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 Header Item Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2015: Messages from Select Committees
 Header Item Housing Affordability: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 865 No. 2

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Message from Select Committee

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has completed its consideration of the Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2014 without amendment.

Estimates for Public Services 2015: Messages from Select Committees

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimates for public services for the service of the year ending on 31 December 2015: Votes 35 and 36; and the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimates for public services for the service of the year ending on 31 December 2015: Votes 27 and 28.

Housing Affordability: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael McGrath on Tuesday, 27 January 2015:

That Dáil Éireann:

notes:

— the significant fall in home ownership rates in Ireland;

— the legitimate aspiration of families to own their own home;

— that the lack of housing supply is causing distortions in the property market;

— that the dramatic increase in rents and the failure to increase rent supplement supports have put many individuals and families at serious risk of homelessness; and

— that 90,000 persons are currently on the social housing waiting lists around the country;

and

agrees that:

— action is required to improve housing affordability, particularly in respect of mortgage interest rates;

— the level of savings required should not be prohibitive thereby preventing people from buying their first properties or progressing to a second home;

— a coordinated initiative by Government and local authorities is needed to improve the supply of new housing; and

— the rent supplement scheme be urgently reviewed to take account of current rents in the market place.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
"acknowledges that:
— the construction sector and the housing market were very heavily affected by the economic downturn and the bursting of the property bubble; and

— a poorly regulated banking sector, with lax lending standards combined with pro-cyclical and inappropriate fiscal policies adopted by the previous Government, led to a property bubble, the consequences of which are still evident throughout the country;
recognises the importance of ensuring a strong and sustainable construction sector and housing market that meets the needs of the economy and society;

notes that:
— in 2014 a total of 11,016 homes were completed in comparison to 93,019 units completed at the peak of the housing bubble; and

— at the peak of the housing bubble in 2007 over 270,000 persons were directly employed in the sector and that by 2012 this figure was below 100,000;
further acknowledges that new housing supply - both social and private housing - is a key issue that needs to be, and is being, addressed;

notes:
— in this context, that the Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy for a Renewed Construction Sector is focused on addressing constraints that are inhibiting new housing supply, including as regards planning, mortgage and development finance, infrastructure and public investment, standards and regulation and education and skills;

— in addition, the recent announcement of the Government’s Social Housing Strategy 2020 and the Government’s commitment therein to deliver 35,000 new social housing units over the period to 2020;

— the additional €2.2 billion in funding announced for social housing in budget 2015 and the publication of the Social Housing Strategy 2020 in November 2014, which builds on the provisions contained in budget 2015 and sets out clear, measurable actions and targets to increase the supply of social housing, reform delivery arrangements and meet the housing needs of all households on the housing list;

— that the Central Bank has recently issued macro-prudential proposals in relation to residential mortgage lending and will shortly make decisions in relation to these in accordance with its independent mandate in such matters; and

— the encouraging signs of a recovery in the construction sector and the housing market;
and

agrees that a whole-of-Government approach to the implementation of Construction 2020 and the Social Housing Strategy 2020 will deliver a sustainable housing market that meets the needs of our society."

- (Minister of State at the Department of Taoiseach, Deputy Dara Murphy)

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice: Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice I commend Fianna Fáil on its motion. This issue needs to be talked about. It is sad to note this evening the number of Ministers and Deputies on the other side who have walked out on one of the most important issues we could talk about in the country. Some 57,000 people face eviction over the next 18 months. They will basically be thrown out of their houses. There will probably be 57,000 more on rent allowances. People are being thrown out of their homes because the rent allowance did not even cover the rent they must pay each week.

We, as a nation, can keep burying our heads in the sand over this. We can remain in denial but, sooner or later, we must face up to the mortgage crisis. For the past four or five years, there was silence in respect of it but, over the next year however, it will become rampant. The House needs to get together constructively to sort out the problems we face in the next year to 18 months.

There are problems right around the country. I would like the Minister of State, Deputy Ann Phelan, to listen to me very carefully. A director of services in a certain county can buy houses for 50% of the price that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is stating they should be got for. Sadly, however, that director of services is being told he must go to a greenfield site, have new sewerage and water services installed and, above all, get consultants to resolve the problem. The country loves consultants. This is frustrating various councils around the country and I ask the Government to examine this. If two houses can be got for the price of one, I would class it as good value for money. We must resolve this problem. If we do not do so, it will become even worse and cost the country even more. As a Dáil, we should sit down and resolve the mortgage crisis once and for all.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace As the Minister of State well knows without my telling her, housing provision is a very big problem in Ireland and it is likely to remain very challenging. The latest rulings concerning the Central Bank will present significant challenges for the State. I am not saying the Central Bank is mad but the idea of encouraging people to buy homes they cannot afford to pay for is not a good one. This is how sub-prime mortgages arose. This trend began in America. The Government must get in tune with what the Central Bank is saying and doing. Many people who bought apartments in Dublin in the past ten years did not buy them to keep them forever because many of them want to start families. The truth of the matter is that we did not build apartments that were suited to families; we built them for single people and couples. The apartments are not designed for family use and many people in apartments who wish to start a family will have to get a house. They will not be buying one because they will not be able to afford one. They will not be able to put up the deposit. They will be pushed into the private rental market and private rents will increase.

Companies such as Kennedy Wilson have bought many distressed properties in the State, in addition to distressed sites. It is now seeking permission to build houses and apartments on sites and it has no intention of selling them. These boys are in the rental market. The company is already a serious player in the market in Ireland and will become even more serious. Rent is a matter that the Government will have to address. It will have to get real over the fact that since many people are not able to buy homes, there will have to be a far greater range of social housing options available for them.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I support the motion. I welcome the opportunity to contribute on it although it falls way short given the wide range of measures that are required. One reason there is such a desire to own a home is because there is little choice. The choice is between going on the housing waiting list and trying to buy a house. One has security of tenure with a purchase unless one is in negative equity. Essentially, we need to get to a point where we have security of tenure and affordable rents that are in proportion to people's incomes. The problem is that the rental sector in Ireland is vastly different from that in many other countries, where people can make a rental property a home rather than a temporary solution until a more permanent one is found. We need to change our attitudes.

There is a significant hidden homelessness problem in Ireland. It has been largely supported by rent assistance but it also includes people who are at work and struggling to pay a very large proportion of their income in rent. This affects not only single people but also families with children. We will pay a price for allowing circumstances in which families must move every 18 months or so. There is a lack of security and certainty, even with regard to the schools children will go to. Therefore, this is a much more complex issue than it is perceived to be. We need a national housing strategy that examines landlords' and tenants' rights and responsibilities and a variety of other matters, such as where we can source funding. A source could be the European Investment Bank. We are only scratching the surface with this motion but it is important that it is on the agenda nonetheless.


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