Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage


4:20 pm

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats) | Oireachtas source

It is interesting to hear a succession of Fine Gael Deputies welcoming this Bill without a word about the damage their colleagues did in recent years through the introduction of the whole SHD nonsense and the related planning changes in respect of mandatory guidelines. There was not a word of apology for destroying many parts of Dublin city, in particular, and creating what will become the ghettos of the future, namely, the high-rise, low-quality apartment developments that litter our cities. There is a need for an apology, in particular from some of the Minister's predecessors, such as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, who I do not believe has appeared to discuss the Bill today. It needs to be accepted that a lot of damage has been done and the previous Government got it wrong.

Many people are talking about housing policy and the housing crisis. Planning and housing are inextricably linked. A good land use policy is needed, at which point it can be decided how to develop housing. In the past seven or eight years, we have seen our reasonably decent planning framework and context being ripped up and put in the bin. That is what has happened since 2015. One would wonder why this is happening. Why can we not solve the problem of the housing crisis? Why is this Government and why was its immediate predecessor determined not to make housing affordable? Why were any schemes that were introduced designed to subsidise developers rather than drive down the cost of housing?

The fundamental problem we have with housing is that it is too expensive. We need a Government policy which will drive down the cost of housing. Land, of course, is the key issue in that context. At no point has this Government or the previous one taken on the issue of the role of land. We know that the normal rules of supply and demand do not apply when it comes to housing because it is land that makes the difference. We have developers throughout the country, but especially in the Dublin area, hoarding land and controlling the supply. That is what determines the high cost of housing and the fact that it is so far beyond reach of most people who are on any kind of average incomes. There is the assumption that the bank of mum and dad, as we were told by the previous Taoiseach, will step in. The average cost of housing now requires people to have almost multiples of the average household income.

One would wonder why this is the case. Why have successive Ministers not addressed the housing problem and made housing, a key element of people’s lives, affordable? The only explanation is that it is not actually politicians who are determining housing policy. We know that is the case. If we take lobbying register, as Eoin Burke-Kennedy of The Irish Timesmade clear just last month, the "property industry and its army of lobbyists do a great job of bending the Government’s ear." We know that is the case and Mr. Burke-Kennedy provided the evidence. He noted that whether "it is the planning code, apartment standards or help-to-buy schemes, they campaign vigorously behind the scenes." His report states that according to the State’s register of lobbying, the Construction Industry Federation, CIF, this year alone - less than ten months at that time - had made 61 representations to government on housing. That is just incredible. They have the run of this place. We see their representatives sauntering in here.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.