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Affordable Housing: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 964 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins] Unfortunately, that was the situation with which they were met. I cannot understand the pressure being put on so many young people. If they want to build homes or get planning permissions it costs thousands of euro. If one is granted planning permission, one then has to go to a bank only to be told one's wife, partner or oneself is not earning enough. One then goes to local authorities and is told one is earning too much. It is a mess. I meet people in my constituency of Cork South-West every week who are applying for social housing, which adds to the pressure which is already there. We all know how many families are waiting for a long time to get council houses. The Minister of State has an opportunity to set the record straight and do some good in regard to housing for the people of the country.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I too want to compliment Sinn Féin on putting down this motion. We can have motions and potions and everything else but we cannot build houses. I wish the Minister of State well. He is a saner and more approachable type of representative for Kilkenny than a previous Minister, Big Phil the enforcer.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Now, now.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Tá sé imithe. He has gone to greener pastures now on a big pension and wage. He destroyed the local authorities and many other things. He forced Irish Water on us.

Building houses is not rocket science. We could build them in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, noughties and then everything crashed. I have to ask why that happened. Deputy Ó Broin works very hard on the housing committee but there are reports and more reports. "Rebuilding Ireland" – what a term. People who can build should be allowed to do so. I know of at least ten couples in south Tipperary who want to build, who have sites and the wherewithal to meet the cost of building houses but who cannot get planning permission. They have to have so many acres of farmland and prove they came from the area. It is almost as though the authorities want to know where they were conceived if they want to get planning. It is ridiculous.

The motion refers to affordable housing and affordable housing schemes have been brilliant. I am a proud member of Caislean Nua voluntary housing association. We delivered 17 units. It may not be 100 units but it is still 17 units. There are many such groups in the Minister of State's native county and in Deputy Ó Broin's constituency. The groups were embarrassing the Department and local councils. The system was changed so that there was only one office in Dublin. There were seven and there are now five. We go around on a merry-go-round; there is paper going up and paper going down. A document is sent to the Department of the environment, six months later it is sent to a county council for clarification and six months after that it goes up and back again. It is a disgrace. I have repeatedly asked the Minister of State, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the Taoiseach to bring county managers and directors of services for housing before a committee in which we could question them. It is said we gave them money but they did not build houses or the council then says it did not get the money. If it was not so serious, it would be like a game of Russian roulette. People cannot get houses. We got rid of all the bedsits in Dublin and did many other things to damage and diminish the efforts of housing authorities.

A company in Cahir is exporting 2,500 houses a year to England. I spoke the Minister of State about it last week and he referred me to the Minister of State, Deputy English, and I will speak to him. Its houses can be constructed in seven weeks but it cannot get accreditation in Ireland. It would take 15 months and cost €100,000. It can build houses in England. The company sent 2,500 houses to local authorities in England but cannot build here.

There are vacant houses. I saw a documentary on Northern Ireland, which is the next place a committee delegation should go, something I have asked for and perhaps Deputy Ó Broin will do the same. We should see what goes on in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Sinn Féin has plenty of experience from Northern Ireland as to what happens there. From the time a house is vacated and the keys are handed back to the authority, it takes 12 weeks to re-let a property. Some houses are vacant for four years in Tipperary. Every Thursday night I return home and pass a house where the occupants have all died. I check to see if the lights are on, but they are not and not even a candle is lit. It is pathetic. The lethargic ineptitude of the public service which is supposed to deliver housing is disgraceful. One can blame the Minister. The former Minister, Deputy Kelly, AK47, was going to rebuild Ireland and England. He did not build a henhouse in Toomevara or a dog shed in Carrick-on-Suir. A record 11 houses were built in Tipperary over five years. At present, 3,100 people have been approved for housing and about 10,000 are waiting. It is a joke and the people are tired and weary of it. I am tired and weary of talking about it. Let the people who want to build go out and build.

I pursued the issue of vacant shops in town for years in the context of the county development plan and the council in order to allow people to convert shops which have been vacant for ten years to living accommodation without charges. Something is happening now, but it is five or six years too late. We could repopulate towns and villages and bring them back to life, and allow people to get houses. There is too much bureaucracy. We are laden down with it.

As I said, voluntary housing associations are the same. They have the ability to deliver housing but there is too much red tape and we cannot have them embarrassing the public sector because county managers might have questions to answer at council meetings. They should be brought to the Houses and asked to account for their activity or inactivity.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is hard to follow that. Deputies Munster, Mitchell, Cullinane and Ellis are sharing time.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster The Minister of State's party has been in government for seven years and we are in the midst of a housing emergency. After seven years, it still refuses point blank to roll out a properly-funded State-wide social and affordable housing building programme, despite the fact it is aware of the chronic shortage of rental properties which, in itself, is a crisis. It is also aware of the rocketing rental prices people are being charged for the few properties that are available. All of this is compounded by the fact that there is no evidence of any real effort to put forward an affordable housing programme. When I say affordable, I mean affordable for people on low and average wages.

In my constituency, Louth, the average asking price of a house has increased by 11.5%, the highest increase outside of Dublin. Rents in Louth have also increased by a staggering 16.7%, well in excess of increases in Dublin during the same period. There are no genuinely designated affordable houses for people to buy. The Minister of State knows that. We all accept that Fianna Fáil wrecked the economy and its policies forced tens of thousands of families into negative equity. We all accept that its policies forced misery on thousands of people and forced them into homelessness but Fine Gael has been in government for seven years. For those seven years, it has turned a blind eye to the situation and has allowed a crisis to develop into an emergency.

The few measures it recently introduced are merely tinkering around the edges. They will only be effective for a tiny minority of people. I simply cannot accept that the Government is so incompetent. A clear and deliberate policy has been ongoing for seven years and is compounding the misery for people year in and year out. A whole generation of people of moderate or no means are being denied the opportunity to have a permanent home.

Without the provision of affordable housing, along with social housing, we will return to the Celtic tiger era and we know how that ended thanks to Fianna Fáil. House prices are rocketing. This time around, ordinary people cannot afford to buy a home. They cannot even afford to rent a home. This is all happening on the Government's watch. It is as clear as day. If the Government cannot see what is happening, then God help us. At some stage, it will have to put an end to prolonging people's misery.

Deputy Denise Mitchell: Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell We all know we are in the middle of a housing crisis. There is a shortage in the supply of homes, yet prices continue to rise at an incredible rate. An entire generation now sees homeownership as something that is totally out of their grasp. An entire generation does not believe they will be to live in the towns or cities where their families have lived for generations.

While some wait for years on social housing lists, others, like a couple earning €55,000 or a single person earning €30,000, are told they earn too much to be considered for social housing. However, they earn nowhere near enough to buy a home in places like Dublin. When I heard the Government's plan for its new affordable homes scheme, the first thing which worried me was whether it was simply a scheme designed to clear the way for people to purchase overpriced homes from property developers. If the answer is "Yes" then we will be left with massive problems further down the track.

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