Friday, 30 April 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I want to raise an issue that featured in the Irish Independentthis morning. I refer to what I see has been a very significant change in what most people understand as cost rental. The Minister has said that he wants to expand the definition of cost rental and allow investors and private firms to make equity or profit from cost rentals. That would be a significant change to what most of us understand cost rental to be and it is not linked to affordability. At this week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage I tabled an amendment asking that affordable or cost rental would be linked to a person's income of about 30%. That is the generally agreed definition of affordability that was given to us by the outside interests that appeared before the committee. In response, some of the Government members said that cost is cost, it is cost rental and we are recovering it. What we are finding out now, and I think what we are going to have in the eventual Bill, is that cost rental is cost plus profit, which is, essentially, a State subvention for market-led housing.
The Minister, when giving his reasons, said that he sought to expand the definition of cost rental and one that is not overly reliant on public funding. That is a very important statement because we are developing a cost-rental model that would not be publicly funded but reliant on the market to fulfil it. That, to me, is normal market-led housing. It is no different. His statement that there would be no reliance on public funds is an ideological stance. The Government's policy when it comes to housing is profit driven, investor driven and developer driven. The policy is to use State money to lease build-to-rent for social housing and we are building way more build-to-rent properties than ever before. We are also allowing investors to buy whole developments off the plans in order to be able to rent. The Government is relying on the private sector to provide social housing through the housing assistance payment programme. To add insult to injury, the help-to-buy and proposed shared equity scheme are just a subsidy for developers. We are making the same old mistakes time and again. I ask for a wide debate in this House on housing policy because today's article is very worrying.
I welcome the lifting of restrictions but there is a little confusion. Last night, we were told that 50 guests could attend a wedding ceremony but still only six can attend an indoor reception and 15 at an outdoor reception. At the end of the month I will be lucky enough to be one of six guests going to the wedding of my friends, Bernard and Eddie. They need clarification on what they can have at their wedding. For example, does the figure of six include witnesses, the couple and guests? There is a lot of confusion among people who, within this short period, are having their wedding. They have now been told that they can have 50 people but the limits on the reception are different. Therefore, we need the matter to be clarified.