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Budget Statement 2019

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Snippet Contents:

And the Independent Alliance, of course. We would not let it away with that. They should be prepared for a new wave of housing occupations as the activists involved in Take Back the City and those inspired by it, who have given new impetus to the housing movement we saw with 10,000 people out on the streets, again take action to highlight vacant housing and the resources that exist in our society that are not being used. That is what is necessary. It is necessary because the position of the Government and Fianna Fáil on housing is clear from this budget. They remain completely wedded to the idea of incentivising the private market to provide housing through a massive transfer of wealth to private landlords through HAP and an additional €120 million provided for in this budget. This is the equivalent of 700 public homes on public land every single year. The Government likes to pretend it is prudent and gives out about how we are not prudent. In respect of the incredible extra costs of pursuing such a right-wing ideological approach to the delivery of housing, which involves just paying landlords and saying that people's housing needs have been met, 50,000 out of the 70,000 social housing solutions about which it talks simply involve paying private landlords. The extra costs are incredible. The figures drawn from the research of Mel Reynolds and Rory Hearne show that providing 120,000 social housing units through HAP will be €33 billion more expensive than direct local authority provision over a 30-year period. A total of €1 billion a year is being wasted but it is not just being thrown nowhere - it is being transferred to private landlords.
There will be an extra €120 million in HAP and €18 million extra in the mortgage interest relief. Again, this is equivalent to 700 public homes on public land. As Deputy Boyd Barrett pointed out, this money is available in respect of loans used to purchase, improve or repair their residential property. Anyone who has been in rental accommodation and suffered the disastrous situation of being kicked out of his or her rental property under the guise of substantial renovations but in reality so that a landlord can hike up the rent will be sickened to know that their money - public money - is going to incentivise landlords and pay them to say do precisely that. These landlords say they are borrowing to carry out renovations, the public effectively pays for it and people find themselves homeless yet again. The Government's approach is not to say that there should be rent controls in a situation where rental yields are 7%, double those in Germany or the UK. No, the Government's approach is to shovel yet more money in the direction of landlords. Even by the most optimistic and generous interpretation of the figures being put forward for the building of social housing, at the most, one is talking about an increase of 5% when we face a massive crisis and, as has been pointed out, all the previous targets have been missed. Therefore, there are very serious questions about whether they will hit this time.
There has been an attempt to outsource responsibility for housing and to effectively privatise what is deemed to be social housing in terms of the use of HAP. There has also been an attempt to outsource responsibility to local authorities and to tell them that they simply need to build the houses. I sat in the gallery of South Dublin County Council yesterday. The former Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, came out to that council around two years ago and said money was no object when it came to building social housing. However, yesterday, councillors from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party voted together to effectively privatise 70% of council land at Kilcarbery. The land could have provided close to 1,000 social and genuinely affordable homes. Instead, it will only provide 300. These parties bear responsibility for this centrally but also locally. The answer to the housing crisis is simple. The Government can no longer say that it cannot be done overnight or in seven years because it now refusing to even implement plans that would have an impact in three or four years' time. It is not a question of not being able to magic up houses overnight because it is refusing to invest even at this extremely late stage in building the homes that are necessary - building 20,000 new public and affordable homes a year over five years to deliver 100,000 new homes to resolve the crisis. The Government refuses to do it precisely of its ideological and material commitment to the market and those who benefit from the market.
The rainy day fund has been the subject of an amount of discussion out there. This is the third year that it has featured in the budget. Each year it comes, it is more and more of a sick joke because there is a tidal wave of homelessness out there. There is a flood of social problems. It is monsoon season in terms of inequality yet the Government does not listen or want to know about any of that. Instead it wants to put an additional €500 million away this year. It just demonstrates how utterly out of touch it is. However, we should also remind everybody what the rainy day fund actually is. Under EU fiscal rules, it will not be possible to use the rainy day fund to spend on public services. The only circumstances under which the EU fiscal rules will allow this extra money that is not coming in through State revenue to be spent is in cases of "external shocks". What will an external shock look like? I think it looks a lot like what we saw in 2007 and 2008 in terms of a world economic crisis, bank collapses and the money then being used to bail out banks. Right now, while we have this immense housing crisis raging, the Government is effectively building up a bank bailout fund for future use.
Clearly, and to a degree understandably, the Minister had his head elsewhere yesterday and missed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report but he should not have missed the Climate Action Network report from a few months ago saying Ireland is the second worst in the EU in terms of meeting climate change targets.