Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Public Accounts Committee

Vote 34 - Housing, Planning and Local Government (resumed)

11:10 am

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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That is helpful. I wish to revert briefly to the issue of the long-term cost. I was there in the days when rent supplements were first introduced, going back a good few years now. It was a temporary measure to tide people over until they got more permanent accommodation. Then we moved on to RAS and HAP. The spend is now in the region of €1 billion per year. That €1 billion provides between 5,000 and 6,000 one-, two- and three-bedroom homes, depending on what part of the country one is in. That is roughly what we are talking about.

I understand that the Department cannot magic up houses immediately at the click of a finger. However, in respect of the long-term cost, a witness from TASC appeared before the committee a few weeks ago. He quoted research by Mr. Mel Reynolds which stated that it costs €450 per month more for HAP than direct bills in many parts of the country. The point that we need to move on it cannot be emphasised enough. It has been raised by a number of Deputies today. The Department has to find the money and capital for it. In that context, has much work been done in respect of looking at sources of finance? There are 0% interest rates at the moment. In fact, there are negative interest rates on deposits currently. There are many investment funds out there. The credit unions have in the region of €10 billion in deposits. Representatives of the credit unions have stated at various times that they would like to invest it better. Irish pension funds are always sourcing ways of investing money to get a good return for pensioners. The European Investment Bank is also lending at low interest rates. Pension funds and credit unions in particular have substantial reserves. Has the Department looked at tapping into that money and investing it with a view to getting a return in the areas of cost rental homes, but also in the context of social homes and affordable purchase homes, which to provide a good return if it is done properly? Have those pots of money been looked at?