ENNIS town councillors have called for new legislation that would compel all applicants to the HSE for rent subsidy, or those currently in receipt of rent subsidy, to undergo garda vetting.
The Mayor of Ennis, Tommy Brennan, made the call and was supported by his fellow councillors, arising from concerns expressed by members at this week’s meeting of Ennis Town Council, about anti-social behaviour in some residential areas of Ennis.
The topic arose in the context of a discussion of a new anti-social strategy, currently at draft stage, which aims at helping the council prevent and reduce such behaviour.
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle brought a notice of motion calling on the council to contact the HSE about people in receipt of rent subsidy, suggesting that there should be communication between the two bodies about “certain individuals”.
Ennis town clerk, Eddie Power, pointed out that the council has a policy to deal with tenants who engage in anti-social behaviour.
“The council does not have a role in relation to the letting of private accommodation. This is a matter for the private landlord and the rental agreement in place may make provision for dealing with anti-social behaviour. It is, however, standard practice for garda checks to be carried out on housing applicants for local authority housing prior to the allocation of tenancy,” he explained.
Councillor Frankie Neylon said that there is a view that the council puts people into houses all over the town, and that there is no garda vetting.
The town clerk further explained that in terms of persons applying for rent allowance from the HSE the council’s role in the first instance is to determine housing need. Mr Power said that the HSE then considers the application.
“It is a matter for the individual concerned to identify and select suitable private accommodation. That is not a matter for the council or the HSE,” he stated.
Mayor Brennan said the HSE should be forced to vet all applicants for rent allowance. “The HSE should be held responsible,” he added.
Fine Gael councillor Johnny Flynn said that in his opinion responsibility for housing should be with the council and not the HSE.
“Government funding given to the HSE for rent allowance should be re-allocated to the local authorities. There is a problem with the current system, because there is small group of people of effortless affluence who thing that they are above the rules of society. These people are causing huge amounts of distress to people. They are creating serious damage to the communities they live in,” the councillor said.