Dáil debates

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

1:00 pm

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Question 114: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he fully supports the National Economic and Social Council's recommendation that there should be a net increase of 73,000 dwellings; and whether these will be included in the National Development Plan 2007-2013. [31008/06]

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Priorities for investment in housing under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 will take account of a number of factors, including the key policy challenges highlighted by the NESC report, the results of the 2005 housing needs assessment and the policy framework set out in the document, Housing Policy Framework — Building Sustainable Communities, which was launched in December 2005.

Under Towards 2016, the Government is committed to providing investment for an expanded range of housing options to households which cannot afford to provide for their accommodation needs. In the period 2007-09, this will include the commencement or acquisition of an additional 4,000 new housing units through a combination of local authority, voluntary and co-operative housing and long-term contractual arrangements under the rental accommodation scheme for new supply. The total number of new commencements and acquisitions over the period will be 27,000 units. Additional households will benefit from full implementation of the rental accommodation scheme, which will involve contractual arrangements with landlords for existing properties transferring from rent supplement.

The Government's overall strategy is to increase housing supply to meet demand and to improve affordability, particularly for first-time buyers. We will continue to support investment in infrastructure to deliver high levels of housing and improve affordability and we are putting a greater focus on building active and successful communities through quality housing and the provision social and affordable housing.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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I take it from the Minister of State's reply that he supports the call by NESC for a net increase of 73,000 housing units. Does he accept that we are not meeting current demand? Housing stock is being sold without being replaced, despite the fact that demand is not being met. When we demolish local authority social housing units, should we not build replacements?

Does the Minister of State agree that a crisis exists with regard to local authority housing? Housing lists are getting longer and prices are spiralling out of control. The Government can huff and puff as much as it likes but the reality is that young people and families earning the average industrial wage cannot afford to buy houses in Dublin and other cities.

Will the Minister of State commit to strengthening Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 so it is restored to its original form or does he propose to allow social exclusion to continue? Does he want to repeat the mistakes of the past or permit a situation in which people are forced abroad because they cannot afford to buy their own houses?

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I do not know what the Deputy means when he accuses us of demolishing homes without replacing them.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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In St. Michael's estate, for example, only 60% are being replaced. That is one estate and there are a number of such estates in Dublin. The Minister should be aware of that fact.

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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We are spending huge money on social housing. The overall housing budget this year is €2 billion and, of that, €1.4 billion is being spent on social housing. There is huge investment.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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There are 43,000 families on the waiting list.

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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The output last year of local authority housing was the highest for approximately 20 years. The waiting list did come down. I know how many are on it, although it is important to note that over 40% of what are called families on the social housing waiting list are single people. Huge amounts of money are being spent on new building, remedial works and regeneration schemes. With regard to St. Michael's and such estates, much of what we are doing is focused on quality. We do not want to build vast estates, as happened in the 1960s and 1970s, which are fine when handing over the keys but which create huge anti-social problems for the future.

In places such as St. Michael's and Fatima, it is better to have an integrated mixed development of private, social and affordable housing. That is the way forward——

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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That leads to shortages in housing stock.

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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——rather than having huge estates for one class of society. There are no plans to change Part V. It is delivering.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Only 1%.

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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There is also the affordable homes partnership. In the Deputy's constituency, it has delivered a couple of hundred homes through land swaps. We announced another such swap a few days ago under which we will get more than 200 houses, many of them in west and south-west Dublin, at good prices of €180,000 to €220,000. We are providing many affordable homes; 500 such homes have been provided on three land swaps. Many of the people on social housing lists who have jobs as a result of the improved economy are opting for those homes and are succeeding in getting into the market.

There has been much progress, although I accept there are over 40,000 families on the waiting list. If we can continue to increase the investment we are making in this area, we will meet the needs of more of those families over the next couple of years.