Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Future Ireland Fund and Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund Bill 2024: Report and Final Stages


4:10 pm

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 12, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following: “ “designated housing project” has the meaning assigned to it by section 21;”.

I will speak to all of the grouped amendments. These amendments relate to the infrastructure, climate and nature fund and under the legislation, €2 billion will be contributed to the fund each year until 2030. It provides that the fund can be drawn down to support State expenditure in 2026 or afterwards, where there is judged to be a significant deterioration in the economic or fiscal position of the State. Under this legislation moneys from the infrastructure, climate and nature fund can be drawn down to fund environmental projects. This amendment means it would also be allowed be drawn down to fund designated housing projects. Under its provisions, up to 22.5% of the fund may be drawn down to support climate- and nature-related projects in any given year from 2026 up to a maximum of €3.15 billion between 2026 and 2030. This provision is in recognition of the likely need for additional investment in environmental projects to ensure the State meets its emission targets. This was a clear win for the Green Party at the Cabinet table but the fact that such drawdowns are allowed to fund environmental projects draws attention to the elephant in the room, which is housing. We are in the grips of a housing crisis, in case the Government has not understood or seen, and it is of epic proportions. Generations of our people are locked out of access to affordable housing and locked into an out-of-control rental system facing crippling rents and little hope of being able to buy their own first home in which they can build a future for themselves and their families. All the while the Government pats itself on the back. Only today the CSO reported there has been an increase in house prices of more than 7%. This is a staggering increase and evidence that the Government's policy all along was to jack up house prices with the only winners being the developers and investors. The losers are the ordinary people of Ireland. The average house price in this State now stands at €333,000 and has reached €446,000 in the Dublin region. The Government and the Minister for housing crow about how their housing plan is working, how they have turned a corner and all of the other adjectives they throw out every day. However, they are totally and utterly detached from the ordinary struggles that ordinary people the length and breadth of this State face day in, day out. There is no hope of affording a home in this city or in many other places. It is universally accepted that the Government's targets are far too low and that its housing plan targets are way off the mark. In fact, many of the targets are not even being met. At the same time, families in my own county and elsewhere are watching their homes crumble before their eyes, forced to deal with a failing redress scheme that is leaving them short-changed, desperate and in distress. We need a massive increase in State investment in affordable and social housing. Why then, is no provision made for drawdown from the infrastructure, climate and nature fund for the purpose of funding desperately needed housing projects across the State between now and 2030? The only possible explanation, because the Minister will vote against this, is that the Government does not understand the depth of the housing crisis it has created or that it simply does not care. The amendment is in recognition of the fact that, given the chronic housing shortage that we have and that our people are facing, this fund should be unlocked in the same manner as for environmental projects to fund the housing projects so desperately needed in the years ahead. It would allow the Minister for housing to specify designated housing projects in a similar manner to which Ministers may specify designated environmental projects under this legislation, and for money to be drawn down from the fund for that purpose.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 relate to how the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and the Minister consider instances where early drawdowns or reduced contributions of the fund are warranted. It seeks to achieve that in addition to indicators such as economic growth, public finances and unemployment being considered, that housing and infrastructure deficits being faced by the State should also be considered. The legislation provides for significant contributions to these funds on behalf of the Exchequer. These of course come at opportunity costs, which are investments that could have been made elsewhere, for example in housing delivery. These amendments seek to ensure that the chronic housing shortage and infrastructure deficits we face factor into these decisions. There can be no argument that addressing this housing crisis is not an option, but a necessity for our people. It is unfortunately not a necessity that this Government has understood or acted upon hereto now. I commend this group of amendments Sinn Féin has tabled to the Dáil and call for support for them from across the House.


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