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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 963 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney] We will have to see where that takes us as regards the investigations of An Garda Síochána.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin The housing capital budget under Rebuilding Ireland for 2017 was last week increased by the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, by €100 million to €1.4 billion. However, an answer to a recent parliamentary question confirmed that the total spend on additional social homes from all sources since 1 July 2016, in the form of acquisitions, Part V, local authority builds and approved housing body builds, was €583 million. This would indicate that only approximately €500 million has been spent out of €1.4 billion for building and acquiring new units in 2017. Can the Tánaiste tell the House where the remaining almost €1 billion is going? In June this year, in a reply to a parliamentary question the Minister, Deputy Murphy, pledged that 2,284 units would be delivered in 2017. I have gone through the quarterly report for Rebuilding Ireland, which was published last week, to identify every single unit which was completed or site-finished in the first three quarters of 2017 and it is clear that only 809 units of the 2,284 have been completed.

In the UK the quantity spent on rental assistance is about five times that of the housing capital budget. As the Government here is clearly not building enough houses, is it the Government's intention to move further towards the UK model? If it is, there are serious health warnings. There is no point drifting towards an entirely rental-oriented approach to housing when, at present, fixity of tenure is completely inadequate and when a lack of inspection or an enforceable standards regime results in the horrific living conditions we saw on "Prime Time" last month. The fact that one in three tenancies in the State is financially rent assisted is just adding pressure to further rent increases for all, making Dublin simply an unattainable place to buy or rent.

I am concerned about the inept governmental policy response to date. The incoherence of all this policy implies that what may have happened is that Rebuilding Ireland, launched last year, was rapidly abandoned as a plan by departmental officials without them telling the Tánaiste or the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. The Tánaiste is now defending a plan which is not there or, if it is, is certainly not working. Where is the €1 billion going? Given the new numbers, why can the Tánaiste not accept that Rebuilding Ireland is not succeeding and will not succeed in effectively tackling the housing crisis?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This is territory in which I am personally very interested. It is going to be some time before people see the full benefits of Rebuilding Ireland but we have dramatically increased funding for social housing and there is a multi-annual commitment of almost €6 billion to add 50,000 new social housing units to the national stock, which would be a 30% increase over four or five years. That takes time and it is not just measured in new builds. Next year, we will see 3,800 new build houses and 600 private sector-built social house units purchased under Part V, 600 voids returned into use, 900 acquisitions of existing homes and 2,000 long-term leases. It is a combination of a series of different approaches that are realisable. Going from building 200 or 300 social houses to building 7,000 or 8,000 in the space of one year is not doable.

While we build up capacity to dramatically increase the number of social housing units that are being delivered through local authorities, approved housing bodies, AHBs, and the private sector under Part V, there is a significant reliance on supporting people in the rental market. This year we will see about 21,000 social housing solutions put in place, many under the housing assistance payment, HAP, which is an improvement on previous support programmes for the rental sector. We know this puts pressure on the rental sector, which is why there is a need for rent caps at present, which we introduced last year. Some 65% of rental properties are in rent pressure zones and the tenants in those properties cannot be asked for an increase of more than 4%, despite the pressures of the market.

We have very significant pressures in the housing market, both in rental properties and those for purchase, because of a dramatic lack of supply, supply which has not been delivered for nearly a decade. Over time, we will solve that by increasing supply in the private sector, the affordable sector and social housing and by ensuring we bring a lot of vacant properties and sites back into use by using methods with which I am sure the Deputy is familiar. People cannot expect this problem to be solved overnight and we have to ensure that while the new strategy and the significant funding behind it builds a capacity in the construction sector to significantly increase delivery of housing, we try, in the meantime, to manage a rental sector that is under significant pressure.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin It is hard to believe the figures the Tánaiste is giving for next year when the figures the Government has given for this year show that, of a target of 2,284 houses, only 809 were delivered. There is a huge disconnect between the narrative and reality. The harsh reality is that 8,000 people are homeless. The tragic reality is that 3,000 of them are children and the stark objective reality is that Rebuilding Ireland simply is not working. There were only 809 builds in 2017, of which 303 were direct local authority builds in 18 different authorities, meaning 13 local authorities did not complete a single house in 2017. Of the 98 completions in Dublin, 76 were rapid builds for families on the increasing homeless list, which leaves a grand total of 22 units in the greater Dublin area for a waiting list of 40,000 people. How is the capital housing budget being adequately spent if the greater Dublin area only saw 22 units built in the first nine months of this year? It is time to think outside the box and for the Government to accept that Rebuilding Ireland is not working. This is an emergency and a crisis. Surely an objective analysis of the Government's response should be results-driven. The results speak for themselves and they are appalling. It is time for a new direction and a new plan.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney One thing we do not need is to try to start all over again with a new plan. We have a plan that is under way.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin It is not working.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is working. I will give the Deputy some statistics because those supplied by the Deputy are simply not true. At the end of the third quarter of 2017, 12,300 social housing units were advancing through various stages of delivery. There were 3,700 homes across 190 sites under construction nationwide and 2,000 in the final stages of contract award in a further 90 schemes which will move to sites shortly. The idea that there were 22 new social houses in Dublin is nonsense.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin There were 22 completions. That is a fact.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney If the Deputy looks at what is happening in the private sector, she will see a 48% increase in commencements and a 50% increase in planning applications. The fast-track planning changes we have made for housing estates of over 100 units is getting huge interest from developers and is putting An Bord Pleanála under pressure to deliver results. We are seeing a sector gearing up again to deliver significantly more homes, which is what we need, and we are seeing the local authority and AHB sectors also gearing up significantly, with a lot of money behind them coming from the State. For the first time in many years, money is not the obstacle to social housing delivery. Capacity is the obstacle.

Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It is proposed that No. 13d, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2018, shall be taken immediately after the motion re presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates 2018, without debate. No. 29d, motion re report of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport under Standing Order 114 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation No. 1073/2009 on common rules for access to the international market for coach and bus services - COM (2017) 647 - shall be taken immediately thereafter without debate. No. 13e, motion re change in ministerial rota for parliamentary questions, shall be taken immediately thereafter without debate. This will be followed by the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 25(1) for 40 minutes.

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