Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power has secured a commitment from the Environment Minister Phil Hogan that he will take the lead on addressing some of the most immediate concerns of the residents of Priory Hall.
The Dublin North East Senator raised the matter in the Seanad today (Thursday) after meeting with the Priory Hall residents at their temporary hotel accommodation last night. She called on Minister Hogan to engage with the Department of Finance to secure a freeze on mortgage payments until building works are completed and to examine the possibility of emergency financial support for individual families from the Department of Social Protection.
In response Minister Hogan said: “I will also take on board what Senator Power said, by asking the Department of Finance officials to contact the financial institutions and the Department of Social Protection to deal with matters regarding mortgages and exceptional payments” (Seanad Éireann, Thursday 20 October 2011)
Welcoming the Environment Minister’s comments, Senator Power said: “It is utterly unfair that the residents of Priory Hall are still facing monthly mortgage repayments while their homes are uninhabitable. In addition to the owner-occupiers now living in temporary accommodation, there are also a number of rental properties in Priory Hall whose owners will struggle to cope without rental income while the buildings are too dangerous to live in.
“The Government must engage with all lenders to seek a freeze on mortgage payments and interest until the building works at Priory Hall are completed. Some of the residents I met last night have been dealt with compassionately by their mortgage lender. However, others have so far been refused the option of taking a short break from their mortgage payments without penalty. I welcome the commitment from Minister Hogan today to ask Department officials to engage with the lenders with a view to seeking a special short-term mortgage arrangement for Priory Hall residents. Given the Government’s stake in our main banks, they should be able to secure commitments from the banks to assist the residents concerned.
“The Minister also agreed to my request to speak with the Minister for Social Protection regarding the provision of emergency financial support to Priory Hall residents who are currently having to cope with a range of extra financial pressures while living in temporary accommodation. While the Community Welfare Service generally only assists people dependent on weekly social welfare payments, there is a precedent for working families to be assisted in times of emergency. In 2009, the Department of Social Protection granted emergency payments to people who had been forced out of their homes due to extreme flooding. The usual requirement for means-testing was set aside to ensure that all families in financial distress as a result of having to leave their homes could get support to meet their immediate day-to-day needs. Similar arrangements should be put in place for the residents of Priory Hall.
Senator Power concluded, “I very much welcome Minister Hogan’s response to my questions today and I will be seeking regular updates on the progress in addressing the urgent needs of the residents of Priory Hall.”