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Private Members' Business. - Housing Policy: Motion.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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The following motion was moved by Deputy Gilmore on Tuesday, 17 December 2002:

That Dáil Éireann, concerned that Ireland is now facing its worst housing crisis since the foundation of the State having regard to the fact that new house prices have increased by almost 100% (more than four times the rate of inflation) since the election of the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government in 1997; that the numbers on the local authority waiting lists have increased from 26,000 to [1394]48,000; and that homelessness has increased to 6,000:

–condemns the following actions taken by the Government since the general election that have deepened the housing crisis including:

–cutting the provision in the Estimates for 2003 for social housing by 5%;

–abandoning the social housing provisions of the Planning and Development Acts;

–capping rent supplements for tenants in private rented dwellings;

–abolishing the first-time buyer's grant and increasing VAT on homes which, together, will add approximately €6,000 to the cost of purchasing a new home;

–and, particularly concerned at the abolition of the first-time buyer's grant and the capping of rent supplements, resolves that:

–the Housing (New House Grants etc.) Regulations, 1990 (Amendment) Regulations, 2002; and

–the Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 1) Regulations, 2002, be and are hereby annulled.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann,” and substitute the following:

“acknowledges the achievements of the Government in:

–focusing on increasing housing supply as the key response to the broad range of housing needs and demand;

–supporting record levels of housing output since 1997 with the prospect of a further record level of housing output being achieved in 2002;

–moderating the rate of house price increases;

–increasing the share of the housing market going to first-time purchasers;

–expanding the local authority housing programme to the highest level of output for 15 years;

–increasing voluntary housing output to the highest levels ever achieved in this country;

–reviewing and amending the social and affordable housing provisions of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, in order to ensure that the original objectives for which these provisions were enacted are met;

–introducing and resourcing an integrated strategy on homelessness; and

supports the continued action and commitment by the Government to focus housing expenditure on responding to the needs of low income [1395]households and those with special needs through a broad range of targeted initiatives.”

–(Minister for the Environment and Local

Government.)

Mr. Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I wish to share my time with Deputies Killeen, Haughey, O'Connor and Power.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison Zoom on Séamus Pattison That is agreed.

Mr. Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey There is a danger after such seasonal magnanimity that we will not be able to enter into the usual bonhomie of Private Members' motions.

As with all Private Members' motions, allowing for the inevitable level of hyperbole they contain, there is always something important in them that needs to be noted and that strikes a chord. With regard to one of the aspects of the Sinn Féin addendum, I presume we can now look forward to Sinn Féin supporting the next constitutional treaty on the EU since it seems to support one of the aspects of the Charter on Fundamental Rights, which is about housing, with which I agree.

It would not be fair to let the opportunity pass without complimenting Councillor Larry O'Toole, who is a member of my local authority in Dublin, on the work he does on the Traveller accommodation programme.

The motion refers to waiting lists having increased from 26,000 to 48,000. This is similar to hospital waiting lists or any other statistics. Almost anything can be done with them. We are all aware that a revised assessment of need was conducted recently and several new categories were created. The housing situation is far from perfect, but everyone who has dealt with it has made an honest attempt to prioritise the increase in housing supply. Deputy McManus, as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, did some innovative work, as did Deputy Howlin as Minister in the same Department and the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, when he was Minister. I have no doubt the current Minister, Deputy Cullen, will contribute to the considerable progress that has been achieved. There are gaps and none of us would be content with that.

It is a question of matching supply and demand. I listened to a radio programme where an expert suggested that, in about 18 months to two years, we will be very close to matching supply and demand. I doubt that is accurate but we must be reasonably close to it. The fact that house completions this year will probably exceed 52,000 is another sign of the Government's commitment. Despite what I have heard people say, there has been an attempt in Dublin to grapple with the issue and this reflects the seriousness with which all of us who are members of local authorities – for the present – treat the issue. The 25% increase in output is important.

I wish to focus on a few matters. One area that [1396]is making a significant contribution to housing supply is the voluntary housing sector. I am especially aware of this sector because of the input housing co-operatives make in the Ballymun area. Some of the best housing I have seen provided there has been built by a housing co-operative, Tógáil Developments. It is building affordable housing on a site in my neck of the woods in Finglas. Some 116 houses are under construction, all of them affordable homes for people who are getting on to the housing ladder. The same can be said for NABCO, Respond and Hale. This sector is undervalued. Building on small infill sites in city areas, some of which need to be built on to counter anti-social behaviour, and building only six or ten houses at a time is a valuable contribution to a local community.

The problem with such housing is the long lead-in time. I was instrumental, along with colleagues in the Labour Party, in trying to progress the affordable housing issue in Dublin North-West. Some of the people from Sinn Féin who tabled an amendment to this motion were not behind the door in ensuring that the planning process was obstructed every step of the way. We need to be more upfront and encourage this kind of housing development because it addresses a need.

We decided in our area of Dublin that all the houses we were going to build would be in the affordable housing category to achieve a balance between social, rented and purchased houses. I make no apologies for that. I have long held the view that many people are on housing lists only because they cannot afford to buy a house. If houses are available at a modest enough price, people will buy them. We have a long tradition of house purchase in this country and it is my belief that it will continue, especially in light of the example in Ballymun where we were able to sell good quality houses to purchasers for £100,000. It is achievable but with commitment. The Cherry Orchard project was mentioned and there are similar ones in Fingal.

The previous and current Ministers must be complimented on the innovative ways they have tried to address youth homelessness. Much more is being done now in this area than we would ever have thought possible. Undoubtedly, there is a sector – single men up to the age of 40 – whose housing needs must be addressed.

It is unfair to castigate all the housing initiatives the Government has pursued because considerable progress has been made in building houses for rental, purchase and social and affordable housing. I commend the Minister's amendment to the House.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power Zoom on Seán Power Following the publication of the Estimates some weeks ago, one item that attracted all the publicity was the abolition of the first-time buyer's grant. I received reactions from constituents to it, but the response in the House was exaggerated. Deputy McCormack made great play about Fine Gael's petition which it was [1397]trying to get people to sign in support of its opposition to the abolition of the grant. It is not that long ago, when the Minister, Deputy Cowen, was rebalancing charges, that there was another such stunt where the leader of Fine Gael marched down Grafton Street followed by a lorry-load of photographers. These gimmicks serve no purpose and Fine Gael Members' time would be better served trying to devise policies rather than such stunts.

We must acknowledge that the Minister, Deputy Cullen, has been very active since he came to office a few months ago. He has a large budget to deal with and it is vital, especially in current times, that the money is spent wisely. The Minister has obviously decided he can get better value for the money by some means other than giving it in the form of a grant that was first introduced in 1977. Regardless of what people say, it does not have the same importance today as it had when it was first introduced. I do not deny that it played an important part for many people when it came to doing their sums and paying for a house. However, to look on it in that fashion is simplistic. A much more detailed and multi-pronged approach must be taken by the Minister towards dealing with housing.

The Planning and Development Act, 2000, especially Part V, has been closely scrutinised. It deals with housing supply provisions and is based on the principle that communities should benefit from a decision by a local authority to zone land for residential development. The intention was that local authorities would be allowed to use up 20% of the land or houses for voluntary, social or affordable housing. The idea was good but, in the form in which it was introduced, it was seen as too rigid and needing change. While the intention was to increase the supply of both social and affordable housing, in reality this did not happen.

I reject claims that we are pandering to house builders.

What we are doing represents a sensible approach. We are acknowledging that a problem exists and, as the Minister said yesterday and the Taoiseach said today, if we had not introduced legislation the planning permission for 44,000 houses would wither at the end of this month. He is rectifying that and at the same time imposing levies on developers that will provide much needed funds for local authorities to deal with social and affordable housing.

It is the job of the Minister to provide more social housing. We should have learnt many lessons from the way we have built social housing. We cannot continue to build ghettos and put people in corners and classify them in a particular way, we must have total integration. However, we must also provide housing at a competitive price for people who want to buy their own homes. A number of initiatives were taken by the previous Government. We had the Bacon reports that examined the issue thoroughly. While we introduced measures that undoubtedly had some suc[1398]cess, there is still a serious problem and the process of rezoning land leaves much to be desired.

Landowners have too much control and it is wrong that land can increase in value overnight by anything from 20 to 50 times as a result of the decision of a local authority. In many cases farms are not being bought for agricultural purposes but because of their potential development value. The Minister should give more power to the local authority to acquire land and zone it so that we do not have to pay the huge prices we have been paying.

Mr. Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen Zoom on Tony Killeen We must acknowledge that the first step that must be taken towards addressing housing shortages and prices is to match supply to demand. Deputy Power mentioned the many initiatives taken by the previous Government on foot of the various Bacon reports. In some instances, they enjoyed a level of success but in general it was necessary to revisit and change the policies frequently. One difficulty with supply and demand is that it seems to be difficult to match the supply with the demand in various areas of the country. Even when record numbers of houses are being built nationally, as is now the case, there is a continuing difficulty in that insufficient housing is being provided in certain areas.

The national spatial strategy outlines the numbers of households that will require housing over the next 18 years. It estimates that in 2000 there were 1.25 million households in the country and, depending on growth in the economy, that would be likely to be between 1.9 million and 2.1 million by 2020. Even the more modest projection represents a massive increase in the numbers seeking housing. We have approximately 340 houses per 1,000 people whereas the EU average is 450 housing units per 1,000 of population. The population structure is changing rapidly and becoming more similar to that of continental Europe where a very substantial proportion of households consist of a single individual. For many social and economic reasons that is the trend in Ireland too.

As I have always said in these debates, the planning system is a major contributory factor to delays and cost, and it quite often gets its decisions wrong. In the context of the national spatial strategy, local authorities need to revisit their plans and zoning policies, particularly in areas designated as gateways and hubs, and perhaps more importantly in towns and villages immediately surrounding areas so designated. There will be pressure in these areas for development over the short to medium term.

We must also remember that property owners, including developers, have civil and constitutional rights like all citizens and public policy, including legislation, must take account of these rights. We must also remember that builders can go bankrupt even in good times. They have choices to make and often those choices are dictated by the banks and financial institutions rather than by the developers. It is clear they were unwilling to take their chances with some of the provisions of Part [1399]V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000. They clearly believed in many instances they would not get buyers for houses in estates where 20% was being allocated to the local authority. There was a belief that people would be afraid to invest in case their property became devalued. They were particularly concerned they might have to sell the property and move on. Even though it is not politically correct to acknowledge its existence, there was also clearly a fear of anti-social behaviour. However, we need to face up to the facts in that regard and deal with them.

Part V has been highly successful in the provision of housing and the rezoning of sufficient land for residential development. The withering of more than half of the 80,000 planning permissions had to be addressed in the next fortnight. This would undoubtedly have caused enormous difficulties which the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002, has addressed. I am no great lover of the levy but, in its favour, the proceeds go towards social and affordable housing. The changes in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002 will result in many more houses being available in the short-term than would have been the case in what otherwise would have been a crisis hold-up.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey I acknowledge that I have received complaints from constituents concerning the abolition of the first-time buyer's grant and the 1% increase in VAT. However, the terms of this motion wildly exaggerate the current situation and it therefore lacks credibility. The traditional job of the Opposition is to oppose, but that opposition should be based on rational arguments rather than over the top sound bites. I have some knowledge of Irish history as have all Members of this House. Since the foundation of the State the housing situation was far more difficult in times past than it is today. We have come a long way since independence.

Our active participation in the EU and the Government's economic policies including the sound management of public finances have resulted in low interest rates and, in particular, low mortgage interest rates. This has meant more people are now in a position to take out a mortgage and purchase a private house. That aspect of the Government's housing policy should not be overlooked in this debate. During this debate there has been little mention of the measures introduced in the recent budget to help first-time buyers. The first-time buyer's mortgage interest relief was increased by 25% to €4,000 per annum for a single person and €8,000 per annum for married or widowed people. The relief period was increased from five to seven years and, as a result, 45,000 first-time buyers will benefit.

I was a firm supporter of Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000. I spoke in favour of the provisions to increase the supply of social and affordable housing in this House. I also subscribed to the ideal of social integration, which [1400]was an integral part of the measure. I believed the common good was being served by the Bill and was delighted when the Supreme Court found this section to be constitutional. Therefore, I was disappointed to learn subsequently of the practical difficulties being experienced by local authorities and builders in implementing Part V. Nevertheless, I must accept the reality of the matter. The Minister had no option but to bring forward the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002, given that, for example, some 80,000 planning permissions would have been wiped out at the end of this month. Part V was also considered inflexible and bureaucratic by local authorities and builders and would not work on the ground.

I welcome the retention in the Bill of the principle of Part V. The new arrangements introduce flexibility and I am confident the Government's aims and objectives can now be achieved. I also welcome the Minister's commitment that the new regime will not mean that builders will be allowed to provide new estates with no social links or infrastructure at the edges of communities and that social integration remains one of his key objectives.

The Government has pursued policies to increase the supply of housing. In particular, it continues to increase investment in the provision of serviced land for housing. It is also promoting more effective use of this land through improved planning guidelines on residential densities notably by pursuing the objectives outlined in Sustainable Development, A Strategy for Ireland, published in 1997, as well as the high density guidelines for local authorities published in 1999, and the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area published in March 1999. The implementation of these strategies and guidelines has been controversial, certainly in the Dublin region where many traditional communities have felt threatened by them.

Traditional neighbourhoods have witnessed the demolition of old traditional houses and their replacement by high density apartment blocks and while planning applications for such developments generate significant opposition, nevertheless, it is necessary to pursue these guidelines and strategies in the interests of providing suitable housing. We need to resolve these difficulties at local level. I support the provisions on the basis that they provide new housing units and demonstrate the Government's determination to address housing matters.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor Zoom on Charlie O'Connor I wish to be associated with the remarks made with regard to the Christmas season. I wish colleagues a very happy Christmas and thank those of them who have been very kind to new Members, such as myself, who entered the House very raw and with little knowledge of the Houses.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen I am not sure “raw” is the correct description.

[1401]Mr. O'Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor Zoom on Charlie O'Connor They have looked after me very well during the past 195 days and I appreciate it. I am pleased to note the attendance of the Minister of the State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Noel Ahern, who visited Tallaght this week to commemorate those young and not so young people from our community who died as a result of drug abuse and related matters. The event gave us an opportunity to focus on the fact that, at Christmas, we need to remember that there are people suffering in our communities.

Christmas is a time to focus on homelessness. although the problem should not only be raised at this time. Those of us familiar with our towns and streets will be aware that it is still a problem. While I do not wish to be too parochial, I have often noticed that in major population centres such as Tallaght, which has the third largest population in the country, we should not have to send people in crisis, homeless people, elsewhere to access services. In our case they are sent by bus into Dublin city centre. We need to continue to highlight this issue and ensure that local authorities and health boards act to provide services and facilities at the source of the problem. People should not have travel for miles to access services. In County Mayo, as Deputy Ring frequently points out, people must travel hundreds of miles, while in the case of Tallaght, people have to travel eight miles, which causes major problems.

I bring to the House ten years' experience of this issue on my local authority. Many people in my constituency need houses. In the South Dublin County Council administrative area the figure is 4,500 families. As a Government backbencher, I am not afraid to point out the problem and will continue to highlight it in the House at every opportunity. However, the amendment also acknowledges the problem. While it is important we continue to tell the Government these matters need to be addressed, we must also continue to be innovative in our dealings with local authorities and ensure that the schemes in place help create an environment in which as many people as possible, particularly young people, are able to afford their own homes or are allowed to access local authority accommodation. The problem we have in South Dublin County Council applies equally to the rest of the country.

Opposition Members frequently express scepticism about the willingness of Government backbenchers to make such points. I am not afraid to do so. My role is to work with the Government of the day to highlight these matters and request they receive attention, whether by legislation or through other measures.

During the past seven months I have found Private Members' business to be productive in this regard. This is not intended as a backhanded compliment to the Opposition. Private Members' time is a democratic process which gives us all an opportunity to engage in debate. Every week, notably this week, issues of concern in our constituencies are raised. It is important we continue [1402]to highlight and focus on the issue of housing and continue to remind the Government that there are problems, for example, with regard to the public perception of the Government's attitude to the issue.

Members raised the response of the public to the abolition of the first-time buyer's grant and other initiatives. The number of calls I receive on these issues has increased enormously since I entered the House. Even this morning I received several calls about housing issues. Some people were upset about affordable housing, others about the abolition of the first-time buyer's grant and one very articulate lady pointed out that she will be caught by the new VAT increase because she was held up by the builder. I support the amendment.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen I thought the Deputy would vote for the motion.

Ms Harkin: Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin I, too, wish all my colleagues and everybody who works in Leinster House a very happy Christmas and an interesting new year. Last Saturday and Sunday all the newspapers I read featured full page coloured advertisements on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The heading read: “We are working to build an inclusive society”. Beside a photograph of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Coughlan, the text stated: “This Government is most anxious to protect the weak and vulnerable in our society and to safeguard the gains made in building social inclusion”.

Having checked, the approximate cost of each of these advertisements is about €30,000. Perhaps €150,000 or €180,000 of taxpayers' money was spent in just one weekend to promote the political ambitions of the Government. Our money is being spent to tell us the Government is anxious to promote social inclusion. Contrast that assertion with the statements in this Private Members' motion. The number on local authority waiting lists has increased from 26,000 to 48,000 while the number of homeless people has increased to 6,000. There was a 5% cut in the Estimates for social housing in 2002 and the first time buyer's grant has been abolished. Is this building an inclusive society?

It is an eye-opener to look at how this Government treats investors in the housing market compared to first time buyers. Investors in new housing have been able to offset full mortgage repayments against tax liability. That relief is capped for ordinary home owners, those who live in their houses, but investors, those with money to spare and to spend, have full tax relief. In reality, most investors are effectively paying no tax on the acquisition of houses or apartments because mortgage interest can be fully offset against their income from rental income. In designated urban renewal areas, investors are doubly favoured. The richer one is, the more one can write off. How does this compare to the treat[1403]ment of first time buyers? Is this building an inclusive society?

On the front page of one of the Sunday newspapers carrying the €30,000 political advertisement we were informed that one quarter of the highest earners paid no income tax in 2000. In fact, a study by the Revenue Commissioners for 1999-2000 showed that 63% of the Republic's top 117 earners had an effective tax rate of less than 10%. The main tax incentives include property based capital allowances. The front page told one story – the real story courtesy of the Revenue Commissioners – but inside we saw the fairy tale and, to add insult to injury, we paid for it at €30,000 per page. This is scandalous at any time but particularly so when we are all subject to cutbacks. If the taxpayers' money that was spent last weekend on political advertising was diverted to first time buyers, approximately 40 first time buyers would now have their grants and would be better able to compete with investors in the property market. That might be the start of building an inclusive society.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath First, I wish you, Acting Chairman, the Minister of State, Deputies and staff of the Houses a happy and peaceful Christmas. It is refreshing to see a member of the Technical Group in the Chair.

I strongly support the motion on the housing crisis. Before I go into the details of the motion, it is important we remind ourselves of the reality of the housing crisis – the worst since the foundation of the State. I am particularly critical of Deputy Power who said he got no serious representations on the abolition of the first time buyer's grant and the housing crisis. Deputy O'Connor, however, told the real story about the telephone calls and the queries he got from constituents. There are 48,000 people on local authority housing waiting lists and 6,000 homeless people. House prices have increased by more than four times the rate of inflation, the first time buyer's grant has been abolished and the VAT increase will add another €6,000 to the cost of buying a new home. This is the real world of the wealthy Irish State in 2002. Instead of helping the people, the Government is going out of its way to punish and put down young couples and the poor and homeless.

This motion deals with the reality of the housing crisis. The local authority housing waiting list has increased by 22,000 since 1997. The problem is that the Government parties, particularly the larger party, have an inside track which nobody wishes to discuss or mention. The people on the waiting lists are not regular voters and form part of the 40% which constantly stays away on polling day. Sadly, the large party knows this and thinks it can get away with it. I would say to people that there is no point whingeing or giving out about the Government or political parties if they stay away and do not vote on election day. It is not very democratic and if they keep doing [1404]that, nothing will change. I urge people to take their vote seriously in the interests of fair play and, above all, democracy.

The abolition of the first time buyer's grant is a disgrace and the capping of the rent supplement is an act of human and social vandalism. There is also the scandal of low paid full-time workers who do not qualify for any support towards their housing costs. We need to be radical and creative to help the people. Why not fund social housing programmes through increased taxes? Why not introduce a levy on building land to capture the windfall profits of landowners and developers? These are tough decisions but they would make a serious dent in the 48,000 local authority housing waiting list. These are just a few small ways to resolve the problem but we must first accept that there is a crisis.

Many TDs seem to be living on Mars. If we sat down and brought in a five year plan or strategy to provide 10,000 social housing units per year over five years, it would make a serious dent in the crisis. We should set ourselves targets and get on with it. I urge Members to support the motion.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins I strongly support the motion in the name of Deputy Gilmore. When the history of the two terms of this Government is written, the housing crisis will go down as one of its most shameful legacies. A home is one of the key requirements for a dignified life. Shelter with reasonable comfort is a basic human right but one which is consistently violated by those who control the house building industry and those who speculate in building land. Land speculators and developers between them have violated the human right to a home for tens of thousands of people by profiteering in a most callous fashion and, in the short space of five or six years, doubling or trebling the price of a home thereby putting it out of the reach of ordinary working people.

The Government composed of two right wing parties, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, has not only colluded in this outrageous profiteering but is actively responsible for it. The one or two excuses for an intervention under the Bacon reports were just that – excuses.

Legislation has been brought before the House on many occasions in recent years to deal with those who visit anti-social activity on their neighbours and one could go to prison for acts of relatively petty vandalism but not a finger has been lifted against a much more serious class of vandal, those who profiteer in the housing market and who have had, as a result, the most anti-social effects on society and those who need a home.

The media also actively colludes with this profiteering and speculation. When teachers or any group of workers have sought a reasonable increase in their living standards through wages, all hell has broken loose with denunciations heaped on their heads. Not a word is said to speculators and developers by Independent Newspapers and the rest of the media. There is [1405]no outing of those who are holding this country and its population to ransom for the sake of private profit.

Unfortunately, there will not be time to discuss the rest of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002, which includes an extra cost that could have been covered by Deputy Gilmore's motion, that is, the 0.5% levy proposed on 80,000 houses, the planning permission for which expires at the end of this month. That would add €1,000 to the price of a home costing €200,000. The Minister stated, in a laughable part of his contribution, he intends that the levy will not be passed on to the purchaser of the house. He put forward a ludicrous provision that if the agreement of sale includes a requirement on a purchaser to pay the levy, it will be voided. However, everybody knows the price of a house will have increased because there is no control in that regard and the seller will add an extra €1,000 to the price of a house valued at €200,000.

In the 19th century, it took Michael Davitt, the Land League and a mass movement to sort out the rapacious landlords who held our country and people to ransom. We need a similar movement to sort out their modern day counterparts and the quicker the better.

Mr. Cuffe: Information on Ciaran Cuffe Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government must be living in cloud cuckoo land. He stated in the House several weeks ago that houses were still affordable because people were buying them. He has no idea of the difficulties faced by people who aspire to home ownership as the average cost of a home in the greater Dublin area is €250,000 while elsewhere it is €170,000. That is beyond the reach of the average individual or couple because the average industrial wage is only €26,000 and the average cost of a home is almost ten times the average industrial wage.

As regards applying for a mortgage on an average priced home in Dublin, if a Member whose partner was also a Member applied for a mortgage, under the normal lending criteria of the commercial banks which is two and a half times the salary of the principal earner plus one times the second income, he or she would not obtain mortgage approval. This demonstrates the cost of housing is beyond the means of individuals on average incomes.

More must be done in this area. It is not good enough to give developers the biggest Christmas present of the past ten years following the outcome of deliberations on social housing, which will be provided for in the housing Bill later. The Minister has produced a cop-out of outrageous proportions and he is playing into the hands of the building industry and developers. Is the Minister's name Ciaran Ryan rather than Martin Cullen because he quotes the Irish Homebuilders' Association and the Construction Industry Federation chapter and verse instead of listening to the pleas of ordinary people who wish to own their own homes?

[1406]The last time I checked there were 18,000 people on local authority housing lists in Dublin and the numbers have risen since. That does not take into account the tens of thousands who wish to buy a home but do not have an opportunity to do so in today's inflated housing market. The market is inflated because there is a select group of developers in Dublin and not because of a limitation in supply. The Minister of State knows their names as many of them are significant contributors to the funds of Fianna Fáil. This select group of people is holding on to vast chunks of property and paring off the land to keep the price of housing artificially high.

The Minister of State should tackle this cartel and I am outraged that instead of doing so he is playing into its hands through the changes proposed in the housing Bill. A derisory 0.5% levy will be applied to 80,000 planning permissions that are due to expire at the end of the month. How many houses will be built using the levy? The price of an average home in Dublin is €250,000, therefore the levy will generate €1,250. If a house costs more than €270,000, a 1% levy will be applied. How many affordable homes will be built from levy receipts?

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Who will pay for it?

Mr. Cuffe: Information on Ciaran Cuffe Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe Approximately 400 homes would be built by the State if the 80,000 planning permissions due to expire were taken up with only a few dozen houses being built in the Dublin local authority areas.

I support the motion. As Deputy Higgins said, we must go back to the principles of fair rent, fixity of tenure and so on. We must provide affordable housing for the people and that will not happen through the legislation that will be brought before us later.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan Zoom on Arthur Morgan We have tabled the following amendment:

To add the following to the motion:

“–the right to proper housing, to affordable accommodation is a basic inalienable right and should have constitutional status;

–there should be an immediate target of supplying suitable accommodation within two years for 70% of housing waiting lists applicants and a target set for the complete elimination of local authority waiting lists as recommended in the National Economic and Social Forum report on social and affordable housing;

–targets be set for the elimination of homelessness;

–the failure to fulfil commitments on Traveller housing be urgently addressed and new targets for urgent delivery of accommodation set; and

–the Department of Finance act on the recommendations of the National Economic and Social Council Report 110 that [1407]supports the implementation of a development land tax.”

I wish you, a Chathaoirligh, everybody on the island and Irish people everywhere a very happy Christmas. It will be a Fianna Fáil builders' new year and, while I do not suggest party members should engage in such activity, the fruits of their labour could be almost as lucrative and we could have considerably fewer problems.

Sinn Féin supports the motion but believes that, while its intention is extremely noble, it is set on too small a canvas. The Government will ignore the motion and wrap itself in the comfort blanket to which it has frequently resorted since the Budget Statement by habitually restating that when Labour and Fine Gael were in Government their record on housing and other issues was abysmal. No Government in the history of the State has managed to house all its citizens.

Let us examine what successive Governments have done in recent years. Those who have been housed have been held to ransom and forced to spend tens of thousands of euro more buying a house than is economically necessary. They have, through Government inaction and, in many cases, protection of vested interests, been forced to line the pockets of property developers and speculators. Former Members and perhaps even current Members have been involved.

Those who could not afford exorbitant house prices spent years on local authority waiting lists and the numbers are still increasing. When they were housed, the problems did not end, as quick fix mass building of housing schemes often meant thousands of families were relocated in isolated estates on the periphery of urban centres with no access to public transport, schools, health services or something as basic as a shop.

Our amendment provides for a statutory housing policy that is fair to everybody to ensure our citizens are entitled to housing as of right and if this was implemented the nightmare would end. We know why homelessness has doubled in recent years and commitments to the Traveller community have not been met but our amendment sets out the minimum expectation. The rights of people to housing and affordable, adequate accommodation need to be enshrined in the Constitution. Only then can Governments be forced to live up to their commitments to house all our citizens.

The amendment also sets down a marker about previous failures by all parties. If the coalition parties oppose the amendment which seeks something as clear as a statement on when they propose to end homelessness and house all our citizens, what will they say to the public if they cannot be honest about this? What hope is there for the Government's accountability and credibility?

The Government amendment does not deal with any of the issues involved and is a cop-out. This brief debate does not recognise the seriousness of the situation but the contributions have [1408]quantified the hardship involved for people on the streets. This is not a matter of figures on pages. Real people are involved. The homeless, Travellers and those in inferior accommodation are not getting any help from the Government; their efforts to provide housing for themselves are being hindered, which is unfortunate.

The Government has not offered any solutions in this debate, though some Deputies have spoken about the representations they have received. Why are their representations so different from those we receive? It is certainly not the same story.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus I propose to share my time with Deputies Wall, Penrose, Sean Ryan and Durkan.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Carey): Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Is that agreed? Agreed.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus I welcome Deputy Gilmore's initiative in highlighting the disgraceful record of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats on the housing crisis and their total failure to deal with the problems faced by thousands of people. It is a terrible legacy from the last Government and it now seems the situation will get worse rather than better under this Government. Rather than having a policy that makes sense and which has some strategic sense, we have policy being made and then unmade, as in the proposed changes to the Planning and Development Act.

The message is now going out that when the builders bark, the Government comes to heel. We are now seeing a turning of the screw for young people in particular when they are trying to put a roof over their heads, while the tap is being turned on for developers and builders. It is “Groundhog Day” when it comes to the relationship Fianna Fáil has had in the past with builders, though many people had hoped there might be some change given the revelations appearing in other arenas and the new context in which we live.

I received an e-mail from the mayor of Greystones in which he points out that a local developer, Zapi Properties, received planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for 1,040 houses in Greystones, overruling Wicklow County Council's refusal. The developers will benefit by approximately 15 million from this generous Bill. He says: “This is a great windfall for them at a time when we are being told there is no money for social facilities. I think that the Government seems to be running the country for the benefit of developers, not for the rest of the people”.

He goes on:

The application was submitted shortly before Wicklow County Council adopted a policy of 20% social housing. Permissions granted without social housing have a two year life and lapse then. Developers would have to reapply and then the 20% would kick in. However, this new Bill removes this lapsing and the devel[1409]oper will pay a small contribution (between 0.5% and 1%) towards social housing. Zapi will be saving about 200 sites' worth, say €100,000 each, €20 million, and their housing contribution will probably be less than €2 million.

That is devastating in terms of the imbalance now being created in favour of speculators, developers and builders and against those desperately trying to make homes for themselves. The latter look to this and the previous Government, in a time of plenty, to ensure they could be offered this opportunity, yet in this debate we have seen the clear extent to which the Government has denied these hopes. The cut in the social housing allocation is extraordinary when numbers on the waiting list have doubled, as is the withdrawal of the first time house buyer's grant at a time when people are struggling with enormous prices for houses. People can see their chances going.

The Minister should also address the position of the Simon Community. We are very fortunate to have voluntary housing organisations which assist in meeting the needs of those who may be homeless or suffering from problems which make it difficult for them to house themselves. The Simon Community has issued a press release stating that its funding is unclear. I ask the Minister of State to make it clear today that Simon will get the money it needs and that that commitment at least will be made. At a time when serious cutbacks are being made we cannot allow the homeless, who are vulnerable, weak and voiceless, to be denied.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I thank Deputy McManus for sharing her time.

Without one's own house Christmas is not a very happy time, while those in rented accommodation may have major problems in the new year. Capping the rent subsidy will have major consequences for them. It is practically impossible to get rented accommodation in Athy and elsewhere in south Kildare, which is a rural area, and it is equally difficult in the cities.

A major problem is that many of the landlords are faceless people who use letting agencies and auctioneers to let their property. Capping the rent subsidy endangers people in rented accommodation because landlords may raise the rent and put it beyond the reach of the tenant. That is a major problem in this area and the Minister of State should make clear how such problems can be solved. No legislation has been put in place to protect tenants and it has been impossible in my local authority area to identify landlords, despite the fact that there are practically entire housing estates being leased out. The local authority does not know who the landlords are.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern Why does the local authority not get out and knock on the doors?

[1410]Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall The Minister of State should not get upset when I am telling the truth. The local authority does not have the officials to go out and knock on doors. In any case the tenants are all working. Does the Minister of State expect the officials to work nights as well?

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern Why not?

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall There are no facilities in place and the Minister of State has no intention of putting in place mechanisms to protect tenants from landlords.

There is also the issue of the first time buyer's grant. In south Kildare a number of developers saw the potential for building houses under the shared ownership scheme and this had major consequences for first time buyers. The first-time buyer's grant gave people the chance to buy furniture. A number of developers identified this market. They saw that the market for the €170,000 house was gone and so they built lower priced houses which sold like hot cakes. The Minister for Finance then did away with the grant.

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose I wish to compliment my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, on tabling this motion. I speak as someone who had to depend on the local authority to provide a house for my family. The cuts in the social housing provision by 5% for next year together with the cap on rent supplements for the private rented dwelling sector, the abolition of the first-time house buyer's grant and increasing VAT on homes, is a cocktail of negativity for people who are without hope in many cases. Some of those measures gave them hope.

Capping of the rent supplement for private rented accommodation announced by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs is the equivalent of another cutback and it will affect thousands of low income families and tenants who will be exposed to the full extent of rent increases. This supplement is paid by the health boards to tenants who are on social welfare and cannot afford to pay the high rents now being charged by private landlords. The Government's decision to cap the amount which the health boards could pay is a charter for landlords to evict tenants. They will increase the rent charged so that it will be above the level of the cap and if the tenant cannot pay they will have to go.

Instead of the Government taking the brave decision to introduce legislation to deal with the situation as outlined by Deputy Wall, to cap rents and give rights to tenants, it has used the supplementary welfare system to try to control rents in the private sector. It is a nonsense. The people in rented accommodation have been hit with rent increases over the past few years and rents are now so high that most families cannot afford to pay them without resort to the health board for supplementary assistance.

It is the existing poor tenants who will sustain [1411]and suffer the full impact of this retrograde measure. I suggest that there should be a cap on rents and not on the rent allowances. The Government has failed to cap rents and also failed to introduce legislation to protect tenants in line with the recommendations which my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, advocates in the House every day. He recommends that the recommendations of the commission on the private rented sector be implemented. Nobody can be found to draft simple legislation that will protect those who are suffering. This is the third major housing cut in the space of a week. The Government has already abolished the first-time buyer's grant. Was any thought given to the effect that will have on the affordable housing provision? Most people used the first-time buyer's grant as a down payment to get into affordable housing. I know a number of prospective buyers in Mullingar who are in that position and will not now be unable to take up that offer. They will remain on the list and will be looking for a local authority house. The Minister is cutting off his nose to spite his face. The Government is very friendly with the builders who are annoyed over the increase in VAT. Why were transitory provision measures introduced on 4 December?

Acting Chairman: Deputy Ryan, I wish to clarify if you are sharing with Deputy Durkan.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan Zoom on Seán Ryan Yes. I am disgusted at the lack of commitment by the Minister and his Department in efforts to find out what is happening in my local authority. The Minister made particular reference in his speech last night to the affordable scheme that is part and parcel of the Fingal County Council programme. A situation exists in the local authority area where people who have been on an affordable list for the past three or four years are now being taken off it because they earn over the income limit of €32,000.

The Government and the local authorities are going outside the Act in implementing that rule. The Act provides that affordable houses may be sold or leased to eligible persons and the Act defines an eligible person as a person who is in need of accommodation and whose income would not be adequate to meet the payments of a mortgage for the purchase of a house to meet his or her accommodation needs because the payments calculated over the course of a year would exceed 35% of the person's annual income. There is no reference, good, bad or indifferent, to a limit of €32,000 in relation to the allocation of affordable houses.

For this Department or any Minister or local authority to implement a scheme that takes people who have no opportunity of getting a mortgage of their own from financial institutions off the list and then discriminate against them is totally illegal. I will take it to Europe and to the Supreme Court if necessary. I want the Minister [1412]of State or the senior Minister and his officials to come clean for once and for all.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I thank my colleagues in the Labour Party for affording me the opportunity to speak on this important motion. Deputy Ryan is quite correct in his interpretation of the housing Acts. The rules now being applied are totally without legal precedent. The problem was evident in the days of the Minister's predecessors. When Deputy Dempsey was Minister he was like Caesar asking where the smoke was coming from. The Minister of State at that time asked “What crisis?”. The crisis did not exist. It is still here and it has become more serious. It appears that the Government parties do not understand the problem; it is outside their ambit of comprehension. They have failed to recognise how it affects ordinary people.

Middle income groups are no longer able to acquire a home of their own. They are joining the housing lists and the lists are expanding. Interest rates are low and investors are investing in the housing market. They are now part of the lending market as they buy up scores of houses and apartments. The poorest and most unfortunate people with families are paying some landlord's mortgage, an investor's mortgage. We have a moral obligation in this House to ensure that those who are in need of a home have the means of getting it. It is not our obligation to ensure that the landlord has a good return on his investment.

I thought that the new Ministers understood the situation. The Minister of State lives in the city and I thought he would understand fully what is happening and that there was a need for urgent action. There are now more homeless people in Dublin than in London. What are we doing?

Other speakers have said that various Governments were not able to appease the housing market but that is not true. In the 1980s when we had no money it was possible to meet the housing needs of all our people. In the meantime the Government has copped out. In the late 1980s when the Government cut back in all directions, it forgot that it would have to rebuild.

I am appalled that the Government has presided over what was a deplorable situation and has made it worse. I do not know when that has happened previously in the history of this State, but I appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, to recognise the problem and do something about it before it is too late.

Acting Chairman: The Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, has three minutes.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern): It is a pity I do not have longer because I cannot adequately reply in three minutes. The motion is off the wall. There are some decent points in it, but there are also some nonsensical [1413]ones, some of which are factually incorrect and some with which nobody could agree.

Mr. Gilmore: He is out of touch.

Mr. N. Ahern: Nobody can deny that there are pressures in the housing market. There have been for some years. They are fuelled by economic growth, by population numbers. Deputy Durkan is correct, that the position has changed and it was different when we exported our young people.

However, in the past five years 250,000 new houses have been built. That is an enormous number. I saw a statistic somewhere that 18% of the houses have been built in the past five years. There were 52,000 houses built last year.

Mr. Gilmore: How many were holiday homes?

Mr. N. Ahern: The Deputy should shut up. I had to listen to him.

This year there will be 54,000 or 55,000 built. We need to continue that rate of building for ten years or so to really get on top of the problem. The number of houses we are building is extraordinary. To put it in context, Sweden has just under 10 million people and this year they are building 15,000 houses. We are building 54,000. The UK has 60 million and this year they are building just three times more than we are.

Mr. Rabbitte: Sweden does not have a housing problem.

Mr. N. Ahern: Exactly.

Mr. Gilmore: Because it has had a Labour Government for 60 years.

Mr. N. Ahern: I am just saying that we have an age profile of young people and we must continue providing an enormous supply of housing in the next ten years. Supply is the fundamental part of Government policy. That is the key and that is the common thread. The number of houses built, at 54,000, is enormous. Fifteen years ago or so, the number was about 20,000.

I cannot understand their point about the rent supplements, which comes under the remit of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs. What are they saying? Are they concerned about the landlords? Do they want a greater State subsidy given to them? What is the point they are making?

Mr. Stagg: It is being used as a tool for evicting people.

Mr. N. Ahern: I agree that the waiting lists have increased by 23% but if one looks at the analysis of who is on the waiting list, 32% of them are now single people. Ten or 15 years ago they would not even have been eligible to apply. They are not comparing like with like.

[1414]

Mr. S. Ryan: They cannot afford a house now.

Mr. N. Ahern: Unfortunately, the abolition of the first time buyer's grant was a decision which had to be made but we are still giving enormous help to first time buyers. There is stamp duty exemption, the mortgage allowance, the rental and mortgage subsidies and under the affordable housing scheme there is a site subsidy of up to €38,000. There are enormous supports being given. They are much better targeted and much more focused towards the person who is buying. Deputies will have to make up their mind which side they are on.

Mr. Gilmore: On which side is the Minister of State?

Mr. N. Ahern: There are pressures in the market. Fundamentally, this is about supply. That is the key note.

The expenditure next year may be down 4% or 4.5% on last year, but the base has been maintained. This year's figure is up €200 million on last year's figure. Last year's figure was up about €150,000 on the previous year's figure. There has been enormous extra investment in recent years.

Mr. Durkan: I expected more from the Minister of State.

Mr. N. Ahern: We may have to go through a year or two where investment is levelling off, but once we maintain that base and push forward again on social housing we can get there.

Mr. Stagg: I wish to share my time with Deputy Rabbitte.

The horrors of homelessness and the near hopelessness of the housing waiting lists have been dealt with in some detail by our spokesperson, Deputy Gilmore, and other colleagues. In the short time available I wish to deal with the plight of the large group of young families and couples who have been kicked in the teeth by the withdrawal of the first time buyer's grant and the other punitive measures recently introduced.

Between VAT increases and grant withdrawal, the price of the standard starter house, the three bedroom house, has been increased by the Government by €6,000. It is unbelievable that any Government, even one as uncaring and right-wing as this one, could take such action.

To show the real effect of these savage measures, let us look at an example. A couple with an income up to €45,000 per annum would qualify for a shared ownership scheme loan to purchase a house valued at €130,000. Mind you, it would be a very small house or flat, unless they moved about 50 miles from Dublin city.

Mr. Durkan: About 70 miles.

Mr. Stagg: Such a couple would normally have been in the private rented sector where the excessive rents charged exclude the possibility of [1415]saving. All their saving potential goes to the private landlord, who usually operates outside the tax system and without registration or standards.

The €3,800 ready cash made available from the first-time buyer's grant literally made the difference between purchasing or remaining in the maw of the private landlord without a fair rent scheme or security of tenure. Thousands of young couples depended on the grant to pay legal costs and provide deposits or help with the cost of basic furniture. The Government, by its actions, has excluded these young families from the possibility of owning their own homes and has condemned them to continued exploitation by the speculators in the private rented sector. That is the effect of the Government's decisions. The Labour Party condemns that heartless action and now proposes that it be reversed.

We call on the Joe Duffy and local radio brigade in Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats to have the courage of their strongly expressed convictions. Let Deputies Noel O'Flynn, John McGuinness, Máire Hoctor, Eoin Ryan, G. V. Wright and Billy Kelleher, all Fianna Fáil, and Deputy Noel Grealish of the Progressive Democrats now vote to restore the first time buyer's grant as they so loudly demanded. We are presenting them with the opportunity they sought. This is not local radio or a chat show, this is the Parliament where laws are enacted. They will either vote for the motion to restore the grants or they will be exposed as the gallery-playing hypocrites I suspect they are.

The Constitution provides a right to shelter for all our citizens. Why then do we allow a situation to continue where there are thousands of families and individuals homeless; where we condemn members of the Travelling community to shocking unsanitary conditions on the side of the roads, in the Irish version of apartheid; where 200,000 men, women and children spend years and years waiting for social housing; and where our elected Government gives generous tax breaks to others who speculate ruthlessly in the so-called housing market? Why, when there is a scarcity of housing units, do we allow and encourage speculators to own and control as many houses as they can acquire?

Should we not decide that all zoned land be assembled into a community land bank to ensure it is used in good time and for the purpose intended – to house our citizens and not to be hoarded for even bigger profits? Is it not time that zoned land should be available at “present use” value and that a windfall tax be employed to claw back excessive profits? Should we not, in this legislative assembly, now determine that as long as there is one family in our country without a home, it would be illegal for any other person to own more than one home and if we need a referendum for that, let us have one.

These measures would take the provision of homes for our families out of the claws of the speculators and would ensure that, once again, [1416]young couples could aspire to own their own homes, at reasonable prices and in a location of their choice. There is no hope of this Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats right-wing regime taking any of these measures. If the young people who are directly and adversely affected wish to take action, they must prepare to vote them out of office at the next opportunity and elect a Government who will act in their interests.

Mr. Rabbitte: I thank Deputy Durkan and the Fine Gael Party and colleagues in Sinn Féin and the Green Party and Independent Deputies who have spoken in favour of the motion put down by my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, on behalf of the Labour Party. It is particularly appropriate that we should have this discussion in the last days of the Christmas session. It is especially appropriate at this time of year that we should seek to address this issue of the provision of shelter for our people because that is really what it comes down to. As Deputy Stagg and Deputy Durkan outlined, there are 6,000 people homeless, 1,200 of whom are children. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, thinks there are half that number. If he is right, it is twice as easy deal with it. Why can we not deal with it? One cannot walk 50 meters from where this Dáil is meeting but there are children sleeping in doorways. In one of the most affluent countries in the world, we cannot deal with it.

Mr. N. Ahern: They have a bed tonight.

Mr. Rabbitte: Deputy Ned O'Keeffe said that this was the most right-wing Government since 1922. After more than 80 years of self-government, for a Minister of State to boast that people will have a bed tonight is scarcely an achievement for a sovereign State.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern They do not have to be out there.

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Cullen): Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen There is a problem. I do not deny that, but people do not have to be on the streets.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte It is disappointing that neither Minister Cullen nor the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, addressed the fundamental point of the Labour Party motion in their speeches last night, to restore the first-time buyer's grant and prevent the capping of the rent allowance. The Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, did not have much time to reply, as he said. I am surprised that a man so well clued into the local scene professes to be unable to explain or understand why we are upset about the capping of the rent allowance—

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern The Labour Party just wants more money for the landlords.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte It is almost beyond belief that a Fianna Fáil Minister would sit opposite and say [1417]that the Labour Party wants to give more money to landlords.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern That is the way I see it.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte After the legions of landlords the Fianna Fáil-led Government has created in the past six years, the enormous profits it has conferred on them, the deal it is about to do for them later today, the fact that people are driven onto the streets because they cannot afford increasing rents and after the failure of the Government to introduce legislation to protect tenants' rights the Minister of State accuses the Labour Party of wanting to support landlords.

The capping of the rent allowance will simply have the effect, and I am sure the Minister of State knows this, of ensuring that no rent allowance at all will be payable if the rent goes over the capped limits.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern That was always the rule.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte No it was not—

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan Zoom on Arthur Morgan When the Minister of State is in a hole he should stop digging.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In the new year, people on social welfare will be refused rent allowance purely because rents have increased. They are increasing in my constituency every month—

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen That will not happen, rents are already coming down.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte They will be refused rent allowance. What does the Minister of State propose they do then, go onto the streets? Yet he says that my party is supporting landlords. We are concerned about the people who will no longer be able to get rent allowance and, as a result, will have nowhere to live. This will create chaos in the offices of the community welfare officers. The Minister and the Minister of State know it, yet there is still no prospect of the legislation they have promised.

I do not mean to be personal but we have heard much windbaggery from Minister Cullen on this. I know he belongs to the hard edge of a Government that has swung to the right. It includes a Minister for Finance who ought to have been a member of the Progressive Democrats and a Minister for the Environment and Local Government who was a member of the Progressive Democrats. He says that 20% of these 80,000 planning permissions would wither at the end of the year and that what he is doing, therefore, is trying to increase output. This is complete nonsense. Who does the Minister think will believe that the developers and builders who own this land are going to let it wither and take no action to roll it over and re-apply? Under the new legislation the land can be de-zoned, so what is the problem? Let them re-apply.

[1418]Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen Then 18 months down the line not a single house will have been built.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg Why were they not building already?

(Interruptions).

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Minister is pretending not to know the difference between a holiday home and an affordable home—

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen I do not own a holiday home but I do know the difference.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte We are talking about social and affordable housing. If the Minister were to look at the situation in my county council area or Fingal County Council area he would see that with very little support from Government, there are significant social and affordable housing projects under way and—

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen They are doing it outside the legislation.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Very little support has been offered by the Government to make it work.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern The Government is paying the site subsidies.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Instead, the Government lent a willing and open ear in the tent at the Galway Races when the lads queued up—

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen I do not go to the Galway Races, as the Deputy well knows.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Minister was well represented as the entire Cabinet was there. When the lads queued up to leave their bequests they were told that the new Government would change the law, and now the Minister is doing it. He has done it in a few months at most, railroading it through. Yet we have waited for four years now for legislation to give tenants some rights and security.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen Not one local authority said we should not do what we did. Every one of them wanted the flexibility it brought.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan Zoom on Seán Ryan That is the officials.

(Interruptions).

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen They want more flexibility.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte That is remarkable. I would be amazed if the county manager of my local authority relayed anything like that to the Minister. It is not the view of the elected Members here, including those of the Minister's own party who came in paying lip service to the substance of the Labour Party motion but will vote against it later [1419]today. As Deputy Stagg said, those who gave interviews to local radio, who were horrified at the withdrawal of the first-time buyer's grant, who were upset about the capping of the rent allowance and who are now upset at the craven, subservient surrender of 16,000 sites back to the builders were all going to vote with us, but where will they be later today?

The Minister contends that the Government is building of the order of 50,000 dwellings a year. The problem is that they are not where people need them. They are not affordable for tens of thousands of our citizens and they do not reflect the appropriate balance between public and private, affordable and top end or private and social. That is critical—

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen I am not a gambling man, but let us have a euro bet and we will judge it on the basis of the figures next year.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What amazes me about that [1420]statement is that the Minister says it with such conviction I am afraid he might believe it. He misunderstands the problem of 48,000 people on the public housing list. Does he want to go back to the situation that prevailed in his own constituency in the 1960s when the managing director of Waterford Glass had to appeal to the Government for a housing initiative because Waterford Glass, like other good employers, had to build housing for people as the Government of the day could not deal with it? Is that what we want to go back to?

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen Zoom on Martin Cullen The Deputy knows well that it is not.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I cannot believe, despite the swing to the right at the top of the Minister's party, that the supposedly social democratic wing of the party is not going to come into the House today and vote for this motion to restore some equity and balance on behalf of people who cannot afford to house themselves.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Seamus.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Carey, Pat.
Carty, John.
Cassidy, Donie.
Collins, Michael.
Cregan, John.
Cullen, Martin.
Curran, John.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Fleming, Seán.
Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Hoctor, Máire.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kelly, Peter.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Seamus.
Lenihan, Brian.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
McGuinness, John.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Mulcahy, Michael.
Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
Parlon, Tom.
Power, Peter.
Power, Seán.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.
Boyle, Dan.
Breen, James.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Connaughton, Paul.
Costello, Joe.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowe, Seán.
Cuffe, Ciarán.
Deasy, John.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Olwyn.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gogarty, Paul.
[1421]

Níl–continued

Gormley, John.
Gregory, Tony.
Harkin, Marian.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael D.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kehoe, Paul.
Kenny, Enda.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Padraic.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Finian.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Morgan, Arthur.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
[1422]Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Pattison, Seamus.
Penrose, Willie.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Eamon.
Ryan, Seán.
Sherlock, Joe.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Seamus.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Carey, Pat.
Carty, John.
Cassidy, Donie.
Collins, Michael.
Cregan, John.
Cullen, Martin.
Curran, John.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Fleming, Seán.
Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Hoctor, Máire.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kelly, Peter.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Seamus.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Michael.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
McGuinness, John.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Mulcahy, Michael.
Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
Parlon, Tom.
Power, Peter.
Power, Seán.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilkinson, Ollie.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.
Boyle, Dan.
Breen, James.
Breen, Pat.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Connaughton, Paul.
[1423]

Níl–continued

Costello, Joe.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowe, Seán.
Cuffe, Ciarán.
Deasy, John.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Olwyn.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gogarty, Paul.
Gormley, John.
Gregory, Tony.
Harkin, Marian.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hogan, Phil.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kehoe, Paul.
Kenny, Enda.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Padraic.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Finian.
McGrath, Paul.
[1424]McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Morgan, Arthur.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Pattison, Seamus.
Penrose, Willie.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Eamon.
Ryan, Seán.
Sherlock, Joe.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.

Question declared carried.


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