Rabbitte defends controversial new rent payment

SF TD accuses Labour of succumbing to Fine Gael values


The replacement of rent allowance with the controversial Housing Assistance Payment was defended by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte during heated Dáil exchanges.

Mr Rabbitte, who was taking Opposition Leaders’ Questions, said introduction of the payment was the most fundamental reform for a generation. “It is a reform for which this House argued for [over] the past number of years,” he said.It was “a real measure to assist people who are in receipt of this housing supplement to go back to work, if they can do that, and retain the supplement”. He insisted that recipients would not lose access to social housing in the normal way.

The Minister was replying to Sinn Féin spokesman Jonathan O’Brien who said the measure would transfer responsibility for providing housing to the private market on a scale not seen before. It would lead, he added, to people being removed from the council housing list and left to the mercy of the market. “I do not know, Minister, if you understand the full consequences,” he added. It was no more than “a con-trick to reduce social housing waiting numbers”.

Mr O’Brien said that 50,000 families would lose their place on housing lists and immense distress would be caused to families. Labour should stand up and be the watchdog of Fine Gael rather than the lap dog it had become in recent years and stop the Bill, he added.

Mr Rabbitte said that was “in fairness, a pretty hackneyed cliche”. He added that Sinn Féin appeared to want to retain the status quo. “For the period of time I have been in government, I have heard deputies opposite, including, prominently, Sinn Féin, whingeing about the housing rental supplement and how it assisted poverty traps and prevented people from going back to work,” he added.

The House continues to debate the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, paving the way for the change.