Dáil debates

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Housing for All Update: Statements (Resumed)


7:10 pm

Photo of Jennifer Carroll MacNeillJennifer Carroll MacNeill (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I wish to raise a couple of matters in the five minutes I have.

The first relates to affordable housing and the Dún Laoghaire area. Regarding the First Home scheme, I am very pleased to see that the number of people registered across the State is nearly 1,700, with 423 certificates issued. That is progress but, obviously, something has to be done differently in respect of Dún Laoghaire, where we do not come within that bracket because of the way house prices are there. When the Minister introduced the scheme, he committed to a review of it after six months. I am using this opportunity to remind him of that and to look for specific change that recognises the peculiar difficulties in Dún Laoghaire in that we just do not come within the scheme as it is. Obviously, there are people there who would very much like to avail of the scheme, so I am just putting that on the radar again.

The second matter relates to fire defects and apartments. I am sure the Minister's office, like mine, has received a very considerable influx of correspondence from homeowners affected by apartment defects. In my area, this issue has arisen in Dún Laoghaire, St. Gabriel's, Granitefield Manor and Cabinteely. This was in advance of the working group report published back in July, but the issue has still arisen since then. I think the Minister is aware of the practical issues faced by these homeowners and the impact on families in particular. These apartments cannot necessarily be insured, moved on or sold, even if the family has outgrown the apartment. The family of one gentleman in my constituency has expanded and they need more space, but he cannot sell the apartment, given its current condition and the uncertainty around resolving that. I know that the Government has committed to addressing this, but what is the update on that? Obviously, it is not within the budget and is a separate mechanism, but we need clarity on how that will be addressed not just for prospective buyers but also for those who have already rectified the issue on their own at huge expense. Can any retrospective measure be introduced in that regard? I urge the Minister to continue to make the remediation of fire defects in apartments a priority and to provide homeowners with an update where possible.

The other thing I want to highlight relates to the overall rental crisis. I acknowledge the Government's efforts in respect of tenants and additional supports for them. I was disappointed not to see greater support for landlords. I know that has been an unfashionable thing to say over recent years, but there are people coming around to the fact that there are two sides to every market and that we must keep landlords and, especially, small landlords - I have seen Deputies from People Before Profit refer to accidental landlords - in the market if there is to be a broad rental sector. I acknowledge the change in respect of pre-letting expenses but I am referring to the tax treatment generally. A landlord can write off, for example, a new bed or a new couch only over eight years, whereas the lifetime of that product in a regular rental apartment is four to six years. As for capital expenditure, if a landlord invests in a property - for example, in a new bedroom, a new bathroom, a new kitchen or any other of those sorts of normal capital expenditures - he or she can claim that back tax-wise only on the sale of the property. However, all that does is encourage landlords to sell properties. There are many landlords who have been in the market for many years and who would like to remain there, and it is disappointing not to have seen more done on that side to try to keep those landlords in the market.

I wish to refer to some of the planning changes. I note the report today in the media by Savills which says the planning framework is out of date. I have to question some of these comments by property interests in that regard. I hear these questions about whether it was appropriate to dezone lands, much of which were on floodplains, and to concentrate activity in areas of the city. I think there is something of a value play going on in that sector at the moment, and I think the sector would be better off focusing on how to commence the many thousands of apartments and dwellings in my constituency that have planning permission and actually deliver the housing rather than pointing to some unspecified field in Kildare and saying, "Zone it and we will build." It would be better to see them building what they have already.

I wish to highlight the under-resourcing which I think is there in the planning sector generally as well as how many people are working in planning and local authorities and how that sits comparatively. My most recent figure is that the numbers compare to those in about 2007, but the Minister may have a correction. I know that the strategic workforce plan is being done by the local government sector. One cannot build without planners. The fees have not increased either, as far as I am aware, since 2001, 21 years ago, and there is only really 16% cost recovery in the sector. It is not sustainable and it is, I think, adding to planning difficulties.

I think I am out of time, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, am I?


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