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 Header Item Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018: Referral to Select Committee
 Header Item Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016: From the Seanad

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 3

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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English] When we have a conversation around our State land bank, we should think about the supply of houses and work out site by site what is needed when it comes to the mix of social versus affordable versus private housing.

It is also worth highlighting that any residential development that the HBFI will finance will be subject to Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. As such, it is expected that a minimum of 10% of anticipated output of this investment by the HBFI will become available for social housing through the statutory mechanism. That 10% is a minimum. We see many sites coming through now which are going above that. The owners of these sites and the people who want to build on them are looking for them to be de-risked and are happy to have the State take more than the 10% minimum, and we are happy to engage in that. We have asked the local authorities to engage on those sites also. Apart from using our own private landbank, we will engage with people who genuinely want to contribute housing to our system at good value and a good price. There will be engagement regarding the percentage, it is not set in stone but is a minimum of 10%. We will encourage many of those sites to deliver much more than that.

It is important also to remember that the Government's primary response to current issues in the housing market is contained in Rebuilding Ireland. It is our five-year action plan for housing. We are in year two of it. It has made many important interventions. It has changed the system when it comes to delivery. Many more houses are coming on stream, although not as much as I or any of us would like to enable us to address the emergency nature of the housing issue. Last year, an additional 7,000 social houses came into the system. They were not all brand new or directly built by the local authorities but they are available to house families and were not in the system a year ago. This year we will see close to 8,000 new additional social houses coming into the system. They were not in the system last year and are now available to provide homes for people who badly need them. On top of that, we have another 17,000 or 18,000 solutions through current housing measures such as the housing assistance payment scheme and rent assistance. They are important interventions also but I recognise they are not permanent social housing stock. We are getting to the stage where we will be delivering 10,000 social houses every year before we come to the end of period covered by Rebuilding Ireland and we will be delivering 12,000 social housing a year after that period.

Home Building Finance Ireland is only one part of the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. Through that action plan, a suite of measures has been implemented to facilitate increased residential construction activity and to ensure the sector's capacity to produce more affordable homes. These measures include the introduction of fast-track planning reforms and more flexible planning guidelines, a €200 million capital investment and enabling infrastructure to open up housing lands, as well as the progression of large-scale mixed tenure housing projects for social, affordable, private housing and publicly owned lands. I would like to see progress on those sites move even quicker. We saw some progress yesterday in O'Devaney Gardens where the Minister turned the sod to start that project. We need those sites to deliver houses even quicker. Part of my job with the housing delivery unit in our Department, on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is to drive that activity and instil some pace and urgency in it. I recognise the support we have received from many of the political parties in this House and at council level in that drive.

It has taken us two years to get to this stage and we now need to crack on and build on what we have done during the past two years. People often say the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is not delivering and ask where the proof of its delivery is. We are in year two of that action plan. I remember the same question was asked in year two of the Action Plan for Jobs. People told me it was not delivering and asked where the jobs were. That question was not being asked in years three, four and five of that action plan because people could see that jobs had been delivered. Sometimes it takes a few years to change the system, to put in the foundations and build the houses. We cannot click our fingers and suddenly a house will appear. The site must be serviced, the infrastructure must be delivered and the house must be built. That is now happening. People can see that 20,000 houses are being built around the country. People will be living in them at the end of this year and into next year. Those houses were not in the system last year.

Deputy O'Dowd was right in saying it is not true to say that nothing is happening and no houses are being built. They are being built and people can see them. The Central Statistics Office, CSO, which we all trust and refer to every day of the week, is confirming they are being built. I hope people will move on from that argument. We can argue that there is not enough of them but that is a different story.

We are not saying there are not thousands of people living in emergency accommodation who should not be there. It is not a proper place to be living. There are nearly 4,000 children living in emergency accommodation. Nobody wants that or will be satisfied until that is brought to an end and we ensure all those people are accommodated in homes. We will continue to deal with that. We will work through the system using a combination of new social houses and rented houses. We have to rely on the private sector for a period until we build up our own supply and with all our efforts we will be able to do with that also. That involves changing and reviewing certain practices. There is something wrong if we have people living in emergency accommodation who refuse housing assistance payment housing and who would rather live in a hotel than in a house. That might mean that we need to reconsider that policy but it does not mean that the housing assistance payment scheme is wrong because 37,000 people are living in HAP tenancies and the majority of them are quite happy. Some have had a bad experience but a perception has developed about HAP housing, which is causing probably hundreds of families to refuse a HAP house. We need to work on that policy intervention and build trust in the scheme. There is no place better than a house for a family to be living. If it is one's permanent home that is great, but if it cannot be one's permanent home, a rented house in the short term is much better than living in emergency accommodation. That is not an appropriate place in which to be living with a family. We are working with that system. As I said initially, while we are waiting to get somebody a permanent house, we will try to make their journey a little bit better in the meantime, be they in temporary accommodation or emergency accommodation.

The HBFI is another tool in the box and will help to deliver houses. It is not a magic wand or a silver bullet. There are many silver bullets and we need them all. Thankfully, supply and the trends are beginning to go in the right direction. We need to build on that and, hopefully, we will not have the housing crisis the housing authorities have to deal with today in the years ahead. We do not want people to be paying too much for a house or for rent or living in emergency accommodation. Nobody wants that.

  Question put and agreed to.

Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018: Referral to Select Committee

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach pursuant to Standing Orders 84A(3)(a) and 149(1).

  Question put and agreed to.

Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016: From the Seanad

  The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English This Bill has been a few years going through this House. I thank everybody for giving of their time tonight, and probably tomorrow and later next week, to deal with this Bill. I am pleased we are here discussing the amendments to this Bill, which was initiated in this House in January 2016. It predated my time in this Department.

Everybody in the House is familiar with the purpose and the provisions of the Bill and, therefore, I will not go into great detail in that regard except to underline that the primary purpose of this Bill is to give legislative effect to key planning recommendations of the Mahon tribunal report, including the establishment of a new independent office of the planning regulator and placing the new national planning framework on a statutory footing. The Bill also provides for other updates to the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, to deliver greater transparency, efficiency and integrity in the planning system, including giving legislative effect to all other planning-related recommendations of the Mahon tribunal report.

As the Bill was originally published in January 2016, it is at this stage important that it be enacted as urgently as possible to give legal effect to various provisions and, in particular, to facilitate the establishment of the office of the planning regulator.

The Bill concluded its passage through the Seanad in June 2018 and today we have 82 amendments that we are bring back to this House. Of those 77 are Government amendments. Our intention is that the overall Bill will strengthen our planning system by implementing them. There are also five non-Government amendments and we are not recommending that we accept all of those, but that we would accept perhaps one of them and change the other ones, if possible.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, Nos. 14, 17, 19, 22, 24, 27 and 78 and Nos. 80 to 82, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

  Seanad Amendment No. 1
Section 1: In page 5, lines 21 to 23 deleted and the following substituted:
“(2) This Act, other than Part 4 and Schedule 3 at reference numbers 12 to 18, and the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2017 may be cited together as the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2018 and shall be construed together as one.”.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Amendment No. 1 relates to section 1, which contains the standard provisions relating to the Short Title, the collective citation and the construction and commencement of the Act. Given that the Bill was initiated in early 2016 with the expectation that it would progress more quickly than it has, the standard collective citation requires updating and it is also necessary to indicate that this Bill, when enacted, and the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2018 may be read together as one. This is a very minor amendment of an administrative nature.

The remainder of this grouping of amendment, which contains 15 amendments in total, are all administrative in nature. This grouping collating various amendments, including further amendments regarding the citation of the principal Act, updates to the Minister's title and the Department's name, both of which have changed since the Bill was initiated, as well as correcting an almost insignificant drafting error.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

  Seanad amendment No. 2:
Section 2: In page 6, line 3 deleted and the following substituted:
“ “Minister” means Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government;”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

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