Thursday, 25 November 2021
Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage
I welcome this important legislation. It delivers on a key programme for Government commitment not to extend the current fast-track planning arrangements for SHDs. The new planning process for LRDs will replace the SHD provisions. I welcome this. The new process will ensure the delivery of housing developments of 100 or more homes, both public and private. That is so important.
We all know we need a sustainable housing system. The reforms in this Bill will restore decision-making powers concerning large residential developments to local authorities in the first instance, providing greater transparency and clarity and improved public participation in the process. I am a firm believer in communities having a large role to play in this matter because, as the Minister knows, all these developments affect everybody.
In my home town, Carlow, we are so delighted about the Technological University of South-East Ireland. We are going to need a supply of houses. This will be a major issue. I have long called for local authorities to be more included in the decision-making process.
I want to talk to the Minister about affordable housing. While I welcome this Bill and believe it is important and a step in the right direction, I believe there is an issue with the lack of supply and also with affordable housing. I am aware that the Minister is committed to addressing these but believe it is so important that we work on them. So many people come into my office who do not qualify for local authority housing. They cannot get a mortgage from a bank or building society. We need to give them a chance to have an affordable home. I ask the Minister again to address this.
Supply is an issue. A company called CarlowBuild delivers prefabricated homes at an affordable price. This is genuine innovation. The company is positioned to deliver homes efficiently and affordably to alleviate the Irish housing crisis. I do not know whether there are other companies doing what CarlowBuild is doing; there could be. The company builds modular houses from steel components. They are produced in-house. The company's system has secured National Standards Authority of Ireland approval. It has secured all the approvals. The work is of top quality. The company can build a house in 11 days. I have spoken to the Taoiseach about this. I will welcome the Minister to Carlow in December. We have some housing estates that I know he is going to open, which I am delighted about, but I ask him to visit the company in question. It is important and could be part of the solution. I am aware the Minister is committed to addressing this matter.
I noticed that Carlow was not mentioned by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in its recent request for builders of social housing. I note that a letter sent to local authorities in Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny, Westmeath, Meath, Wicklow, Kildare, Louth and Laois asking builders to consider offering homes with planning permission, on which construction has not yet commenced, to local authorities under an advance-purchase turnkey arrangement. I welcome this but ask that Carlow be included. The Minister knows me well enough to know my views because I talk to him regularly about Carlow and Kilkenny, but particularly Carlow, where I feel we need to be included. I ask the Minister to investigate this and revert to me. It is important. We, and Deputy Darragh O'Brien as Minister, are making the changes that people are looking for. I realise it has not been easy and that there is a housing crisis, but we are taking the first steps to make the required change. I know the Minister is doing that. We need to make more changes. I really welcome the Bill.