Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Affordable Housing: Discussion

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I have to say I find all this mind-bending. I look at a site like Shanganagh and wonder where the hell the houses are. This goes on and on. There are interesting conversations going on about financial modelling but nothing happens. I, along with the people in the area, wonder when this nonsense is going to end. I am trying to get to the bottom of this. I admit I have learned some stuff and thank the witnesses for their presentations. At the end of it, however, I still cannot quite figure out what is the problem in getting people onto a site in Shanganagh where the local people have been screaming for housing for six years.

Mr. O'Neill of the NDFA earlier stated it had some involvement in advising the council on financial modelling.

Can that issue be elaborated on? What exactly is going on?

Reference was made to the site on Enniskerry Road and a cost rental figure of €1,200 a month, which is ridiculous. People who need affordable rental properties but cannot get on the housing list because their income is too high cannot, for the most part, afford to pay €1,200 a month. That will not work for them. All of this work has been done and there is all of this complexity, yet at the end of the day the cost is not affordable for those who need affordable rental properties. I would like to get to the bottom of that conundrum if the delegates have any comment to make about it.

This is ultimately a policy matter, but would the following observation have any relevance? With reference to every single site, the delegates are saying they must take into consideration the particular costs associated with the site, market conditions in terms of rent and the question of what is actually affordable. That is completely the wrong way to go about it as it complicates matters. It means that the position on every single site becomes extremely complicated because one has to take into account all of the different things. Surely it would be simpler to ask what is affordable relative to people's incomes. It is 30% or 35% of income. It is the same in the case of affordable purchase - 30% to 35% of income. We should simply put in the necessary capital, or extend the loans, or provide for a combination of both, to ensure every site will deliver affordable housing with a definition that is universal. In other words, it would not depend on those specific conditions because, if it did, it would not be affordable in many cases because of the particularities of the site, site servicing costs or the cost of dealing with Japanese knotweed. It is ridiculous that the cost of dealing with Japanese knotweed is going to change the level of affordable rent. Do the delegates agree that it is ridiculous? We must say what is actually affordable for the people for whom we are trying to deliver affordable housing, whether for purchase or rent. I would appreciate a comment on that issue, specifically about the site at Shanganagh.

I have two other brief questions. To what extent, if any, is either of the agencies interacting with NAMA on sites? Is it not at all? To what extent, if any, is either of the agencies dealing with the affordable component of private developments where there has been local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, funding? What is happening is unclear. The State is putting LIHAF funding into strategic development zones and other developments, private developments in some cases and a mix of both in others. There is supposed to be an affordable housing dividend, but it is unclear how many affordable houses we are actually getting for LIHAF funding. It seems to be linked with market conditions. What does "affordable" mean? There does not seem to be clarity on that issue. In the original documents the Government put out, LIHAF funding was to be used to deliver a figure of 40% on any development approved for the provision of such funding to provide affordable housing, but that has vanished. We do not have a clue what we are getting for LIHAF funding.