Thursday, 18 April 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
10. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the impact on public finances of the heavy reliance on leasing, HAP and RAS in the housing policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18071/19]
This relates to my earlier question. I looked at what the Minister said about the shocking cost to the State of money given to the private sector - to landlords, private developers and so on - for 2018. To put it in very simple terms, the Minister informed us that approximately €1 billion was spent on HAP, RAS, leasing and purchases from private developers last year. We can add in the €100 million or so that was spent on dealing with homelessness, the level of which is going to increase dramatically this year. Is what is being done not madness?
What would be madness would be not making money available to people to give them somewhere to live while we are trying to build new homes. For this year alone, between one in four and one in five of all new homes constructed will be built by the State in order to alleviate the social needs to which the Deputy correctly refers. As those homes are put in place, the reliance on private rental accommodation will come down. It would be madness if we did not have those homes or if, while they are being built, we did not use the resources of the State to help citizens and families who would otherwise be even more vulnerable.
The Rebuilding Ireland targets clearly state that of the 137,000 social housing units the Government intends to deliver, more than 100,000 are going to involve RAS, HAP, leasing and purchases from the private sector. That is the Government's plan. The Minister says there is going to be more construction but, overall, the vast bulk of the plan is dependent on RAS, HAP and leasing. We discussed the cost of that earlier in the context of the report of the Ombudsman for Children, namely, children traumatised and feeling shame, guilt and anger because they live in hubs. I asked the Minister earlier whether he thinks there is something absolutely mad about paying €100,000 a year to keep a household in miserable circumstances in a hub when the Government could build a council house for just twice that amount.
The number of council houses which the Government proposes to deliver is pathetic.
-----and the project under way in Dominick Street. While these projects are under way we have an obligation to help people who are awaiting completion of them. I have yet to hear Deputy Boyd Barrett say what he believes is wrong with the approach of making use of existing homes to support citizens who would otherwise be in more difficulty while the build of new homes is under way.
In regard to family hubs, I do not want to see young children spend their childhoods in hubs. Rather, I want to see them in their own homes in a bed of their own, with the type of comfort they deserve. It is for that reason we are investing and building homes in the manner I have described. While those homes are being built, we are using other forms of accommodation to support those who deserve support. That is what this approach is about. As I said, if we were not making use of houses that are being built to support families waiting for homes the Deputy would be equally damning of us.
We all know we need temporary stop-gaps. The problem is the Government's overall plan will still leave us overwhelmingly reliant on HAP, RAS, leasing and the private rental sector. In allowing people to move from HAP accommodation into family hubs, out of hubs and into HAP homes and back into emergency accommodation the Government in guaranteeing that there will be a homelessness crisis for at least a decade. What can we do? We can dramatically ramp up council housing provision, the number of which the Government proposes to deliver is pathetic. For example, NAMA, which financed 2,500 homes last year that were sold on to the private sector, could be instructed not to sell properties into the private sector. We should be using NAMA owned land to deliver public housing which is affordable. This is the point I am making. I know we need stop-gaps but at the end of the Government's plan we will still be heavily dependent on the private rental sector, which is fuelling the homelessness misery by which children in hubs are affected.
I echo Deputy Boyd Barrett's comments. Given that there are super-normal profits in the property industry generally, of which HAP and so on is part, has consideration been given to clawing back some of that money in taxation in order to create sufficient funds to, as suggested by Deputy Boyd Barrett, build more social houses?
To return to the central point Deputy Boyd Barrett put to me, in 2020 and 2021 under Rebuilding Ireland we will be housing more citizens in local authority and approved housing body homes than through the private rental sector. That is where we are trying to get to. While we are getting there, we are trying to ensure that families who need support get it. That is the target of this plan and what we aim to deliver.
The reason I do not propose to do that is that we are trying to get more companies and local authorities involved in the delivery of more houses than are currently being built. We have tripled the stamp duty on commercial property and introduced a vacant site levy. I have also ended some of the tax reliefs that were made available for the construction sector. The purpose of all these measures is to get housing delivery moving in the right direction.