I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I wish to share time with Deputies Gogarty, Cuffe, Crowe, Harkin, Finian McGrath and Connolly.
Vol. 569 No. 3
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I wish to share time with Deputies Gogarty, Cuffe, Crowe, Harkin, Finian McGrath and Connolly.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The Standing Orders of this House, as they have been allowed to develop, make it difficult to properly frame Private Members' legislation that would have the same effect as Government proposed legislation. The Green Party presents this Bill cognisant of the fact that the flaws in the Planning and Development Act 2000 can be addressed not only in this Second Stage debate but, if the House approves, on Committee Stage so that the intent of the Bill could be improved even further.
In the course of the debate on this Bill, my party colleagues will make arguments not only regarding the content of the Bill but also the many problems that arise from the lack of effective legislation in this area. We will talk about specific local instances of how zoning is continuing to fuel land price inflation in many areas. We will talk about the fact that in the 30 years that have passed since the Kenny report we have still not had an appropriate response from successive Governments. We will talk about the fact that the acquisition of housing has been made more difficult through the lack of a proper legislative response, and the fact that a proper social and transport infrastructure does not exist in many communities because of such a failure. Ultimately, we will argue that a lack of a proper and effective law in this area has had an adverse effect on probity in public life. My role this evening is to go through the particular sections of the Bill and allow Members of the House to react to the many proposals we will put forward this evening.
Section 1 seeks to amend section 10(2)(a) of the Planning and Development Act 2000. The wording is the same as that in the Act with the addition of the words, “provided that priority in the subsequent use of these designations of land or property to be zoned should be given to land or property which is either (i) the property of the State or an agency of the State, or (ii) in the ownership of the planning authority concerned.” While the section refers to “priority”, our intent would be that zoning of publicly-owned land should be solely done by the local authority. As I have already mentioned, the restrictions on the moving of Private Members' legislation does not allow us to formally propose that but it is open to the Government to provide a suitable amendment on Committee Stage. We will argue that the Government should give due consideration to an idea that is not original – the Kenny report is now 30 years old – but which has been re-flagged recently by CORI in a submission to the all-party committee on the Constitution. While the Government might argue over the course of this debate that the idea pre-empts the work of the all-party committee, we will argue that the committee must come up with a specific wording in terms of the Constitution and a legislative change which is necessary to properly define the balance that should exist between the rights of private property and the common good. This legislative change can be made separately to that and it is one that should be made with immediate effect.
Section 2 seeks to amend section 10(8) of the Act. Again, the wording is almost the same as that in the Act but with a change of emphasis. The Act states that there shall be no presumption in law but we are saying there shall be a presumption in law that land zoned in any particular development plan, including a development plan that has been varied, shall remain so zoned in any subsequent development plan.
To be fair, most local authorities tend to do that in practice in that zonings in one development plan are carried over when the new development plan is presented to members of the local authority. We would argue, however, that there is an urgent need to change a particular element of a past development plan that would carry over into the next development plan process because, technically, it is possible in the drafting of a new development plan to change all zonings and designations. That is not a safe way to proceed for long-term planning in many of our local communities.
Section 3 seeks to amend section 13(1) of the Act, which relates to variations of the development plan, and the change is similar to the one we suggest in section 1 concerning the development plan process. We say that regarding any variations proposed, priority should be given to land that is publicly owned. Our intent would be that we should go further, as suggested in the Kenny report and recently in the CORI submissions, and restrict zoning to publicly-owned land and not allow the instant inflation in privately-owned land that public decision making in respect of development plans and variations has allowed happen in the past.
Section 4 seeks to amend section 13(6)(a) of the Act. We seek to provide that with the support of no less than two thirds of the planning authority concerned, shall a variation be made of the development plan because in some instances it is possible to vary development plans through a simple majority of those present for the voting. We would like the legal effect of a development plan to carry as much weight as possible and to have the support of two thirds of the planning authority concerned.
On those grounds I commend the Bill to the House. I will now pass over to my colleagues who will further develop the arguments we wish to make over the course of the debate.
In welcoming the Bill I acknowledge the limitations that exist in terms of bringing Bills before this House without financial implications. As will be said on a number of occasions, were Opposition Deputies to have that power, particularly regarding this Bill, it would be a little more far-reaching than it is currently. Even the modest measures that have been proposed would go some way towards stopping the land speculation and money grabbing we have seen in developments over the past 30 years and which in many cases have brought politics into disrepute in that with the stroke of a pen, the value of land can increase ten-fold. Should the Minister decide to use his powers, as has been done in a very limited number of cases, it would be virtually impossible to change the zoning of land, despite public protests, because of the fear of compensation. In many cases, the compensation aspect is exacerbated because the value of the land has increased to such an extent through its very rezoning.
We are attempting to make the usage of land and proper planning and development more important rather than giving developers carte blanche to increase their paper earnings ten-fold and raise the price of housing commensurate with the value of that land. An example of that was put to the House recently but I want to raise it again because I was not happy with the Government's response.
A prime example of where this Bill would have had a positive effect is in the area of lands at Adamstown. As the House will be aware, Adamstown is approximately 530 acres of land on which there is talk of building a new town the size of Drogheda, going on to Lucan, which is the fastest growing town in the country. I will continue to raise this issue because it has not sunk in on the Government side of the House that we cannot build a new town of this size without proper planning in advance in terms of the facilities, the delivered services and the infrastructure. What has happened in that case has been a monumental folly. In order to justify the fact that developers must first build a certain amount and incur certain costs, developers are being allowed to build without proper facilities being in place, the reason being that the developer or builder in question would have to pay for them in some way, shape or form. This is partly due to the value of the land and other factors, including insurance.
Were this Bill to be enacted, developments taking place under the auspices of the local authority would be given precedence. In addition, a debate along the lines of that which occurred with regard to the requirement that 15% or 20% of new developments be social or affordable housing would not arise and there would no longer be uncertainty about affordable housing.
I wish to address the Adamstown development in more detail. Services should have been in place before this development was given approval and went before An Bord Pleanála. If it had been planned in a structured way by the local authority, as opposed to being drawn up by the local authority with strong input from developers, I guarantee the final plan would have been completely different. The crux of the issue is that local authorities, without political interference or interference by developers, should be given time to plan for the long-term and to develop in a sustainable manner which meet the needs of local communities. This did not happen in the case of Lucan and it must happen nation-wide. Local authorities must take the bull by the horns and ensure they have a greater input into the development process.
The political interference of the past, of which Lucan is a case in point, must be eliminated. Numerous areas of the town were developed by material contravention which flies in the face of proper planning and has destroyed the town. A long-term, strategic approach would have led to a more sustainable area in which to live. This needs to happen elsewhere. The Minister of State's colleague has the power to do something about the Adamstown development and I ask that he does so.
I also ask that, in considering the Bill, the Minister considers the long-term sustainability of planning and development. This is the reason a number of the sections, particularly the final section to which Deputy Boyle alluded, are so important. It includes the provision to allow two thirds of the relevant planning authority to change a development plan. In the past, a simple majority was used to the detriment of proper planning and development. With the abolition of the dual mandate, local councillors will focus more on their brief, which should bring responsible local government. However, as the measure is still in its infancy, we will continue to need checks and balances to make sure this comes about. I ask the Minister to support the Bill and to consider tabling positive amendments in light of his input in terms of the legislation's financial implications.
"In recent years there has been a remarkable increase in the prices paid for serviced land suitable for building and for potential building land near cities and towns in the State." While these words might appear appropriate today, they are not mine but are taken from the report of the Committee on the Price of Building Land, known as the Kenny report, which was submitted 30 years ago to the then Minister for Local Government, a youthful Deputy Robert Molloy. Sadly the report has sat on the shelf for the past 30 years and many of its fine recommendations have not been implemented.
Essentially, the Kenny report expressed concern at the profits accruing to developers from the sale of building land. The words used in 1973 are similar to those which could be used today to describe the position that pertains not only in the greater Dublin area, but also on the outskirts of many of our towns and cities.
It is wrong that, for the most part, the enormous profits from land rezoning accrue to a limited group of developers. While I will not use my position to name them, many media publications have referred to as few as a dozen developers who own much of the landbank, certainly around the greater Dublin area. It is wrong that a small group of people in society can own or gather together futures and options on lands in order to release it onto the market when and in the manner they so wish. By cutting from the loaf of a limited landbank at whims, this limited group of developers is, in essence, holding up the price of land and ensuring that the consumer, the purchaser and those who rent accommodation are held to ransom. This is wrong. Many of the recommendations of the Kenny report on local government still hold water and should be enacted.
Enormous pressure is exerted on local authorities during the making of development plans. In many ways, it is a akin to the contest between David and Goliath in that the forward planning and development sections of local authorities do not have the resources to compete with the finely-tuned submissions made by and on behalf of local landowners.
Often, it is only through the mechanism of freedom of information that we are able discover the kind of dialogue taking place between developers and the local authorities. Recently, during the current review of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown development plan, I used this mechanism to discover some of the reasoning behind the phenomenal amount of rezoning being proposed in the plan. In particular, I queried the rezoning for housing of a large patch of land almost half way between the towns of Shankill and Bray. I was curious about the apparently arbitrary manner in which a large chunk of land in the middle of a green belt and half way between two towns would be zoned for development. When I used freedom of information legislation to find out what was going on, lo and behold, I found a file full of correspondence from the landowner, Sir Mark Cochrane, and his agents to the local authority, essentially pertaining to the reasons the land in question should be rezoned.
While I am sure the development department and the forward planning section of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council considers planning criteria only in its reasoning on the rezoning of lands – certainly in the current development plan – I am curious as to the reason such a substantial amount of land is being proposed for rezoning. I wonder whether the views expressed in the simple submissions of ordinary citizens are listened to as carefully and clearly as submissions made by the owners of large land banks. Local authorities and landowners, namely, the farmers who have perhaps been farming land for generations as opposed to those landowners who buy up large landbanks through speculation, come under enormous pressure from developers for the rezoning of land.
The rezoning of land is necessary in certain areas and for certain uses. It is wrong, however, that the profits from such rezoning should accrue principally to the developer, rather than the local authority concerned. We should take on board the very clear recommendations of the Kenny report of 30 years ago, which states that the acquisition of land by local authorities for resale to builders or to the ultimate purchasers can help to stabilise the price of land or, at least, to prevent it rising very rapidly.
I will conclude with one final quotation from the report where Mr. Justice John Kenny, the chairman of the committee which compiled it, quotes from the report of the Uthwatt committee in Britain. It states that the denser the population, the more intensive the use of land becomes in order that the limited area may be capable of fur nishing the services required; the more complex the productive organisation of society, the more highly developed must be the control of land utilisation exercised by or on behalf of the community. This is a quote from the Uthwatt committee in Britain. The word and intent of that report, and the Kenny report, was to make land and housing available at affordable prices for the general population. I do not believe that is happening today. We need to look at that report again and implement it rather than continuing to flounder, obfuscate and fail to produce housing at affordable prices. I believe this legislation will help to provide land at affordable prices for the general community.
I commend the Green Party for introducing this legislation. It is a valid and genuine attempt to tackle the problem of land speculation in this State. I am not sure if the proposals before us will seriously tackle the continued hoarding of land, spiralling house prices and rampant profiteering by developers. I believe it is important to record our opposition to what is happening throughout the country.
Last month, the Taoiseach told the Irish Congress of Trade Unions that 19 developers are hoarding large tracts of lands in Dublin's commuter belt. He left congress in no doubt that he had every intention of seriously taking on the developers and tackling the issue. Last Friday, The Irish Times reported that the Taoiseach's Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government seemed unsure as to who these developers are. If the Taoiseach is committed to taking on these 19 developers, identifying them would surely be a positive first step.
One of the first Bills passed by the Government on its return to office was the elimination of the Part V provisions of the Planning and Development Act. This promised that 20% of any new land zoned for housing had to be kept for social or affordable housing. At the time Part V was revoked, my colleague, Deputy Morgan, accurately described it as a developer's charter. In September 2002, the construction industry trade magazine ran an article asking its readers if, "Part V is driving you crazy". By December, – no doubt concerned for the mental health of the construction industry – the Minister removed Part V. This decision seems to have been made despite the overwhelming support of various stakeholders during the so-called consultation process. Most of them suggested it be left in place, yet for some reason the Minister decided to remove it.
The majority of developers and speculators are now opting to cherry pick clients by selecting housing agencies and eliminating the rather crude, but possibly effective attempt at social integration and breaking down elitism in our society. Developers are also offering financial inducements to local authorities. Money from these developers, particularly in the Dublin area, is not worth a damn. Local authorities want units, not money. Money will not solve the problems in local authority areas in Dublin. The State is also selling off land, not to local authorities, but in many cases to private speculators and developers. Ministers then cry crocodile tears about the increase in house prices. We are not tackling the major problem – the availability of land. Land is being sat on, while people, particularly in this city, remain homeless and young people are finding it increasingly difficult to find housing.
While the Green Party legislation is positive as far as it goes, Sinn Féin believes there is a need for more radical approaches to deal with the problems of housing, land prices and speculation. Sinn Féin believes the right to housing is fundamental and must be enshrined in the Constitution. We intend to introduce legislation for a referendum on the subject in the autumn and look forward to the support of Deputies with a serious interest in tackling homelessness and other housing-related problems.
Sinn Féin has also made a submission on private property to the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution. I am sure my colleague Deputy Morgan will deal with this in greater detail tomorrow. The submission makes the point that the right to public property is being given pre-eminence over social justice. The democratic programme of the first Dáil, one of the cornerstone texts of Irish republicanism states: "We affirm the right that all rights of private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare."
We need a real debate on the right to private property as it is currently constituted in the Constitution. The constitutional balance must be in favour of the common good over the rights of private property.
I welcome this Bill. It is a response to the circumstances where certain individuals have amassed huge sums of money from the rezoning of privately-owned land. This Bill deserves serious consideration and support. The sorry saga of rezoning has led to corruption and widespread abuse of power. This has been well documented and while I do not intend to go down that road, the country continues to live with the consequences of many of those rezoning decisions. The Taoiseach today admitted that the Flood tribunal has already cost the taxpayer €26 million and could possibly run for another 15 years. We are looking at a gold mine for the legal profession and an economic black hole for the taxpayer.
A further consequence of some rezoning decisions has been to put the price of the average house in Dublin and other cities outside the grasp of the average person. Once again the taxpayer is taking the hit because rezoning decisions were taken in the interests of speculators, landowners, people of property and politicians rather than the public good.
I would like to widen the debate and look at some issues relating to rural planning. The rural areas policy of the Sligo county development plan provides that the rural development control policy is best achieved by concentrating development in existing towns and villages. While it does provide that special consideration will be given to bona fide members of the farming community wishing to build dwellings on their land, it also provides that the development of sites for sale in a speculative way will be discouraged. The Sligo county development plan is actively discouraging those who wish to live in the countryside and instead wants to herd its citizens into villages and towns. One third of Irish people live in rural areas and they should be allowed to continue to live there. The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuiv, has said that planning policy should facilitate people wishing to live in rural areas. Indeed, the Taoiseach endorsed this view when speaking at a meeting at Maam Cross earlier this year.
Furthermore, the national spatial strategy takes into consideration the need for rural housing in structurally-weak areas. However, in many rural areas such as Sligo, there is a constant and ongoing battle where significant amounts of time and energy of those that are seeking planning permission – the planners, officials and politicians – is taken up in enforcing a system that is largely anti-rural. In this context, I welcome the establishment of the Irish Rural Dwellers Association. This body aims to ensure that people that want to live in rural Ireland can do so, subject to proper planning guidelines and environmental protections.
In many areas, models of development and planning are being imported from other countries. These models are seen as superior to our indigenous patterns of settlement and are, by and large, imposed on people. This is an unjust, unfair and anti-democratic system. I, like many others, look forward to seeing it changed.
I should like to comment on land speculation. Many people and I would say most people in this House, would agree that the amassing of huge sums of money by individuals through rezoning is not a gain for society as a whole. Other mechanisms need to be found to ensure sufficient building land is available. What I find astounding is that farmers who want to sell a single site, not two, ten, 40 or 100, are refused planning permission. In many cases they are selling for purely economic reasons, for example, the downturn in farming, the foot and mouth disease outbreak two years ago, bad weather or just plain bad luck, but this is considered speculative development in rural Ireland. Others make millions if they know the right people or they are in the right location. There is no justice in this. While this Bill will not solve the problems of rural Ireland, it will go some way towards alleviating those in urban Ireland.
I thank the Chair for the opportunity of speaking to this legislation. I warmly welcome this Bill and I intend to vote in favour of it. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000 and to introduce measures to discourage land speculation. It provides an opportunity to stand up to land speculators and the greed merchants who have destroyed our society.
This Bill also gives us a chance to support householders, consumers and, above all, the thousands of people on social housing lists. It is a scandal that many young couples cannot afford to buy their own homes. Let us call a spade a spade in this debate and say clearly that speculators are causing a crisis in the supply of houses. Sadly, we have a Government that will not stand up to them. It is also sad to see this Government turning its back on the households of this country and particularly young people. This is the real world for many people in 2003, and this is the real world of planning and development. Ireland was once known as the island of saints and scholars. Today it is better known as the land of scandals and tribunals. All sectors of society, politics, banking, the Church, business and particularly developers, have let the people down and this has led to massive cynicism in our country. This is bad for democracy and has led to massive alienation of the young, the old and the poorer sections of our society. This has had a profound impact on our value system. If we do not stop the rot, this country and its people will go down the tubes.
Part of the solution is in this Bill which sets out measures to discourage land speculation. It is a great sign of hope and confidence in the future that we can do something for our own people. We cannot turn a blind eye to the homeless and families on waiting lists. It is a crime to tolerate a situation where 5,581 people nationally are homeless and more than 4,060 of those are in the Dublin area. We must listen to groups like the Simon Community, Focus Ireland, Threshold and the St. Vincent de Paul when they produce radical housing strategies and homeless action plans. We need basic principles. We need to set targets and we need to produce results. We have seen many examples of good practice in planning and development and housing, particularly on Dublin City Council. We must build on this and do what is right for our people. We also need to be creative, and that is what this Bill is about. We need proper planning. We need clarity and openness and, above all, we need top-quality housing.
Some of the planning decisions around this city have been a disgrace. A block of apartments in my constituency at Glandore Road near Griffith Avenue is a classic example of bad planning and development that is out of character with the area, particularly Griffith Avenue, one of the most beautiful avenues in Europe. Now there has been another attempt to push 150 other apartments onto a piece of land at the rear of the Cloisters, Gracepark Road, Dublin 9. This will cause major traffic problems, noise, parking problems, overlooking of people's homes and all sorts of health and safety problems. It is an over- development on a small piece of land. It is another classic example of greed and land speculation. There was a plan for houses which would suit the local community. Now high apartment blocks are being packed in. It is a numbers game and a money game and it is against the principles of this legislation. We have the ability to plan and develop while at the same time allowing for space, the protection of our environment and safety for families.
We cannot allow speculators to set the housing and planning agenda. We cannot allow more than 50,000 of our people to remain on social housing waiting lists. It is bad for people, it is bad for families, it is bad for children and it is damaging for our society. These are the kinds of areas where we must make tough decisions. We need to put people and communities first and put land speculators at the bottom of our agenda.
This Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill gives us all a chance to show our true colours. Are we on the side of the speculators or on the side of the men and women of no property? I commend the Green Party for presenting this Bill and I urge everyone to support it.
The main purpose of this Bill is to discourage the practice of land speculation and I welcome it. The Kenny report of three decades ago produced proposals to control the price of building land. It showed that speculation was a problem 30 years ago. If we do not do something about it soon, it will be a problem in 30 years time. This initiative would have had the full endorsement of the public to deal with the price of building land. The Kenny report also endorsed the right of local authorities to insist on a social housing component in all new developments. Recently we have heard about social housing again, but it was recognised 30 years ago that social housing was a necessary component of new developments.
The Kenny report also proposed that a cap be put on the price of building land which represents by far the greatest outlay in terms of providing new homes. That cap would have been set at no more than the value of agricultural land plus 10% and would have been a major factor in preventing the rezoning scandals which have constituted the major part of the tribunals' agendas. Land has been bought and sold for seven and ten times its original value. That is not morally right.
It is interesting to note that successive Governments of various hues have studiously shied away from adopting any of the recommendations in the Kenny report. This has largely contributed to residential price inflation over the past three decades. The cost of housing impacts widely on society. It has clearly reached crisis point when young couples, both working, cannot afford to build a house or start a family because of the price of houses.
The artificial market created in the supply of serviced building land is the real scandal. It channels huge sums of money into the pockets of speculators at the expense of the public who pay for investment in infrastructure and the administration of our planning laws. Sustainability means satisfying human needs fairly without destroying the ecosystems that support life. The conflict between modern economies and the natural environment lies at the heart of sustainable use of the planet. The challenge is to modify modern economies to sustain ecosystems instead of destroying them. In the interests of sustainability it is appropriate that local authority development plans should review the local authority's changing needs at regular intervals and apply zoning designations accordingly. The support of two thirds of the members of local authorities concerned will ensure that any future rezoning will have the support of a broad cross-section of the members of the authority concerned. I understand this is a change from two thirds of those present to two thirds of the total number of councillors. In such circumstances no rezoning will sneak through in the review of a development, nor will any members be in a position to claim, as we have seen in the Flood tribunal, that they were not aware of the implications of the vote. I would question a person's presence on a local authority if he or she does not know the implication of the vote.
I would also be in favour of the establishment of a zoning commission whose remit would encompass the review of the adopted development plans of all local authorities to ensure that they are in conformity with the objectives of sustainable development and appropriate land use. At any one time it is possible for a small number of developers who control a vast amount of building land to make massively inflated profits from land speculation, profits which come from the pockets of those who struggle to purchase houses. Accordingly, the situation where such land banks can produce massive windfalls for developers, merely because local authorities make rezoning decisions, should be ended.
Section 3, which stipulates that two thirds of the members of a local authority will be required to support a rezoning proposal, will go a long way to address the question of frivolous or questionable rezoning in future development plan reviews. The stabilisation of house prices would make a major contribution to keeping inflation in check, which has caused prices to spiral by more than 20% annually during the lifetime of the Celtic tiger.
I support the provision that priority in the variations of the development plan be given to State-owned local authority land, since the benefits will be clearly seen to accrue to the local authority concerned, and by extension to the citizens of the authority's functional area. I unreservedly support the Bill.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Andrews.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill, which proposes to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000. The Bill has three purposes: first, to require land in State or local authority ownership to be used as a priority once zoned, whether in a new development plan or in a variation; second, to reverse the rule which was introduced in the Planning and Development Act 2000 that there is no presumption that land zoned in a development plan will remain zoned in any subsequent development plan and, third, to provide that variations of development plans would require approval of two thirds of the elected members of the authority. The intent of the Bill may be sincere and I would support the concern expressed about land banks being held by a small number of developers. I also identify with some of the points made, particularly by Green Party members.
However, while it provides the opportunity to debate these matters, the Government believes that the Bill is misconceived and will oppose it. Planning law was comprehensively reviewed in the Planning and Development Act 2000. In the Act, new rules concerning the content and preparation of development plans were adopted to ensure an adequate supply of land for housing and other developments as a critical factor in restraining house price increases. The Bill would frustrate the Government's attempts to ensure an adequate supply of land for housing and other critical infrastructure. It would do nothing to promote sustainable development. On the contrary, it would have a negative impact on our attempts to plan sustainable, structured use of land to build communities. It would thwart our attempts to ensure that development plans are up-to-date instruments that allow local authorities to respond, in a transparent and planned way, to the needs of the people that live in their area and of the country generally.
The function of the planning system is to support the sustainable development of land in the interests of the common good. The development plan lies at the heart of the planning system and is intended to provide the strategic framework and policy context for all local authority planning decisions. The Planning and Development Act 2000 reinforces the role of the development plan as the primary strategic statement on land-use planning at city, town and county level, and provides a clearly defined context for the formulation and content of planning applications.
Under the Act, a development plan must set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area to which the plan relates. Within the wider social, economic and environmental policy context, develop ment plans must set out a strategic spatial framework – a clear view ahead, in development terms – for the area they cover. This spatial framework needs to focus on the big picture planning issues, possibilities and considerations that will underpin how the development process in each area is structured to achieve the development plan's objectives for each community. The spatial framework should also be consistent with longer term planning and sustainable development aims, including those set out in the national spatial strategy and any regional planning guidelines in force.
The Planning and Development Act provides that a development plan must include objectives for the zoning of land for the use, solely or primarily, of particular areas for particular purposes, whether residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, recreational, as open space or otherwise, or a mixture of those uses, where, and to such extent as, the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, in the opinion of the planning authority, requires the uses to be indicated. It is primarily a matter, therefore, for each planning authority to ensure that these zoning provisions are implemented in a manner that is consistent with the overall strategy contained in the plan.
Public confidence in the planning system and the development plan will improve if decisions to zone land are made in an open and transparent manner, are clearly justified on the basis of the needs that have been established and support the aims and strategy of the development plan. My Department is currently preparing detailed guidelines to assist planning authorities on these and many other aspects of the process of making development plans. These will be published in draft form for public consultation shortly. Following consideration of any submissions received during the public consultation process, the guidelines will be issued in their final form as ministerial guidelines under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act. The guidelines will set out in detail how, working within the legislative framework for planning, Ireland can develop a more dynamic, objective and inclusive planning system to structure future development that meets our economic, social and environmental objectives.
The primary purpose of zoning is to identify the location and quantity of land to be designated for development within the period of the development plan, the uses to which such land may be put and the acceptability, or otherwise, of different classes of land-use within each zone. The 2000 Act does not require that all land within a planning authority's area must be zoned. However, zoning is likely to be most appropriate within urban areas and in areas adjoining urban areas regarding lands which are under pressure for development and lands which are proposed for development or redevelopment.
Under the provisions of the Planning and Development Act, planning authorities must ensure that sufficient and suitable land is zoned for residential, or for a mixture of residential and other uses, to meet the requirements of its housing strategy and to ensure that a scarcity of land for residential development does not occur during the period of the plan. In addition, the criteria that need to be taken into account when zoning land for development include the need for such rezoning, the wider policy context, infrastructure issues, physical suitability and the need to adopt what is termed a sequential approach. The amount of land to be zoned for a particular land use must be clearly based on a realistic assessment of requirements based on factors such as projected population levels, economic context, availability of suitable services and infrastructure and expected take-up rates. In considering the amount of land to be zoned, its purpose and its location, regard must be had to the national spatial strategy, regional planning guidelines, the infrastructure plans and programmes of various State and semi-State bodies and any other relevant guidelines and directives.
Adopting a sequential approach to zoning allows existing and future infrastructure to be utilised to the maximum and promotes the achievement of sustainability. This requires zoning to work from the centre of urban areas outwards, with undeveloped lands closest to the core, and public transport routes being prioritised. New areas to be zoned should be contiguous to existing zoned development lands.
The Green Party Bill seeks to prioritise the use of State and local authority-owned land over privately-owned land when it is zoned. Under the Bill, the use of privately-owned zoned land has to be deferred until State and local authority-owned land has been developed. This would mean an unco-ordinated development of land, based only on land ownership, not need and certainly not sustainable planning. The sequential approach would be lost.
Moreover, there is no obvious benefit to this approach. State entities or local authorities do not own enough land – much as we might like them to do so – zoned or otherwise, to ensure an adequate supply of housing, where it is needed, over the years. The timely use of privately-owned land is essential to ensure an adequate supply of land for development. The proposed change by the Green Party would introduce great uncertainty as permission for private developments might have to be refused if suitably-zoned, State-owned land were still available. This disruption would cause problems in the supply of land for development with consequent impacts on the supply and price of housing in particular. I accept that may not be the party's intention. There may be a difference between what has been planned and the effect of the Green Party's Bill.
Government measures to boost supply – such as investment in infrastructure and the increased residential densities being achieved as a result of the residential guidelines produced by my Department – have been successful in increasing supply to meet the strong demand for housing. Last year was the eighth successive year of record house completions with 57,695 units completed. This represents an increase in output of 9.7% on 2001 and over 30% increase in the housing output in the Dublin area. There was concern for a long time that while the figures were increasing, they were not going up very much in Dublin. This was not true last year. Ireland built at a rate close to 15 units per 1,000 of population last year, which is the fastest in Europe and a significant achievement. I was at a conference lately at which the European figures were outlined. Our rate of 15 units per 1,000 of population was far ahead of the rate in other member states. Sweden's rate of building is 1.5 units per 1,000 of population. Our rate is enormous when compared with any country of comparable significance.
It is not meeting the needs.
It is not sustainable.
Recent indicators suggest the upward trend in housing supply is continuing into this year.
Investors are buying the houses.
It will be the ninth year in a row in which records will be surpassed. It is true that we are not yet fully meeting the demand, but in the early 1990s about 23,000 were being built each year. To go from that level in the space of ten or 11 years to 57,000 is an enormous achievement.
The houses are not being bought by first-time buyers. They are for the investment market.
Life is not perfect, but we should recognise what has been done.
Deputy Allen will have an opportunity to contribute.
He will contribute. You are right about that, a Cheann Comhairle.
The substantial increase in housing supply achieved in recent years has been of critical importance in improving affordability and moderating house price increases. Average year-on-year house price increases have been reduced from a peak of around 40 % per annum in 1998 to 11% in 2002, which is evidence of a more stable and balanced housing market. It remains ahead of the rate of inflation and we can only hope that this year will be better again. An adequate supply of development land is critical to ensuring that this balance continues. The measure proposed by the Green Party would cause great uncertainty in the market for land which would have a negative impact on supply and, ultimately, lead to higher house prices.
Under the national partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, a new affordable housing initiative is being developed which will boost the supply of affordable housing. The parties to the pay agreement proposed the new initiative with the objective of increasing the supply of affordable housing by 10,000 units. In response to this proposal, the Government committed to an ambitious scale of delivery of affordable housing through this initiative and arrangements under Part V of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2002. Deputy Crowe made reference to this earlier and to him I say that Part V has not gone. The amended Act passed before Christmas did not abolish it. While the withering rule was changed, Part V will remain a significant and substantial source—
Local authorities are finding it very hard to operate.
The Act which went through at Christmas provided local authorities with greater flexibility.
To create more ghettos.
We have published draft guidelines on the matter. Part V has not been abolished. It remains in place though the real dividends and benefits of it may have been deferred due to the changes in the withering rule. However, its provisions will be a significant source of social and affordable housing sites into the future.
The present generation will have passed on before the benefits accrue.
In the Department we think in the long-term.
Deputy Durkan should allow the Minister of State to speak without interruption as there is limited time available.
As provided for in the agreement, we are working with the parties to the pay agreement to develop all aspects of the new initiative and discussions have taken place with the relevant social partners.
Nothing has been built yet.
This work includes defining the eligibility criteria to apply to the target group, the appropriate models for delivery and financing arrangements and the question of land acquisition.
What about building a house? There is not one house built yet.
In this regard, the feasibility of releasing some State lands for use under the initiative and the possible terms under which this might be done are among a range of issues being considered in the context of developing this initiative.
The Government should consider building a house.
It does not mean, as one speaker said, that every bit of land which becomes available when sold by the State is necessarily suitable for social housing. I know this from my time on the city council rather than from my time in the Department, and Deputy Cuffe will agree with me. It depends on where the land is. There are pockets of land in the city, including those which were in estate or local authority ownership, on which we are trying to build private houses to create a social mix in those areas.
Local authorities can do that.
We are committed to producing State land to get the affordable housing schemes off the ground. If we sell off State land, it is because it is unsuitable due to the mix in an area.
The Bill proposes two other amendments to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act, the first of which is rather extraordinary. The Green Party proposes a reversal of the rule introduced in the 2000 Act whereby land zoned in a development plan could subsequently be rezoned or have its zoning removed altogether. This rule was introduced in 2000 to ensure that, where land was zoned for development, there would be an incentive for the owner of that land to develop it quickly. I am amazed by this proposal. We are trying to get away from the time when developers had their land zoned before sitting on it while the asset's value multiplied. Once land has been zoned, we wish to encourage owners to develop it rather than to sit on it.
It would not be their asset. It would belong to the public.
Deputies will allow the Minister of State to speak without interruption.
The provision in the 2000 Act was a safeguard for local authorities. Fears were expressed that any attempt to rezone land or remove its zoning would lead to compensation claims against local authorities. The Green Party now proposes to reverse this rule thereby removing the incentive on developers to develop zoned land as quickly as possible while exposing local authorities to possible compensation claims where they try to change the zoning of land in the interest of sustainable development. This is completely unacceptable.
The final change proposed would provide that variations of development plans would require approval of two thirds of the elected members of an authority. Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, the rules concerning the adoption of development plans and variations were amended to ensure that development plans would be kept up to date. As Deputies will be aware, out-of-date development plans had been a major problem prior to the passing of the Act. In particular, a new, simplified and transparent procedure to vary development plans was introduced to allow a local authority, in consultation with its local community, to amend plans to accommodate new needs in their area or changes in the environment such as new Government policies. The Act permits the adaptation of development plans to new or changing circumstances. Raising the requirement for the approval of a variation to a development plan to a vote in favour by two thirds of the members of the authority from a simple majority would make it more difficult to pass proposed variations regardless of their necessity or importance.
Why? Councillors will be able to work full time.
The change would fly in the face of the work done by my predecessors to ensure that development plans are up-to-date, strategic documents which serve communities well.
For these reasons and because its provisions are contrary to the principles of sustainable development, the Government opposes this Bill. I share some of the Green Party's concerns. People accept that there should be a right to housing, but the right to property is also enshrined in the Constitution and in international law. One has to be careful about interfering with or changing that. Any change or interference in the right to property has to be deemed to be proportionate and relevant to the objective in mind. The Deputies mentioned the Kenny report.
The Minister did not.
I am doing so now. The Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution is looking at everything, including the Kenny report.
It already had the report.
That report was produced 30 years ago. It seems to be a solution to all the problems but it is not. Many aspects have not been covered.
The Government at the time considered the report and other all-party committees since then have examined it, toyed with it and ran away from it.
Because of the corporate donations issue.
I hope the committee dealing with it this time will grapple with it. However, we were encouraged by the decision of the Supreme Court on Part 5 of the Planning and Development Act with regard to the State's involvement. The decision was, in effect, that the right to property is not an absolute right but the interference with it must be relevant and proportionate to the objective in mind. The wording of that decision was good and gives hope for the future. This issue is a minefield, however, and I hope the Government is examining it on different fronts. We are determined to grapple with it.
In the short-term, the Sustaining Progress commitment is being examined on several fronts. Many things are happening and I hope they will come to fruition. One cannot click fingers, however, and get these things to happen overnight.
Not with Bertie.
The Government and the Department are committed to dealing with this issue. Governments have touched on it previously but ran away from it. Nobody is proud of the current situation. One would rather that we were not starting from the current position if we are to deal with it properly. It is a pity it was not dealt with 30 years ago when the Kenny report was published. I would be more generous than Kenny. I would not be worried about 10% or 15% extra on the price of land; it is the several hundred per cent multiples that have caused the problem. I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter but the Bill is not the solution.
The intent of the Bill is good but the content is misguided. Unquestionably this country has a problem with high land prices. It has one of the least densely populated land masses in Europe but it has the highest prices for land. Something is clearly amiss. The thinking behind the Bill is right. A few speculators have a huge amount of land and that has to be tackled. The committee on the Constitution is dealing with it, although I have my reservations about that. The Bill, however, is not sufficient and I am not sure that it makes sense in some respects.
The Kenny report has been referred to widely. It was produced 30 years ago but nothing has happened since then and we must admit that failing. However, that is in the past. The current situation demonstrates that the urgency and details of that report are even more prescient than ever. The report failed to make a distinction between land prices and land values. I am a member of the committee on the Constitution and our problem is that land values will clearly be emasculated in some way, which is fine, but it involves the transfer of wealth and that is where the constitutional difficulty arises.
I believe there is too much detail on property in the Constitution. I have a copy of the constitution of Finland. It is a new constitution, only three years old, and section 15 deals with private property. The subject is, quite correctly, dealt with in two sentences. The constitution provides that the property of everybody is protected. Provisions on the expropriation of property for public needs and against full compensation are laid down by legislation. In other words, it requires the parliament of that country to deal with the issue and the constitution gives it free rein to do so. That is the proper way for a national parliament to deal with it. I do not believe our committee on the Constitution should do a great deal more than allow this elected, democratic Chamber to make the rules in relation to the common good and the restriction on private property, to return to the situation of normality from which we departed so drastically.
With regard to the issues dealt with in the Bill, some of the provisions do not make sense. There are two reasons for saying that. Section 1 encapsulates a reserved function, which is the creation of the development plan, and goes on in the same paragraph to deal with an executive function. It states: ". . . provided that priority in the subsequent use of these designations of land or property to be zoned should be given. . . ". The person who will give that use is clearly the county manager, not the county councillors. It is a little confusing to incorporate in a single subsection both a reserved function and an executive function. It does not make sense and will inevitably lead to a great deal of confusion.
The provision is also not properly framed. It clearly only applies to residential land, not to the other zoning designations in the subsection such as commercial, industrial, agricultural and recreational. What happens in an agricultural area, for example, where publicly owned forestry must be developed as a priority over privately owned agricultural land? Is that something the Green Party intends to bring into law in this Bill or is the party directly focusing on the issue of residential land? If so, that should be reflected in the Bill and not be so broadly drawn as it is in this section. To highlight the problem with the mixture of reserved and executive functions, section 3 contains a reserved function only, in relation to variations. That is fine and makes sense, apart from the two thirds majority which the party suggests will be necessary to have a variation of the development plan.
The Bill is well intentioned but it fails to address anything relating to the supply side. It restricts supply by making it more difficult to have a variation in the plan. It restricts the way in which the county councillors can use land, which will inevitably reduce supply. This is not constructive or helpful. The Green Party is bathing itself in piety, as usual, and presenting itself as the party of the conscience of the nation that is trying to expose failures in other parties. That is a fine political imperative, if that is what the party has in mind, but there is little use in doing that by abusing Private Members' time with a pointless Bill that makes no sense. There are other ways of doing it, if the Members put their minds to it.
Only the Opposition introduces pointless Bills.
In this case, the Deputy has distinguished himself with a seriously pointless Bill. It makes no sense and the Deputy had no hope of it being passed. Quite honestly, it is a waste of time. I do not say that lightly. If we are to discuss land speculation, the opportunity to do that is within the committee on the Constitution. It will sit throughout July and the Green Party leader, Deputy Sargent, is a member of that committee.
Seven reports and no legislation.
It is up to Deputy Sargent to resign from that committee if he feels it is not the appropriate forum to discuss this issue. However, he has not clearly indicated that. He is quite happy with that as a forum and yet this Bill comes before the House to waste two evenings of the Parliament's work. I do not say this lightly but it is a waste of time.
Part 5 has been referred to during the course of the debate. The amendments made prior to Christmas 2002 incorporated for the first time ever in legislation a provision whereby social integration would have to be one of the factors contained in a county development plan and in the manner in which housing is developed. This is lost somewhat in the analysis of Part 5 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2002 and that Act should be afforded some time to bed down. For this reason, I oppose the Bill.
I wish to share time with Deputy Durkan. I congratulate the Green Party for bringing forward this Bill because it gives the House an opportunity to discuss—
Is that agreed? Agreed.
Listening to a member of Fianna Fáil lecturing the Green Party is a bit much.
Deputy Andrews is a newcomer to this House but coming from a party that has injected so much corruption into the planning system, it is a bit rich to hear lectures from him.
It was intended as a debate.
The Deputy got his chance and should give me ten minutes.
Deputy Allen interrupted all the way through.
The Kenny report is 30 years old this year, yet the main issues with which it grappled continue to face us today, namely, the rapid rise in the price of land for development and the resultant price of housing. The greatest difficulty I have with this report, and had before it was even published, was the fact that well-known people were abusing the system of planning and development for their personal gain at the expense of good planning and development. The two implicit cartels operating in this sector keep the price of land rising and the cost of development rising even higher. Since the publication of that report, little has been done to alleviate the problem. It is time to right the wrongs of the past through the spirit of the Kenny report and the best modern thinking.
It is timely that we are debating this Private Member's motion against the background of the resignation of Mr. Justice Flood. His work in the tribunal has brought to public attention the murky side of Irish life. On appointment, he was entrusted with finding the truth but he got lies and attempted manipulations of his work. Thankfully, he came through the lies and gave us the truth. The planning process has been damaged by the revelations in Dublin Castle. It has also been damaged by many of the bizarre and ridiculous planning decisions that have impacted on people's homes, neighbourhoods, country and quality of life.
We live in a country of sprawling housing estates, many without a single basic amenity, and motorways designed to take traffic from cities that are clogged up by shoppers travelling to shopping centres that should never have been built. People have lost faith in the planning process. With regard to the Bill before us I welcome the fact that the Green Party is attempting to inject a greater degree of accountability into the planning process at local authority level.
The Bill also goes some way towards helping to bring into being many of the recommendations on private property made in the CORI submission to the All-Party Committee on the Constitution. CORI suggests that local authorities should first purchase land voluntarily or compulsorily before rezoning it. Take the example of land being rezoned from agricultural use to development or housing use – this would involve a local authority purchasing the land at agricultural prices, plus a small margin for the owner, rezoning would occur while the land was in local authority ownership and so the windfall gain on the land's value would remain with the local authority. The land would then be sold on to the developing agent.
At first glance this seems fair, logical and sensible. Land and house prices have escalated to the point where young people cannot afford a home. The State is crippled by a large bill whenever it wants to build anything and local authorities are faced with growing waiting lists for housing to be built on expensive land. The Bill also proposes a two thirds majority on a local authority in order to change the zoning of a piece of land contained in a development plan. This is clearly designed to end the practice of a Fianna Fáil majority council forcing through an unwise zoning decision and I do not see any problem with that proposal in principle. I am rather unhappy about the piecemeal efforts that have been made to change our planning business. This Bill is welcome, but it is not enough. Increasing the number of councillors needed to vote through a rezoning decision is a blunt instrument. We need new thinking, to which I hope to contribute in future debates.
I am appalled by the lack of action to address the public disquiet on the issue of planning. Local government, indeed any form of government, cannot survive and prosper without the trust of the people it governs. According to An Taisce, we expect to build many houses over the next ten years, is it 50,000, or 100,000?
Some 500,000 countrywide.
There is some chance of that happening.
It is vital that the rezoning of land complies strictly with the long delayed national spatial strategy and regional planning guidelines. When will we have a debate on the spatial strategy in this House? It seems to have been debated in the four corners of the country but this House has had no opportunity to deal with it and we should have that debate before the Dáil rises next week because it is long overdue.
It is a closed shop.
A land use commission to take the controversy out of rezoning decisions should be set up. That would ensure that we would get the quality planning decisions which have been lacking over the past few decades. I intend to look at that issue and to publish a land use commission Bill to give effect to such a body. Evidence heard by the Flood tribunal suggests that decisions may have been taken in a corrupt context. In other cases, the High Court has heard evidence that zoning decisions are taken in the interest of landowners and developers, without reference to the public interest which should underline such decisions.
We should bring forward proposals under which zoning decisions contained in a development plan would not be legally binding until the commission, whose chairman should be appointed by the Government, is satisfied that those developments comply with the relevant planning guidelines, as well as the national spatial strategy, the strategic planning guidelines for Dublin and any other relevant directives that have been made. This does not propose to take away the powers of a local authority or its members. Democracy and accountability of public representatives is crucial to effective, transparent planning but the commission would act as a quality control measure that would once and for all end the accusations regarding corrupt council lors, greedy landowners and ill considered decisions that have plagued the process for decades.
Such a commission is long overdue and provides for a win-win situation for all. The public wins knowing that the planning decisions are made in its interest. Local authority members win because once corruption is eliminated, faith in them will be restored. Landowners win knowing that any suspicion that they are being "looked after", which is often misplaced, cannot be held in the face of evidence from the land use commission which believes in planning decisions that are good for a region. I am heartened by the fact that, for all the sleaze, accusations and scandal, we are now beginning a rational, sensible debate on planning, which should see a new chapter in Irish planning history being opened. This Private Members' Bill is a welcome addition to that debate, and my party will be supporting it in principle on Second Stage. It needs to be amended, but that can be done if and when it passes this Stage. However, nothing short of a revolution – in the form of a land use commission – is necessary to tackle this country's planning process effectively. I hope that the House will have the chance to debate that revolution soon.
I am glad to have an opportunity to say a few words on this Bill, even though it is during Private Members' time. I have been around long enough, like some other Members, to remember what planning was like in the old days. There have been many references to the Kenny report. There were several other reports relating to development, regional strategy and so on. There were the McKenzie report, the Miles Wright report and the Buchanan report, all back in the 1960s. They related to regional strategy, development and all the things thought about now and about which nothing was done – good, bad or indifferent.
There is one thing about this Bill which concerns me – and the Minister should listen carefully, for we have been through it before. As I have repeatedly said, the current shortage of land for housing is chronic. One cause was a reaction to some unsavoury things that happened, with the result that everyone decided to oppose the zoning of land. That has meant that one can have no land for houses, playing right into the hands of the developers, who are essentially represented on the other side of the House. A situation could develop now whereby one could give people land for nothing without its affecting the price of houses one iota.
A classic example is the local authorities. In some cases, they have owned land for the last ten or 15 years. They still own it and could make it available but have not done so, for what reason I do not know. Under present legislation, that land could be released and developed under public private partnerships. I ask the House to contemplate who the beneficiaries would be.
Of all the issues to strangle this country in the last five or seven years, planning must surely be the worst. There are experts on it everywhere. If I switch on the television or listen to the radio, I hear some expert talking about "bungalow blight", for example. That does not affect cities, of course, but it does affect people – Deputy Harkin spoke about it – in the countryside. People have a right to live there, just as they have a right to live in towns. There has been a tradition of living in the Irish countryside for thousands of years. This country's population once stood at 9 million. At that stage, the bulk of the population lived in the countryside.
Of course, everyone now wants to control what happens there for his or her benefit. It is what is generally referred to as "the common good". Whose common good? I am not so sure, but some of the things I have seen regarding development in the countryside and the points referred to by Deputy Harkin a few minutes ago enraged me, for it is clear that those who live in the countryside are not entitled to constitutional rights or a future at all. They are not entitled to live in their own place or have a home of their own because so many people have their own selfish interests and want to stop them.
All the Minister need do is check with the various agencies with whom his Department liaises to ensure that no development may take place except at their behest. One example is An Taisce – we will return to this – a body that is funded by the Minister's Department directly so that it can impede development in the countryside to exclude people who have lived there for generations. It is a disgrace that that should be allowed to happen. The Minister sat looking at it, and his predecessor did the same. Deserving cases have applied for planning permission in the countryside and been deprived. They have been told that they should buy a house in a town development, but no one has told them where they should get the money to do that. Is it a God-given right to tell people who have lived in their own place all their lives how and where they should live?
There is a serious issue with which the Minister must deal. Regarding planning, it occurs to me that, previously, when an application was made for planning permission, one knew how it would go. If the rules were laid down, they were quite clear. Then they became vague and misty. There were challenges in the courts, appeals and counter appeals. I would like to recount an amazing thing I heard on the radio recently. One of the promises made at the last general election related to St. Brigid's in the Coombe, a school which needed replacement. It was announced that there would be a replacement structure in the very near future – almost before the election. Now the school has found out that the corporation proposes to sell the land in question to a developer.
That is not correct.
That really amazes me, for, of all the cynical things to happen when the poor, unfortunate school, which was obviously in need of repair and was falling down, was to have a much-needed replacement, it was the corporation, whose primary business must be housing, which apologised to the children, since it was going to sell the land to a developer. That was the publicly announced proposal.
I do not think so.
I must tell the Minister of State that it was so. Let us now move a step further to an issue to which I strongly object. There is now a tendency in planning and development to intensify development by introducing high densities to the Irish market, saying that they are better value for money. There is no doubt that they represent significantly better value for the developer. They have to be, for one can get up to four times as many houses onto a site.
What about the people living there and their quality of life? They must spend the rest of their lives there. Are they not entitled to some recompense for their investment? Surely they must be entitled to something if they propose to live their lives and bring up their children there, sending them to school from there – if there is a school. Surely they are also entitled to some little quality of life. No, they are forgotten.
I am deeply disappointed in the Minister, for I considered him a thinking, caring man. I now realise that he could not care less, and all his predecessors and colleagues on that side of the House are exactly the same. Housing, which has a corollary in planning, is currently a primary issue, for no one can afford it. In my constituency, an income of €100,000 per annum is required to generate a loan sufficiently large to buy a house. The Minister has ensured that those in the lower half of the income scale have no chance of ever getting a house. Affordable housing will shortly only be affordable for millionaires.
It reminds me of something I said in this House a year and a half ago. I will finish with this true story. I was walking down the pier in Dún Laoghaire a long time ago – before some of the present Members would have been able to walk there. Someone had inscribed on the wall the words, "Vote Fianna Fáil, the party that made meat a luxury." I thought about that scribe recently. If he was around today he could add, "and they have now made housing an unaffordable luxury as well." It is true.