was provided, the Data Commissioner must ensure that Greyhound does not add this information to its customer database.”

Dublin Bus Cuts

Ballymun Sinn Fein members along with Dessie Ellis TD took part in a community protest against cuts to Dublin Bus routes in Dublin North West last Thu 1/9/11. Several local people affected by the drastic bus cuts, along with People Before Profit & SF attended the demo.

“Some of the older and disabled people in Coultry, Shangan & Sillogue are virtually prisoners in their homes now as a result of the cuts or discontinuation of the service they previously relied on” Ballymun Sinn Féin activist Noeleen Reilly said. “This will be particularly felt in the cold, dark winter nights & early mornings.”

Noeleen addad: “we are worried about children, many of whom attend schools outside the area. They would have to walk in the wet and dark winter nights from the bus stop on the main road to Poppintree and to the back of the Coultry estate.

“They are only cutting these things to feed the greedy, incompetent bankers” Ms Reilly said; “three-quarters of the population in the working-class area of Ballymun are dependent on buses. A lot of older people feel they are going to lose their independence. They are going to be isolated in their homes if their bus is taken away.”

Under Dublin Bus’s €12 million cuts plan, entitled ‘Network Direct’, routes were “straightened out” to operate on the most “efficient” from the suburbs to the city centre.

Thursday’s protest by residents from a number of communities along with Sinn Féin and People Before profit was aimed to stop phase two of ‘Network Direct’ which is planned to take place over the coming months with further streamlining of routes.

Dessie Ellis TD said that the cuts to Dublin Bus were all part of what she labelled as misguided government policy.

“This is about investment; you can’t cut your way out a recession because the more you cut the more you deflate the economy”

he said

“The issues of productivity need to be raised but you don’t cut frontline services and you don’t deliberately put more workers out of jobs” Dessie added.

Dessie Ellis TD – Housing – Ard Fheis 2012

A Chairde agus gcomrádaithe

With the continuation of the economic crisis, unemployment and austerity in the 26 counties social issues have taken a back seat to discussion about bank debt, sovereign debt and bailouts.

One such social issue, a very core right which republicans strive for is housing.

But in many ways in the 26 counties housing has been taking the back seat for decades. Government policy has seen the end of any development and increase in the social housing stock of local authorities.

The responsibility of the state to provide a roof over the head of its citizens has been replaced with the need to form cosy deals with developers, landlords and speculators in order to enrich the few while hundreds of thousands are inadequately housed or not at all.

The economic crisis as I have said has only continued this pattern.

Last year the Department of Environment announcement what it termed “a radical new departure” in housing provision. Given the fact that what was outlined in the policy document this quote is taken from were nothing new, we must look at how the Department have pursued housing responsibilities since its publication.

The most glaring example is the very handsome deal squared with developers under NAMA that the department heralded as the Social dividend long sought by NAMA’s opponents especially Sinn Fein.

2000 units were to be identified.

Now 6 months later not one person has been housed by the deal and half the identified units have been deemed unsuitable.

But just were the details of this deal.

Really the word deal is misleading because the scheme setup by NAMA and the Department is nothing more than another feathering of the bed of developers who were instrumental in the states downfall.

The government plan to pay developers approximately 15 million euro a year for 20 years and then hand back the units for the developers to do with what they will.

That is an estimated 300 million over the lifetime of this scheme being paid to developers already bailed out by the public through NAMA and for nothing more than a 20 year lease.

We in Sinn Fein are committed to real social housing and state provision. To the true recognition of everyone’s right to housing.

The solution to the problems of the housing crisis and homelessness are within the grasp of the Fine Gael Labour government.
They must listen to us when we demand a real social dividend from NAMA and the recognition of the right to housing.

They must listen to us when we demand a target for ending homelessness, a dedicated strategy to deliver follow on housing and “housing first” and the equality proofing of all housing policy to ensure it serves everyone.

I welcome the motions to be debated on housing this year and encourage comrades to contribute to the discussion on what is an incredibly important issue for the people of our country.

Local authorities best placed to run commercial vehicles tests

Sinn Fein’s transport spokesperson, Dessie Ellis TD, has voiced his opposition today to the government’s plan to remove responsibility for licensing and testing of commercial vehicles from local authorities.

Ellis continued:

“A recent OECD report found that local authorities were best placed to provide these services and that they had a good record in providing good service which worked well with people and was accountable.”

“The government’s desire to remove this responsibility from local authorities is not based on any need to do this. The local authorities do their job well and I have never had any complaints to me about the process.

There are issues around enforcement, roadside testing and risk rating set out in EU directives but these do not require the move of responsibility to the RSA. I sought to amend the bill to fix this but these amendments were rejected out of hand by the government parties.

This is part of a continued assault of local authorities and a government project to make them irrelevant, weak and subservient to the Department of Environment. I believe the government is seeking to separate the state and local authorities from any activity which could be turned into profit for the private sector. We cannot allow this agenda to take precedent over good service and accountability.”

Ellis condemns slow progress on NAMA units

Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson, Dessie Ellis TD, has condemned the government for slow progress on delivering social housing from NAMA and the lack of clarity about the process.

He made his comments following a response to a parliamentary question revealing that just under 1,000 of the 2,000 units are suitable and that so far, negotiations are only in progress on 700.

Deputy Ellis continued;

“This is shocking given the absolutely disastrous situation we are looking at in housing in this state.

We have over 100,000 on the waiting list for social housing and a half a billion euro being given to private landlords each year in rent supplement but the government and NAMA seem to be dragging their heels in a scheme that is rapidly looking less and less impressive. These units were heralded as the long sought social dividend by this government back in December but six months on no one has been housed.

Out of the 2,000 units, 697 are now deemed unsuitable and 344 have been taken out of the scheme by the developers NAMA is bailing out. This is not good enough. We need housing now and we need to provide it in a transparent and cost effective way. The government is refusing to give an estimate of cost but it is clear it will be a good pay day for developers.

Another worrying claim is that the government may try to house people in developments deemed unsuitable. They need to be clear on this. Planning for housing has been an utter failure of this state and we must ensure we will not be putting people in isolated or unsuitable conditions despite the immediate need to house people.

I call on the minister to outline clearly to the Dáil how this process is being carried out and to regularly update the public on the delivery of these units and further more genuine social dividends.

The people paid dearly for NAMA and this is not good enough.”

Government must act on Shared Ownership repossessions

Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on the government to deal with the crisis in Shared Ownership mortgages. He spoke during a Dáil debate, called by the deputy, to discuss “a growing problem which will not just go away”

Deputy Ellis continued:

“By September there will likely be 70 shared ownership homes repossessed. About half of these have been surrendered, others engaged with the Council to attempt to solve the problem, but still lost their home.

With 30% of Shared Ownerships in 90 or more days of arrears and approximately 1,400 schemes in Dublin City Council area, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

There are 29 cases coming up that a Dublin City Council source has told me are people who are unable to pay and so will lose their homes. There are three repossessions happening in the Finglas this week. People are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up on their payments which as part of the deal go up every year. The rent paid to the Council goes up by 4% every year.

This is a problem created by government policy and it must be solved by government intervention. The state failed to deliver enough houses for people who had a housing need as determined by the Local Authorities.

It failed because it did not believe it had a responsibility to provide housing. It was wrong to believe this and the consequence is evident now with desperate people, who needed a home, left in mire of unviable debt and negative equity.

I ask the minister to do something to help ease this problem, to meet with local councils and to encourage a process of engagement with the residents which will recognise when debt is unviable and begin a resolution process.

It should also be the case that those who give up the shared ownership should be allowed to go on the waiting list for housing again and not treated as voluntarily homeless. In many cases it would be appropriate for these people to be housed as tenants in the home they have surrendered and this must be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

The Keane report does not do anything for Shared Ownership. The Minister needs to step up to this growing crisis and put a strategy in place to help those in trouble who only sought to put a roof over their heads. They were failed by the previous government who denied them sustainable housing and destroyed the economy. We cannot see this failure repeated.”

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No Pain, No Gain – Greyhound Recycling

Greyhound recycling has given Dublin City Council residents just four weeks to pay a €100 bin charge forced on them. Struggling families will be told next week to either pay up by 15th February or face non collection of your bins. This is in contrast to Dublin City Council whereby homeowners paid €25 a quarter.

Ballymun Sinn Féin Local Representative Noeleen Reilly has slammed Dublin City Council for leaving residents at the mercy of Greyhound Recycling. She further added ‘January is typically a tight month for families and this is just another example of pressure being put on hard working people With the Household Charge of €100 also now due the early part of 2012 looks like it will be very costly for home owners.

Dumping is already a problem in Ballymun and surrounding areas; it will become a massive issue when these draconian charges are imposed on top of all the other regressive charges that this anti-worker FG/Labour government is using to bail out greedy incompetent bankers.