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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly] There is no way that the budget provisions for justice can ensure that the 50 recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland can be implemented. It is impossible given the timelines suggested by the commission. After everything we have learned about policing and justice in this country, surely the Government should be taking it seriously. I note that there is no provision for the use of ICT, in particular, CCTV, across the country, which is badly needed to combat increasing crime levels.

On business, I welcome the allocation of €10 million for the IDA property portfolio. I suggest that it should be targeted and not follow the along the lines of the 2040 strategy, which is a complete joke and should be shredded.

On housing, the measures introduced for landlords are incredible. So that the public is not deceived, the changes relating to interest that can be deducted by landlords for loans - up to 100% - means that landlords are now in a better position to buy property and houses than working couples, for example, a garda and an IT worker or a nurse and a teacher. Landlords are being incentivised by this change, and are now in a better financial position to buy a house than those couples. That is a fact. It is the reality of this budget. Is it any wonder that one of the first organisations to come out and welcome the budget today and to welcome this change was the Irish Property Owners Association? It is an example of Fine Gael targeting its core base.

We have heard much talk from Fianna Fáil about affordability and the measures to be brought forward. We have no detail on the proposals, however. How are we going to ensure that this subsidy is not just going to be added to the price of a house? What is in this budget for those who are renting? There is absolutely nothing for them. Where is the tying of rents to the consumer price index, CPI? It is nowhere to be seen. There must be a mass injection of capital into housing, as the Labour Party has proposed. Local authorities must be given the power to make compulsory purchase orders. The Kenny report must be implemented, and CPI-based rents must be introduced. That is what is required in the area of housing, but it has not happened.

The example of the infamous granny flat grant proposed by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, shows what a mockery is being made of housing under this Government and is one of the best reasons for a general election, which I believe this budget is preparing for. He has espouse the idea at length. He has just announced that it is still in the pipeline; it is going to be tested out to make sure it is viable. It is going to be tested out on one property.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne It will be tested on one lucky granny.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I have a funny feeling the selected property will be in Rathdown.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy I believe it is actually in Clondalkin.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It will be next door to Stepaside Garda station.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Faced with an absolutely shameful housing and homelessness emergency, a crumbling health service which is inflicting such hardship and suffering on so many of those who use it, a climate emergency that is galloping towards us, a further education system that is in dire need of investment as our universities tumble in the world rankings, and in a society that is marked by some of the greatest levels of inequality and deprivation in the western world, this budget is a complete non-event. It does not scratch the surface of the most serious and pressing social issues facing huge numbers of our citizens.

The failure to address the housing crisis adequately is the most disappointing aspect of this budget. Some 10,000 people are living in emergency accommodation, including 4,000 children whose childhoods are being stolen from them due to the failure of the Government's policies. It is a shameful situation. There are 140,000 families, adding up to 500,000 people, on the housing list at the moment with almost no hope of ever getting a council house. Some 70,000 families are in serious mortgage distress, and a whole generation of young people have no prospect of ever being able to afford a home of their own and who can barely afford to pay the extortionate rents on offer in the private rental market at the moment. Faced with that emergency, and following the enormous demonstration that occurred last week, one would have thought that this Government would have done something dramatic and radical to address the situation and its policy failures in this area, but it has done nothing. It can spin the figures as much as it likes, but if one parses what the Minister said, he has not broken from the failed Rebuilding Ireland plan in the slightest. Rebuilding Ireland promises 9,540 new social housing units in 2019. Not all of those are council housing. The Minister said today that that dismal figure will increase to 10,000. The target is increasing by 460. Will that dismal target be met? If one looks at the target for 2018 one discovers that in all four Dublin county councils, in the first six months of this year a grand total of 203 council houses have been delivered, including 16 in Dublin itself. There are 20,000 families on the list in Dublin and 16 houses have been delivered for the city. There are 40,000 people on the housing list in the four Dublin county councils and only 203 council houses have been delivered. That is not even close to the target the Government set, which is itself a dismal target that will not even scratch the surface, in circumstances where there are 144,000 families on the housing list nationwide. It is pathetic, and an insult to the people in emergency accommodation and to children whose lives are being wrecked by this crisis.

The Government has not acknowledged that Rebuilding Ireland is a failure. However, it has given an additional €121 million in housing assistance payments, HAP, to private landlords who are creaming in the profits on the backs of the misery of those suffering from this crisis. To add insult to injury, the Government wants to give landlords more tax relief on the moneys they borrow to buy into the private rental sector. That is extremely shocking. Landlords will be given a tax break so that they can buy properties they can rent in this disastrous rental market, or refurbish existing properties. Nobody has mentioned this, but the incentive to refurbish existing properties will incentivise the evictions we have already seen, where landlords exploit loopholes in the residential tenancies legislation. Landlords will get tax breaks if refurbishments are carried out, which justifies the eviction of tenants. One of the major reasons tenants are being evicted is so that so-called substantial refurbishments can be carried out. The Government is now incentivising this and providing landlords with the justification to evict more people. It is unbelievable. I am not sure whether the Minister of State was following the case in Sandyford that I was involved in during the week, which demonstrated how these loopholes are being exploited by I-RES REIT which was invited here by the Government and which is now one of the biggest corporate landlords in the State. It bought property from NAMA for a song, and this week it tried to exploit a loophole left in the legislation to increase the rents of their tenants in Sandyford's Beacon South Quarter by 25% to 35%. The average rental price of the units in that development is €2,200, and the proposals would have seen that increase to €2,800. I met the residents, and I could not believe they were paying €2,200. I was shocked at that. Who can afford €2,200 a month in rent? Still, I-RES REIT wanted to increase the price to €2,800, and the Government has allowed a loophole that would permit such an increase.

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