Thursday, 25 November 2021
Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage
In this Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill there is a welcome move to rebalance the situation. We all recognise that. It brings the local authorities back into play, which was one of the big criticisms everyone had of the strategic housing development process, which was the previous arrangement in place. Local communities everywhere want to be able to at least have a say in what is happening in their community. This is not to say that they should be blocking or stopping plans or have a right to prevent genuine projects that work well and fit well into an area.
We need large-scale and we need residential developments, particularly in our large urban areas where there are huge housing problems. I have a big issue, however, with the direction of travel in all of this. Housing is out of reach of people not so much due to availability, which is clearly a big problem and we do not have enough houses being built, it is the affordability of housing and the fact that the vast majority of people cannot afford to buy a house. We seem to be going in the direction of many other European countries with large-scale corporate entities owning vast amounts of rental properties, which they rent out on short-term leases, possibly for two or three years or as long as the contract lasts in one of these high-tech companies, and then it flips over, and another person moves into the property. While this model may be in operation in parts of Germany, France and other countries, it is not the model we have in Ireland. Up until ten years ago more than 70% of people owned their own home. That was a very positive thing because it meant that the wealth a person accumulated over his or her lifetime accumulated in that home. It was not paid off to a landlord somewhere. If a whole community is renting, the corporate land entities are getting wealthier and wealthier off the backs of ordinary working people. That is a bad model and I do not believe we should be going with that model. I fear that the legislation brought in here by the Minister and the direction of travel of the Minister's Government with regard to that, supports that particular model. The Minister needs to prove to us all that he is prepared to turn around and change and that he will provide homes that ordinary people can afford to buy in order that ordinary people can have a sense of future in their own communities. It is one of the problems we have. I meet people regularly in Dublin city who say that their children have gone to college, have worked hard, have got the degrees and decent jobs, but that they cannot afford to live in the city where they were born and reared. Many of these people are emigrating from Ireland to other parts of the world simply because they cannot afford to live here because of the high costs. The Minister is aware of this. I am not telling him anything he does not know already, and in fairness the Minister has acknowledged this. Acknowledgment, however, is not enough. We need policies, and not just policies that will create a difference in years to come, as Deputy McAuliffe has said. We need policies that will make a difference now. We need to ensure that this is delivered. While parts of this legislation are certainly welcome, there are issues within it that need to be dealt with. Amendments will be put to it, which hopefully the Minister would be prepared to accept, to deal with some of the shortcomings I believe are in the Bill.