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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 29 Jun 2016

Vol. 915 No. 3

Priority Questions

Local Government Reform

Barry Cowen


1. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if and when he will re-establish town councils. [18786/16]

This question relates to the Government’s intention to re-establish or re-instate town councils, not necessarily in their previous form but around those towns which have certain population numbers. Will the Minister seek to respond to that commitment? As we all know, and the Labour Party found out to its cost towards the end of the last term, it is not reform when 1,100 councillors are got rid of. While many town councils needed to be streamlined, what we had was a hatchet job which needs to be corrected.

The decision to replace town authorities with a new model of municipal governance under the Local Government Reform Act 2014 was designed primarily to strengthen local government within counties and to address widely acknowledged and long-standing weaknesses and anomalies in the previous system, including divided administration between town and county authorities, for example, in matters such as planning, rating and charges.

Municipal districts now cover the entire territory of each county, reflecting European norms, removing outdated boundaries and ending the anomaly of small towns having municipal status and dual representation, while some larger centres and rural areas lacked any sub-county governance. As well as creating a more rational and comprehensive structural arrangement, the new system enables more effective and community-focused decision-making and implementation. Under the new arrangements, there is full integration of local authority resources across each county and elimination of duplication both in administrative and electoral terms.

In 2015, the first full year of the revised local government structures, a broadly based advisory group was convened to carry out a review of their operation in conjunction with a local government forum for engagement with the Association of Irish Local Government. Feedback from these deliberations, as well as the results of surveys of local authority members and chief executives, indicate that the revised structures are generally operating well but will need more time to bed down fully. The results of this operational review will provide a key input to the consideration of issues in the preparation of a report for Government and the Oireachtas by mid-2017, pursuant to the Programme for Partnership Government, on potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability and to ensure that local government funding, structures and responsibilities strengthen local democracy, including the issue of town or borough council status.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Initial scoping work in relation to the development of proposals to address the requirements in the Programme for a Partnership Government is being undertaken in my Department.

I thank the Minister for his answer, despite the fact I cannot agree with all that is contained in it. It states an ongoing review is taking place and many city and county managers are happy with the progress being made.

That is not the case on the ground and it is not what is being relayed to me by local authority members and constituents. The Minister spoke about the number of councillors per head of population being over 2,800. In Denmark, a country of a similar size, it is one councillor per 1,115. In County Offaly, two electoral areas were joined together, Birr and Ferbane. The new area has six councillors, five centred in Birr with the remaining large geographical area with only one councillor. That councillor has little hope when it comes to seeking the repatriation of funds for roads and services in that wide geographical area.

The block grants for towns and roads are no longer the case. Equalisation has not gone well in many cases. The Boundary Commission will report on foot of the new census. Will serious consideration be given then for an engagement or reinstatement of some county councils?

I take the Deputy’s point. When considering new reforms around local government in the programme for Government, we are ensuring local government funding structures and responsibilities will strengthen local democracy. There will be the devolution of new powers to local authorities, the reduction in the size of local electoral areas, the possible introduction of directly elected mayors in cities, the possibility of extending the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts to include expenditure by local authorities and a review of supports for councillors in consultation with the Association of Irish Local Government and the Local Authority Members Association. We have committed to reviewing how local government functions and is funded, and the devolution of powers from the centre to local authorities and we will do that by the middle of next year. Within that context, we will seriously look at whether we should revisit town councils and how they would be structured. We are not going to replicate what was there previously, whereby some towns had councils but others did not for historical reasons. We want consistency where, if a town’s population chooses, then they would have the option but that there is fair treatment of towns across the country to give everybody the same opportunity.

The Minister has committed to a review to address the functionality of what has taken place and the functionality of what may emanate from a review, how it is funded and the devolution powers. I have mentioned some instances where these were not at all appropriate or have not turned out as one would have expected or wished. There is also the area of facility services available to councillors in local authorities from an administration perspective and for assistance on a professional level on development plans and so forth. The Minister for Social Protection recently commented on the PRSI contribution made by councillors as S class and the meaningless value associated with that in regard to the return that does not accrue to them.

Will the Minister consider how this might be addressed? Some thought might go into a package to improve their lot, given their service and the commitment they have shown in their communities.

On that last point, we need to value democracy, and that includes local democracy as well as what happens in this House. We need to encourage people into politics, and to do that, we need to ensure it is properly resourced in order that councillors can do a professional job and represent people properly. The demands on local councillors are now more severe than they would have been in the past and the way people communicate with councillors is much more immediate in terms of demanding answers. Of course, because of the changes, many councillors in rural areas in particular are representing huge geographical areas. For example, the area of west Cork is bigger than many Dáil constituencies in terms of physical footprint. We need to ensure councillors get the support they need in order that we can keep good people in local government. We should not shy away from that just because it might be controversial.

This is one of the areas I would like to deal with first to ensure we send out a message that local government is valued and will be properly resourced, within obvious parameters and limits, and in a transparent way in terms of how that money is spent. I take the Deputy's point. I hope I can look forward to the support of other parties in the House on issues of general resourcing such as this.

Emergency Accommodation Provision

Eoin Ó Broin


2. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the action he will take prior to publishing his action plan for housing to deal with the rising level of family homelessness, given the dramatic rise of 86% in the past 12 months, that 2,177 children are homeless, that an increasing number of families are being forced to self-accommodate and that local authorities are turning away an increasing number of families who are seeking emergency accommodation. [18770/16]

As the Minister knows, the number of families presenting as homeless continues to increase. The lack of emergency accommodation, particularly for families with children, means two acute problems are being experienced. The first is that a large number of families are being asked to self-accommodate, that is, to leave the homeless sections of the local authorities and to ring around to try to find hotel accommodation for themselves. We are also finding a significant number of families with children being turned away from the local authorities, having not been deemed eligible for housing, even though they are eligible. What emergency measures will the Minister introduce before his housing action plan commences to address this growing crisis?

We have spoken about this issue a number of times and we will continue to do so. There is no silver bullet, as the Deputy knows. Many of the actions that will be announced in the housing action plan are under way. Key measures implemented or under way include the programme of rapid delivery housing, whereby 500 units are to be provided in Dublin to accommodate homeless households currently in hotels. There has been a significant increase in homeless funding for 2016. As the Deputy knows, there was an intervention in regard to Brú Aimsir, which is a very important emergency hostel in the city, to keep it open when it was due to close. The Department of Social Protection’s tenancy sustainment measure has benefited 9,000 people who are on rent supplement but need extra assistance, which they are receiving. An extensive public awareness campaign is being implemented by housing authorities, the Department of Social Protection and the Residential Tenancies Board. We have made huge progress in returning void social housing units to use, with more than 5,000 units being returned to use in 2014 and 2015 and with further provision having been made to do more in 2016. Yesterday, we announced significant increases in the limits for rent supplement and housing assistance payment, which in a full year will cost approximately €55 million. I believe this was welcomed by the majority of stakeholders. Some people want more, of course, but it is a significant funding commitment.

I have just come from Dominick Street, where a €29 million regeneration project was committed to this morning that will provide 76 new units. Some of these units will house people currently living across the road from the site, but this will certainly free up more housing units.

The core issue is supply. It is going to take time to address the supply deficit that clearly exists around social housing availability. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to try to manage what are emergency cases of homelessness in a more effective way than has been the case.

We are trying to do this working with local authorities and many of the stakeholders involved.

While many of these measures are welcome, and Sinn Féin has welcomed them publicly, none of them address the specific question I put to the Minister. We have a situation right now in the city of Dublin that when a family including children presents as homeless there is not enough emergency accommodation and these people are sent away to telephone hotels to try to find emergency accommodation for themselves. These are low income families under a huge amount of stress, who often have no telephone credit, and they are pushed out of the system.

We also have a situation where growing numbers of young families with children are being turned away by the local authority and deemed ineligible for emergency accommodation. This is not through the fault of the local authority but because there is not enough emergency accommodation in the system. Focus Ireland's intake team did some research. In April, 35 families were turned away by local authorities in the city of Dublin, and more than half of these were subsequently deemed to have an urgent need for emergency accommodation. Last Tuesday, ten families were turned away by local authorities and some of them were not accommodated until 12.30 a.m. or 1.30 a.m., including a young mother with a four month old child.

Thank you, Deputy Ó Broin.

What will the Minister do before the action plan is implemented to ensure families are not left sleeping on the streets?

Many organisations are combining to try to provide better outcome for families in very vulnerable situations. The primary responsibility, of course, is with local authorities to be able to put systems in place that can respond quickly to people's needs. It is true to say, particularly in a peak tourism season such as now, there is pressure to find hotel accommodation for the many families temporarily there, in unsuitable but temporary emergency accommodation. The numbers in the past month have reduced very slightly but they are still dramatically increased on where they were this time last year and I accept this. It is up to us, by which I mean the Government and the Department, working with local authorities to look at ways in which we can, in the short term, put in place more emergency accommodation that may be more suitable than hotel accommodation. We are looking at options in this regard.

Thank you, Minister.

I assure the Deputy that funding will not be an impediment to this.

Thank you, Minister.

I will finish on this.

I am afraid we must abide by the clock.

We will launch our housing strategy in approximately three weeks, so it is not as if people will have to wait for very long to see the strategies we will adopt.

I am not trying to be awkward, but if we do not abide by the time schedule set out we will not reach several of the questions other Deputies have tabled.

I emphasise that in April, 35 families were turned away by local authorities. The number of families in May was 55, and more than half of these were subsequently deemed to have a need for emergency accommodation. I understand and welcome the fact the housing action plan will be published early, and I hope we will have time to debate it in the House and in the new Oireachtas committee, but tonight, tomorrow and the day after families will be presenting for whom either no emergency accommodation will be available or whom the local authority will be forced to turn away. Are there additional measures which can be taken now to ensure that whether it is ten, 20 or 50 families who present between now and when the action plan is published, they will not be left out on the streets until the early hours of the morning or left to sleep rough because of the lack of emergency accommodation available in the city?

The response this evening to this type of pressure will be to find more bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation, which is exactly what Dublin City Council and other local authorities have been doing. Everybody knows this is not a medium-term solution for families. It is a short-term solution while more sustainable solutions are found. It is important to say that so far this year in Dublin, almost 500 families have been rehomed in permanent sustainable accommodation, and it is predicted that by the end of the year this figure will be somewhere between 800 and 900. Good outcomes are being found, but there is simply not enough of them and there is not enough temporary or emergency accommodation which is more suitable than hotel rooms. This is something we need to try to address. People need to be realistic. We cannot do this overnight. In the immediate term, hotel accommodation will continue to be used.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Administration

Barry Cowen


3. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reform the conditions attached to the tenant purchase scheme for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18787/16]

Notwithstanding the fact that we have a housing crisis and great difficulty in providing the units for those on the housing list, as alluded to by the previous speaker and many others on several occasions, there are ways, means and methods to provide units in the coming years. These include implementing the recommendations of the all-party special housing committee, the Minister of State's strategy, and the use of on- and off- balance-sheet funding. I have always believed, however, that those in long-term tenancies should, like anybody else in this country, have the right at least to aspire to own their own homes, hence the need for tenant purchase schemes. There was one announced by the previous Government towards the end of its lifetime but, unfortunately, it did not deal with the potential for people in Part V accommodation to purchase their units. We will produce a Bill on this issue in the coming days which I hope the Minister of State will support but there are other issues regarding social welfare recipients, age barriers and the commitment regarding the funds raised by local authorities to be retained by them for use in their local authority areas.

There are three incremental purchase schemes currently in operation for new and existing local authority houses and for local authority apartments. The new tenant purchase scheme for existing local authority houses, to which the Deputy refers, came into operation on 1 January 2016 and it is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum. All tenants of houses included in the scheme who meet the eligibility criteria can apply to purchase their houses, provided they are not disqualified from doing so under the provisions of the legislation.

In line with the commitment in the new programme for a partnership Government, we intend to undertake a review of the 2016 scheme following the first 12 months of operation. We will bring forward any changes to the terms and conditions of the scheme which are considered necessary based on the evidence gathered at that stage. Any relevant changes made to the 2016 scheme will, as appropriate, also be reflected in the other incremental purchase schemes. To be clear, we are open to suggested changes in that regard. The committee has recommended this as a priority area as well, and we accept and acknowledge that. The scheme has been up and running for nearly seven months at this stage. More than 73 applicants have gone through it. I agree with Deputy Cowen that it should be an aspiration for the majority of people who wish to, to avail of and eventually purchase their own home. It is something that we encourage and if we need to adjust the schemes and add more schemes, we are willing to consider and to do that. There is a commitment, as the Deputy knows, in the programme for a partnership Government that this money be reinvested to increase activity in this area so that there can be greater reinvestment in more council housing stock.

I also agree with the Deputy that we need to see whether we can expand the range of applicants who can qualify for the scheme. We must find a way to make it possible for a person with a long-term disability or who is on long-term disability benefits or allowances to aspire to owning his or her own home. We must find a solution to this because for a long time such people have been locked out of that option. I therefore fully agree with the Deputy that we should try, where possible, to make changes to the scheme. I am willing to work with the Deputy on that, together with others in this House who are genuinely concerned to do the right thing. It is something that we will work on in the months ahead.

I thank the Minister of State for his answer. He mentioned that certain criteria are to be reviewed after 12 months, and the figure he has given of 73 applicants tells its own story. Clearly the criteria are not expansive enough to allow people the opportunity to take advantage of any such scheme, hence our bringing forward a Bill in the first instance regarding those who should have the opportunity to purchase Part V units, like anybody else has the opportunity to purchase local authority units because he or she is a tenant. No discrepancy should exist between the two.

I question the methodology behind waiting 12 months and I ask that the Minister of State set about informing his Department to carry out an immediate review and to refer back to us at the beginning of the next session of the Dáil. As I said to him, many people - for example, social welfare recipients - could take out a loan with a 60% reduction of the value of the house and they would be paying less in repayments than they would in the rent they are paying at present.

I thank Deputy Cowen. We must go to the Minister of State.

I agree with Deputy Cowen. I would have thought more would have come forward too, but we are only in the first six months of the scheme. I will be honest with the Deputy in that not many people are knocking at my door saying the scheme does not suit them. On the face of it, it is quite a good scheme with quite generous discounts which are now based on a person's income, unlike the discounts in the past that were based on the number of years one was in the house. It is therefore a very good offer. We also must be conscious, however, that there is a shortage of housing stock at the moment so we do not necessarily want a big sale of stock. It is quite a generous tenant purchase scheme, which we can enhance as we improve our supply of housing stock, but I would have thought there would have been more applicants, even with the offer that is there. It is subject to ongoing review. The Deputy speaks of changing something today but it will take until January or February. I am prepared to work with the Deputy on it if he has ideas and solutions, but the scheme is quite generous. Even as it stands, I am surprised it is not working, but we will work on that. Deputy Cowen and I share the same goals.

Rather than wait the 12 months for the review, I ask the Minister of State to commence it immediately if possible. I further ask him to consider our proposed Bill this week which would seek to include Part V housing in the criteria, allowing those in Part V units the opportunity to purchase them. There should be no discrepancy, and I hope the Minister of State accepts that. I will put the other issues in writing to him with a view to his seeking to address them in the review, to be ready by January, as he rightly said. If it were published by then, I would be happy with that.

I have not yet had the chance to review the Bill Fianna Fáil is bringing forward. Regarding Part V units, which I meant to address during the first part of my reply to the question, I do not necessarily agree with the Deputy's views. The Department has a very clear view on this as well, and it is a view I will share until someone convinces me otherwise or that we are wrong on this. The reason Part V units are excluded from the scheme is to ensure that units delivered under this mechanism will remain available for people in need of social housing support and that we get the mixed tenure we are trying to achieve. That is the logic of the Part V provision. I accept that perhaps there was a different logic when it was first brought in. I know there was also a lot of pressure at the Committee on Housing and Homelessness for Part V to be changed and reviewed, but it is the best way to generate a proper mixed tenure of housing in housing development. It is the right idea and the right scheme. There is a danger if one allows Part V houses to be sold off that the aims of the original Part V provision will be diminished, we will not achieve mixed tenure and we will be back to square one. I therefore disagree with the Deputy but I am willing to tease out the matter, as we all are. There is a genuine reason for its exclusion, but if the Deputy could convince me otherwise, I would change it.

Housing Provision

Ruth Coppinger


4. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he can resolve the housing crisis while adhering to the European Union's fiscal rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18709/16]

The housing committee, the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach himself have all expressed real concerns about the EU fiscal rules impinging on our ability to resolve our housing crisis. The structural rules, the structural balance rule, the expenditure benchmark and the debt rule have now become clear barriers to our investing in public, social and affordable housing, and I want to know what the Minister will do about this.

The European fiscal rules, which are designed to ensure that countries in the EU maintain sound public finances, are not an insurmountable obstacle to providing the investment required for social housing over the coming years. If they were not there, we would not have to look at other vehicles and ways of funding; we would be able to do it in a much more direct way. The Government, however, has been able to provide significant levels of funding for social housing provision since 2014 and is committed to ensuring that funding for the provision of social housing continues to be prioritised. We have already prioritised in the capital programme almost €3 billion in that regard within the fiscal rules.

There are a number of inbuilt flexibility mechanisms within the fiscal rules to incentivise investment in projects that have lasting growth impacts. In Ireland's case, there is flexibility around what is called the expenditure benchmark treatment of capital formation, where such expenditure is treated more leniently than other expenditure. This is to help incentivise investment in projects that have long-term positive growth impacts, including new building such as schools, hospitals and social housing.

The programme for a partnership Government provides for a comprehensive range of policy measures to address issues with housing supply, including in respect of social housing. The Government has committed, as part of that programme, as the Deputy knows, to publish an action plan for housing in about three weeks' time, certainly before the end of next month. Our challenge, therefore, and what we have been doing, is to consider creating vehicles that can provide significant funding for social housing. We already have some of those models. Consider what NAMA has been doing in respect of what is called a National Asset Residential Property Services, NARPS, funding model, whereby it essentially builds or purchases and then effectively leases over a long-term period to an approved housing body, which is essentially significant investment into social housing that is off-balance sheet. We are looking to expand on that now, using the financing power of the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, to do a lot more of that.

On 13 June, the Taoiseach wrote to Jean-Claude Juncker about the impact of the EU rules on public investment. He said there was a significant threat to the ability to fund major projects in housing, transport and water. Despite this, the Government is not seeking any derogation from those rules. Why not? Why is the new Minister with responsibility for housing going to the European Commission and saying a housing committee, which met for nine weeks and interviewed many witnesses has said social housing is hampered in particular by the application of domestic and EU fiscal rules and that the financing of social housing by the State is restrained by the EU fiscal rules? The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, said money is not the issue, but our ability to spend it. We have €5.4 billion in ISIF that we are not able to spend on social and affordable housing. The Minister should be going to Europe demanding either a derogation from the rules or saying we will breach the rules to house our homeless.

The correspondence to which the Deputy referred, which was sent from the Taoiseach's office, was regarding EUROSTAT definitions around what is off-balance sheet and what is on-balance sheet, which is confusing. It is very difficult to get certainty about what is on and what is off-balance sheet. In the UK, much of the social housing build programme which the UK Government thought was off-balance sheet was subsequently reclassified by EUROSTAT as on-balance sheet. The UK had put a vehicle in place which it was convinced had solved a funding problem. This is not a satisfactory situation. We cannot get clarification from EUROSTAT or the Central Statistics Office, CSO, before a new funding vehicle is signed off on as to whether it is on or off-balance sheet. We can get an indication, but not certainty, and it is a frustration for the Government. We are trying to work within it.

The Minister has just answered my question and explained why we produced a minority report and digressed from the Committee on Housing and Homelessness. Off-balance sheet funding is a mirage and nobody has been able to explain how it will work. Although it is the only alternative that has been suggested, nobody could come before the committee and explain it. The Minister has admitted it is confusing and that EUROSTAT keeps changing the rules. It is making it more difficult by the month to get things off-balance sheet. RTE's "Prime Time" did an investigation and identified that no new model that would be capable of providing and financing social housing on an off-balance sheet basis has emerged. Given this never-ending quest, one would think off-balance sheet funding would be cheaper or easier. However, it is not. If we have to build houses on an off-balance sheet basis, it will be much more expensive and take much longer than if we could spend a fund we have saved up, namely, ISIF, formerly known as the National Pensions Reserve Fund. It should be very simple for us to spend it.

Off-balance sheet funding is not necessarily more expensive and does not necessarily take longer. We are working to try to put new vehicles and models in place that we are satisfied will allow for significant investment that is off-balance sheet. We are working through it. I still maintain that it is frustrating trying to get clarity before signing off on a vehicle from EUROSTAT, about which the Taoiseach was corresponding. Many countries face the issue regarding investing in social infrastructure and infrastructure for transport, education and so on. If we are going to have an EU that can invest in the future, particularly while funding is low cost, we need more clarity on the issue.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Joan Collins


5. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will reverse his Social Housing Strategy 2020 from 70% of social housing needs being met through the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme and rent supplement scheme, RSS, and 30% through local authority and approved housing bodies build, to 70% local authority and approved housing bodies build and 30% through HAP and RSS, given that he has stated that the solution to the housing crisis is to increase housing supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18710/16]

The Government's policy, stated in its Social Housing Strategy 2020, was that 70% of social housing need was to be met by the rent supplement scheme and landlords and 30% by social housing. The Minister and the Government have repeatedly said the way out of the crisis was to build housing. Their priority seems to be to build private housing, not social housing. I am asking the Government to reverse the policy and aim for 70% social housing and 30% private housing.

While I take the Deputy's point, it is important to be realistic. While we are going to revise our social housing build targets, even if we were to build the number of social houses the all-party committee report has asked for, it still would not be anywhere near 70% of total housing output. We need to build as many social houses as feasible, given what can be funded and built through local authorities and approved housing bodies between now and 2020 or 2021, which is the kind of timeframe we are trying to plan for. We will also need to rely on the private sector to deliver the majority of houses, some for the rented sector, and some of the rented sector will have a social housing element, whether by way of HAP, rental allowance or rent supplement. This suits some people, such as those who may be in one place for a short period. The HAP scheme allows people to get back into the workforce and increase their incomes.

I agree that we need to ramp up, prepare for, fund and deliver more social housing in an integrated way within communities, which we are going to try to do. However, there is a limit to the scale of the build programme. We will also need to rely on very significant private sector investment to ensure we have balanced development over the next five to ten years, which we are trying to achieve.

The Minister is not interested in building social housing.

I challenge the Government's dependence on the private sector to build the housing we need. The Minister is not interested in pumping money into social housing. Social housing stock decreased from 18.4% in 1961 to 9% in 2011. More than 100,000 people are on the housing waiting list. While the Minister is correct that not everybody wants a home, people want stability. With the Government's 2020 strategy of 70% rented and HAP, the Government is pumping money into landlords' pockets rather than building the housing and getting the money back into the Government coffers to meet costs. Will the Minister fundamentally consider changing the strategy from 70% social housing in the future down to 30% reliance on landlords?

I said we were going to review the social housing output targets. We will do it-----

The Minister is talking about 10,000.

Let me answer the question. Deputies have raised the issue of families who are homeless in Dublin this evening. We are not going to be able to build houses for them by tomorrow, next week or in two weeks' time. However, we may be able to access rental accommodation for them in the meantime. I agree that we need to build many more social houses, and there are many ways we can do it. In Northern Ireland, nearly all social housing is built by approved housing bodies working with a housing agency. Something similar is happening in mainland UK. We are considering models that will deliver much more social housing. We have committed nearly €3 billion to the programme and may commit more, I hope. We will also have to rely on the private rental sector to house many families. To begin committing to an exact 70:30 mix is not to accept the realities we face. We need to ramp up dramatically the build and acquisition programme and conversion from vacant to useful properties in social housing stock. I am committed to all this. I also recognise that, for many families, the private rental sector will be a solution to their social housing need.

I find it strange to listen to the Minister's response. He is right to say we need emergency accommodation but the families concerned also need hope. They need to believe that perhaps a year down the line they will be in a local authority house in permanent accommodation to enable their kids to go to school. The Minister's strategy with a 70:30 split between private and public housing is a slap in the face for them. Some 70% of those on social housing lists do not want to have a landlord and depend on the RAS and the HAP to provide for their future. They want something permanent. Why is the Minister so reluctant? He says he wants to build more social housing and that that is the task, but why not aspire to a change of ethos and build houses that will serve the country for the next 100 years?

That is exactly what we are doing.

We also need affordable private housing as otherwise more and more people will join social housing lists.

What is wrong with council housing?

There is nothing wrong with it.

The Minister has not mentioned-----

Please allow the Minister to speak without interruption.

We are trying to provide homes which are affordable and in areas where people want to live. For people who are not able to afford to rent or buy their own homes we want to make sure we will have social housing to meet their needs. That is what we are trying to do with multiple challenges in a housing market that is fundamentally broken and we are trying to fix. While we are building 12,000 or 13,000 housing units a year, we will have huge pressures in the private sector and the social housing sector to provide more and more stock, regardless of the split between social and private housing. We need to increase dramatically the supply of both private and social housing stock in order that we will have permanent homes to enable people to live in diverse and positive communities.

Question No. 6 is in the name of Deputy Carol Nolan but will be taken by Deputy Eoin Ó Broin.