I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to contribute briefly to statements on the Government's priorities and to put on the record the fact that the country has moved on so much over the past three years since the Government came to power. However, there is always room for improvement and areas that need to be improved upon.
I will mention briefly some issues in my constituency which relate to housing. I am glad that the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, is here as she might take on board some of my thoughts on the different areas.
On the issue of homelessness, the Government has a target to end homelessness by 2016. It is a major issue. I am concerned about the increase of almost 50% in the number sleeping rough in Dublin in recent months, some of them not too far from the gates of Leinster House. Action is needed to ensure that those in need of shelter have access to accommodation. There have been some suggestions that the increase in the homelessness count may be as a direct result of the pressures in the private rented sector. It is an issue that ties in with both the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, and the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, as to the amounts of rents that are being provided by social welfare.
A more permanent solution is needed as well, including more affordable housing. With the prices, particularly in Dublin, rapidly increasing yet again, this will be a further issue in the coming months and the years ahead. The construction of new homes, and rolling out a new project in that regard, would be welcome news, particularly for the 100,000 who are on the waiting lists.
The Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, is working hard with NAMA to get the agency to release the various housing units to local authorities, but that process is dragging on. It needs to be sped up to get NAMA to hand over these homes, particularly when we look at the waiting lists, both in Fingal County Council and Dublin City Council, in my area where some are waiting upwards of ten years to get housing. It is not acceptable when one considers the number of units in NAMA that are empty and the quality of the housing is deteriorating consistently because it is not being lived in. I hope the Minister of State will be able to push the matter forward in the months ahead.
Action on flooding is needed and the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, is trying to get a memorandum of understanding with the Irish Insurance Federation. The industry can provide a fund to help home owners who cannot obtain flood insurance. In my constituency, homes in Sutton, Clontarf and Donnycarney have been hit in recent times. It is a concern that the issue continues and that home owners cannot obtain home insurance.
Although the management company sector is regulated, issues remain with regard to the value for money apartment owners get within their complexes. There is also a lack of accountability in respect of the money spent. Home owners pay up to €1,500 and they have concerns about the running of management companies. The area must be further examined.
I acknowledge that the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, is focused on accident and emergency units. In my constituency, Beaumont Hospital is under pressure because of the waiting times for people to get into accident and emergency units. The hospital could do with funding. The special delivery unit works hard to deal with that.