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 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing (Continued)
 Header Item Medicinal Products Availability

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy] However, the niche for people who are just above that in lower, moderate and average pay seem to have been forgotten about. This is an area we cannot just forget. There are too many people renting. If there is a small inducement, we can get them into their own houses; the affordable housing scheme needs to be revived.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I will be taking this matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney.

A range of measures is being taken under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness to increase housing supply overall, with the aim of creating a functioning and sustainable housing system which can meet housing demand at more affordable prices. The plan is divided into five pillars, with each targeting a specific area of the housing system. Pillar 3, entitled "build more homes", has a key objective of increasing the output of private housing to meet demand at affordable prices, including by opening up land supply and State lands, including the major urban housing development sites initiative, which identified large-scale sites in the main cities that are capable of delivering significant numbers of homes in the short to medium term to boost overall housing supply, a €200 million local infrastructure housing activation fund, National Treasury Management Agency financing of large-scale “on-site” infrastructure, planning reforms, putting in place a national planning framework and land management actions, efficient design and delivery methods to lower housing delivery costs and measures to support construction innovation and skills.

While there are no plans at present to reintroduce an affordable housing purchase scheme, pillar 4 of Rebuilding Ireland, entitled "improve the rental sector", provides for the introduction of an affordable rental scheme to enhance the capacity of the private rented sector to provide quality and affordable accommodation for households currently paying a disproportionate amount of disposable income on rent.

As set out in the strategy for the rental sector published in December 2016, the commitment to introduce affordable rental units is now to be progressed through kick-starting supply in rent pressure zones. Lands held by local authorities in rent pressure zones are to be brought to market on a competitive tendering basis, with a view to leveraging the value of the land to deliver the optimum number of units for rent, targeting middle income households, in mixed tenure developments. The cost of providing rental units is to be permanently reduced by lowering the initial investment and development costs for providers - approved housing body or private - allowing the rental units to be made available at below market prices without the need for ongoing rental subsidies.

The local authorities concerned will identify a number of sites with potential and will move forward as soon as possible to issue calls for proposals from parties interested in developing projects. As speed of delivery will be critically important, appropriate licence arrangements, incorporating clear timescales for delivery, will be a key feature of the process.

This programme is being co-ordinated with the dedicated measures in Rebuilding Ireland to accelerate housing output from the major urban housing delivery sites, including support from the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, where necessary. Through this combination of measures, the Government is satisfied that a more sustainable housing system delivering accommodation at more affordable prices and rental levels can be achieved.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy It goes to show that there is a major anomaly here, namely, that we have budgeted €5.35 billion for one sector while the sector immediately above it has nothing. It is a huge hole in the scheme. I am disappointed. I raised the matter before the Rebuilding Ireland programme was announced. It is an area we must revisit. In respect of the figure on the help to purchase scheme, we are looking at tens of millions of euro going into that scheme, which is welcome. The area I am talking about has been ignored, however. I flagged it. Something needs to happen here. I will be speaking to the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State, Deputy English.

This is the first occasion that I have got it out of the Department that there are no plans to introduce an affordable housing purchase scheme. It is a serious error. Part of the Irish psyche is to purchase property. Whether we like it or not, that is not going to change. Pillar 4 is about affordable renting. People do not like renting, especially in areas where rent is €1,200 per month. That is €15,000 per year. People will purchase but they need a little bit of help from the State. The State has done that successfully in a number of past decades, going back to the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s. It needs to be reintroduced. It is a massive error of judgment by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State, Deputy English, not to reintroduce the affordable housing purchase scheme.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank the Deputy for his contribution and appreciate his concerns. I had a huge interest in the matter as a member of a local authority during the time that affordable housing was being issued. Many young people got their first kickstart into buying a home for themselves that way.

These issues are included in the policy of the €5.3 billion that has been allocated by the Government to build houses. It is important to remember that we are at the beginning of a different kind of housing environment in this country. The Government is focused on being able to put in place more affordable housing across the board for anybody who wants to be able to buy a property, particularly young people and first-time buyers, which has already started, and particularly around people who want to come back and live in their own community. While there are no plans to introduce an affordable housing scheme at this time, we are confident that the wide range of measures being taken by the Government in the context of Rebuilding Ireland will provide opportunities for people to access good quality housing at a price level that they can afford. The increased supply is already starting to come on-stream and it is expected that it will be fast tracked considerably over the coming months.

I take on board what the Deputy has said; he speaks with great knowledge of the issue. I will relay his message back to the Minister, Deputy Coveney. The Deputy will speak to the Minister himself and we will have opportunity to speak together ourselves.

Medicinal Products Availability

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I tabled a written question on 24 January asking what the status of talks were between Vertex and the HSE. The reply stated that talks resumed last December and the Minister stated at the end of February that a decision would be made in a matter of weeks. It has now been months. It has been a very frustrating ten months for people in respect of this issue. On 28 and 29 March I received calls from parents of CF children saying Vertex had contacted them to say no contact had been made with it since 2 February. I submitted this Topical Issue matter on 30 March and unfortunately the Minister has not been available since then. Maybe he was waiting for today.

Cystic fibrosis awareness week starts this week. I watched Jillian McNulty last night on the "Claire Byrne Live" show, as well as Ronan and Linda, the parents of young Finn, and Aidan, who are waiting for Orkambi. I believe the talks started again last week. The price has gone down but it looks like the HSE is looking for a package for future drugs like VX-661, which is really a game changer for people with CF. Members of the CF community feel they have been pawns in this process, between Vertex putting them under huge anxiety and the Minister suggesting earlier this year that there would be announcements imminently. Vertex was looking after its own self-interest there, as well.

I would particularly like to mention Hazel Robinson, a mother who has been camping outside these Houses for the last few days. She has a young daughter who has CF. I got word that there could be a statement in the Dáil today and I presume that is why the Minister, Deputy Harris, is in the Chamber. I hope the statement is a positive one. If it is not people will be very angry tomorrow at the demonstration at 1 o'clock. I hope they will be out there celebrating rather than being angry.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny I think the Minister might have good news. I was looking at his Twitter account. We will see in a few minutes. Hopefully it is good news for the many people who have been waiting for an end to this long drawn-out saga. Hopefully weeks will turn to minutes now. As Deputy Collins said, there is a young mother, Hazel Robinson, outside the Dáil at this moment. She has been sleeping there for the last three days. She is campaigning for her own daughter, Gypsy Anne.

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