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Leaders' Questions

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 893 No. 1

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Leaders' Questions

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yesterday's budget gave a very strong indication that the Government has no concept, or sense, of the urgency of the homeless crisis in our society. The Government is not possessed of any sense of urgency in relation to it, as eloquently articulated yesterday evening by Fr. Peter McVerry in his reaction to the lack of any action in the budget on this matter. It is interesting to note that when Focus Ireland set up an action team in 2012, an average of eight new families were presenting as homeless in Dublin every month. This figure rose to 40 families per month in 2014. It has now risen to 65 to 70 families per month in the first half of 2015. More than two new families are becoming homeless every single day, yet there is no action from the Government to arrest the situation. The number of children sleeping in emergency homeless accommodation has almost doubled since October 2014. Groups such as the Simon Community, Threshold and many other non-governmental agencies are extremely frustrated by the lack of action on this particular issue.

In the immediate term, the Government could take preventative measures to prevent more families from becoming homeless by introducing rent certainty measures and increasing the rent supplement. There seems to be some extraordinary reluctance, if not a stubbornness, to move on the rent certainty issue or to increase the rent supplement. The Simon Community has stated that 92% of properties available to rent are priced beyond the reach of those in receipt of rent supplement. Will the Taoiseach explain why there was no action in yesterday's budget on homelessness? Why will the Government not make a decision on rent certainty and on increasing rent supplement for those who desperately need it to stay in a home or to get back into the housing market?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is not acceptable that families and children, in particular, have to stay in bed and breakfast accommodation and hotel rooms.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney For shame. There are 30,000 of them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will Deputy Keaveney stay quiet, please?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny In many cases, they are quite a distance from Dublin, in particular, and the families have to travel to schools and so on, which is not acceptable. It is not true to say that there was nothing in yesterday's budget for housing. The Minister for Finance signalled that NAMA will provide 20,000 houses between now and 2020. We will open 100 sites across the country in 2016 and will deliver at the mid-point of that up to 80 houses per week. There is a requirement for 10,000 units, whether houses or apartments, in the Dublin area per annum. Only 3,300 were delivered in the past year. Having land, its own money and contractors who build for it, NAMA can provide these units and 90% of them will be provided in the Dublin area. Some 75% of the units will be houses, mainly starter homes, which NAMA will deliver through its own developers.

Last year the Government put €2.2 billion on the table to deal with this legacy issue. Yesterday, in the budget, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform added to that sum. This year €500 million is available to build or acquire new homes. The Government also increased the current allocation for social housing by a further €69 million to €440 million. Money is not the problem here.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney It is ideology.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The problem is the planning regulations and the planning permission process.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Taoiseach is the problem.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Until we deal with the question of the provision of extra houses, in reality we cannot deal with this problem.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Then deal with it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is not true to say that the rent supplement has not been increased. The Department of Social Protection has dealt with thousands of cases over the past period where, in individual circumstances-----

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath So why are people homeless?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----the rent supplement can be increased, thereby giving certainty to both the tenant and the landlord.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Where do they get it?

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien It is not happening.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan They cannot give it if they do not have it.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea This is a complete distortion.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is clear that interference in the market, to its detriment, is not something we should do.

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny While people are calling for what they call "clarity" on rent certainty, if we interfere in the wrong way, we will make matters worse.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae The Government will not do anything at all.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Stage fright.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis I am glad the Taoiseach told that to his Labour Party colleagues.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As was pointed out by the Minister for Finance, we had three reports in the 1980s by Mr. Peter Bacon which were supposed to sort out all of this but things actually got worse. The Government will not interfere-----

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen No, it never interferes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----in a way that will make things worse. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, is working very hard on this issue and we hope we will be able to bring in a number of measures that will improve the position.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan This is not about interference. It is about action.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Believe me, I am frustrated about the fact that this is not moving in the way that one would want. We have PPPs, private builders, NAMA, social housing and modular units. Those are five issues. The money is in place and they should be moving.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Taoiseach should have a word with Tánaiste Coonan.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin With the greatest respect-----

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I call Deputy Mícheál Martin. Will Deputy Cowen give his leader a chance to ask his question?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Watch Deputy Coonan watching him, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will Deputy Finian McGrath stay quiet? He is not a leader yet.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach said that he did not interfere but the problem has got dramatically worse.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Correct.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The number of children who are homeless has doubled since October 2014. The same applies to the number of families in emergency accommodation. That is the point. He has done nothing.

Deputy Noel Harrington: Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington Fianna Fáil privatised social housing.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin He has not interfered and it is the absence of interference which is exasperating the problem. The Taoiseach spoke about the rent supplement. A decision has not been made to increase it. He mentioned discretionary powers of welfare officers. In Limerick, only six cases were successful in the past 12 months. The Taoiseach should stop with the fig leaves.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea There were 500 applications, six of which were successful.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach throws a sop to the poor Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, saying he is working very hard, but he is not.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath A failure.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin He was rebuffed by the Taoiseach and Fine Gael in the lead up to this particular budget but I am more interested in the figures since October 2014. If we look at the figures prepared by Threshold and the Simon Community , we have gone from eight families seeking emergency accommodation in October 2014 to a situation now where approximately 70 families seek such accommodation weekly. The problem with that is-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett A question, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----two new families a day are now seeking emergency accommodation with no action being taken on rent certainty or on rent supplement. Rents are projected to increase by 20% in Dublin alone over the next 12 months, with thousands more repossessions in line. The banks are talking about 25,000 repossessions next year.


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