Dáil debates

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:00 pm

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)

In a report published this morning, the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, has called on the Government to double public investment in public housing. It has called for investment in the region of €4 billion annually. It states this would deliver 18,000 public homes to meet not just social but affordable housing need for working families.

Of course, Sinn Féin has been saying this for years. We have outlined how the Government must double capital expenditure on public housing and embark on the largest investment programme in public housing in the history of the State. This is the scale of what is required to tackle the crisis we are in. It is not just us. Fianna Fáil, the Tánaiste's partners in government, voted in favour of a 2018 Dáil motion from the Raise the Roof campaign. Raise the Roof is, as he will know, a grassroots civil society-led movement with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions at its front, and supported by almost all of our housing and homelessness organisations and activist groups. That motion called for a doubling of capital investment in budget 2019 and the delivery of at least 20,000 social and affordable homes that year. Of course, back in government, Fianna Fáil has done what it does best and abandoned that commitment. There was no meaningful additional capital spend in the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage's first budget above the commitments already entered into by his predecessor, Eoghan Murphy. There is only €160 million extra in capital spend for this year - €124 million to deliver an additional 593 social homes and a paltry €35 million to deliver just over 400 affordable cost-rental homes. I said at the time and say again that that budget was underwhelming, unclear and wholly inadequate.

Fine Gael, the Tánaiste's party, has been in government for ten years and during that period not a single affordable home to rent or buy has been delivered by any central government scheme. This will be the first year of ten years of Fine Gael government where some affordable homes will be delivered, but how many? There will be only 90 affordable homes to purchase and just 440 affordable cost-rental homes for renters. Meanwhile, social housing delivery targets remain low while Government expenditure on rent subsidies, including housing assistance payment, HAP, rental accommodation scheme, RAS, rent supplement and long-term leasing is set to hit a staggering €1 billion this year.

After ten years of failure by the Tánaiste personally, as well as by his party, will he, on foot of this recommendation from the ESRI, give a guarantee that budget 2022 will include a doubling of direct capital investment by the State in the delivery of affordable homes for working people - public homes on public land delivered by local authorities, approved housing bodies and other not-for-profit agencies? This is what the ESRI is urging the Government to do today. It is saying this is absolutely necessary if we are going to get a grip on this housing crisis. Will the Government abandon its failed pro-developer and pro-big investor policies of the past, listen to the expert advice and the advice from Opposition and civil society and put public money into public housing on public land for affordable housing for working people?


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