Thursday, 13 July 2023
Planning and Development (Provision of Public Housing) Bill 2023: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act Bill to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000 and to repeal section 97(3)(b).
The purpose of this Bill is simple. It is stated in the Title. It is to ensure and protect the provision of public housing. Where this is particularly relevant is in dense urban areas. The Part V exemption of section 97(3)(b) should have been scrapped when the previous Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage removed the height restrictions in the city. To be clear, we have no issue with exempting small sites that are being developed to supply four or five homes. This Bill would not affect such developments. However, when we see large developments of up to 50 units in respect of which exemption from providing public housing is being sought, it is clear that the existing legislation is flawed.
In 2020, I introduced other legislation aimed at tackling the abuse of this loophole. That was rejected by Government. I was told then that the reason why it was rejected was because the example I gave was an isolated incident where there was an application for a large building with multiple units on a very small site of 0.1 ha.
The Minister said legislation could not be made based on a one-off development. I understood that. However since then I have seen the continual use of this loophole by developers seeking to avoid their Part 5 obligation. I represent communities which are experiencing the worse side of the housing crisis. Families are living in damp, overcrowded conditions in accommodation that really is only fit to be condemned and pulled down. I see the neglect of tenants in social housing right across the city of Dublin. I speak to my constituents in Dublin Bay South, where I can see the standard of accommodation in the south inner city and the neglect by Dublin City Council. The reality is, that Dublin City Council's record in the south-east inner city in dealing with public and social housing is an absolute shambles. The way the council treats residents and tenants of public housing is absolutely abysmal. There are infestations of rats and mould, damp and flooding. It is just unacceptable in this day and age. Communities are continually being promised regeneration. Pearse House has been promised regeneration for many years now and the progress on that is glacial.
Communities in areas like Ringsend, Pearse Street, and Kevin Street are the heart of this city. These communities are facing neglect and the public - ordinary working families - are being priced out of housing in the inner city. We are seeing a generation of people being forced to abandon the community they know and in which they grew up, in order to try to find a home. It is ordinary people who make this city. Without them, Dublin will be, and would be, a shell of a city. We need to amend the legislation to ensure public housing is delivered in communities most under pressure.
I will mention a number of communities that are under pressure. There are 3,500 homes going on the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend. There are talks about affordable housing. It does not appear the homes on this site are going to be affordable. It is hard to understand but the speculation is that the cost of units in the Irish Glass Bottle will be €500,000 to €600,000 each. The Government had an opportunity because the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, owned 20% of the share in the strategic development zone, SDZ. If that had been transferred to Dublin City Council, it could have made the homes truly affordable. However, the Government and NAMA have overseen the sale of that 20% stake in the SDZ to be sold off to the developer Johnny Ronan. It means there is huge uncertainty over the affordability of these homes and the Government really needs to intervene, meet with and talk to residents and explain what is going to happen.