Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
92. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the reason his Department is using the public spending code as an excuse for not directly funding Dublin City Council to develop the site at Oscar Traynor Road as a fully public housing development in the most cost-effective and affordable manner. [46717/21]
My question is to ask the Minister's Department the reason it is using the public spending code as an excuse for not directly funding Dublin City Council to develop the Oscar Traynor Road as a fully public housing development in the most cost-effective and affordable manner.
This is the question in the name of Deputy Ó Broin.
Investment in social and affordable housing is a major component of the State's capital expenditure. Under Housing for All, there is to be a sum of over €4 billion per year, which dwarfs the €2.9 billion the Deputy's party proposed as part of its submission on Housing for All.
As Minister, it is my duty to ensure that capital investment projects are prepared and delivered to achieve maximum value for money. The Deputy might agree with that. The public spending code sets out the value-for-money requirements for the evaluation, planning and management of public investment projects in Ireland. That is public money – taxpayers' money, Exchequer money.
During project life cycles, sponsoring agencies, or local authorities in the case of social and affordable housing, must consider and evaluate such matters as project rationale, options appraisal, both financial and economic, and procurement strategies. As approving authority, my Department, and the Government in the case of public funding in excess of €100 million, must assess and approve projects as they advance through stages of the life cycle. Considering the question that Deputies Ó Broin and Mitchell put, I do not regard it as appropriate and prudent to set aside the requirements of the public spending code in respect of any proposed public expenditure of this scale. It is incredible that the Deputies would.
Increasing the supply of social and affordable homes is a priority, clearly shown in our Housing for All strategy, on which we just had statements and on which we will have more tomorrow. Following the recent launch of the strategy, I issued last week social housing targets to all chief executives, including in Dublin City Council. Of the national target of over 50,000 new social homes, I am asking Dublin City Council to deliver nearly 9,100 in the years in question through its own projects and working with the Housing Agency.
The site at Oscar Traynor Road is located in an area with a clear need for social housing. My Department and I have consistently supported Dublin City Council's efforts to advance the proposal on the site, including through an agreement in principle on funding the social homes and supporting affordable purchase homes through the affordable housing fund, the serviced site fund. This is specifically what was asked for. I will come back to the Deputy on the other points.
I thank the Minister for his response but, as he is aware, earlier this year the majority of councillors on Dublin City Council proposed a plan that would deliver genuinely affordable, social and cost-rental homes for workers and families on Oscar Traynor Road. Councillors look to the Minister to deliver in this regard. He and his Department are using the public spending code as a cop-out. He is hiding behind his Department. I look to him to make the plan a reality.
When will he ensure that we will have public homes on this public land? This is what the councillors are asking of him, and this is what the many people who are caught up in the housing crisis are also asking of him.
The fact of the matter here is that the proposed development at Oscar Traynor Road has the potential to deliver well over 800 new homes, as Deputy Mitchell knows, in addition to extensive community and recreational facilities. The Deputy may be aware that Dublin City Council has indicated that any new plan would have to revert to the drawing board in that there would have to be a lengthy design, planning and procurement process. The Deputy's colleagues in the council were told that this could delay the project by more than five years. I am not going to stand over that so I have met both lord mayors, including the current one. We will support any revisions to the plan that make sense so we can deliver social and affordable homes at the site, which I visited as recently as July. I met residents in the area who want homes on the site. There should be no more delays and objections from Sinn Féin; rather, there should be real delivery of real homes for real people.
As the Minister said, workers and families out in the community are crying out for real, affordable social and cost-rental housing. The proposals the Minister is talking about that were put before the council are - is everyone ready? - €450,000 for a three-bedroom apartment and €1,500 in respect of a month's rent for a two-bedroom apartment.
The Minister will agree with me that this is crazy and that it is not affordable. He can be the Minister who delivers 100% public housing on public lands on the Oscar Traynor site by supporting our councillors. He can cut through the red tape and fast-track this plan. Does the Minister want to do this? Will he do this?
I did not interrupt the Deputy once. Does she want to hear what is really happening?
In the affordable housing fund that we launched, we can increase the subvention up to €100,000, which is exactly what Dublin City Council, DCC, was seeking and doing it for. The plan that Sinn Féin has for Oscar Traynor Road, in the Deputy's constituency, would drive this project back five, six or seven years and I am not going to-----
There is hardly any point in trying to answer a question if the Deputy does not want to hear the answer. I met the former Lord Mayor Hazel Chu, the Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland and senior executives in DCC because we want to move this forward. I am serious about delivering homes for real people, not sound bites or stunts in the Dáil.
The reality is that we made the changes that DCC has sought. The question is whether Sinn Féin councillors will vote for a revised plan that will deliver homes for people. Its track record up until now is that it has not, and we are going to do it.