Friday, 4 June 2021
Affordable Housing Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Paul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
I welcome the Minister of State.
I support this amendment from my colleague, Senator Higgins. All of us should recognise that the current system is fundamentally flawed in terms of income limits and eligibility. We need to give more flexibility to local authorities to tackle this issue. In Limerick, in order to qualify for public housing, the income threshold for a couple with two children is €36,400. If one is earning more than that, there is no support and one is stuck in the private market. In the private market in Limerick, rent for a three-bedroom house in Castleconnell is €1,400. On the Dock Road, a two-bedroom apartment will cost €1,200 which ten years ago one could not give away.
As it is currently geared, people are excluded and effectively locked out of the housing market.Sinn Féin has pushed for a long time for these income limits to be reviewed and raised to include these people. The reality is that right now their rent is so expensive that they cannot save for a mortgage or get into the housing market, yet the State is saying that they are earning too much and it cannot give them support to get into the housing market. They are trapped with extortionate rents and no prospect of being able to save for a house. The conversations I have had about this Bill over the past weeks have basically been about the fact that nothing will be done for these people. They are effectively locked out of the housing market. Much more needs to be done. This is the opportunity to do so. It is worrying that this Government regards a house worth €350,000 in Limerick as an affordable housing. That would put many people back in their chairs. The median income now is €38,000. Members can do the math themselves. A house costing €350,000 is not affordable for working people in Limerick.
The issue needs to be tackled. This amendment from Senator Higgins would give us a means of doing just that. It is a reasonable point to make. If the Minister of State does not do it, what message is he sending to those people earning something in the high thirties, which is frankly not a lot of money? Over the past ten years, we have seen rents skyrocket. During one of the previous debates, if memory serves me right, we heard that rents have gone up by 60% over the past ten years. Income certainly has not. There needs to be something fundamentally different to allow these people to stop being locked out of the housing market. The Minister of State should support this amendment. It would be useful, help to ameliorate the situation, and give some hope to these people.