Thursday, 3 June 2021
An Bille um an Naoú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Ceart chun Tithíochta) 2020: An Dara Céim [Comhaltaí Príobháideacha] - Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2020: Second Stage [Private Members]
Peter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
I thank all of the speakers who contributed to this debate. In my opening remarks I set out clearly the direction of travel for the Government and outlined how seriously we are taking this. An interim chairperson has been appointed. I have made it clear what we are doing in that regard. The Constitution affects us all and we must balance any proposal with other rights in our Constitution and protect against any unintended consequences, being mindful of the interdependencies between different rights. That is why we have set up a commission to tease out these issues under an interim chairman.
We must be very mindful of the need to deliver homes on the ground. As Deputy Canney said, changing the Constitution will not deliver homes on the ground. That is why the Government will continue to advance a range of commitments set out in the programme for Government to deliver more homes and prevent homelessness, supported by unprecedented levels of funding. We will also deliver affordable, quality housing solutions that are available to all in society. The review of the national development plan and the upcoming housing for all plan which will be published this summer will set out an ambitious range of affordable housing targets throughout the country over the coming years. Our housing plan will also set out the roadmap for how and when these targets will be met.
As I outlined earlier, the establishment of the housing commission will be a key part in delivering on the commitment to hold a referendum on housing which will be thought out through it. The terms of reference of the commission should be finalised this September, and as we have now appointed a chairman-designate, this should allow for a clear timeline for the commission to go about its work.
Debates such as this one have a crucial role to play in identifying the range of issues that must be considered by the commission as well as highlighting the views of all parties. I am glad to participate in and support this debate. I thank Deputies for raising key issues. It is important we allow the commission to do its work. The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy O'Brien, has met a number of stakeholders already and it is very important to get a clear direction forward.
A number of Deputies have raised very valid points on housing and how to deliver it on the ground. Deputy Canney referred to the towns first programme which will deliver units that are currently vacant or derelict, which will make a big difference to towns and villages all over Ireland. Reference was also made to the review of the national development plan and to Irish Water. A lot of development is blocked because key infrastructure is not in place and a lot of work will be done in that regard.
Reference was also made to the LDA and a 50% cap on affordable units on its sites, but that is absolutely incorrect. The figure of 50% is the minimum, and when this is coupled with our new part 5 provisions of up to 20%, that will bring it up to a minimum of 70%. The Minister has said that in Dublin and in other cities throughout the country he is aiming for 100%. We have a minimum of 70% that is going to be set out in legislation. That will be a key delivery mechanism for the State and will enable us to deliver housing in a countercyclical manner when our economy is under stress.
I will bring many of points that were raised to the attention of the Minister. Class was referenced a lot during this debate. I am not a landlord but am from a very modest background. I live in a three-bed semi detached house. I and my counterparts have experienced the pressure of trying to get our first home. Some of the contributions tonight contained very colourful language but people should be realistic. We are all trying to do our best. We should all try to support the Government, of which I am a member, which is trying to deliver for our citizens. We are doing our very best and there is enormous will on the part of the Government to deliver. The Taoiseach has been very clear that housing is our number one priority. Deputies can come in here and talk about parties being "politically fried" or other colourful terms but that will not deliver houses. We are in the business of trying to deliver houses as quickly as possible. I come from a modest background. I was lucky to get an apprenticeship when I left college. I served my time and tried to do my best. I got opportunities in society. I am from a working-class background and I want to ensure others have the same opportunities I had. I want everyone to have the opportunity to get a set of keys for that all important home.