Seanad debates

Friday, 4 June 2021

Affordable Housing Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)


9:30 am

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I will come to my amendment presently. First, however, I want to speak briefly on amendment No. 38, which is stronger in some respects than my amendment. I believe we should press these amendments but I will also be coming back to see if we can incorporate some of the language from amendments Nos. 38 and 37. Of course, these amendments are not contradictory and there is nothing to stop them working together. Amendment No. 37 recognises the specific local knowledge of local authorities and housing authorities. The picture in particular areas is not necessarily the same as the national picture. That is one of the strengths of my amendment. I also refer to each income quintile. Amendment No. 38 really focuses on the bottom two income quintiles which is appropriate. One could possibly make the case for the bottom three, but I certainly think the bottom two income quintiles should be prioritised.

I applaud the idea of housing costs not exceeding 35% of the total. How transformative it would be to people's lives if just one third of what they earned was going on rent. A Social Justice Ireland study in 2019 found that 10% of renters were spending more than 60% of their income on housing. They were literally working to keep a roof over their heads at that point. What is proposed would be a resetting to make a house affordable in the long term. The mortgage would be for several years allowing people to know they will to be at a level where they can plan to use their income to do other things with their life and family.

Senator Fitzpatrick has good knowledge on this and she has been clear on the amounts. Nonetheless those are amounts and this is the concern. It is not a definition. We have formulas on the clawback and formulas on the equity, but we do not have the formula on what affordability will mean. To specify amounts and a snapshot in a moment in time does not really work. What we are looking for is different. We are looking for a definition.

Senators Boyhan, Norris and Keogan are offering a formula for a definition. It is a very decent formula which may well end up at the €160,000 that the Minister mentioned last week. However, the important thing is that if the market changes, the definition would still be usable. This definition is not subject to the vagaries of the market. It is not an amount. It is a percentage relative to people's incomes. That is why it is stronger. I certainly will support that amendment also. I may introduce an amendment on Report Stage that seeks to combine the local knowledge perspective I was pressing with these very concrete suggestions from Senator Boyhan.


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