Dáil debates

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Social and Affordable Housing Supply: Motion [Private Members]


10:37 am

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank People Before Profit for tabling this very positive motion and for allowing us to support it in the debate today.

I will start by calling out the increasing dishonesty around Government discourse on housing. We have heard many of the untruths here again today. We are told repeatedly by the Government that we will see an expenditure of €4 billion annually for tackling the housing crisis. I have recent figures from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage which confirm that first, direct State capital investment under delivering social and affordable housing is just about €1.8 billion for last year, this year and next year. Even when one adds in approved housing bodies' borrowings and expenditure and the Land Development Agency figures for last year and this year we will not even reach €2.4 billion. I put it to the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, that this means if the Government is to reach that €20 billion target that he stated here today, the Government must spend €5 billion next year, the year after, and the year after that. This is something that the Government neither intends nor has the capacity to do.

We also hear regularly that the State is the largest developer. This is also not true. In fact, last year of the 24,000 new homes delivered the State was only directly responsible for the delivery of 1,000 of those, which is 4%. How does 4% equate to being the largest developer in a market? We hear about the largest social housing programme in the history of the State. This is not true. The Government's targets are lower than the original Fine Gael development plan, and for three years in a row the Government has not even been meeting those, as will be confirmed at the end of this year.

The Minister of State said that social housing need is falling. This is not true. If one goes to any local authority and asks for their gross social housing need report we can see that social housing need is increasing. The Government is concealing almost half of all social housing need by taking HAP or RAS tenants off the list. I believe this is deeply dishonest. We hear that this is the Government of home ownership. Let me tell the Minister of State that the more house prices rise the less people can afford to buy them. It is a very simple law of economics and maths. Everything this Government is doing is pushing up house prices: the help-to-buy scheme; the shared equity loan; and the enthusiastic welcome, particularly from Fianna Fáil, for the very high-risk recent changes to mortgage lending rules by the Central Bank. These actually all show that house ownership is going to be increasingly difficult under this Government in the time ahead.

The biggest untruth is that the plan is working. How can the Minister of State say halfway through his term of office that the plan is working when house prices are higher than ever before, rents are higher than ever before and homelessness is higher than it has ever been before? Yes, commencements are up, which is good, but they are only back at 2009 levels and we had a housing crisis then. Yes, planning permissions are up but people cannot live in a planning permission if those planning permissions are not commenced. In fact, contrary to what has been said, the Government housing policy is not only not tackling this crisis, it is making it worse.

Later today we will discuss an emergency winter ban on evictions, which is something many of us in the Opposition have called for before. This is evidence of the Government's failure. It is a demonstration that the Government housing policies are not working.

As we have said over and over again, there is an alternative. We need about 40,000 new homes a year and half of those, which is 20,000, should be public homes, with increased social housing delivery and thousands of affordable homes delivered at a genuinely affordable prices to rent or buy. We need to be bringing some 4,000 vacant and derelict homes back into active use as part of that 20,000 homes every year. It is quicker, cheaper and it is better for the environment. We need to embrace the new high-quality, timber-based products that have been developed here and we must have at least 1,000 zero-carbon timber frame and timber product homes annually.

We also need more action to protect renters. This winter eviction ban, while urgent and necessary, does not tackle the sky-high rents and it does not tackle insecurity of tenure. This is why we continue to argue for a three-year ban on rent increases, for real refundable tax credits to put a months’ rent back into every renter's pocket, and real security of tenure.

With regard to homelessness, other Deputies have mentioned Tathony House. There is a very simple solution. In fact, the local authority can buy it. The local authority can combine social housing funding and cost-rental funding so those tenants who to date were not eligible for social housing could become cost renters. The building could be bought by an approved housing body or it could be bought by a local authority. There is no legal or funding impediment as to why, subject to structural condition of the building, the building could not be bought. In fact, if this Government was serious about preventing homelessness the Minister of State would be calling for such a course of action today. I urge people to support the residents' protest at Wood quay on Saturday.

Crucially, we need a referendum to enshrine the right to housing under the Constitution. We are all waiting eagerly to see the Government's response to the commission later on.

It is clear that the Government is not listening. The Government is not listening to the Opposition but I believe that it is going to have to start listening to the people. All throughout November there will be public meetings in the four local authorities in Dublin organised by Raise the Roof. The cost of living coalition has mobilisation organised for 12 November. Raise the Roof will be organising a major march and concert on 26 November. The Minister of State can either listen to us or listen to the people, but the longer he delays the worse it is going to get. That is why Sinn Féin is more than happy to support the motion before the House.


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