Thursday, 28 November 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
First, I will respond to the general comment that Rebuilding Ireland is not working because the facts do not bear that out. There is still a lot of work to do but more than 50,000 new homes have been built over the past three years. There was an increase of 82% in the number of new homes completed between 2016 and 2018. Some 10,000 new homes will be added to the council housing stock this year, followed by 11,000 next year and 12,000 the year after that. The daft.iereport published this month states: "It looks as though Ireland's longest-ever run of increasing rental prices may soon come to an end." It was not the Government saying that but daft.ie. We have brought in new laws to significantly strengthen tenants' rights. By the way, Sinn Féin has supported most of these, including some of the rental changes recently introduced by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. The number of apartment completions has increased by more than 81% over the past 12 months. Residential property prices are decreasing in Dublin and price increases are slowing throughout the country as more and more homes are built. We are helping people to buy their first home. To date, 15,000 new homes have been bought by first-time buyers with the assistance of the help-to-buy scheme. If I recall correctly, I was heavily criticised for introducing this scheme at the time but it is working.
While we have a housing crisis, and have had one for some time, the Government has responded by driving supply across all types of tenure, including social housing, affordable housing, cost-rental properties, and privately purchased houses. We have prioritised first-time buyers because a number of years ago they comprised only a tiny percentage of those buying houses because they simply could not afford to put deposits together. Since the introduction of the help-to buy scheme under Rebuilding Ireland, 15,000 new homes have been purchased by first-time buyers. There are still pressures in the system and we need to continue to increase supply. We need to build approximately 35,000 additional homes a year and we need to ensure that between 10,000 and 12,000 houses are added to the social housing stock each year but we are getting there. Next year, we will spend €2.68 billion on the housing budget, which is multiples of what it was only three or four years ago. Rebuilding Ireland, which is a five-year housing plan, is working and is responding.
Unfortunately, we still have people who are homeless and under real pressure. If one looks at the homelessness figures, however, in the first six months of this year, almost 3,000 adults and their dependants exited homeless services. That figure continues to increase quarter after quarter. The rate of increase in homelessness has dramatically slowed down. We now need to get on top of it and accept the reality that we must make a significant impact over the next 12 months on the 10,000 people who are homeless today. We are making progress. Some people are trying to use the housing challenge as a political stunt next week to try to raise profile in advance of a by-election and this misses the point.