Friday, 4 June 2021
Affordable Housing Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Malcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
I appreciate that. I take on board the contributions from other Senators about ethical investments, sustainable funds, the dual role of the State, and limited, modest returns for funds, which we will address separately.
I will address amendment No. 60, tabled by Senator Warfield, amendment No. 61, tabled by Senators Higgins and Ruane, and amendment No. 66, tabled by Senators Moynihan and Bacik of the Labour Party. Amendments Nos. 61 and 66 propose to increase the length of designation of cost-rental dwellings to not less than 90 or 100 years, while amendment No. 60 would change the application process for cost-rental designation to remove entirely any commitment on the part of owners that homes remain in the cost-rental sector for a certain minimum period.
A number of Senators have raised the issue that the Bill does not guarantee that homes will be subject to cost-rental regulations in perpetuity. I confirm that the owner will commit at the outset to the property remaining in the sector for a certain minimum period. This will be at least as long as the period over which the financial model spreads the initial capital costs, which as a result of accepting amendment No. 58, will be 40 years or more, but it may be considerably longer. I stress that 40 years is an absolute minimum, and is envisaged only in cases where there is no public investment, no State-backed lending, and no subsidy. Requiring a perpetual commitment, even if a project received no State support, might act as a disincentive and hinder the growth of cost-rental. If a provider wants to offer cost-rental housing independently, complying with the restrictions without any particular incentive or support, any commitment to the sector is welcome.However, any project which receives public support will require a very long-term commitment. This will be set out in the funding agreement. The Government and local authorities need the flexibility to set appropriate conditions for the varied ways in which the State can support cost rental. Where, for example, local authorities and the Land Development Agency deliver cost-rental homes, I envisage their committing homes to the sector effectively in perpetuity, given the functional lifespan of the homes. It is for these reasons that I oppose the amendments.