Wednesday, 31 May 2023
Home Ownership: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:- home ownership rates have been falling in Ireland since their peak in 1991;acknowledges that:
- while the 1991 Census showed owner-occupiers making up 79.3 per cent of households, this had fallen to 67.6 per cent in 2016;
- this fall in rates of home ownership has been accompanied by an increase in the proportion of the population residing in the private rental sector, which more than doubled between 1991 and 2016, rising from 8 per cent to 18.2 per cent;
- rent prices are now at record levels, having increased by more than 85 per cent in the past 12 years, compared to the European Union average of 18 per cent;
- the median income for first-time buyers of new homes is now more than €90,000, and more than €103,000 in Dublin;
- the share of 25-34-year-olds who own their own home more than halved between 2004 and 2019, falling from 60 per cent to just 27 per cent;
- in 2006, the average age of a first-time buyer in Ireland was 29, and last year the average age of young people when they moved out of their parents' homes was 28;
- there are now at least 350,000 adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s living at home in their childhood bedrooms; and
- according to the Economic and Social Research Institute, only 65 per cent of those currently aged 35-44 are likely to become homeowners by retirement, compared to 90 per cent of those currently aged 65 plus;- the collapse in home ownership rates will cause great social harm to an entire generation who are locked out of home ownership; andfurther notes that:
- rapidly falling rates of home ownership are creating a retirement timebomb, which will explode when increasing numbers of people reach pension-age and, no longer being able to afford to rent in the private market, will require expensive State supports to avoid homelessness in retirement;- expansion in recent years of the Build to Rent (BTR) model has led to a collapse in many areas in the number of new homes available to purchase;calls on Government to:
- in 2022, more housing was built for rent (9,166) than for sale (8,590);
- only 323 affordable purchase homes were delivered in 2022;
- the Irish Strategic Investment Fund has been investing public money in BTR developments;
- Home Building Finance Ireland, which was set up to provide loans for small developers, invested €300 million in private rental developments for cuckoo funds; and
- in incentivising and financing the BTR sector, to the detriment of affordable housing, the Government has deliberately chosen to lock a generation out of home ownership; and- stop incentivising a model of housing provision that makes home ownership increasingly unlikely;
- ensure public money is not invested in the delivery of private rental-only developments that are unaffordable to rent and unavailable to buy;
- stop providing subsidies for developers, which have lined developers' pockets and kept house prices sky-high; and
- dramatically increase the delivery of genuinely affordable purchase homes, in line with the Ó Cualann model.
I am sharing time with Deputies Cairns and Catherine Murphy. In introducing this motion, it is first important to state a record number of 12,259 people are now living in homeless emergency accommodation. That includes 171 pensioners and 3,594 children. When Fine Gael took office, there were fewer than 4,000 people in homeless emergency accommodation, and that was far too many people. Since Fine Gael has been office over the past decade, that number has more than tripled. More alarming again is that the Taoiseach made comments on the issue yesterday, in which he seemed to expect that the number will grow further. We have seen from the data on the notice to quit that were released by the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, yesterday that almost 5,000 notices to quit have been issued in the first quarter of this year. Based on that, we will see almost 20,000 notices to quit taking place this year.
Unless urgent action is taken by the Government on this, we will see homelessness continuing to grow. We need the eviction ban on no-fault evictions to be brought back in order to bring us into line with most European countries where, if you pay your rent, you will not be subject to eviction and you will not be at risk of homelessness. That is the norm in most European countries. Those figures, of course, do not include people who are sleeping rough or who are sleeping in tents, in cars and on sofas. It is happening at a time when the Government is having a row about how to spend billions of euro in budget surplus.
At the same time, these issues are related, rates of home ownership are falling. The Central Statistics Office, CSO, census data that were released yesterday showed that levels of home ownership had fallen to 66%. This is their lowest level in more than 50 years. At the same time, only 52% of homes that were built since 2016 are owner-occupied, with a mortgage or a loan. While it is the case that renting certainly suits some people for different specific reasons, most people do not want to be in the private rental sector and the research consistently shows that.
Research done by Threshold shows that only 14% of renters are renting by choice. Most people would like to have the security of a long-term home. That is what they want to have. That can be achieved through home ownership, good social housing or affordable rents. It does not specifically have to be through home ownership but, given that the Government is heavily promoting insecure private rental development at the expense of more secure forms of housing tenure, this is very serious.
High rents have forced people in their 20s, 30s and 40s to continue to live in their childhood bedrooms. People sometimes spend a decade or longer living in their parents' homes into their 20s, 30s and 40s while they are trying to save up deposits for houses. It was in the case in the past that people were able to pay a rent and save for a deposit at the same time. However, rents are now so high, especially under the build-to-rent model and the rental-only model that the Government has promoted so heavily, that it is simply not a possibility for people.
Levels of home ownership and the growth in homelessness are related. One of the factors that is driving homelessness is a growth in insecure forms of housing. We have seen as home ownership has declined that homeless rates have increased. This is because, for most people who end up homeless, their last secure form of housing was in the private rented residential sector. Therefore, as we see fewer and fewer secure forms of stable, affordable housing, we see more and more people who are in precarious forms of housing, including rented accommodation. That is one of the factors that is driving homelessness.
Contrast where we are now with where we were 30 years ago. In 1991, Ireland had one of the highest rates of home ownership in the European Union. Almost 80% of households owned their own home, either outright or with a loan or a mortgage. Some 10% of households at that time were in social housing, while most of the remaining households were in the private rental sector. Certainly, not everyone in the private rental sector at that time were younger or students, but a good number of people were in those categories. They were very much there as a tenure of choice because it suited them. We are in a very different situation now, and it is not an accident. It is because, since then, successive Governments have pursued policies and put huge resources into changing the tenure and the stability of our housing system in Ireland.
When this State was set up in the 1920s, a huge portion of the population was renting, either in rural areas to landlords, or indeed in urban areas, a huge number of people were renting in tenements and slums. We did not then have the kinds of home ownership rates that were built up over the 20th century with a huge amount of public investment. The Land Commission put a massive amount of resources into buying land in order that people in rural areas no longer would have to rent from landlords but would own their small plots of land and their homes. In cities, vast resources were put into public housing with slum clearances and building social and affordable purchase housing. I often mention the example of Marino, which is in my constituency, where 1,200 affordable purchase homes were built 100 years ago. That area of Marino is still extremely successful.
In the last 30 years, there have been multiple measures taken by Governments to attack the high levels of home ownership. It started with the section 23 tax reliefs that were rolled out widely for investors. It is continuing now with a favourable tax treatment for investment funds that the Government is so keen on. What we have seen in the last year, as international investment in the rental-only model has dried up, is a significant bank rolling and financing of the rental-only model by the Government through hundreds of millions of euro from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, which has been invested to rescue some of these schemes. In fact, what it should have been doing is looking to convert these schemes into affordable rental and purchase homes.
There are particular effects of promoting this rental-only model. It is creating a retirement cliff edge. According to the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, only 65% of people aged 35 to 44 are likely to become homeowners by the time they retire. This compares with more than 90% of those who are currently aged 65 and over. This is what this Government's policy is doing. That will create a retirement time bomb, in terms of people not being able to afford those high rents. It will put very significant pressure on the State to subsidise them. It will mean that an increasing number of pensioners are at risk of homelessness if those tenancies end.
This model is also contributing to the increased levels of homelessness. By its nature, the rental-only model, with its high rents and insecure tenancies, is insecure. That is leaving people vulnerable to eviction and homelessness. It is leading to more and more younger people and people into their 30s and 40s simply not being able to afford these extravagant rents and having to live in their childhood bedrooms. There are now more than 400,000 adults who are living in their childhood bedrooms well into their 20s, 30s and 40s. It is also leading to a mismatch in the housing stock. As households are becoming smaller, we are building smaller dwellings, including lots more apartments. There is a certain logic to that. However, when the vast majority of new apartments are rental only, it means that households who may be occupying a family-sized home may wish to have the choice of the right size of apartment. They do not have that choice. Some people will never want to do that, and that is absolutely fair enough, but some people do want to have that choice. I meet them regularly. They are very frustrated when they see large apartment schemes going up in their communities but they cannot buy an apartment in those schemes.
The apartments are only available at very high rents that people cannot afford and they will not move from the security of homeownership to a rental-only scheme. It will lead to a mismatch of housing stock, where there will be more and more families in smaller apartments, and more and more people in larger family-sized homes who would like to move to an apartment but do not have that option. This is all happening in the context of a multibillion euro Government surplus. There is growing frustration among the people I talk to that despite the huge resources at the Government's disposal, homeownership rates are falling, homelessness has reached yet another record high, rents are at a record high and house prices have reached record highs under this Government's watch.
I thank Deputy Cian O'Callaghan and his team for their work on this motion. The Government claims to prioritise homeownership. It is a brazen claim, and one which I do not think anyone really believes. The reality is that for every year that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael spend in office, rates of homeownership decline. Do not take my word for it. The latest evidence of the Government's relationship with homeownership was detailed in the census figures yesterday. Rates of homeownership declined from nearly 80% in 1991 to 66% last year. We know those figures alone do not tell the whole story, and that the brunt of this collapse in homeownership is mainly being felt by people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who have spent years paying crazy high rents and are now priced out of buying a home. Despite the Government’s consistently upbeat assessment of its own performance in housing, the reality is relentlessly depressing. The share of 25- to 34-year-olds who own their own home more than halved between 2004 and 2019, plummeting from 60% to just 27%. Young people cannot afford to buy a home and increasingly, they cannot even afford rent. In 2006, the average age of a first-time buyer was 29. Last year, the average age of a young person who managed to move out of home for the first time was 28. Once, young people could aspire to homeownership. Now, they are finding it difficult to even move out of their childhood bedrooms.
If that is not evidence that this and successive governments are certainly not made up of the parties of homeownership, I do not know what is. The rate and extent of the decline of homeownership among young people has been rapid and stark, and it is having a devastating impact. It can feel like Government parties think about housing in economic terms or as an investment, but people do not build their lives in an investment vehicle. They build it in a family, in a home and in a community. Housing enables people to build relationships and put down roots. It allows for feelings of safety and security.
When we talk about the housing disaster, we are not just talking about bricks and mortar; we are talking about young people whose adult lives are on hold because they cannot afford to move out of their childhood bedrooms. It is about couples postponing having a family because they cannot find affordable housing. It is about the stress and anxiety that causes once happy relationships to break down. It is about living with a permanent knot in your stomach. It is about being afraid of no longer being able to afford the rent, being afraid of getting a notice to quit from your landlord, being afraid of ending up in emergency accommodation, being afraid for the future and your place in it, being afraid that your life will permanently be on hold, and being afraid that you will never be able to afford to do what your own parents did on just one income – own a modest home.
The Government claims housing is its biggest priority, but we saw where its priorities really lie last week with the ridiculous row about tax cuts. Giving people a few euro extra every week while at the same time denying them their own homes is not helpful. What is the point of a tax cut when that money will be swallowed up by record rent and house prices? Why is the Government not prioritising the delivery of affordable and social homes instead of trying to buy voters off with their own money? Incredibly, just 323 affordable purchase homes were delivered last year in the middle of the biggest housing disaster in the history of the State. We have heard all of the Government's promises before and we have witnessed it breaking them. The Government has no credibility on housing because it refuses to learn the lessons from its mistakes. All of the important metrics tell the Government that the housing crisis is deteriorating. Rents have never been higher, house prices have never been higher and homelessness has never been higher, but the Government refuses to change course.
The Government continues to rely on the private sector to deliver social and affordable homes. It continues to pour subsidies into the pockets of developers and investment funds. It continues to allow cuckoo funds buy up residential homes. It continues to use public money to invest in the delivery of private rental developments which are unaffordable to rent and unavailable to buy. When will this Government change its disastrous policies?
The solutions are there in our motion, so why is the Government refusing to adopt them? It is becoming clearer all the time that this is now about the Government refusing to admit it is wrong. It seems like an ego issue. The Government is refusing to help thousands of people who are homeless, refusing to help a generation trapped in rent and refusing to do its job, which is to provide people with a roof over their heads.
The CSO published the summary report for census 2022 yesterday. We know that households are required by law to fill in the census. They are routinely told that this is done in order to provide and plan for services. Those services do not take account of tenure type, but it matters. There have been big changes in recent years, particularly in build-to-rent schemes. In 2022, for example, 82% of planning applications in Dublin city were for build-to-rent, up from 15% in 2018. Build-to-rent properties are of a lower standard because of Government regulation than build-to-purchase properties. In the Dublin city development plan, the Dublin city manager said that the long-term viability of apartment blocks was in question because of this standard, and that more diverse and higher quality apartments were needed to future-proof the city.
Tenure type matters. It can influence who lives in an area and what kind of services are needed. For example, a large young mobile population will require a very different type of service from a family who wants to put down roots. What is occurring is that traditional greenfield housing is being provided in suburban and commuter belt areas in the greater Dublin area. The same profile of development is also being seen in Cork. More people now live in the three outer counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow than in Dublin city. That is the second census in which this has been noted. The first home scheme and the help-to-buy scheme are aimed at first-time purchasers who will purchase a new-build property. The problem is that they cannot get a home to purchase in Dublin city and second-hand homes do not quality. That means that, for example, we do not reuse schools or other facilities in our cities, and our public transport system is constructed for a type of development that is not occurring.
In the 1996 census figures, Dublin city accounted for 13% of the national population. Over the last 25 years, that has reduced - I emphasise the word "reduced" - to 11.5% in the most recent census. In the suburbs, Dún Laoghaire, south Dublin and Fingal accounted for 15.8% of the national population in 1996, but now account for 16.9%. That is an increase of a little more than 1% and Fingal accounts for most of that. The three outer counties I have mentioned, where a great deal of new housing is happening on greenfield sites, accounted for 9.6% of the population in 1996 and now account for 12.2% of the population. We are building the perfect doughnut. We are building an American car-dependent city, and we are doing so based on Government policy. It is a place where we have to keep on repeatedly building schools, where people cannot get on GP lists, and where there is a dearth of facilities.
Our transport planning is based on what we would like to see rather than what is occurring. As I have said, we are building the perfect doughnut. The overdominance of low-standard build-to-rent properties is driving this. There are very expensive rents and insecure tenures. The people who are benefiting are the funds. There is a double-spend in having to renew services in suburbs and commuter belt areas. In 2022, more houses were built to rent than were built for sale but it can be seen that they are not necessarily built in places where there are services. The national planning framework, which underpins the national development plan, is undermined by virtue of this type of tenure and the absence of real choice for people where there are services.
The other thing is that the market is dictating. For example, the Kildare and Wicklow development plans are being challenged by big developers because they want more of these greenfield sites. The market is deciding what needs to happen in the future as specified by the NDP and by the unsustainable pattern of tenure. We must look at this and rebalance it. We need to get a better pattern of growth so it is not only focused on greenfield sites. We need to have consolidation in the city centres. Tenure matters. People want to purchase, but they also want to purchase where they want to live. That is not available to many people. Some of that has to do with cost, but some of it is to do with favouring funds that are delivering an unsustainable type of development that people are walking away from. They are voting with their feet.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"notes that: — through the implementation of the Housing for All: A New Housing Plan for Ireland (September 2021) and the Housing for All Action Plan Update (November 2022), the Government is actively supporting and promoting home ownership and affordable housing to reverse the change in historical patterns of home ownership evident in the past decade;
— the long-term solution to the decline in home ownership remains an increased and sustainable supply of new homes, through the State-led expanded social and affordable housing programmes, whilst removing barriers to the private sector delivering at scale, increasing new housing supply, with a combination of public and private sector development, is critical to a successful implementation of Housing for All;
— supply is increasing, in 2022 almost 30,000 homes were built, an increase of 45.2 per cent from 2021, and 5,250 homes or 21 per cent higher than the Housing for All target of 24,600, and in the first quarter of 2023, a further 6,716 new homes were added to the national housing stock, an increase of 19 per cent on the same period in 2022, and the highest number of quarter one completions recorded since the series began in 2011;
— there has also been a strong uptick in commencements in the fourth quarter of 2022, which has continued into 2023 with commencement notices from January to April amounting to 9,928, this is the highest level of commencements for this period since records began in 2014, and some 6 per cent higher than the same period in 2022 (9,343);
— there were 2,801 first-time buyer mortgage approvals in March 2023, a 49.2 per cent increase on the 1,877 mortgage approvals in February 2023;
— the Government launched the Help to Buy Scheme in 2017 and has already supported over 38,000 first-time buyer households to secure a new home, with over 900 of these supports delivered in January and February this year, and this scheme has been extended to 2024;
— 10,263 social homes were delivered in 2022 (11.9 per cent increase on 2021 figures when 9,169 social homes were provided), and this represents the highest annual output of social homes in decades and the highest level of delivery of new-build housing since 1975;
— from a standing start, 1,757 affordable homes were delivered through Cost Rental, the First Home Scheme and the Local Authority Affordable Purchase Scheme in 2022, the first full year of affordable housing delivery in a generation and which included a range of delivery partners from local authorities, Affordable Housing Bodies and the Land Development Agency (LDA);
— affordable housing supply at scale will be achieved through a mix of new or extended initiatives, including the First Home scheme, local authority-provided affordable purchase schemes, the Help to Buy initiative and the expanded Local Authority Home Loan, and taken together, the suite of affordable measures will make homeownership achievable for tens of thousands of individuals and families;
— a strong pipeline of social and affordable housing is now in place, with over 19,000 new-build social homes in the pipeline and over 2,500 more local authority affordable homes already approved for funding, along with further affordable housing being planned by the LDA and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs);
— an 'Owner Occupier Guarantee' was introduced, enabling local authorities to designate a specified number of units in a development for first-time buyers and owner occupiers, and in May 2021, changes were made to the rate of stamp duty payable to penalise inappropriate investment in homes and duplexes, furthermore, Ministerial planning guidelines were issued to ensure that new 'own-door' houses and duplex units in housing developments are not bulk-purchased by commercial institutional investors in a way that would cause the displacement of individual purchasers and/or social and affordable housing including cost-rental housing, and as of December 2022, it is estimated that approximately 23,000 residential units have been ring-fenced for individual buyers and restricted from bulk buying or multiple sales to a single purchaser subsequent to the introduction of these measures;
— a record €4.5 billion in State housing investment in 2023 will ensure that the substantial uplift in supply in 2022 can be maintained and exceeded, with 9,100 direct build social homes and 5,500 affordable homes to be delivered; and
— regarding measures to accelerate supply, the Government is acting decisively to expand the options for those currently facing affordability constraints in buying or renting a home, reducing construction costs and tackling viability issues are both critical to increasing supply;
further notes that Government is reducing the cost of construction by inter alia:
— the introduction of temporary time-limited arrangements for the waiving of development contributions and the refunding of Uisce Éireann water and waste water connection charges, saving the value of €12,650 per home on average; and
— a study to analyse each component of the cost of construction of house and apartment development was undertaken, and a set of follow up actions for cost reduction and increased standardisation have been agreed and are now being implemented;
furthermore notes that Government is tackling the viability gap by inter alia:
— supporting the construction of affordable apartments for Cost Rental to get work started on thousands of affordable apartments to rent which have planning permission but which are not being progressed, and €750 million has been committed to complete 4,000 to 6,000 additional affordable apartments;
— introducing and implementing the Croí Cónaithe (Cities) Scheme which will support the building of up to 5,000 apartments for sale to owner-occupiers;
— updating planning density guidelines to expand on the density ranges contained in the 2009 (current) guidelines, reflecting the variety of settlements and settlement contexts where residential development takes place, and to provide greater flexibility in design standards such as building separation distances and open space standards, to support the construction of more compact 'own-door' housing, alongside traditional housing and apartment developments;
— expanding Project Tosaigh aimed at accelerating delivery of homes on sites with full planning permission which would not otherwise be developed; and
— increasing the Cost Rental Equity Loan from a maximum of 30 per cent to up to 45 per cent per project and increasing the Affordable Housing Fund grant from a maximum of €100,000 per unit to up to €150,000 per unit to support Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) and local authorities to deliver Cost Rental homes; and
acknowledges, regarding the investment required, the private rental market and Build-to-Rent (BTR) developments:
— some €13.5 billion in development funding will be needed annually, with a significant proportion needed from private sources, to achieve the average Housing for All target output of 33,000 dwellings per year, and securing such private, long-term capital is critical to providing the scale of housing needed over the next decade;
— institutional investment in residential real estate by reputable investors, such as pension funds, is a normal feature of real estate investment in many of our European neighbours and elsewhere; without it, much needed housing would not be delivered, the significant uplift in delivery achieved in 2022 would not be realised, and tenants and potential home buyers would be under even greater pressure;
— given the important role investment has played particularly in the development of new high-density urban housing in recent years, it is important that this investment is maintained, and the Department of Finance recently commissioned a report on the drivers of cost and availability of finance for residential development, the findings and recommendations from this report are currently being assessed and actions arising will be implemented as appropriate;
— to note, the distinct planning status of BTR developments was removed from Sustainable Urban Housing - Design Standards for New Apartments Guidelines for Planning Authorities 2022, and the removal of Specific Planning Policy Requirements (SPPRs) 7 and 8 means that BTR is no longer afforded separate classification in the planning system, while all planning applications for apartment developments must now adhere to the same standards, subject to certain transitional arrangements;
— to tackle accommodation shortages, the Government is strengthening regulatory controls on short-term lets with approval given for the priority drafting of the Registration of Short-Term Tourist Letting Bill and publication of the General Scheme of the Bill, and this legislation will deliver on the Housing for All objective to make more efficient use of existing housing stock with the establishment of the Fáilte Ireland registration system; and
— the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has commenced a comprehensive review of the private rental sector to take account of the significant regulatory changes over the past several years and will report on how our housing system can be enhanced to provide an efficient, affordable, safe and secure framework for landlords and tenants, and the review includes a public consultation process, including targeted engagement with various stakeholders, and this consultation, which will commence shortly and will continue for four weeks, will be essential in properly planning future policy for the residential rented sector including implementing measures to support both landlords and tenants and will conclude as early as possible."
While I appreciate the good intentions behind this motion, much of its contents are already priorities for the Government and everyone else on this side of the House. I will touch on a few themes that have arisen. We acknowledge the need to increase homeownership. The statistics that were mentioned have been available. There was a report done about a year ago with a similar focus. The building of houses came to a cliff edge around 2008 and 2009, so there was a generation for whom houses were not available to purchase. We are very much trying to remedy that now, and that is a fact. The long-term solution is to increase supply.
I will touch on a few items in Housing for All. The facts are we built 30,000 in the last year, which is the highest number since 2008. Funding is not an issue as we have put up €4.5 billion. We had 10,000 commencements in the first four months of the year, which is the highest on record since 2014 and 6% higher than the previous period last year. With respect to the homeownership aspect of Housing for All, the help-to-buy scheme has helped nearly 40,000 people at this point. It is a scheme the Social Democrats opposed. The party's manifesto said it would effectively remove it. It is a deposit for people. Rents are too high, but the help-to-buy scheme gives first-time purchasers an opportunity to come up with a much-needed deposit of 10% and that should not be overlooked. The first home scheme introduced by this Government allows people to purchase a house with up to a 20% discount. Applicants still qualify for the help-to-buy scheme and that is helping people to purchase their first home. Again, it is a scheme for homeownership opposed by the Social Democrats. We have also expanded the local authority home loan scheme. We are putting measures in place to assist people to purchase their own home.
Deputy Cian O'Callaghan made reference to people in the rental market aspiring to owning their own home. We believe anybody who is out there working should have the opportunity to purchase a home. We have put schemes in place for that. Deputy Catherine Murphy made reference to cities and towns. We have the Croí Cónaithe scheme, which she did not make reference to. That scheme is available for anyone, including first-time purchasers. They effectively get €50,000 towards the renovation of a house built before 2007 and they get €70,000 if the house is deemed derelict. That is a scheme we want to target at first-time purchasers. Obviously, it has extended the rental market. As of now, over 2,000 people have applied under the scheme and we expect it to be oversubscribed. The transactions show first-time buyers purchased almost 17,000 homes in the 12 months to March. There are 400 homes being purchased by first-time buyers per week. On mortgage drawdowns, figures for quarter 1 show demand remains strong with over 8,100 drawdowns. That is 6.5% higher than in quarter 1 of 2022. It is the highest in any first quarter since 2008. First-time buyer activity remains strong with 5,500 such mortgages drawn down in quarter 1 of this year, which is 6.8% higher than last year. Revenue reports 13,675 help-to-buy applications in the first quarter of this year. We have, therefore, put in place measures to encourage people to be able to purchase their first home. The schemes are very identifiable. The help-to-buy scheme is a system with a deposit. In many cases, banks will accept it as the deposit. With the first home scheme, people get a discount on the purchase of a home in any private estate. There is the local authority home loan scheme and Croí Cónaithe. All these schemes are directed at homeownership. It is something we as a Government feel very strongly about. Side-by-side with that, we must ensure our social housing programme continues. We have delivered over 10,000 social homes in the last year. Of those, 7,500 were new builds by local authorities and the rest were of different forms. As I have said, it is about providing a home for people.
Deputy Cian O'Callaghan made reference to cost rental. Society is changing. Some people out there want to go into the rental space. That is why we have brought forward an affordable cost rental scheme where rents will be 25% below the current market rate. Within those schemes are rentals with security of tenure of up to 40 years. Thus, that model of long-term rental is very much to the fore. On the other area, we would like the terminations to be lower, but the model has changed within the RTB. Up to, I think, 6 July last year it had to be 28 days after an eviction took place. Now it is based on the date the eviction notice is served to a tenant. We want to keep people in their homes, and that is why we brought in an expanded tenant in situscheme. To date, we have 1,000 applications being processed and another 900 being considered for a total of 1,900. The Government will expand that scheme. It is one that will be demand-led. We want to keep people in their homes. Not every eviction notice results in people being made homeless, but I take the point that one person being made homeless is too many. We appreciate that.
We recognise the seriousness of the situation with the rental market. Deputies are probably aware that there is a comprehensive review under way in the Department to look at the whole area and explore how to get more people to stay in the rental market and what further improvements we can make. I think that report will be published in July. Affordability remains top of our priority list. I have mentioned our flagship programme, namely, the first home scheme. We are looking at 8,000 people being qualified for that. In this quarter alone we have seen 1,326 approvals in that area. That is a scheme for the starter home. Someone who is starting out and wants to buy their first home can avail of a scheme where they get a 20% discount and 10% as a deposit from the help-to-buy scheme. There are set price levels in different areas of the country. It is a starter home scheme that makes it affordable for people to purchase their first home. We have committed €400 million to that programme.
I already referred to the help-to-buy scheme and some 40,000 people have gained under that scheme to date. The main focus of the Housing for All policy remains on increasing supply. Some 30,000 units were built last year and we are seeking to exceed that figure this year. There were 10,323 social homes built last year, and we are looking to match or exceed that figure this year. This policy is also concerned with affordability. It is about ensuring that anyone aspiring to own a home can do so. This is why we have the help-to-buy and first home schemes. I also encourage first-time buyers to consider the Croí Cónaithe scheme. What we really want to do in this context is to provide housing at a level which will make it possible for people to purchase their own homes. Enabling homeownership for people remains front and centre in our ambition for the Housing for All policy. This is alongside our social housing and cost-rental programmes. It is, ultimately, an integrated model. It is not an either-or approach but about catering for all categories of housing, including homeownership.
The Minister of State really just does not get it. He can list all the different initiatives and schemes he wishes, but fundamentally these are pushing up prices and making it harder for people to rent and to buy, especially in their own communities. Yet again we have a situation where this extremely important issue is being raised by the Social Democrats and rather than discussing it, the Minister of State is just going on the attack. This is not going to benefit anyone.
The Minister of State can continue with this little merry dance of his, but ultimately people see through it. The reason people see through it is because they see the record levels of homelessness, rents and house prices. They see the future of themselves or their children being frittered away by this Government. It is not providing the housing our communities need. When I talk to people in County Wicklow, I find two types. There are those people who already own their own homes. When I talk to these people, I find they are worried about their children. They are worried about where their children will live and whether they will be able to afford to live near them or if they will end up emigrating. I think this is the first time we have had a generation of young adults who may need to emigrate not because they cannot get jobs but because they cannot get a house. This is an astounding situation for the Minister of State's Government to preside over. The second type of people I meet in my constituency are young adults, or, indeed, not-so-young adults. These are people renting who can never envisage being able to buy a home in County Wicklow because the prices are so ridiculously high. These people face either renting for the rest of their lives or being forced to live in other counties across the country.
When speaking to people living back home with their parents, a common theme emerges. They are not homeless but they are feeling very hopeless. This Government is draining the hope out of young people. It is draining the optimism for a future. In County Wicklow, a single person would need a salary of €99,000 and then a deposit of €38,000 on top of that. The average wage in Ireland is €45,000. Can the Minister of State see where the gap is? Can he understand why these people are feeling so despondent and helpless? Can he also understand why they are so frustrated and angry? I can tell him now that they are very angry. Can he understand why, when we are living through the trifecta of the highest cost of living, the highest rents and the highest house prices in decades, people cannot imagine a future for themselves here? People in their 30s and 40s who have been working and saving are now back living in their parents' houses. These are the people whom we told ten to 15 years ago, when they were in school, that they should work and study hard and it would pay off. We told them that doing their exams would pay off for them. Now, many of them, in their thousands, are back in the same bedrooms they had when they were 16 and studying for their leaving certificate examinations, with no hope of leaving those bedrooms for years to come. These are people who often fall over the line for public support in housing and who are caught between this cold rock and a hard place.
It is not good enough, then, for the Government to point out we have more people working now than ever before when this work does not pay for basics like housing. It is time to change the lens through which we look at housing. I say this because it is not a luxury. It is not something that should only be there for people of privilege. It should not be something acquired through a little bit of good luck. It is the most basic of human needs. Safe and secure shelter should not be dependent on making nearly €100,000 annually. Where I am going to live is not a question that anybody in a wealthy State should be asking themselves.
It is also not fair or right that we have people making major life decisions, like which jobs to take, when or if to have children, when to get married and whether they should emigrate, based on a housing crisis. It is not possible for people to live their lives as their own if they are living in the spare rooms of their parents or grandparents. We have too many families with children living in the same house as their parents and grandparents and this is just not workable. This is what the Minister of State's list of schemes and policies is providing to people and this is what he is standing over. It is not acceptable.
I thank my colleague, Deputy Cian O'Callaghan, for bringing forth this timely and important motion. Fine Gael claims to be many things. It claims, for example, to be the party of law and order and yet we cannot see gardaí on the streets. I certainly do not think that people across Dublin city, including those in my constituency, would believe this claim holds any weight. Fine Gael also claims to be the party of the squeezed middle and we spent last week arguing about facile tax breaks rather than talking about the actual everyday realities of what is doing the squeezing here, which is this Government's failed policies. Fine Gael also claims to be the party of homeownership. The Minister of State lists off schemes and he expects us to close our eyes and pretend that year in and year out we are not seeing a decline in homeownership rates. We are also expected to appreciate that billions of euro in public money have been pumped into schemes which have been doomed from the beginning, to the point where nobody is surprised anymore that things are not getting better.
The Minister of State highlighted that thousands of people have got deposits through the Housing for All scheme. We cannot, however, clap him on the back and say "well done" for creating the conditions in which house prices are increasing to astronomical rates and for offering people deposits for homes which the Government is making too expensive for them to go into. There are other examples in this regard. We cannot step away from the fact that Fine Gael has been in government for more than 11 years now. The 2016 Rebuilding Ireland policy remains a stellar example of how not to approach a worsening housing crisis. The strategy saw €10 billion lost to the ether because the policies it powered were broken, flawed and doomed to failure.
In my constituency, for example, in Dublin Central, we talk about affordable housing. I cannot step away from the fact that when I go canvassing around an area like Cabra, as I did last week, for example, almost every second house where the door opens to me has people in it who want to be able to afford to live in Cabra but cannot. Yet all the while they look up and see major housing development programmes underway in which they cannot afford to buy a house. There is no possibility of purchasing because these units are simply buy to rent. These people also have no capacity to rent even those units that are there.
I will take one example, of Hamilton Gardens, located just behind Carnlough Road in Cabra. This is a traditional, working-class heartland that sits in behind a new-build development. I refer to the prices for these new-build units that went up in recent years. If people are selected to take on a lease, because they must be selected in this instance, it will cost them €2,225 monthly for a one-bedroom apartment in Cabra. The two-bedroom apartments have a rate of €2,525 monthly, while three-bedroom apartments will set people back €3,675 monthly. I want to have a society where it will be possible for people in a strong, traditional working-class stronghold like Cabra to live and grow up there and then aspire to be able to continue to live there. There are similar situations in other parts of the constituency, including in Drumcondra. Yet every time I walk around these parts of my constituency, I meet people who see these housing developments going up but who have no capacity to buy homes in them or even to live in them.
Communities are being eroded and decimated by the introduction of these developments. Generations of young people have been forced out of not only where they are from but we also once again have a conveyor belt of young people going to live in Europe and Australia. They are taking those skills they gained here from our strong education system and going to work in hospitals and schools elsewhere. These are the conditions that have been created by the housing crisis the Government, in the context of its ideology, has presided over for more than a decade now.
These build-to-rent developments are causing irreversible social harm to an entire generation locked out of homeownership. The impact of this situation is already evident. Young people are leaving Dublin every day in search of possibilities in other cities across Europe and the world on the promise that they will be given a better life there.
Rent prices are now at record levels, having increased by more than 85% in the past 12 years compared to the EU average of 18%. The median income of first-time buyers of new homes is now more than €90,000, and more than €103,000 in Dublin. That is incredible. The share of 25- to 34-year olds who own their own home more than halved between 2004 and 2019, falling from 60% to just 27%. Young people are leaving our shores and they cannot be blamed for doing so.
We ask the Minister of State to stop incentivising a model of housing provision that makes home ownership nearly impossible. The effects of this will be felt for decades. We ask him to bring forward the motion with urgency in mind. Public money must not continue to be vested in the delivery of private rental-only developments that are unaffordable to rent and unavailable to buy, if people wish to do so. A new perspective on developers must be adopted. The subsidies thrown at them have led to house prices skyrocketing, which feeds investor greed and kills the hopes of all who wish to live here. We need a change in approach and a change in Government.
I thank Deputy O'Callaghan and the Social Democrats for tabling this important motion. The more I listen to the Minister of State, the more I am of the view that it is just not possible to take the Government seriously when it comes to housing. If there was ever a definition of Orwellian doublespeak, it is coming to the House today and telling us that he believes in home ownership while at the same time introducing and implementing policies that make it increasingly difficult for ever greater numbers of people to own their own homes. In fact, in the very week the census figures tell us that home ownership is at its lowest level in the modern history of the State, the Minister of State has told us he is serious about this issue. It simply is not true.
I am sorry to disturb him from something very important.
He has to ask himself why it is so difficult to own a home. The reason is the policies the Government and its predecessors have introduced have pushed up house prices. Today, house prices are higher than they have ever been in the history of the State.
Let us consider those policies. The Minister of State's predecessor, Michael Noonan, introduced egregious tax reliefs for institutional investors that incentivised speculative investment, which pushed up land prices and increased development costs and the cost of buying or renting a home. His predecessors, Deputy Simon Coveney, and the former Minister, Eoghan Murphy, made regressive changes to planning policy on building heights and design standards, including build to rent, which has been mentioned. Again, that incentivised speculative investment in the wrong kind of developments, reducing the number of homes to purchase that have been produced and increasing development costs.
One of the few potentially good measures introduced by the previous Government, Home Building Finance Ireland, HBFI, has the aim of getting lending to small and medium-sized businesses outside of Dublin for home ownership. It charges interest rates above what banks and other lenders are providing and, therefore, it is not contributing in the way it should.
Let us consider the so-called help-to-buy scheme. Not only does it push up house prices and make it more difficult for people to buy, 40% of the money the Government has spent on the scheme went to people who did not need it. They had deposits and a bank mortgage, yet the Government gave €200 million of taxpayers' money to them. That money could have been spent delivering genuine affordable homes or, better still, getting 1,000 families out of emergency accommodation. The controversial shared equity loan has not only been universally criticised and pushed up house prices, but is also high risk and will saddle many working people with significant levels of additional debt, a risk the Government should not have taken.
In its housing plan, the Government did not mention that the number of State homes that will go onto the market each year to buy will remain static. Approximately 5,000 or 6,000 will be available each year. No matter what the macro figure is, the Government will not reduce prices. What highlights the appalling nature of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael when it comes to affordable housing is that when Eoghan Murphy was Minister for housing he stood where the Minister of State is now in 2018 and promised 6,000 affordable homes through the serviced sites fund between 2019 and 2021. Can the Minister of State tell us how many of those 6,000 affordable homes were delivered? Can anybody guess? Not a single affordable home was delivered during that period. Last year, a paltry 325 affordable homes were delivered. In fact, many are only now being purchased. They were not available to purchase last year.
The prices of some of those homes are quite questionable. The worst example of all might be what was in theBusiness Postlast weekend, namely the Poolbeg strategic development zone. It is a significant site for the city, unanimously agreed on by the elected members of Dublin City Council. What price will the Government charge people for a one-bedroom apartment? It will cost €410,000. What price will charge for affordable rental for a one-bedroom unit? It will cost €1,500. The Minister of State should not insult our intelligence by suggesting he is in favour of home ownership.
There is an alternative. We have set it out year after year in our alternative budgets. The Social Democrats has set out its plan. The only way we will tackle rising house prices, rents and homelessness is by kicking Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael out of government and electing a progressive left left-wing Sinn Féin Government that invests in serious housing affordability. As long as they are in government, house prices will continue to rise.
I thank the Social Democrats and Deputy O'Callaghan for bringing forward the motion. Will the Government ever take ownership, and put its hands up and admit that it is wrong? We all make mistakes. It takes a bigger person to say that they have made a mistake and their housing policy is wrong, and that we should get together, take on the Opposition's constructive support and ideas and work together.
This is an emergency. We saw what happened during the Covid-19 crisis when everyone had to pull together for the overall good. Those on the Government benches talk about home ownership. It is a disgrace. Do they have any respect for ordinary people who are looking to the Minister of State and Government for help and support?
We have the highest house prices, rents and homeless figures and lowest rate of home ownership in history of the State. Does the Minister of State dispute any of those figures? It is a straightforward question. I am dealing with people every day and this is the reality on the ground.
Minister after Minister, and the Tánaiste and Taoiseach, come in here to attack the Opposition for telling the truth. We are now in a housing emergency and someone have to come up with a solution. Going round the edges is not helping. There are 166,000 vacant houses in the country. That would be a good place to start. The Government talks about-----
We have been talking about it for years. Simon and Threshold came before the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage yesterday. The homelessness figures are only the tip of the iceberg considering how many people are affected. Families are staying in their parents and grandparents houses because they have nowhere to go. They cannot get money for a mortgage.
I wish to discuss the lived reality for people. I know of a lady who has a life-limiting blood disorder. She is facing eviction on Friday. She will overstay because she has nowhere to go. She is on permanent chemotherapy and, as a result, broke one of her legs due to weakness caused by the medication. Where is she going to go? The Minister of State has not answered these questions. Over nine months, 1,500 families in Cork were given notices to quit. Where are they going to go?
The Minister of State was here last week when I challenged the Taoiseach on the failure in respect of affordable housing. I thank the Social Democrats for its motion. I will repeat what I said to the Minister of State on that occasion. Last year, just seven of the 31 local authorities in the State delivered affordable housing. There is a complete failure to deliver affordable housing. In my home county, Donegal, we have a perfect storm, as the Minister of State well knows. We have the defective blocks crisis and thousands of homes will have to be demolished and rebuilt. Our housing market is in absolute chaos. People cannot buy or sell a home in north Donegal, be it a public or private home.
Is the Minister of State aware that Donegal County Council, thanks to the Government's bureaucratic and crazy affordable system, has no plans whatsoever to build affordable housing? We have families who have no clue how they will rebuild their lives. Every day, as a public representative, I speak to families in Donegal who tell me they cannot make this Government scheme rebuild their homes. They tell me they have to find tens of thousands of euros. Somebody yesterday told me of having to find €125,000 to be able to rebuild their home, because of the cruelty of the Minister of State's party, which has been in power for 12 years. The Minister of State and the officials he works with have displayed absolutely cruelty in making people have to put square pegs into round holes in Donegal. It is devastating people's lives. Older people, at the end of life, cannot get a mortgage or bridging loans. People have children with disabilities and do not know what they will do. They face cruelty and inhumanity from officials in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and indifference from politicians in government. People are told to sort it out themselves or told what they will get and are left to find tens of thousands of euro. I wanted to raise that with regard to home ownership, because these people will have no home ownership.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the motion and I thank Deputy O'Callaghan and the Social Democrats for bringing it forward. The shortage of, and absolute need for, affordable homes to buy is a major issue throughout the State and in my own county of Meath. The motion calls on the Government to dramatically increase the delivery of genuinely affordable purchase homes in line with the Ó Cualann model. In County Meath, we have a proven track record relative to other counties in delivering housing, but it is nowhere near enough to meet demand. The census results announced yesterday further confirm that to be the case. The Government's targets are way below what is needed, especially according to the Housing Commission. The current spatial strategy plans to significantly curtail development in the county during the lifetime of the current county development plan to 2027. We have development in Meath, which is welcome, but it is slowing. It is most certainly not affordable to buy or rent; the exact opposite is the case. I looked at what is available to buy in my own constituency of Meath East on daft.iethis morning. Very little was available by way of secondhand homes. With regard to new homes, there were two-bedroom homes in Dunshaughlin from €375,000; three-bedroom terraced houses on the same estate from €445,000; three-bedroom semi-detached houses on a new estate in Ashbourne from €475,000; and four-bedroom houses in Ratoath starting at €539,000. These are simply unaffordable. This is not an academic debate. It has a real and profound impact on people. Young people want to answer the question of where they will live. They ask when they will start a family; where their kids will go to school and whether they can live near mam and dad to support and care for them as they get older. The Minister of State's policy is failing horrendously. He needs to take on board the proposals from the Opposition.
The Minister of State will be familiar with clinics. I am sure he knows they can be difficult. There can be all sorts of difficult cases, whether it is social welfare or issues of health and housing. One of the most frustrating and difficult clinic appointments we have is with people who are not able to qualify for social housing. There is nothing for them. We have a conversation with them, try to think of things we can do for them but there is pretty much nothing we can do. Many of these people are the same age as me. They are friends and people I grew up with who are locked out of ever having any hope of having a permanent home. For some of them who qualify for social housing, it has its own challenges. They do not know what they will do for the next five or six years until they get an offer. For those who do not qualify, some of whom would have been disqualified because of income thresholds over the past couple of years, there is very little I or any public representative can say to assist them. That is a very frustrating place to be.
There is very little hope things are getting better. I am not around here a million years, but I am here seven years and in that seven years, things have got worse. House prices and rent have gone up and homelessness is going up. By every metric, the situation continues to get worse. The Minister of State's party has been in government for all this time. Even in terms of what they bring forward now, the targets are miserable and pathetic. There is a target for Cork city of 378 affordable houses in the next half decade. That is less than 100 houses per year, for a city of 250,000, with all these people who do not qualify for social housing and have no hope. They would be absolutely laughed out of the commercial banks in trying to get a mortgage. Even if they are approved, how far will they have to look and what will they be able to find? It is an impossible situation for people. Like Deputy Ó Broinsaid, it crystal clear this Government will not solve the housing crisis. It is hard to take it seriously. The targets are totally inadequate. The failure is astounding. Workers and families pay a very heavy price to try to secure a roof over their heads. The people of my city and this country deserve a Government with the ambition, energy and policies to fix housing. That is what Sinn Féin and other like-minded parties intend to do.
The Minister of State's party says it is the party of home ownership, but when we look at the census figures released yesterday, they tell us the opposite. What they show us is that the percentage of people who own their own home has fallen in the period since the party went into government in 2011. In that year, it promised us new politics. More than a decade later, that new politics has created a new generation, that is, a generation that rents. It may be young people or older people - pensioners - who are conscripted into a rent trap, where rents are increasingly taking more of their income. Pensioners cannot retire because they would not be able to continue renting. Like hamsters on a hamster wheel, they constantly try to run faster, but get nowhere.
While we hear the Minister of State's party is the party of home ownership, what does that mean for people in Galway? Galway is an acute example of the housing crisis. I talk to young people and married couples my age who are living with their parents because they do not have a hope of getting a mortgage or being able to rent. They ask me when this affordable housing will come on stream in Galway. They have heard the Government talk about this housing since 2019. What we have heard most recently, however, is that those houses will not be delivered until 2025. What are those people supposed to do in that intervening period? They cannot wait another six years. I am tired of saying it in this Chamber. Many young married couples say to me that they simply cannot have children because they are not in the housing position to be able to do so. That is on the Government.
Tá rud eile le rá faoin tuath. Tá fadhb ollmhór inti, atá le feiceáil i gConamara ach go háirithe. Tá daoine ag iarraidh cur leis an soláthar tithíochta. Tá talamh acu agus tá siad ag iarraidh a dteach a thógáil don chlann atá acu. Tá siad ag iarraidh fanacht sa cheantar dúchais atá acu agus an Ghaeilge a labhairt agus cur leis an gcultúr sa Ghaeltacht. Ní féidir leo, áfach, mar nach bhfuil siad in ann pleanáil a fháil. Cé nach bhfuil áit ar bith le fáil ar cíos agus nach bhfuil siad in ann teach a cheannach sa cheantar, níl siad in ann cur leis an soláthar tithíochta ach an oiread. Caithfear déileáil leis sin freisin.
One of my colleagues brought up the fact that all of us do clinics, or most of us in this House do. A considerable number of people come to us during those clinics. I have always found the Minister of State to be a reasonable man, but I am not sure what he can say to the people who come through his door. I am not entirely sure what I can offer to them when they come through my door, other than to do my best and promise them we will be a government that will, if given the opportunity, have those people's backs. That is a trite statement people use, but let us be realistic. Everyone has stated it, in that the figures, key performance indictors, KPIs, and everything that possibly matters are going the wrong way. More than 12,000 people are homeless. We are talking about home ownership, but a considerable number of people are absolutely knocked out of the market at this point in time.
To rent in Dundalk and its surrounds, after we go on daft.ie as part of the usual craic we do, there are eight properties available for €1,700, €1,750, or even €2,800.
People paying that sort of money on rent then need to attempt to put a deposit together to buy one of these houses that appear on that website at €300,000, €400,000 or €485,000. It is all Monopoly money.
We have a pile of statistics on what the Government has not delivered in County Louth, whether it is cost rental, affordable or local authority house provision. The fact is there is absolute failure to deliver, which is completely on this Government's watch. People cannot get a local authority house. If they can get mortgage approval, people cannot even consider buying at the prices we are talking about. I do not know how they will be able to put deposits together. We will get figures from the Minister, the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach, but none of it cuts the mustard at this point in time. Let us be absolutely clear we are talking about a failure of Government to deliver homes.
The Minister of State can talk about ideological this and ideological that but I just have a notion that the Government just did not take this seriously enough early enough. It might be doing so now but there is nothing but absolute failure. Either it does not care or it is just pure and utter ineptitude. We need change of policy and we really need a change of government because this is not working for anybody out there.
Along with my Labour colleagues, I am glad to support this motion and I commend Deputy Cian O'Callaghan on bringing it forward. It is the latest in a series of Opposition motions and proposals to address the housing disaster, the chronic housing shortage and the Government's failure to address it.
We in Labour have put forward constructive proposals of our own to begin the path to secure and affordable housing and to effective provision and delivery. Among the measures we have proposed is a Bill to prioritise the needs of children in homelessness, legislation the Government parties supported when in opposition. We have introduced a Bill to provide an evidence base for the lifting of the eviction ban we called on Government to adopt. Unfortunately, all our proposals have been met with a dismissive response from Government, very much like the dismissive response to Deputy Cian O'Callaghan's motion. That is extremely disappointing given the scale of the crisis we face.
Now more than ever we need cross-party action. We need to see ambition and urgency from Government and we need to see a constructive approach taken by Government in adopting some of the proposals, ideas and measures we put forward to address this catastrophic situation. We need that level of collaborative work because we have a record number of people in homelessness. Last week's figures show 12,259 people are in homelessness, including thousands of children. Multiple generations have given up on ever being able to own a home.
Many younger and older people are stuck in an exploitative private rental market with no options left. One renter in my constituency asked me in despair, "How am I, a man in my 60s, supposed to get a mortgage?" He has been evicted from his private rental property. That is the reality. With a pension system based on the assumption that pensioners will be homeowners, will have paid off the mortgage and will not be renting, this housing crisis is in reality a ticking time bomb for an older generation, which we are seeing looming ever closer.
From the census figures released this week we know that the proportion of owner-occupied dwellings continues to fall, down from almost 70% to 66% in the 11 years since the census of 2011. Among young people these figures are even more stark, with hundreds of thousands continuing to live in their childhood bedrooms into their twenties, thirties and even forties. This is not surprising because house prices have skyrocketed, rising well above inflation and material costs and well above any increase in wages.
There is particular pressure on home ownership in Ireland because in reality it is the only method of achieving housing security for people in this country. When the Government made the unconscionable decision earlier this year to lift the temporary no fault eviction ban, that decision took away the only other form of housing security that had been available. It meant that thousands of renters who have done nothing wrong were set to lose their homes. They are living in fear of losing their homes. With home ownership becoming increasingly more unaffordable and social housing lists extraordinary oversubscribed, individuals and families are locked out of housing security. The Government should have continued the eviction ban until there were real options for housing security elsewhere, but instead it pulled the rug out from under renters and chose to prioritise landlord profits over people's lives.
One might think that in pulling security away from renters, Government would at least have sought to ensure that security through home ownership would be easily available but that has not been the case. We have seen massive underspending on housing. I am glad the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has joined us now. The failure by Government to deliver the necessary levels of State investment of public funding for the building of homes has held back the prospect for many people of having the security of home ownership. The failure to deliver housing at a time of massive budget surpluses proves that it is ideology and not the economy that is holding back necessary massive State investment. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been over-reliant on an ideology that expects the private market and private developers to deliver housing, but we have no evidence that has been the case. Indeed, the evidence all points to the opposite, which is that the private sector has not delivered affordable housing at the levels required.
When the Government refers back to the glory days of building of houses in large numbers, it fails to remember that it was it was the State through local authorities that delivered the affordable housing in the 20th century. It is extraordinary that the Government continues to remain reluctant to provide the necessary levels of State intervention to resolve this crisis. Secure and affordable housing is a human right and the Government has failed to vindicate this right. During the Covid pandemic, we saw how the State could mobilise and invest resources to intervene for the common good to save people from job losses and poverty. However, in the midst of a housing crisis, we are not seeing that level of State commitment. Instead, we are seeing a rollback on private agreements to deliver social housing.
Yesterday, I mentioned to the Taoiseach the Irish Glass Bottle site in Poolbeg in my constituency, which was set to deliver in the first phase a significant number of affordable homes. That first phase will now only produce 25. The Taoiseach has said that he would engage with the Minister to see what has gone wrong with the site. Labour councillors were part of the really strong campaign to deliver significant levels of social and affordable housing for local communities in Poolbeg. It has been deeply disappointing, first, to see the massive delays and now to see this rollback on the numbers of affordable homes to be delivered.
Poolbeg is an example of what happens in when private developers are left to their own devices and when the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage does not intervene. Instead of ensuring delivery of affordable homes through State investment, the Government has funnelled money into private developers' pockets and into schemes such as help to buy that have done little to make homeownership accessible. I see the Minister indicating he disagrees, but the reality is that the independent review of help to buy commissioned by the Department of Finance pointed out that successful recipients have higher-than-average incomes and that the scheme has socially regressive outcomes. A supposedly fundamental element of Government's policy to encourage home ownership has simply not been successful. It has wasted public money that could be better spent on the provision of affordable housing.
Again and again we in opposition across different parties have put forward constructive proposals for addressing the housing crisis. When we do so, we have been met with smugness, a reliance on figures from Government that do not add up and a certain fatalism. It is almost as if Government is despairing that anything can be done to address the housing crisis. The reality is that things can be done. Massive State investment and massive ambition for change could deliver.
We in Labour put forward a programme for delivery 1 million homes over ten years, based on the Government's own projections using ESRI data, IBEC proposals and constructive proposals from NGOs such as Threshold and Focus Ireland. We put forward this ambitious proposal in the hope that would be engagement from Government. Rather than engaging, Ministers have spent their time saying why this cannot be done instead of looking on how it can be done and should be done to meet the real needs of individuals and families in this country. Why does the Government care more about political point-scoring on housing than working with others in opposition to find constructive solutions to the housing crisis?
We in Labour say it is time for change. The Minister should accept this constructive motion with its strong proposals. Government also needs to reinstate the eviction ban to provide security while we revolutionise the housing sector, and while we rapidly scale up State investment to ensure delivery of the secure affordable homes that families and individuals across the country so badly need.
I thank Deputy Cian O'Callaghan and the Social Democrats for bringing forward this very constructive motion on home ownership.
I also thank them for highlighting the fact that members of the Government are spoofers when they claim they are people who champion home ownership. Indeed, they are dishonest in misrepresenting the Opposition as people who are not interested in home ownership when the opposite is the truth. Of course, the Government does not really care, because it is just spin. What this motion very helpfully does is expose the truth and the spoof of the Government around its claim that it is championing home ownership for ordinary people.
Let me give the Minister a few facts to detail just how much he is spoofing and just how disastrous his policies are when it comes to home ownership in our area. I invite the Minister to go on daft.ienow and look at the sale prices of the houses that are being built in the biggest residential development in the country, namely, Cherrywood. Some 8,000 homes are in the process of being built, very slowly it has to be said, by the big investors who bought the land from the State for a song because of the disastrous decision to mandate NAMA to flog a massive property portfolio worth €40 billion, of which Cherrywood was one of the major assets, at discount prices to international investors. Look what the net result is. The Minister should go on daft.ienow. In Mercer Vale in Cherrywood, a three-bedroom terraced house is €620,000. A three-bedroom semi-detached house is €650,000. A four-bedroom unit is €750,000. Those "affordable" prices are being delivered by none other than our favourite builder, Cairn Homes, whose profits went up last year by 76% to €103 million. Its revenue went up to €617 million, which is up 46% on the year before. Cairn Homes is making an absolute fortune on houses that are completely unaffordable for about 95% of workers in this country.
The average house price in Dún Laoghaire is €610,000. In order to get a mortgage from a bank for that amount, a person would need an income of €156,000. In other words, he or she is never going to get it. Who is going to buy these homes? We have some statistics on what has happened. In the past 12 months, 60% of the homes purchased in Dublin have been purchased by non-first-time buyers, by institutional investors, corporate landlords and major investors. In March, the figure was 73%. Of course they did, because who else could afford them except big international investors? They will then charge shocking rents. The average rent in my area is now about €3,000 a month. Who on earth could afford that? That is the reality.
Even taking the average house price across the country, which is lower at €308,000, someone would need an income of €79,000 to buy one. In Dublin as a whole, the average house price is €448,000 so someone would need an income of €128,000 to buy one of those. That is the reality of what is going on - totally unaffordable houses and massive profits being made by the likes of Cairn Homes, which bought residential development land from the State for a song. Courtesy of the State, its shareholders are becoming millionaires by selling stuff that nobody can afford and reaping absolutely massive profits.
To add to that, mortgage interest rate hikes now mean an extra €4,000 or €5,000 a year for people to service mortgages on these unaffordable properties, which is going to further inhibit the capacity of people to own their own homes. People Before Profit suggested that the Government cap interest rates at 3%. The Social Democrats are making constructive proposals here and the Government just ignores the lot.
The affordable housing in Cherrywood, for the €15 million in local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, funding as well as lots of other-----
I did not know he was coming. We do not even know what affordable housing we are getting or how much it is going to cost for all the money we have put into Cherrywood. The Government needs to get real and deliver affordable housing through the State because the private sector is only interested in making a profit.
Young people cannot afford to buy and cannot afford to rent. The Government is forcing young people out of the housing market and out of the rental market. They are forced to live at home with parents or forced to emigrate. The Central Statistics Office told us in February that the average price of a house in Cork county was €304,000. The average price of a house in Cork city was €284,000. In fact, prices were up €22,000 a year in the city and €24,000 a year in the county. That is not much less than the wage of many young workers. Rents are averaging €1,700 a month in the city, or more than €20,000 a year, which again is not too much less than the average wage of many young workers.
The Government feels under pressure on the housing issue but not nearly as much as it should. This country needs a mass housing protest movement on the streets, like we had with the water charges. There are three Ministers from Cork at the Cabinet table. They need to feel far more pressure from the people of Cork on this issue. That is why I appeal to the people to come out onto the streets on Saturday, 10 June. That is the date for Cork's Raise the Roof housing protest. It is supported by unions, community organisations, anti-Government political parties and housing campaigners but most of all it needs to be supported by the people of Cork. I hope to see them on their streets in their thousands on that day.
This Government promised in the programme for Government to make home ownership affordable and accessible again to an entire generation who are locked out of home ownership. Home ownership rates among young working adults in Ireland have collapsed in the face of rising house prices and, unfortunately, the myriad of issues impeding home purchase look unlikely to be resolved in the short to medium term.
Ireland has the ninth lowest home ownership rate in the EU according to a National Economic and Social Council report. The Economic and Social Research Institute found that the share of 25 to 34-year-olds who own their own home has more than halved, falling from 60% in 2004 to just 27% in 2019. The average age for somebody leaving the parental home in Ireland is now 28 years of age. It used to be 23 or 24 years of age. At least 350,000 adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s are living at home in their childhood bedrooms. We have to turn that around. The collapse in home ownership rates will cause great social harm to an entire generation who are locked out of home ownership and forced to live in the parental home or, alternatively, who will never become homeowners and will pay extraordinary rental rates.
Is it any wonder this is still an issue when 9,166 homes were built for rent last year compared with 8,590 being built for sale? The proportion of the population residing in the private rental sector more than doubled between 1991 and 2016, rising from 8% to 18.2%. While rents are increasing by the hour, people are unable to save to purchase their own home. Millennials in Ireland are facing financial ruin when they retire because they have been locked out of home ownership and will still be renting in retirement.
While mortgage rules imposed by the Central Bank in 2015 were necessary, they have led to many aspiring buyers being squeezed out due to their overly strict nature. The rules were introduced at a time when house prices were much lower and interest rates were on a downward trend.
I acknowledge that thousands more prospective homeowners will be able to apply for financial assistance this year due to an increase in the thresholds for the State-backed mortgage scheme; the local authority home loan. However, with inflation still rampant, further European Central Bank, ECB, price hikes are widely expected meaning that banks will pass on the increases in interest to mortgage customers and it will see repayments go up considerably. We are at this tipping point with interest rates being driven by something that is totally out of our control, namely, higher energy prices because of the war in Ukraine and higher food prices because of climate change, but we are paying the price. Economists are saying that 3% will not be the peak level. There is a likely need to keep interest rates higher for longer, as loosening prematurely could risk a sharp resurgence in inflation once activity rebounds. However, if the ECB raises rates too aggressively, it could tip the eurozone into recession.
Home ownership is, therefore, increasingly becoming the preserve of those on higher incomes with a steep rise in houses being bought jointly over the past decade. According to the CSO, for sole purchasers, the median age rose from 34 to 41 from 2010 to 2021, while the median for joint purchasers increased from 35 to 38 in the same period. The rise in age and joint ownership levels for people buying homes starkly demonstrates the social change being forced upon society as a direct result of the housing crisis.
These kinds of societal changes will have continuing and serious negative effects across society in the years ahead unless they are addressed. First-time buyers are getting older with just two thirds of those currently aged 35 to 44 years likely to own their home by the time they retire. It is not uncommon to see people in their mid-30s entering large-value, 35-year mortgages. Unless they overpay during the term of their mortgage, many will not have cleared this debt until they are into their late 60s or early 70s. If you do not own your home by the time you retire, your living expenses are still going to be significant even if your income falls. This could cause many more older people to be at risk of poverty in the future. These are the hidden victims of the housing crisis. These are people, pensioners, who will have worked all their lives, contributed to society in innumerable ways and who are supposed to be able to enjoy retirement in peace and security. Instead older people are faced with the constant stress of housing insecurity, which we all know has a detrimental effect on health. Additionally, young people are under stress due to the uncertainty caused by a lack of housing options available to them, which will certainly affect how they plan their lives. Some are considering emigrating for better money to eventually be able to move home and afford a home while some are emigrating for good. Choices made by successive Governments have resulted in the aspirations and dreams of an entire generation being either diminished or destroyed.
Regardless of what happens in an uncertain world outside, the thinking goes that if you own your home, at least you have some security. You have your most basic human right. In this regard, one must have empathy with the younger generation of renters and would-be buyers in Ireland. Buying a house has never been an easy process but it has now become so difficult. It is no surprise when average rents in Ireland stand at a whopping €1,460 a month making the 10% deposit requirement to purchase a property a very difficult hurdle.
Current lending rules in Ireland are for banks to lend a peak 3.5 times a salary as a mortgage. Assuming that a first-time buyer manages to find a home valued at €375,000, has a €7,500 deposit saved and takes advantage of both the Government’s first home shared equity and the help to buy scheme, that requires a salary of €75,000 per annum to be able to buy. In repayment terms, that equates to a repayment rate of €1,044 per month on a 30-year mortgage. This is clearly much more attractive than the aforementioned current crippling rents.
However we all know the statistics. Ireland has a supply-demand imbalance and a widely accepted need for circa 45,000 to 50,000 houses to be built every year based upon demographic trends. Despite the Government recognising the clear need for housing, the number of houses built continue to be well below the demand levels.
The planning permission system in Ireland appears to be dysfunctional with many projects spending years in the planning process. Planning permissions in rural Ireland are being rejected left, right and centre. In my constituency of Louth and east Meath, when you compare the disparity in planning permissions granted in the previous two years, it is vast. Something is happening whereby the planning policies that are being put before councils today seem very anti-rural in nature. They are pushing people from rural communities into bigger towns and villages, which is very unfair. We should be helping and encouraging young people to build in this time of housing crisis.
Another issue is rising costs and supply chain issues. While the listed house builders in Ireland are talking about significant cost inflation rises of between 7% and 9% this year, the larger house builders actually benefit from economies of scale. This can lead to delays, with some products particularly impacted by gas supply such as bricks, sanitary ware and aluminium products. As a direct result of increased costs, house prices are now six to seven times the average salary, thereby making housing severely unaffordable for many workers.
Overall, high prices to build or buy relative to income are pushing potential buyers out of the market and into rental accommodation, social housing or emigration. The affordability gap is shocking and we need to step in now. Housing affordability has also deteriorated for renters. I note that rents are now 40% higher. We need to ensure public money is not invested in the delivery of private rental-only developments that are unaffordable to rent and unavailable to buy.
Our population is aging rapidly and with the chronic housing shortage, the many generations locked out of home ownership will need a more sophisticated pension system to cope with the rising cost of housing. This is the ticking time bomb of the housing crisis. Thousands of people in their 20s and 30s have already accepted they have no prospect of owning their own home.
Last week's homelessness figures proved that the Government had no right to lift the eviction ban. It was something I very strongly opposed and we now have full proof that things are going to get worse. We know it is going to get worse.
Buying a house has never been an easy process but it has now become so difficult that the average age of a first-time buyer is now 34. It is no wonder when average rents in Ireland hit a whopping €1,733 per month in the final quarter of 2022 and an even more eye-watering €2,300 per month in Dublin. Rents across the country continue to raise at record levels driven by a chronic shortage of houses. These high rents make the 10% deposit requirement to purchase a property a very difficult hurdle without the bank of Mum and Dad featuring heavily.
However, despite the Government recognising the clear need for housing in its spin, press briefings, economic budgets and its Housing for All strategy, the number of houses being built continues to be well below the level of demand, pointing to a complete lack of action to resolve the crisis, which is now turning into an emergency. People are coming into my clinics every weekend and every day I have one with housing issues. Most of them are getting letters from their landlords, which is causing them immense stress. They cannot find anywhere to rent or purchase or they cannot even go on the housing assistance payment, HAP. People who are separating cannot even separate. They have to continue living in their homes because this crisis is so bad.
Time and time again, I stand here talking about planning permission but the Government has not done anything about planning policy. It is getting more and more difficult for young people in my constituency of Cork South-West to get planning permission. They are continuously refused because the book says the State is totally against the local person getting a bit of local planning. That is how you resolve issues. We then see have banks and vulture funds trying to take homes away from people just in case they are not crucified enough at the moment.
I also opposed the removal of the eviction ban. We could see the devastation. Fianna Fáil used to have a proud record regarding home ownership but it has clearly abandoned that. There is dysfunction in the Department and county councils along with blackguarding. I will focus on people trying to build a house who are fortunate enough to have a site on family land or can get the site. They are able to get a reasonable mortgage to build a reasonable house - not a mansion - but the Government has put in layers of stoppages. The Government continues to fund An Taisce and to support the county managers who have all the powers taken away from the councillors. The Government put in place a planning regulator to enforce everything. People are given a sheer "No" and told to get lost - I will not use another stronger word. These people have the wherewithal and want to build.
The Minister is rubbing his hands with glee. Fianna Fáil supported the previous Government in confidence and supply, or whatever it wanted to call it, but that Government built no houses. Rents are shocking. We are talking about the noble aspiration that people in this country had for generations since the Famine and since the inception of our State to build and own their own house. The Government has quenched that torch. The late great Canon Hayes said it was better to light one candle than curse the dark. The Government is darkening every light for every person who is homeless and every person who aspires to build a house. The Government does not care about them. It has spin doctors out its ears and eyes. If talk could build houses, there would be houses everywhere. There would not be room for us to stand. It is all bluff and blunder.
The Government is an abject failure and it is an utter disgrace. I welcome the motion and I support it. Of course the Government will not accept it. If it did accept it, it would only just rub its hands and bury it someplace else. It is time to get off and let somebody else do the job if it cannot do it. Fianna Fáil has completely lost its way and it does not have the vision that its fore leaders and forefathers had. It is time for it to get out.
I am glad to have an opportunity to speak about this very important topic. I thank Deputy Cian O'Callaghan for the opportunity. The biggest problem we have in Kerry at present is that people who want to build their own houses are being blocked by the planning regulator. This has been a serious issue since last June. Many people in their own areas cannot get permission because of urban-generated pressure. These are not people coming out from Killarney town, Killorglin town, Tralee town or Dingle town. They are people who are already out there but do not own a farm. Because they are not a farmer's son or daughter they are not entitled to apply for permission. They have lived next door to the farmer all their lives. They are rural people. They can buy a site but they will not be considered for planning because of this urban-generated pressure. The planning regulator insisted that the area under this zoning was expanded.
Then we have the national primary roads and national secondary roads where people cannot come out through an existing entrance. Farmers' sons and daughters are included in this. They cannot come out onto the road. They are being denied the right to apply for planning permission. These are people who want to build a house for themselves. Then we have Government taxes and levies that are making it impossible for people to meet the cost. It is absolutely impossible and nothing is being done about it. These are people who want to build their own houses. I am speaking about Kerry where it is a serious problem. I am asking the Minister to do something about it.
I have been providing accommodation for the past 35 years and I am glad to have been involved in it. I voted against ending the eviction ban. I believe the statistics in County Kerry prove I did the right thing in not agreeing with the Government. The people who come to my clinic say I did the right thing quite simply because of what has happened since in County Kerry. The county has been particularly affected by the ending of the eviction ban.
I do not thank Deputy Cian O'Callaghan for bringing this motion to the House and I will explain why. This is a motion on home ownership. This is the same Deputy Cian O'Callaghan who objected to 24 houses in Coolock, 19 houses in Howth because he considered it to be overdevelopment, and 51 new houses in Clontarf because he was worried about bats, badgers, flora and fauna. This is the man who is speaking about housing to the Minister, and he was worried about the bats, badgers, flora and fauna.
I thank the reporter Philip Ryan who rightly put out there that the Social Democrats leader Deputy Holly Cairns has defended her Deputies objecting to the development of thousands of houses in the middle of a housing crisis. Deputy Cairns has pitched herself as the voice of a generation that has been locked out of the housing market and will be worse off than their parents. I have previously highlighted that Deputy Shortall objected to 100 new apartments and 800 new homes on the Oscar Traynor site. Of these 343 would have been social and affordable homes and 340 would have been cost rental. The remaining 170 were going to be affordable units.
This is the Social Democrats that comes in here and lectures us about housing. They are objecting to thousands of homes. The people who were stopped from having those homes would have a house today. Then the Social Democrats come in here to talk about housing.
I thank An Cathaoirleach Gníomhach and I can understand her losing her way. It sounded like Fianna Fáil was on both sides of the House speaking about this. I thank the Social Democrats for tabling such an important motion. I fully support this motion that calls on the Government to increase dramatically the delivery of genuinely affordable-to-purchase homes and to ensure that public money is not invested in the delivery of private rental-only developments that are unaffordable to rent and unavailable to buy.
Housing is a critical issue and the failure of ideologically-founded Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael housing policy has produced a crisis of unprecedented proportions. The recently published census results show that the proportion of owner-occupied dwellings continues to fall, down from almost 70% in 2011 to 66% in 2022. We know this trend will only continue as the prospect of young people owning their own home dwindles.
CSO figures released this month show that earnings in my constituency of Donegal remain the lowest in the country. Looking at earnings by county, median weekly earnings for Dublin were 9.9% higher than the median weekly earnings for the State, and a huge 36.7% higher than Donegal, which at €517.93, had the lowest median weekly earnings. Taking this into account, we need to consider how this impacts those looking to buy a home. Mortgage providers look at peoples' wages to determine the amount they may borrow. The median Donegal weekly wage translates into €26,889 per annum. I rounded this up to €27,000 although I doubt banks would be so generous, and I put it into a few mortgage calculators. A single person on this wage, with no dependants and no monthly outgoings at all, which we know is virtually impossible, may be eligible for a mortgage of €89,487.
Taking this figure, I looked to see how many homes were for sale in the entire county of Donegal. One hundred and eight were available for under €150,000 and only 35 were available for under €100,000, which would still be way beyond the reach of the average person according to the figures. In the entire county four were available for under €75,000. I am sure it is no stretch of the imagination to picture how derelict and unfit for habitation these four would be without considerable renovation and expenditure. Following this, a quick search of Airbnb showed me that more than 1,700 Airbnbs are available in the county. This is beyond shocking. I have had numerous couples tell me that they have had to separate and move back in with their parents because of a lack of accommodation in the area and the county while, at the same time, we are tripping over Airbnbs.
This is not unique to Donegal. It is a national problem. People are struggling to make ends meet. Add to this the uphill battle of trying to save for mortgages and it creates a sense of national hopelessness. In February the Construction Industry Federation, CIF, gave pre-legislative commentary on the problems being faced due to inflation and increased costs of building. For those who may have family land or own a site, the uncertainty of costs due to recent surges in inflation make building or renovating a worrying prospect.
In the same pre-legislative address both CIF and Property Industry Ireland noted that planning restrictions and objections are creating a barrier to homeownership. They are hardly who we should rely on for statistics but the Government seems to think they know everything. While the rural development strategy serves a purpose in creating more congregated residential areas in rural areas, in a time of a housing crisis it may be timely to consider leniency and flexibility where possible. This is not a call for a lack of planning and careful strategy but they can exist in proportion to allowing for homeownership. We also need land to be opened up in our towns and villages. The only way this can be done is through the State taking a role and getting involved to encourage people to move into towns and villages.
The Taoiseach stated the many benefits of home ownership yesterday during Leaders' Questions. He mentioned security, financial freedom and having options. The home has an important place in the Irish psyche, especially given the fact that our rental sector is so insecure. If the Taoiseach acknowledges this then I urge him either to support this motion or allow Ireland to fall in line with other lifelong rental countries and their policies and provide mass-scale social homes for low and middle earners. This requires a move from the neo-liberal policies being pursued by the Government.
I read the Taoiseach's interview in the newspapers last week and I thought it was a particularly sly bit of politics to talk about building public housing and the lack of homes to buy in the same breath. The reason homeownership is going down is that successive Governments led by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Green Party have allowed our housing market to become a casino through speculation, financialisation and massive vulture and cuckoo funds. They cannot challenge the extortionate price of housing because they have built an economy that only works for the big banks and finance funds, and half of it is propped up by our overinflated housing market. They created a market in which ordinary people have no chance of affording a home. The first-time buyer of a new home has a median household income of €90,000, which is more than twice the national median household income for one person. It is also far more than twice the income threshold to get onto the housing list.
The solution is public housing, built on public land by a publicly owned construction company, where the people who benefit are the workers who build the houses and workers on the average industrial wage. We used to do this between the 1930s and 1960s, when we built a huge amount of public housing. We had no money but we did it, and we can do it again. What is lacking is the political will to do so. The idea that the Government is now building the most public houses since 1975 is a joke. Putting aside the fact that Dr. Rory Hearne’s figures showed that only about 3,000 homes were planned and delivered by a local authority or an approved housing body last year, we do not live in the 1970s anymore. Our population has increased by 56% since the 1970s, up from 3.8 million to 5 million. Our GDP has increased from €8.88 billion in 1975 to €472.45 billion in 2021. Adjusting for population increase, the State will have to build 13,718 homes to match what was done in 1975. Luckily, perhaps, we have an extra €463.57 billion in our economy now.
Ordinary people should be able to afford their own homes and the Government should invest in making sure there is a supply of affordable housing in the State. I have no problem with people aspiring to own their homes. The problem is that as long as we have this deeply unequal society, and as long as it takes twice the median household income to get close to even being able to afford a home, we will need to build vastly more public housing. We need to radically take on the big banks, speculators and developers, kick out the vulture and cuckoo funds, end the tax breaks, ban the wholesale purchase of new-builds, go after the profits of companies that are making billions off this housing crisis, create a State construction company and start building public houses on public land. We need to repurpose the Land Development Agency to buy land and build homes, and fold the affordable housing bodies into this so we can retain public ownership of the public housing stock in perpetuity. We need to increase the public housing income thresholds so anyone who cannot afford a home can get on the housing list.
It is very simple. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. If somebody needs a home, the State can and should provide them with one. We have done it before and we can do it again. I took out a mortgage in 1989 on one wage as a post office clerk. That just would not be possible now. Many thousands of people are being affected by that.
I thank Deputy Cian O’Callaghan for introducing the motion.
I thank Deputy Cian O'Callaghan for affording me the opportunity to have a debate on homeownership. I have heard some comment that the motion is constructive, although it lacks policy and lacks any type of suggestion as to what to do, with the exception of supporting an Ó Cualann-type model, which we do support. The delivery of Ó Cualann is supported through the State’s affordable housing fund, which was brought forward in the Affordable Housing Act, which the Social Democrats opposed and voted against in the Dáil. I would like to use the opportunity to outline what is available and some of the facts.
There is no question that there has been a decline in homeownership since 1991 and that is a decline I do not want to see. I support homeownership and I have been very clear and public about that. Every measure I have brought forward bears out that truth, such as the Affordable Housing Act, which the Social Democrats opposed, the Land Development Agency Act, which the Social Democrats opposed, and the Planning and Development Act, which the Social Democrats also opposed. They are perfectly entitled to vote against legislation and people have different views on it, but we need to focus on the measures brought forward within that. On the first home scheme, as of 26 May, some 4,348 households have applied to that scheme and, so far, we have issued just short of 1,700 eligibility certificates. I have met many of those households and families, many of whom are renters. By the State stepping in and doing exactly what many have been calling for, it is helping, and it is helping through equity, not through a second mortgage. There are no high interest rates and people can redeem it at the end. It is helping people to bridge the gap between the finance they have and what they need.
Then there is the help-to-buy grant, which I know the Social Democrats also opposed. I remind first-time buyers that the €30,000 they are getting back is the tax they have paid over the previous four years to help them with their deposits. Between the First Home scheme and the help-to-buy grant, there is €100,000 of supports from the Government, real supports that are actually working. Some 39,000 households have used the help-to-buy grants so far and this Government expanded that from €20,000 to €30,000.
What I do not see in the motion, and I say this respectfully, is any suggestion of what the Social Democrats would replace that with. They say they will get rid of it. Sinn Féin has also been very clear that it will get rid of it, but its Deputies are not here to respond this morning, although I know they were here earlier. That is €30,000 of people's own tax back in their pockets to buy their home. What can be wrong with that?
On the Croí Cónaithe vacancy grant, Deputy Pringle was talking about properties that are vacant. He knows the supports that are there and I hope he tells his constituents they are there. There is a €70,000 dereliction grant and a €50,000 vacancy grant. The most up-to-date figure for that at the end of quarter 1 of this year is over 15,000 applications and we have expanded that further. I have met families in my own constituency of Dublin Fingal and all across the country who are now able to buy those vacant homes. They wanted to do that before but they did not have a mechanism to defray the costs of doing up the homes, the homes that Deputy Pringle has spoken about. That is now in place but it is underpinned by the legislation and the budget that we put forward and which Deputy Pringle, Deputy Joan Collins and the Social Democrats voted against. They cannot have it both ways.
Looking at the census data from yesterday, the continued decline in homeownership has slowed quite significantly. With the measures we have brought forward, I want to see that reversed, and I believe it will be. If we look at the drawdown figures in regard to mortgages - this might surprise Deputy Cairns - some 10,908 new mortgages were drawn down by borrowers during the first quarter of this year, and they were first-time buyer drawdowns. One in two new-build homes built last year were purchased by first-time buyers, the majority of them using the help-to-buy grant that the Social Democrats opposed. Many hundreds upon hundreds of households - so far, 1,542, with nearly 1,000 already this year - have eligibility certificates using the first home scheme. The Deputy may be disappointed to know that is increasing every single week.
The local authorities are delivering affordable homes. I would say to Deputy Pringle that these are indisputable figures. I am not making them up. If we look at local authorities delivering social homes, the delivery last year is something that is indisputable: 10,253 new social homes last year. That is the highest number since 1975. Is that enough? Of course it is not, but we are dealing with ten or 12 years of significant underspend and we will deliver more than that this year. Last year, we delivered the first affordable purchase homes through local authorities in nearly a generation. So far, right across the country, I have approved 45 schemes that will deliver 2,300 new homes, and we are getting more and more in all the time.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae mentioned a few cases where Social Democrats Deputies and councillors have objected to housing. That is their right, if they want to do that, and that is on the public record. I do not support them doing that but if they want to do that, it is there for everyone to see. There are schemes in Deputy Cian O’Callaghan’s own area, such as in Ballymastone, that the Social Democrats and its councillors voted against. Deputy Bacik was here earlier talking about this. Her local area representative on the ground in the Donabate area is one of the chief objectors to a scheme that would deliver 253 affordable homes, 253 social homes and, yes, some private homes for people to buy. There is nothing wrong with private ownership of homes either but the affordable housing fund is there to support.
Deputy Róisín Shortall might laugh but we know her record in her own constituency, opposing the Oscar Traynor scheme year after year. The affordable housing fund is going to support that scheme and we are going to see ground broken on that scheme. From meeting the residents who live next door to the Oscar Traynor site, I know they want that built for their sons and daughters. However, inexplicably, on the ground, the former co-leader of the Social Democrats continues to oppose it and oppose it.
That is fine but it is important that people know that. The party brings forward a motion bemoaning the fact that homeownership rates have declined while on the ground, its members are actually opposing developments, and not just private developments but developments that have been brought forward by local authorities on local authority land.
The record is there.
Then we look at how we can activate idle State lands. The Land Development Agency, LDA, has been in place for a number of years. I legislated for it and I capitalised it. The agency has delivered its first homes. It has broken ground and is building in Shanganagh, on the largest social and affordable housing site in the county. The agency is capitalised to the tune of €1.5 billion and it will do a lot more through Project Tosaigh. I will be making further announcements soon about unpausing paused planning developments to deliver cost rental and affordable purchase at scale.
Again, I would remind the Social Democrats that under the cost rental national scheme there are now over 1,000 tenancies in place, with 50-year minimum secure tenures and rents just covering the cost of the development and management of the estate. The Social Democrats voted against that scheme. For me, there is a complete contradiction between putting a motion forward saying that the party wants homeownership and affordable housing while on the ground, we see the record of Social Democrats councillors and Deputies across the country, objecting to developments. More importantly, in here we see the Social Democrats voting against legislation that underpins schemes. I ask Deputy Cian O'Callaghan, for whom I have a lot of regard, to tell me in his response what he would put in place instead of the help-to-buy grant. If constituents come into his office or into his new leader's constituency office, does he or Deputy Cairns refuse to tell them about the help-to-buy grant which gives buyers €30,000 of their tax back in their pocket? Does he not tell them about the vacancy grants of up to €70,000 that are available regardless of the value of the home purchased? That scheme is working already. What would Deputy O'Callaghan put in place instead? What would he put in place instead of the first home scheme? That is actually working for families now, many of whom were renters. Deputy O'Callaghan said in his opening remarks that the rental market as it stands right now does not work for people and he is right. That is why we want to expand cost rental and improve security of tenure. As can be seen from any independent survey of renters, the vast majority want to own their own home and the measures that I have brought forward, as a Fianna Fáil Minister in this Government, give them the opportunity to do that. I have put practical schemes in place that are working now.
The Social Democrats have highlighted the issue of homeownership and they are right to do that. Like them, I do not like to see a decline in homeownership rates but the Social Democrats have put forward zero policy alternatives. They have mentioned the Ó Cualann model but that is the only thing. I have read the motion and the only thing it calls for is a dramatic increase in the delivery of genuinely affordable homes in line with the Ó Cualann model but we support the Ó Cualann model through the affordable housing fund. I opened the homes that Ó Cualann built in Lusk, with support from the Government. We have already supported 45 schemes through the affordable housing fund, many of which are on local authority land and much of which are being delivered. We will do more this year. I am acutely aware of the challenges that exist but we are making progress with regard to homeownership, which is happening, and with social housing.
Last weekend we learned that the Taoiseach's housing policy priority is homeownership. That is certainly news to me and to most people because Fine Gael's tenure in government has proven otherwise. Of course, for much of that time Fine Gael's failed policies were supported by the Minister's party. Since 2011 Fine Gael has driven a coach and four through our planning system, incentivised the wrong type of housing, rolled out the red carpet for vulture funds and, to top it all off, propped up artificially high rents and fuelled prohibitive house prices. That is the party's legacy. Its policies have made it exceptionally difficult for people on middle incomes, especially in Dublin, to aspire to homeownership.
It has been clear for years that the priority for Fine Gael has been to serve the interests of developers and land speculators, not the interests of ordinary workers. The Minister does not have to take my word for it because the figures speak for themselves. In the five years up to 2022, on a country-wide basis, the number of new homes coming to the market dropped by 43.5% despite the total number of newly built properties more than doubling in that same period. Apartments, predominantly for rent, completely took over from regular house building, resulting in a collapse in homeownership. Although no county is untouched by this crisis, Dublin city has undoubtedly been hardest hit. One of the key reasons for this is the type of housing facilitated and dictated by the planning system. Of the 40,400 homes granted planning permission between 2016 and 2022, a staggering 93% were apartments. In 2016, 41% of Dublin City Council permissions were for houses. Does the Minister know how many planning permissions were granted for houses last year?
Does he know how many permissions were granted for houses last year? What percentage of the planning permissions were for houses? It was a derisory 2%. Only 2% of all housing planning permissions in Dublin last year were for actual houses. A total of 6,290 permissions were granted but only 136 of those were for houses. There were 136 permissions for houses in the entire Dublin city area. Is it any wonder that house prices have skyrocketed? There are virtually no new houses being built in Dublin city-----
-----and therefore almost none to buy.
Of course, all of this has happened not by accident but by design. That is why, as far as so many people are concerned, the Taoiseach's professed belief in homeownership rings utterly hollow. A 2021 Dublin Inquirerreport revealed that between 2018 and 2020 more than half of homes granted planning permission in Dublin city were build-to-rent units and that number has only increased since. This will not come as a surprise to anyone living in the city, where the disastrous results of developer-led standards, mandatory ministerial guidelines and the failed strategic housing development, SHD, process are all too apparent. The introduction of separate build-to-rent standards, spearheaded by successive Fine Gael Ministers, was one of the most reckless changes to national planning policy. While it is welcome that these lower standards have finally been scrapped, they will have a lasting effect. For example, according to Dublin City Council figures, build-to-rent units are expected to account for almost 80% of developer-provided social housing in Dublin city by 2024. This is the most costly way of procuring social housing, while creating a massive cash cow for developers. The same can be said about many of the schemes that the Minister has been bragging about, which are providing housing in the most costly way. Everything the Minister does is about subsidies for developers. It is time he got real about this and set out to drive down the cost of housing. That is the fundamental problem. He needs to deal with the land issue at the root of that and drive down the cost of housing. That is what is required.
I will begin by responding to a few things the Minister said. The Social Democrats did not support the Affordable Housing Act because there is no transparency whatsoever in it regarding the hundreds of millions of euro that is handed over to developers and how this impacts their profits. We want transparency on that and it should be in the Affordable Housing Act. We are going to propose measures on that shortly and I hope the Government will support them.
In terms of the LDA, how on earth could a Government set up a land development body on a statutory basis without giving it full compulsory purchase order, CPO, powers to buy public land? It is off the charts not to give it the power to buy up land. In the past, local authorities used to use CPO powers very successfully to buy up public land to provide affordable and social housing. What has happened in recent years, and we make no apology for it, is that we have opposed the sale of public land to private developers. All public land that is suitable for housing should be used for social, affordable rental and affordable purchase housing and none of it should be sold off to private developers for housing to be produced at full market rates.
The Minister has criticised us for "only" putting forward or promoting the Ó Cualann model of affordable purchase housing. That is exactly our point. I do not know how that model can be dismissed with the word "only" as not being a viable solution. It is a successful model of developing and delivering affordable purchase homes people can genuinely afford, with new high-quality three-bed homes delivered in Dublin for approximately €260,000. By contrast, under the Government-promoted schemes of subsidies for developers, homes are sold for €400,000, €450,000 and €500,000. The Ó Cualann model is exactly what we should be doing. We should be doing more of it, we should be doing it on public lands and we should not be selling off those lands.
I invite the Minister to look close to here, a few miles up the road, at affordable purchase homes that were delivered in my constituency, in Marino, 100 years ago, when this State had no money. The new State delivered 1,200 affordable purchase homes when it had very little resources. Marino is a successful, thriving community to this day. If the Minister goes a little farther than that, he will come to the community of Donaghmede, built 50 years ago. He will meet the residents there, who will tell him that they bought their affordable purchase homes as part of the newlyweds draw that was run out of the Mansion House at the time and gave newlywed couples the chance and the opportunity to get affordable purchase homes. The residents will tell the Minister how they have lived there for the past 50 years, raised their families, got involved in the local community and got involved in the GAA club and how that was successful for them. We do not have to look far back in history. If the Minister goes up farther to Dun Emer in Lusk, he will be able to see affordable purchase homes delivered now, but only 323 last year, a drop in the ocean. What did the Minister promise the electorate during the last election campaign as regards affordable homes? He promised 10,000 affordable homes every year. He has delivered, in three years in government, 323 when he promised there would be 30,000 affordable homes by this point.
Why is there so little delivery? Why does the Minister dismiss our motion, which calls for an expansion of the successful Ó Cualann model? It has been shown that by putting more money back into people's pockets in the form of disposable income, this model boosts the local economy and local jobs. It means housing within reach. It means that people can get involved in their local communities. It gives them that stability and that security. Why dismiss that as not being a solution? Why is the Government not doing this at the scale it promised? There is nothing "only" about the Ó Cualann model of affordable purchase housing. Instead of putting hundreds of millions in public money through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund into expensive build-to-rent, rental-only developments, which is what this Government and this State are doing now, let us put those resources into affordable purchase housing as well as affordable rental and social housing to give people secure tenancies, somewhere secure to live and somewhere to build a home and a life from.