Thursday, 9 November 2023
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
91. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the number of housing commencements in Carlow to date in 2023; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48956/23]
124. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he expects the housing target for 2023 of 29,000 new homes to be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49078/23]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 91, 99 and 124 together. Last year, we exceeded our housing delivery targets and we will exceed them again this year. We will deliver more new social homes this year than we did last year and will continue to break records with the largest social housing provision in 50 years. We will build substantially more affordable homes than last year and we have more first-time buyers, as the Deputy knows, buying homes than since 2007 with the support of this Government through things like the help to buy grant and the first home scheme. Sinn Féin has not yet changed its mind on that, apparently. It is still opposed to that.
To answer Deputy Murnane O'Connor's question, to the end of September of this year, 289 new homes commenced in Carlow. This is an increase of 26% on the same period in 2022 and the highest number of commencements in Carlow for this period since the data series began in 2014. With three months of the year still remaining, commencements so far this year already exceed the second highest number for Carlow since 2014. This will be a record-breaking year for the Deputy's county of Carlow. Similar progress is being made in Longford and Westmeath. Other Deputies are tied to this question but they are not present.
I have had the pleasure of visiting Carlow with the Deputy. There is a very strong social housing pipeline and the Croí Cónaithe scheme is working very well. Those schemes are not counted in those commencement figures. We should and will look at capturing those because they are new homes and affordable homes coming back in and there is a €50,000 or €70,000 grant there as well. Things like the development levy waiver, which the Members opposite in Sinn Féin opposed, and waiving the Uisce Éireann connection charge have had a real effect in boosting commencements in the middle of this year. It is saving homeowners money, putting money back into their pockets and making it more affordable for them.
When we came into government and Deputy O'Brien became Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, there were huge challenges. As a Senator and now as a Deputy, I have seen the changes happening in Carlow. As the Minister said, this has been a game changer since 2014. We are now building houses. In January, we will have 20 affordable houses in Carlow through our local authority, which we never had before. I see the difference it is making. I see the difference in the mortgages, with people coming into my office applying and getting mortgages they could not get before. It is important that we highlight the good work that is happening in our own areas. I want to welcome this. The Minister knows I am always looking for more houses. There is no question about that.
In Carlow, we have made those strides. I also compliment Carlow County Council on the work it has been doing. We could do with more staff. That is another thing. We have all gotten together. Everybody is working together, including all the councillors and the new chief executive Coilín O'Reilly. Everybody is working together to get as many houses as we can.
I know this is a little bit different but it is something we need to look at. I thank the Minister. He gave us a prevention officer two weeks ago but I am looking for a homelessness officer now. I will come back to him on that.
There is no question that progress is being made right across the country in every local authority area, in all 26 counties of the Republic. We are acutely aware that we need to do a lot more but there has been a step change in housing delivery under this Government. About 40% to 50% of the homes that will be delivered this year will be backed by this Government, be they social or affordable homes or assisted through the help to buy grant. The State is leading by example here. Looking at the numbers, 31,500 homes have been completed in the year to September and the third quarter of this year is the third quarter in a row where rolling 12-month completions have surpassed 30,000. That is significant progress. People know what the issues were, particularly through Covid. Others want to forget that we had two construction shutdowns. For public safety reasons we had to close sites. Most sites were closed. We are catching up on that now.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the local authority in Carlow a number of times with the Deputy. Colleagues there are doing a really good job. Another thing we have done is provide the land acquisition fund-----
-----for local authorities like the one in Carlow. Now we are purchasing the land for them, and for approved housing bodies as well, to build into the future so we have the land banks to continue to deliver the homes we need. The progress is very welcome. We are not at all going to rest on our laurels. We want to do more. The pipeline for next year, looking at the commencements for this year, is very strong too. Next year we will have another record year in delivery of homes for our people.
I am aware that there are more houses in the pipeline for next year, working with Carlow County Council. One of the areas I addressed with the Minister recently when I brought him to Carlow is the modular builds we have, which are new modern homes. This is important because we need to build as many homes as possible. That is happening. We need to build homes quicker. I know the Minister is very much aware of this and very much on board with building houses as quick as we can. It is important that we continue our good progress in Carlow and that we continue the building we are doing for the next few years because we want to get everyone off the housing list.
The only thing I need to ask the Minister for now is a permanent homelessness officer in Carlow because we are seeing homeless people coming in. In fairness, we are working with Carlow County Council on that but we need a permanent one. I am asking the Minister for a commitment on that. All the council staff in Carlow are doing their best. I know they are understaffed and I am looking for more staff.
On staffing and resources, local authorities have never had more staff than they have now. They have never had more resources than they have now. Where we receive submissions from local authorities, like in this instance from Carlow County Council, if they put a case forward to us and require additional sanction, we look at those requests favourably, though they obviously have to stack up. Following the Deputy's intervention today, I will await the receipt of that submission from Carlow County Council and we will look at it and deal with it as efficiently and expeditiously as possible.
The Deputy mentioned the area of homelessness in her response, and rightly so. While we are building more homes, and we are, delivering more social homes and have seen significant reductions in social housing waiting lists, there are still people out there who do not have a home at all.
They are, and will remain, the Government's number one priority. More people exited homelessness into permanent social homes than ever before in the past three quarters. That is welcome but we will never take our eye off the ball on that. That is why the increased supply is important. It is starting to make a real difference. We have to continue to work on that with local authorities, such as Carlow County Council.
On modern methods of construction, MMC, I had the pleasure of visiting the plant in Carlow with the Deputy. It is impressive to see life being breathed back into the old Braun factory in the centre of the town with hundreds of jobs created and high quality off-site homes being produced through MMC. We are doing more and more of that throughout the country. We have targeted local authorities and 1,500 homes are to be delivered through MMC on sites where we have removed the debt from local authorities. We are encouraging them. It makes sense from a climate perspective, an efficiency perspective and a time perspective. The new factory in Carlow is incredibly impressive and I see MMC as a main way of increasing efficient supply.