Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 12 December 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government
Update on Rebuilding Ireland: Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
I welcome the Minister. His last contribution summed up a lot of things. His job is an extremely difficult one but the facts speak for themselves. One of the most interesting facts is that our population is growing. It is estimated that our population could hit 6 million within the next decade and a half. The new people coming here have to be accommodated as well. At 11 a.m. I will be attending the launch of a report by another committee, of which I am a member, on direct provision. Some 11,000 people are seeking asylum in this country. We are accommodating more than 7,000 of them in emergency accommodation and direct provision centres. The other 4,000 are finding their own accommodation. There are huge challenges. There is absolutely no doubt that good work is being done. Some 50,000 people are in homes now who were not in homes in 2016. Some 50,000 houses have been built since 2016. That is very important and must be noted. That said, there is a lot more to be done.
The Minister does not get enough credit for the work he has done. There are very serious concerns, and for anybody or any child to be homeless is totally unacceptable. However one would swear by some of the commentary that the Minister thinks it is acceptable. I consider the Deputy one of the more genuine members of Government and he is trying to deal with this problem. It is a difficult one. There has to be fairness, balance and respect in the debate.
One problem I have identified is local authorities. There is a serious problem with delivery by local authorities on the ground. I fully appreciate the fact that the Minister's Department has made money available for them to draw down, but there seems to be a problem with local authorities scaling up and getting on with the development of housing. I am often told that a matter is with the Department, which is delaying in replying. I have gotten to the stage where I do not believe that. My contention is that local authorities have not stepped up to the plate to the degree that they should have. I welcome the fact that the Minister meets the chief executives every three or four months. Is there anything he could do or any structure he could put in place to force local authorities to move faster? The Minister of State, Deputy English, came before the committee last week to discuss Traveller accommodation. One local authority was allocated €850,000 in 2018 and drew down only €13,000. Does the Minister agree that there is a serious problem with local authorities on the ground delivering on the Government's housing policy and strategy?