Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Affordable Housing: Discussion

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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I thank everybody present. Affordable housing is important, particularly now that we are in a housing crisis. The main issue facing us is that of the people who fall between the cracks. They do not qualify to go on the local housing list and therefore are paying up to €1,200 or €1,300 per month and do not qualify for a mortgage. This has left a massive hole in housing, particularly affordable housing. Progress needs to be made as quickly as possible because there are those who have no help and are caught. This is the only area in which we can give back to them.

Mr. O'Neill said the NDFA is providing financial advice to a number of local authorities seeking to develop housing schemes on their lands. He only mentioned four in particular, which are, of course, Dublin-based. I am aware that we are very much focusing on Dublin here but I always feel rural areas need to be considered also. We have 31 local authorities, all of which have landbanks and all of which provide a massive service to everybody. What other local authorities are being dealt with? It is important that we do not focus on Dublin alone. I understand we need to focus on it but, when the notes suggest everything is Dublin this or Dublin that, the rest of Ireland always feels forgotten. As a Carlow person who is always making representations, particularly regarding affordable housing, I believe this needs to be addressed. What other local authorities are being dealt with?

Let me talk in general. One of the major issues is that there are many landbanks around Ireland. Do the delegates often come up against resistance to development? Recently in my area, certain builders were dealing with the approved housing bodies. This is another area on which the Government seems to be focusing, rather than building itself. It seems to be looking to all the approved housing bodies. What can we do better with landbanks through legislation? Is there anything we can do to help local authorities? Is there anything we can do to make this go quicker?

When affordable housing is mentioned, it is felt we are helping those who are not able to get on the housing list or obtain the mortgages they are looking for. Could the delegation come back to me on the landbanks?

We must not have circumstances in which developers have no incentive to provide affordable units. We need affordable units, as we need homes. Are we providing them? What incentives are we providing in this regard? We need to make sure the homes are built and are built really quickly. Could one of the witnesses revert to me on that?

One size does not fit all. Many individuals were speaking to me lately about housing and building houses. We need to consider a broader range and affordability but we also need to give people the option of having an affordable house that they want and can afford. A lady said to me recently she had to move out of Dublin because she cannot afford a mortgage. She cannot even afford an affordable house because she is renting. She cannot afford to rent in Dublin. What we are doing is basing everything on one particular area. Instead, we need to deliver in others. We need to deliver affordable housing in Carlow and other areas where people are crying out for it. The delegates might respond to these points as many of the questions I was going to ask have been answered.

I believe the issue of affordable housing will be of great significance in the future. It is significant for young people starting off. Nurses and teachers, for example, who are paying between €1,300 and €1,400 a month in rent, cannot save and, as a result, cannot get a mortgage from the banks. We need to ensure these are the people who get affordable housing.