Social and Affordable Housing Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

I am presenting the Social and Affordable Housing Bill to the House on behalf of the Labour Party to set out the urgent legislative actions needed to address what has become a crisis of soaring rents and little or no construction of homes where they are desperately needed. I am very disappointed that both the Government and Fianna Fáil have decided to hide behind the Government's intention to publish proposals next week and propose amendments. I note that there is no one here from Fianna Fáil but I am particularly surprised by the party's amendment which contains no practical proposals around what we might do on these urgent issues. At least the Government has presented proposals and will present more next week. Deputy Barry Cowen of Fianna Fáil has now entered the Chamber.

There is one particular part of the party's amendment that I find bizarre. It states:

while an abundance of measures are required to speed up the delivery of new social and affordable housing, the proposals in the Social and Affordable Housing Bill 2016 for local authorities to use compulsory purchase orders to buy non-residentially zoned and un-serviced land to build social housing on, would be a needless and senseless waste of public resources and not create sustainable communities.

It is as if the rezonings, brown envelopes and everything that led to the series of tribunals had never happened and as if people had not made a huge amount of money out of the rezoning of agricultural land. It resulted in tribunals and huge problems around the edge of Dublin. It is as if there had been no proposal in the Kenny report, which is about 40 years old now, that the compulsory purchase of land for social housing should not result in extortionate profits for the owners. The Kenny report recommended that the State should pay the value of the land at its current zoning, which would normally be agricultural, plus 25%. It was a highly respected proposal at the time, albeit the Minister might argue about its constitutionality. However, the description of our proposal to implement the Kenny report recommendation in the Fianna Fáil amendment is farcical. That is not what it is about. It is about ensuring that owners of land do not sit on it so that they can make a killing at a later stage.

That is what the Kenny report was about too. It was about controlling the price of building land so that when land is required for building as cities develop, it does not result in such huge profits and what happened in the tribunals. That is a deliberate misinterpretation of what we are proposing. I was a member of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution that met to discuss the implementation of the Kenny report. Chaired by a very good Fianna Fáil person, the committee agreed that the Kenny report was not unconstitutional because it struck the correct balance between the social and community good and the rights of private property, which are protected in the Constitution. The Fianna Fáil amendment completely ducks the issue and fails to make any proposals.

I will return to the issue of the Constitution later because the Minister in his amendment is also suggesting there may be constitutional concerns. I do not know if they concern the particular issue which should have been put to bed by the report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution or whether they may be around the issue of rent control. If they are around that, Threshold has done some very good work in relation to the Constitution and striking the balance between the common good and the rights of private property. Threshold quotes different cases and comes to the conclusion that there is no constitutional obstacle to having referenced rents and controlling rent increases or to issues around requiring vacant possession in the sale of a property. The Constitution is not an obstacle. It was never meant to protect private property at the expense of the common good. Clearly, it contains a balance which the measures in the Bill get right. I welcome the Minister's clarification earlier today that there is some reduction this month in the rate at which people are losing their homes, but there are still far too many people losing their homes. In some cases, they are in the street and in others in hotels with their children. In that context, we should not see obstacles in the Constitution which, in my view and that of many learned lawyers, do not exist.

Those who face unaffordable rent hikes cannot wait for the market to solve this. They need answers now. They are real people and families with limited incomes and whose most basic need, a roof over their heads, is costing more than they can pay. We do not have all the answers. I acknowledge fully that all parties and groups have raised these issues and made proposals and that the Minister has published his housing strategy on behalf of the Government to be further developed next week with proposals for the rented sector, but I implore him to take action for those who are in crisis now. Building enough housing to deal with the pressure of demand will take time. We know it takes quite a long time to go from the allocation of funding to the building of social houses and, indeed, from the determination of a developer or a builder to the building of private houses.

In the meantime, people are put in a position whereby they have to rent but cannot afford to do so. In many parts of Dublin, the mortgage for an average three-bedroom house is lower per month than the cost of renting the same house. It is becoming impossible for people to pay the kind of rents that are being sought.

I recognise that many in the House have raised this issue regularly and we debated it recently in the context of a Sinn Féin Bill. Some of the measures in my Bill are also covered by other Bills we have debated.

The most recent www.daft.ie report makes for grim reading, especially for those who have to rent in the capital city. It breaks down the average cost of renting a three-bedroom house in each of the Dublin districts and the County Dublin area. The average cheapest rent for a three-bedroom house is €1,371 per month and the most expensive €2,200 per month. That is a significant chunk out of anybody's income. Even a household with two incomes would find such levels of rent difficult. Other cities are not far behind. I quoted Lorcan Sirr in a previous debate, who predicts that rents will rise by 25%. This is clearly an urgent issue.

Today, I understand, the Secure Rents Campaign presented a petition calling for control of rents and security for renters on behalf of thousands of our fellow citizens, a number of trade unions and civil society groups to the Minister or his representative at the gates of Leinster House. The Bill before the House provides for rent increases to be linked to the consumer price index and protects renters from being evicted before their leases are up because a property is being sold. The Secure Rents Campaign calls for these measures, which were also discussed in a debate on a Sinn Féin Bill tabled by Deputy Ó Broin. Other Deputies have also put forward proposals.

The Bill has another important measure to control rents. It requires the Residential Tenancies Board to establish an index of reference rents, whereby the initial rent must be calculated in accordance with the advertised values of comparable properties in particular areas. The Threshold document goes into quite a lot of detail on how that would work. Essentially, these measures are designed to set reasonable rents in the first place, to control increases in accordance with the cost of living and to protect tenants who have a lease from losing their home due to the sale of a property. These sections of the Bill are the most urgent and pressing, and I hope the Minister will be open to the proposals despite resistance from some Departments.

During a debate last week, the Minister said he is considering amendments made in the Seanad to a Bill that originated there. The Minister referred to the proposal that 20 units would have to be sold before tenants would be protected and have to yield vacant possession. That figure was amended to five in the Seanad, but the Minister has cast some doubt on the amendment. I urge him to reassure Members that it is not his intention to increase the figure. We would prefer all tenants to be protected.

Other significant measures in the Bill are designed to free up affordable land and deter owners and developers from hoarding land and sites until they can make a greater profit. I referred to these measures, in particular implementing the recommendations of the Kenny report, which was published a long time ago. It recommended that the compensation paid where there is compulsory purchase of land for the purposes of building social houses would be the existing value of the land plus 25%. People may have had the opportunity to read the explanatory memorandum which we published with the Bill. It goes into quite a lot of detail around the balance of rights in the Constitution, in particular Article 43, which deals with private property and refers to the exigencies of the common good. That is the basis upon which we are making this proposal.

We are also proposing that where land is distressed - a lot of the time that will involve land that is being administered by NAMA or the banks - there should be a limit on the amount of profit that can be made from such land. This measure is specifically designed to address the issue of vulture funds purchasing property and being able to make very large profits.

There are a number of measures in the Bill to which I have already referred, most of which concern renting. Another measure deals with receivers and clarifies that where a receiver is in place, he or she has the duties of a landlord. It is an issue that has caused some difficulties and uncertainties in the case of properties where receivers have been appointed and tenants are not quite sure what are their rights and who is responsible for maintaining properties. We seek to clarify that situation.

I have already discussed the other rental measures in the Bill, which are important. Deputy Ó Broin's Bill deals with some of the same issues.

Part 4 of the Bill deals with an issue to which I referred, namely, land and sites that are suitable for development but are being hoarded for one reason or another, mainly because the owner expects to make a greater profit if he or she waits until prices are higher. There is a measure to introduce a vacant site levy in the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015. It is not due to come into effect until 2018, but we propose that it be brought forward to 2017. I suspect that may be one of the issues about which the Minister is concerned. Our Bill proposes to bring the levy forward to 2017, but makes it payable in arrears from 2018. It is designed to ensure that land is made available as soon as possible because everybody in the House wants social and private housing to be built. We simply do not have enough supply at the moment. In the meantime, renters are in a situation which is completely untenable for people earning average incomes and whose rents are soaring. They have no certainty and no great expectation that affordable housing will come on the market in the immediate future.

I look forward to the debate and hope the measures in the Bill will be seen to be practical and will assist in speeding up the supply of houses and, in the meantime, will ensure that people can afford to stay in their homes.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann, while recognising the adverse social and economic impacts arising from significant rent increases and the need for a comprehensive response to these impacts and while acknowledging the merits of the Social and Affordable Housing Bill 2016 in the context of the broader debate on the housing market, declines to give the Bill a Second Reading for the following reasons:

— it pre-empts the relevant commitments in the programme for Government and in the Rebuilding Ireland — Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, particularly in relation to the publication of a strategy for the rental sector by the end of 2016, in which the Government will be considering, in a considered and balanced manner, measures to provide greater rental predictability for landlords and tenants and to improve security of tenure for tenants;

— the measures in the Bill risk negatively impacting on existing and future supply of rental accommodation; and

— the Bill has potential legal and constitutional implications which require careful consideration, including in relation to giving site owners sufficient time to regularise their affairs in advance of becoming liable to the vacant site levy.”

I thank Deputy O'Sullivan for bringing the Bill forward. I always welcome the opportunity to discuss developments in the rental sector and housing market generally, and the Bill covers a number of important areas. The Deputy will be aware that I have tabled an amendment. The Bill deals with three main areas: assessment of compensation in respect of land acquired by compulsory purchase; rent and rent reviews; and the vacant site levy.

I will deal section 3 of the Bill, the main purpose of which is to amend the current rules on assessment of compensation in respect of the acquisition of land for housing purposes by local authorities. This Bill provides for a major departure from the existing rules of compensation for compulsory purchase, whereby the basic valuation of land is that of open market value in favour of a system whereby land valuation would be determined by different mechanisms depending on the circumstances of each acquisition.

In the case of development land acquired, the Bill proposes that compensation for acquisition by a local authority would comprise the cost of such land calculated at current use value plus 25%, rather than open market value.

In the case of distressed land acquired, compensation would comprise the cost of land acquisition, the cost of any improvements carried out and a payment representing a return on the investment in the land concerned. In both cases, subject to the total compensation package, it could not exceed the open market value of the land.

While I understand the intention of this Bill, and I think section 2 is commendable in this regard, there appear to be practical shortcomings with the proposals in terms of its operation and legal shortcomings which put in question its constitutionality. The Bill would discriminate arbitrarily between a landowner who could sell development land at open market prices and those affected by a particular decision of a local authority to acquire their land at the much lower current use value. While not made clear in the Bill, the extent to which lands acquired by local authorities could be passed on to some private developers at reduced prices but not to others could impact unreasonably on competitiveness within the building industry and, again, give rise to fairness issues. As we know, a CPO award incorporates not only the price of land but compensation for damages caused by disturbance, severance and other effects to retained lands. In practice, these can constitute a significant and even major part of the overall award. These grounds for compensation are not affected by the Bill, so the scope for overall cost reduction is overstated.

Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 was a serious and well directed intervention in this area. It enables local authorities to acquire up to 10% of zoned housing land at existing use value. This was previously 20%. It has been supplemented by a series of ministerial guidelines to assist local authorities in its implementation. In light of this experience, the proposed section 3 in the Bill before us, on its own, is unlikely to deal adequately with the complexity of compensation for compulsory purchase and help local authorities deliver more affordable housing in a realistic timeframe. The rights of local authorities to acquire land compulsorily are important instruments in facilitating public interest objectives relating to housing, water, roads and general development. It is essential, in the interests of the common good, that we get the right balance between the rights of property owners and those of public authorities. The fundamental question is whether, in current circumstances, this Bill would be an effective and workable response to the issue. I have my doubts.

I will move on to the changes to the vacant site levy proposed in the Bill. The vacant site levy was introduced with the aim of incentivising the development of vacant under-utilised sites in urban areas for both housing and regeneration purposes. As land is a finite resource, there is unquestionably a shared public interest in ensuring the most efficient use of land, especially in urban areas. There was extensive engagement between my officials and those in the Office of the Attorney General in developing the legislative proposals for the vacant site levy. The engagement focused, in particular, on individual property rights. My predecessor was involved in most of those discussions. While in certain circumstances the Constitution allows the State to delimit the property rights of individuals in the interest of the common good, such restrictions on landowners’ property rights must be reasonable and proportionate to the ends the legislation seeks to achieve. In particular, measures such as the vacant site levy must be introduced in line with the principles of fair procedures and administration.

The existing provisions were drafted and enacted on foot of this engagement and to reflect legal advice received. In this regard, the timeframes for the application of the vacant site levy - to be applied in 2019, but in respect of the year 2018 - are intended to allow site owners sufficient time and opportunity to initiate development or, alternatively, to sell their sites to another person to develop in order to avoid becoming liable to the levy, which ultimately facilitates the achievement of the primary objective of the measure. While the proposals in the Bill before us, including the bringing forward of these timeframes, may on initial consideration seem to be justifiable, it is important that an appropriate degree of proportionality and reasonableness is applied. It is considered that the existing timeframes achieve this balance.

No one would rather introduce a levy earlier more than I would. We are trying to get sites moving. However, I am not going to introduce something which I know is, according to the advice of the Attorney General, not legally sound. People will simply challenge it and we will lose. Everyone wants to end the hoarding of land for the purpose of increasing margins and profits while we have a huge demand for housing. That is what we are trying to do, but we are doing it as quickly as is reasonable and legal. That is the advice we have received. If I felt we could make the legal case for what Deputy O'Sullivan has sought, I would do it in a heartbeat, but I would need to have sound legal advice that we could do it. If we are going to levy or tax someone for inactivity on sites, we have to give them an opportunity to ratchet up activity, get finance and planning permission in place and go through tendering processes etc. Those things take time. We are trying to streamline all these things to try to ensure the time involved is shortened, but we need to be realistic about the idea that we could introduce a levy overnight and expect to get away with it legally.

The Bill also proposes to increase the rate of the levy from 3% to 5% of the market value and to restrict the circumstances where a reduced or zero rate of the levy may apply. This approach appears to be overly punitive. In a similar way to the timeframe provisions, the current rate of the levy is considered proportionate to the levy's objectives. The provisions relating to the application of reduced or zero levy rates were included to help alleviate the financial burden faced by owners of vacant sites which are subject to a site loan. In some cases the loan is greater than the market value of the site such as where there is a negative equity situation or the loan is greater than 50% of the market value of the site. Those site owners who purchased sites at peak prices in the boom years that have since reduced in value arising from the property crash in the late 2000s are examples of those likely to be particularly affected. Again, the intention of the provisions is to ensure that the levy provisions are fair and proportionate. I do not have a whole lot of sympathy for those who are buying on a speculative basis now. I have some sympathy for those who bought at the height of the market and are trying to develop but cannot make the numbers add up because of the amount of money they owe and are looking to repay. However, even those people will be affected by this levy and will potentially have to sell on land to someone who can afford to develop it.

Part 3 of the Bill deals with a number of issues in the rental sector. I know that Deputy O’Sullivan is committed to reform in this area and had significant involvement in the early stages of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015. A strong and viable private rental sector can play an important role in the housing market and our wider economy. It can provide a housing option to those who either cannot enter or choose not to enter the owner-occupied market but who still have sufficient means to meet their own accommodation needs. It can provide a housing option to meet rising demand and can promote flexibility and better alignment to a more mobile labour market, making it easier for individuals and families to pursue job opportunities or adapt their accommodation to changing family circumstances.

I hope the Government's strategy, which has been influenced by a consultation process that many of the parties in this House have contributed to in a pretty significant way, will be published next week. I need to get Government approval for it next Tuesday. It is not realistic for me to support a Bill in this House when we believe we will have a more comprehensive policy commitment that will involve some legislative change next week. My priority is to try to get a difficult balance right. We have to recognise that our core problem is a significant deficit in supply.

For this reason, significant increases are required in the number of social housing units and the number of properties available in the private rental market. We are starting to see some momentum in the property market. The number of planning permissions and commencements has increased, as has the number of properties coming into the market. The industry is gearing up in a way we have not seen for some time. While we must manage this in a sustainable manner, we must also dramatically increase output from approximately 12,500 housing completions in 2015 to a figure of between 30,000 and 40,000 housing units per annum. We are a long way from achieving that target.

The danger is that excessive intervention in the rental market has the potential to undermine the growing appetite to invest in bringing vacant properties back into use and building new properties. At the same time, we must recognise the extraordinary pressures many tenants are under and I accept the arguments that are made in this regard. Nevertheless, I must try to balance intervention with the need to avoid killing off supply, as otherwise we will, year after year, introduce more and more emergency measures to address a lack of supply. In the political debate, we often hear only one side of this argument because there are more people involved and many tenants are under severe pressure from unsustainable rent increases introduced in the past two or three years. We are trying to listen to all perspectives and we will seek to strike the right balance next week. Deputies will have an opportunity to debate the rental strategy after we launch it next week.

Sinn Féin has introduced three housing Bills in recent months and weeks. The Labour Party Bill before us is also comprehensive and focuses solely on protecting and supporting tenants. While this is an important part of what we need to do, it is not the complete picture. We must also introduce supply measures which ensure the growth in the private rental market of the past 20 years can continue. The number of people in the private rental market has doubled in the past two decades and it will probably double again in the next two decades. If we do not meet this accelerated demand by providing new properties, pressure on the system will build. We are trying to reduce this pressure.

We have seen an over-reliance on the private rental market for social housing solutions. For this reason, we must build much more social housing and bring many more vacant properties into social housing use. We will have purchased more than 1,000 properties for this purpose by the end of the year, at a cost of more than €200 million. Almost 4,300 additional social houses will be provided this year through acquisitions, bringing voids back into use and building new social housing. This is a significant increase and more than 17,000 social housing solutions will have been put in place this year, many of them in the private rental market through the housing assistance payment and other provisions.

I look forward to introducing next week what I hope will be viewed by other parties as a reasonable balance in terms of what we are trying to achieve from the point of view of continuing to encourage supply and landlord investment, while at the same time supporting and recognising the pressures many tenants are under.

I welcome the Bill, which proposes some very welcome measures, for example, the implementation of the Kenny report, the imposition of a limit on the cost of land purchased under compulsory purchase orders and the limiting of rent increases to rises in the consumer price index. I also welcome the proposed change to the definition of "landlord" to include vulture funds and real estate investment trusts, REITs. It is clear the Government and Fianna Fáil Party intend to amend the Bill so as to make it unrecognisable. Whether the proposed measures go far enough is an argument I would like to address.

By any measure, the housing crisis is an historic crisis, which is the outcome of the crash and the political influence of the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties, which were led and influenced for decades by developers, builders and vested interests. It is also the result of the policies pursued by this Government and the previous Government, of which Deputy Jan O'Sullivan and the Labour Party were members. As the crisis unfolded and worsened, what was the response of the Government and its predecessor? The reason we have 140,000 families in housing need-----

The figure is not 140,000.

-----6,000 people on the homeless list, more than 2,000 children in homeless accommodation and countless thousands of people facing the threat of eviction is the policies pursued by Governments.

While it is welcome that Deputy Jan O'Sullivan has introduced a Bill that confronts the rights of property owners, it was not long ago that Deputy Alan Kelly, as the Minister with responsibility for housing in the previous Government, repeatedly assured the House that rent controls could not be introduced because of concerns about their constitutionality. I have just heard Deputy Jan O'Sullivan illustrate very well the reasons Threshold and other reputable organisations will counter this contention. While the Labour Party's conversion on the road to Damascus is welcome, it is a pity we had to wait until rent increases in Dublin since 2009 had reached 60%, thousands of people faced economic eviction because they cannot afford rent hikes and REITs and other vulture corporate landlords received tax-free windfalls from the misery of thousands of tenants. It is ironic that the Labour Party Bill is finally seeking to implement the Kenny report which, as Deputy Jan O'Sullivan stated, was issued 40 years ago when the State was immersed in corruption and appalling planning scandals. In how many Administrations has the Labour Party been directly involved since the Kenny report was issued? It could have addressed this issue before we reached the worst housing crisis in the history of the State.

The core reason for the crisis is not whether thousands of people cannot pay their rents but the blind faith all Government have shown in the market, both the rental and house-building sectors. Governments view housing as a market issue as opposed to a human rights issue. The core problem is the refusal to fund and build the level of public and social housing required by local authorities. I will highlight the low point of building social and voluntary housing because it contributed directly to the current housing crisis. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, when the Deputy who proposed the Bill was a housing Minister, the number of local authority homes built was 486, 363 and 293, respectively. Even when it was clear that a crisis of tsunami proportions was about to hit the State, the scale of social house-building was limited. During Deputy Alan Kelly's period in office, the number of local authority housing completions stood at 158 in 2014 and a glorious sum total of 75 in 2015. After five years in office, the Labour Party, which proposed this worthy Bill, had not influenced Government policy to the degree it could have done before the worst housing crisis hit. If it could not influence policy on housing, why did it remain entrenched in government?

Some of the measures proposed are welcome. It is appropriate to counter the nonsensical argument about the inviolable rights of private property. Let us hope the Labour Party's conversion to this view is not temporary but marks a full commitment on its part to tackle the root causes of the crisis. Those on the left, Labour Party Deputies and other Members across the House will eventually have to admit that the market is not working and will not provide the most basic rights to citizens. For this reason, full direct State intervention is required to stop the crisis and address the profiteering, feeding frenzy of speculation and tax breaks of the vested interests to which the Minister referred.

We need rent controls that go beyond what is proposed in this or previous Bills and can provide relief to tenants who are paying 40% to 50% of their income on rental accommodation. We need to bring rents back to 2011 rates and allow them to reflect the stagnation of wages and earnings in the economy. We need measures that increase the security of tenure for tenants and deal with issues beyond the sale of a dwelling, including the multiplicity of grounds used by landlords to end tenancies.

The Minister referred to it being important that we do not introduce overly interventionist policies in the rental market. There has not been one such intervention in the rental market, which is the reason there has been a 60% increase in rents across Dublin. The Minister also said he was concerned that such measures might kill off supply. There is no supply. What is being killed off is the human right of people to homes while the greed and profits of vulture funds, real estate investment trusts, REITs and the landlord market in this country are fed. The people paying for this are those left languishing on the housing lists and in homeless accommodation. At the same time, the Government's Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016, to which we will speak further next week, provides for the introduction of fast-track measures which are already causing major problems not only in my community but in many other communities in terms of the withdrawal from communities of halls used as old folks clubs and youth clubs, and the grabbing of land and parks. This is happening throughout communities in this city. The fast-track approach which the Minister advocates is not to go after landowners, landlords and developers but rather to go after the communities and the facilities they hold.

We are for the building of tens of thousands of local authority houses and not 4,300 this year alone, although in terms of provision that is better than it has been for years. Dramatic and emergency measures need to be taken. What we need from the Minister is emergency housing legislation that goes beyond the market and recognises housing as a human right rather than something from which developers and builders, who caused the crash, should benefit from in terms of investments. When such a Bill comes before the House we will welcome it and put our backs to the wheel to ensure it is implemented. I regret no such Bill is forthcoming.

I welcome the measures provided for in this Bill proposed by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, albeit they are too little too late.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill which attempts to bring forward compulsory purchase orders, CPOs, for unzoned land for social housing construction, to change the rules determining compensation for local authority CPOs, to introduce rent certainty provisions and to bring forward the vacant site levy by two years.

The Bill proposes to introduce the recommendations of the Kenny report from 1973 and seeks to allow local authorities to issue a CPO to purchase land for 125% of its current value. This is defined as the value of non-development land prior to it being zoned for residential use. This is a bad idea because there is already a great deal of development land zoned for residential use. The area of such lands amounts to 17,434 hectares, which is enough for 414,000 dwellings. There is serviceable land zoned for a potential 116,000 units in Dublin alone. Local authorities already own huge parcels of serviced and unserviced land. The availability and cost of land is not a barrier to social housing construction in most areas. There is no reason local authorities should waste money buying parcels of non-residentially zoned land when there are already large parcels of such land zoned for residential use. In addition, CPOs are a costly way to buy land for social housing due to their legal complexity. This is not what is recommended by the Kenny report in 1973. It is about how to reclaim some of the dividend that accrues to landowners as a result of intended or actual State investment in services and-or rezoning. This has and is being done through development levies, which were not seen as technically feasible in 1973 and were thought by the authors of the report to be too cumbersome to assess and collect. This Bill, by contrast, attempts to make it cheaper for local authorities to build social housing units on agricultural zoned unserviced land. This makes no sense and would be a costly, needless waste of public money. The Bill displays a startling misunderstanding of planning and the local authority home building process.

With regard to changing the method by which compensation is determined on CPOs for local authorities, the Bill proposes to abolish existing methods for determining compensation for CPO by local authority projects, implementing the idea from the Kenny report 1973 whereby all CPOs would be paid 125% predevelopment value. Currently, the assessment of compensation payable by an acquiring authority is based on 17 rules laid out by statute and by the relevant case law, including the value of land acquired, diminution in value of retained lands, if any; costs resulting from acquisition; disturbance; loss of profits or goodwill; loss or depreciation of stock in trade etc. The aim of a compulsory purchase order should be to leave the affected party, in so far as possible, in the same position as before the property or land was acquired. It follows therefore, that the affected parties should be duly compensated for their loss or disturbance. There is no logical reason why this assessment system, which covers the multitude of circumstances in which CPOs take place, should be replaced by a simplistic rule specifying 125% of the prezoned current value. This would be unimplementable and, without doubt, would breach individuals’ rights to fair compensation.

On rent certainty provisions, while stronger rent certainty measures are required, any model must be well thought out and display awareness of the significant disruptions that rent regulations can inflict on the market. Fianna Fáil is on record for over a year now calling for stronger rent certainty measures. Last week, during the course of debate on the Sinn Féin Private Members' business on rent regulations, Fianna Fáil introduced an amendment that would oblige the Minister to introduce new rent certainty measures to the Oireachtas within one month by way of amendment on Committee and Remaining Stages of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 which takes place next week or by way of recommendations that could bring about rent certainty. In the absence of Government doing so, we expect that provisions in that regard will be contained in the rental strategy. Failing either of those options being taken by Government, Fianna Fáil will bring forth legislation to implement the rent certainty measures that we believe are necessary. Such rent certainty measures must be subsequent to the consideration of the most appropriate model for rent certainty regulations that is both constitutional and minimises negative effects on rental unit supply.

On the proposal to bring forward the vacant site levy, the 3% vacant site levy is due to take effect in 2019. The Labour Party in government was responsible for setting 2019 as the year in which the levy would commence being charged on vacant residential sites in high demand urban areas. It is now proposing that owners of vacant sites be subject to this levy from 2017. To be subject to the levy, properties will have to be on the vacant site register for one year. That is the law. As such it is not legally possible to introduce it in 2017. This would be a retrospective application of the law, which is not possible or legally enforceable. They are the four main recommendations of this Bill. I have responded to each of those recommendations and highlighted the reasons Fianna Fáil does not believe they are applicable or necessary. We do not believe they would help to resolve the crisis and have set out the reasons why that is the case.

I commend Deputy Jan O'Sullivan on her effort in bringing forward legislation which she believes would be advantageous in addressing the crisis we are in. Unfortunately, I do not believe what is contained in this Bill will have the effect she desires. I have, therefore, as referred to by Deputy O'Sullivan, tabled a counter-proposal to the Second Reading of this Bill. As I said earlier, I look forward to dealing next week with Committee and Remaining Stages of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016. I hope the Government will take that opportunity to recognise the will that exists across all sides of the House to bring forward a reputable, appropriate and efficient certainty model that can help.

It needs to be in place for a sunset period to interfere with what is an abnormal market in order to bring about some sense of normality in the sector.

I know the Minister will receive the help and assistance that is required from those on all sides of the House to ensure cross-party support for a model that is appropriate and based on rent certainty regulations. That model should be cognisant of the constitutional aspects. The latter have been lost in some of the debates that have taken place in recent weeks despite people's best intentions and Members all being on the same side in their desire to have a mechanism that would help.

I put the House on notice that I shall be moving an amendment.

On behalf of Sinn Féin, I am very pleased to be able to support Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's Bill. As with much of the work many of us have been doing, including the Deputy, this Bill is about trying to increase the supply of social and affordable housing to tackle the acute levels of housing need and homelessness.

The Minister said earlier that the November homelessness figures indicate a drop in the number of people in Dublin who are homeless. The figures have not been published yet so we will have to wait and see. It is important to remember, however, that the figures, published monthly by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, do not include women and children in Tusla-funded domestic violence refuges, nor do they include people in new communities funded through the new communities unit of the Department of Social Protection. They do not include sofa surfers or those at risk of homelessness. Notwithstanding that, I would like to see a drop in the figures whenever they are published. We still have no official State-published figures. That is wrong. It could easily be rectified by the Departments involved.

Increasing the supply of housing is not just about what many of us do in this House. It is also about what we do in our local councils and communities. There are politicians coming into this Chamber demanding increases in social housing but actively blocking them. Alternatively, their councillors are actively blocking social housing projects in this city. That is an absolute disgrace. One is either in favour of it or against it. No matter how difficult some of the decisions are, politicians need to stand up to be counted to ensure that where houses are being proposed, no matter how difficult the associated decisions, the appropriate action is taken. Both the Labour Party, which is behind this Bill, and my party have a track record in this regard. It is unfortunate that others, including some who have left the Chamber, do not have such a track record.

One aspect of the Bill that is really good is that it opens by drawing on Article 43 of the Constitution. I say this because Article 43 is very often used as a way of not doing something or as an excuse by politicians or the Government not to take action that is required. Despite this, anybody who reads Article 43 knows that private property rights are not unrestricted and that they are conditional on principles of social justice and the common good. This is made very explicit at the start of the Bill, which is very good.

At a meeting of the housing and homelessness committee, Mr. Ed Honohan discussed these matters at great length and dismissed and dispelled many of the myths about what is and is not constitutionally possible. Just because something may be constitutionally problematic is not a reason for not doing it. Sometimes forcing the matter into the courts is a way of resolving something that would otherwise be left undone. On that basis, the Minister's arguments for not supporting the changes to the compensation rules for compulsory purchase orders do not hold water.

I listened carefully to Deputy Cowen and simply do not agree with him. In certain local authorities, there are tracts of land that developers are not developing. They are not seeking to sell on the open market. Those tracts could be vital in the provision of further social housing. At this stage, particularly in light of what Article 43 states about the common good and principles of social justice, ensuring that land is not wasted and is brought into productive use to meet the chronic housing needs of many of our citizens is vital.

Thankfully, we are beginning to see some local authorities using compulsory purchase orders. That is good but they are not using them anywhere near enough. What is worse - this is not directly related the Bill but it is still worth mentioning - is that there are significant numbers of vacant properties that banks, particularly AIB and Permanent TSB, have put on offer to the Housing Agency to be funded by ourselves. Almost 1,000 properties are in this category. In response to a recent parliamentary question asked by Deputy Pearse Doherty, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, indicated funding for only 200 of those was being forwarded. At some stage, we will need to hear, from the Minister of State or the Minister, why the Housing Agency is turning down 800 much-needed vacant houses that are ready to go, primarily in the city of Dublin.

All the residential tenancies legislation amendments are eminently sensible. None of them is radical. They all propose good things that could and should happen as a matter of urgency. In our constituency clinics, we all deal with tenants whose property has been repossessed by the banks and who get a letter from the receiver. They just do not understand what is going on. In some cases, the property agents acting on behalf of the lenders also do not know what is going on. They simply do not know what the law is, and that is because there is no legal clarity on the matter. Therefore, the relevant amendment would create a considerable amount of certainty for tenants, lenders, receivers and property agents. I see no reason why it could not be accepted or included, if not tonight in a future amendment to the Bill that the Government is currently bringing through the House.

The reference rent index, the 12-month reviews and the CPI index link are all eminently sensible. I listened to Deputy Cowen on a number of occasions say that he understands how well-intentioned we are and that we all put a lot of work into this. Obviously, we all like to be patronised in that way. If one does not like the detail of the Bill but likes the principle behind it, one should accept it and amend it on Committee Stage. We have all said from the very outset of these debates that there are better ways of proceeding. The difficulty, however, is that increasingly it seems to be the case that Fianna Fáil in its housing policy is saying "Yes" to measures in principle but voting against them on the floor of this House.

Ten-week holiday.

I look forward with great interest to Deputy Cowen's rent certainty legislation. Unlike him, I believe that if legislation is worth supporting, even if I would like to see some technical changes, I will vote for it if it is the right thing to do, irrespective of how it makes me look politically.

On some of the other changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, including the termination of tenancy on sale, I shall use this opportunity to make an appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy English. There is a Bill that will pass through this House next week, irrespective of what many of us think about many of its provisions. In that Bill, the Minister of State will have an opportunity to do something very similar to what Deputy Jan O'Sullivan is doing here, that is, to provide protection to a significant number of tenants in rented properties at risk of becoming homeless. As the legislation stands, it will provide protection in only 5% of landlord cases. I understand that the Minister is seeking to try to drag this percentage back to where it was originally, perhaps 1% to 1.5%. The vast majority of people who need the protection will not get it. The Government has indicated that it will not support the proposal in front of us today, but I believe it is a proposal that could be amended very simply on Committee Stage next week. I urge the Minister of State to do so.

Let us consider the vacant site levy. Dublin InQuirer recently published figures that the State should have published a long time ago, namely, a public record of all the vacant land in the city of Dublin. It publishes the addresses and, where possible, it identifies the owners. There are significant tracts of land just lying there. They are not tracts that developers hard hit by the recession do not have the finance to develop; they are just lying idle. Until such time as there is a penalty attached to land left unused, nothing will change.

I wish to conclude by making a general point in response to the Minister, Deputy Coveney. During all the debates we have had on these issues, we keep hearing about balance and the need to balance the rights of developers with the public interest, and the rights of landlords with the rights of tenants. That would be acceptable if we were starting from a position of equilibrium and if there was balance in the development and private rental sectors. I hear people say we cannot intervene too much in the market, particularly the rental market, but there are currently almost 80,000 properties in the rental market that are subsidised by the State. This represents a massive level of intervention.

Under Rebuilding Ireland, the Government is seeking to push that number, which covers rent supplement, RAS and HAP, to somewhere in the region of 140,000. More than one third of all rental tenancies would be subsidised by the State, which is a colossal level of State intervention in the price of private rental properties.

When it comes to defending tenants' rights, particularly at a time when the yields for investors in the rental sector are not only at historic highs in Ireland, but across the EU, to focus on balance misses the point. The balance is so skewed the other way that a modest Bill like this, which I fully support, would only begin to tip it back in the right direction.

When we refer to balance, what we mean is that the Government is scared, nervous or ideologically opposed to making the kinds of State-led intervention, be it in the use of land, the regulation of the private rental sector or the overall frame of housing policy. Until that changes, we will see no substantial change in people's lives.

There has recently been a series of votes in the Chamber on housing policy. How the Chamber divided has been interesting. On the one hand, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are arguing for the same kinds of policy framework that have failed for decades to deliver for people in acute housing need. The rest of us, including Deputy Jan O'Sullivan with her Bill, are urging the Government to break with the failed policy of the past and do something different. It is disappointing that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are opposing the Bill, although I am not surprised in the slightest. Until that situation changes, the people whom we are all seeking to help will not be shown the light at the end of the tunnel that they need.

Listening to the Deputies, it is obvious that people agree that there is a serious crisis in the building and, in particular, rental sectors. In the case of the latter, there has been a market failure from the point of view of people who aspire to rent at fair market prices but are increasingly unable to do so. We could conduct an historical analysis of why there has been a building crisis, but the recovery in the market has been much slower than anyone anticipated.

The Bill's measures have been proposed by the Labour Party many times, but many are not shared by the Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil parties. Down the decades, those parties have made that clear. We understand the differences, but we are in a crisis, and when one is in a crisis, one cannot allow matters to continue as they have been. One must be willing to address the market failure. Deputy Cowen agrees that there can be sunset clauses and reviews, but there has been a period of intense and deep market failure.

Notwithstanding the fact that the new Government is broadly following programmes and policies that were initiated and agreed by the Labour Party in government, it is failing in its duty to cap rents. We cannot allow a situation in which people at work - in many cases, a working couple - cannot afford their rents or assuage the greed of landlords. I am sorry that the Fine Gael Party is not giving leadership. A landlord can ask for any rent and, somehow or other, salaries must provide, but they will not provide. This is the failure that I mentioned.

Deputy Kelly introduced rent capping measures and the two-year moratorium. It was hard fought for in government. The Minister, Deputy Noonan, made his disagreement known publicly. After difficult discussions, he was persuaded on the moratorium. The two-year period will come to an end around March, though, and Fine Gael does not understand that the train is moving for many people who have dealt with previous rent hikes. I am not even referring to people living in social housing, but to working people. We are delighted to see them working. It is a celebration of the previous Government, which was able to increase the number at work.

I will cite an example that I have raised with the Taoiseach a couple of times. The Minister of State, Deputy English, will be familiar with it. Clonee is just on the Meath edge of the Meath-Dublin border. A statue of Our Lady marks the border. Just over the border, rents become cheaper because they are in Meath, notwithstanding the fact that the Minister of State is in Meath. I know people who have been renting there for €850 per month. Their two-year moratorium will come to an end in March. They are renting a one and a half-room apartment. The Minister of State will be familiar with that type of situation. It is a double room plus a box room. The box room is small enough for a bit of an office with a computer or a child's bed, and that is it. There is no more space. The people have been renting there for four years, have been good tenants and both are at work, but they have been told that their rent is likely to increase to approximately €1,200. That is not acceptable. No one could stand over it. The landlord has been decent, but landlords have come to know that this is what is expected and is what the Government will allow them to do, namely, to raise rents until the pips squeak.

In the Manor Street area of Dublin 7 on the north side, two-bedroom units are being rented out for €1,800. Those are Hollywood prices. I am not referring to Holywood, County Down, but Hollywood, California. They are not defensible prices for modest, two-bedroom accommodation. People at work cannot afford to pay their rents. I am referring to people who are on moderate incomes, may be at the start of their careers and are also are trying to save enough money to buy a house. Landlords and their agents are being greedy and are exploiting vulnerable people. We must address this situation.

Deputy Bríd Smith made some comments about the Labour Party, but the person who entered the House in 2011 and week in, week out called for rents to be raised was her colleague, Deputy Boyd Barrett. He wanted all caps on rent supplement to be removed. In fairness, Sinn Féin did not clamour for that. Maybe all of his friends are landlords. It is all deep south County Dublin talk. Sometimes, it is a bit different, but when someone clamours again and again for rents to be increased as Deputy Boyd Barrett did, one must ask what was behind that. Rents in 30% of the market, reflected in rent supplement, would be raised.

Deputy Bríd Smith suggested that nothing had happened. While Deputy Jan O'Sullivan was the Minister of State with responsibility for housing and worked with the then Minister, Mr. Phil Hogan, and subsequently when Deputy Kelly was the Minister, 5,000 to 6,000 voided properties were tackled. They were a scandal. I am from Dublin city centre. Members will not believe the rage that I feel when I pass decent flats that have been boarded up and where friends of my parents used to live and that I knew well as a child. I saw the scandal of O'Devaney Gardens, of which I know every stone. It is being boarded up by Dublin City Council and knocked down. My mother's old home was knocked down well over ten years ago. It is such a scandal. The Government must grasp what is happening to the capital city.

In that context, I will address the achievements of Deputies Jan O'Sullivan and Kelly.

Everyone comes in for criticism, some of it fair and some of it not merited, but it is a very significant development to get 5,000 voided properties that had been lying derelict right around the country back into circulation and to provide them to families. Cork city was another place with an unfortunately high number of voids. The turnaround time in some cases had grown to three years. There must be fairness on the part of Deputy Bríd Smith, whom I am sure is a very fair person, that all of this was achieved at a time when the country was on its knees in terms of the bank collapse. If we are to have a decent discussion on housing we must be honest all around.

I am concerned that I hear hesitation, equivocation and non-engagement in the voice of the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government on rent certainty. I have a couple of suggestions, some of which would tie in with what Deputy Cowen suggested. It would be possible to extend the moratorium by one, two or three years and perhaps to modify it to address what is proposed in the Bill in the context of the consumer price index, CPI. Deputy Cowen was a business man before he became a politician. Landlords could not really baulk at the moratorium being extended because they are getting extraordinarily high rents. We could be flexible and then when the market recovers the issue could be looked at again. People must have rent certainty. Some restrictions must be put in place.

The second topic I wish to raise is the €200 million special fund the previous Government allocated for essential infrastructure to allow sites to be developed. I am familiar with various parts of Dublin city and county, in particular my area of Fingal. There is a site for 3,000 houses, which is part of a special development zone and it has full planning permission, but it cannot go ahead until some of the road infrastructure is built. I asked the Taoiseach about it the other day. I am pleased the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, is present because perhaps he understood what was whispered in the Taoiseach's ear. I do not know if it came out the way he said it to the Taoiseach but what the Taoiseach said was distinctly odd. I said the Government should go to the European Investment Bank and take out a loan to provide the infrastructural fund because the demand around the country is approximately four times the available sum of €200 million. I think everyone who is interested in housing would agree on that. If some councils are gilding the lily a very smart Minister of State such as Deputy Damien English would be able to spot that a mile off. What the Taoiseach said in his reply-----

The Deputy’s time is up.

-----is that: "the Minister of State will make the decision on what sites should be selected. We will not select sites to be opened and then find that no houses have been built". I really want the Minister of State, Deputy English, to explain what the Taoiseach said.

We will let him do so now because Deputy Burton's time is up.

He said: "Are we going to continue to carpet the entire Dublin region in the same manner for the next 20 years? Should we instead consider the structure and nature of developments we want to see in the next 20 years?" Does that mean a Government dominated by apparently rural interests wants to carpet the countryside but leave Dublin alone?

I thank Deputy Burton. We will get an answer for her now.

Does the Taoiseach just want all the houses to be in Castlebar? It will not wash.

I thank Deputy Burton and call the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English.

The Taoiseach certainly did not mean he wanted to carpet the countryside with houses. What he meant was we must consider using more brownfield sites in Dublin for housing, as opposed to continuing to extend cities and towns. He mentioned Dunboyne and Clonee and the fact that rather than continuing to extend them we should develop existing sites. That will be addressed in the replacement spatial strategy up to 2040. It is not a case of putting all of the houses in Castlebar. However, we know from visiting county councils that houses are required in every county. It is not just a problem for Dublin, Cork or Limerick because housing issues arise in every county and they must be addressed. That is the case but that is not what the Taoiseach was referring to the other day.

Deputy Burton referred to the infrastructure fund and what she said is correct. The 75 applications that have been received total approximately €700 million plus in terms of infrastructure. That does not include all local authorities, as only 21 local authorities have submitted their plans. I am sure there are more to come. It has been a useful process in terms of giving us a view of the amount of infrastructure required. I hope the initial fund of €200 million is only the start. We know that we will need more funding but there are other mechanisms to fund it. The strategic investment fund is interested in funding another phase of this at some stage so there is other money to be got. The Deputy correctly identified European money as well. This is an initial phase to which we have committed in order to get things moving on key sites. A decision will be made in the coming weeks and months based on certain criteria such as sites that can deliver housing. The Taoiseach outlined that it would be illogical for this House to fund a new bridge into a site, for example, for €4 million or €5 million but that the houses would not be built for ten years. Any money spent on infrastructure would be done on the basis that housing on adjacent sites would be quickly provided and at an affordable price. That is the aim of the fund. That was what the Taoiseach was referring to, in case there is any confusion.

The Minister, Deputy Coveney, earlier outlined the Government's absolute commitment to resolving the national housing crisis. That crisis is affecting all parts of the housing sector, including the rental sector. Our approach must therefore be holistic and founded on the realisation that all parts of the housing sector are interlinked and interdependent. The reason there are five pillars in the action plan and 84 actions is because we recognise that joined-up thinking is needed right across the system of government, including local authorities.

It was precisely because of continuing rent increases that the Government introduced a package of rent stability and additional housing supply measures in November. The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 introduced a number of measures to address rising rents. With regard to rent stability, the Act provided that the minimum period between rent reviews for tenancies increased from 12 to 24 months. The provision will apply for a four-year period. That is in reference to decisions made by the then Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly.

In addition, the minimum period of notice of new rents was increased from 28 days to 90 days and longer notice periods for the termination of long-term tenancies were introduced. The extension of the period between rent reviews from 12 months to 24 months takes effect from the date of the last review. If a tenant had a rent review in July 2015, the next review would not be until July 2017.

There is, however, no question but that pressures on the rental market remain driven by rising demand, which is a result of the economic recovery, by a lack of supply and by the high costs that highly indebted landlords face in servicing their loans. These pressures are borne out by the data published by the Residential Tenancies Board and in the daft.ie rental reports. Fundamentally, the increases in rent have been driven by a mismatch between the additional demand associated with the very welcome economic recovery and a lack of a corresponding response in supply.

Last night it was claimed in the House that it is not a supply issue and that supply would not guarantee lower rents, but it would. That was the case some years ago when there was an over-supply of housing. Deputy Burton mentioned Dunboyne and I mentioned Kilcock last night. Between 2008 and 2014 one could rent a house for between €700 and €900 because there was an over-supply but now the rents there are between €1,100 and €1,300. It is about supply and everything we do is designed to increase supply. It is not a question of ideology in terms of rent security. In fairness, Deputy Cowen referred to the issue as well – we do not want to affect supply adversely. A balance is required. I expect Deputy Burton understands the point. We know that at the moment the balance is tipped the other way and people are faced with very high rents but we also want to increase the activity in the rental sector and to get more people to invest in rental properties and to build housing. With the best will in the world we cannot solve the housing crisis with taxpayers' money alone or through social housing. We do need private sector investment as well.

As I said last night the Rebuilding Ireland strategy is about rebuilding capacity in all local authorities to deliver social housing and not to stop at that, but first to build the capacity back up and during that phase to deliver up to 50,000 social houses. A decision can then be made to increase the number thereafter. The intention is that local authorities would be in a position to deliver 10,000 social housing units a year thereafter. People might decide to go further than that, which is fair enough, but one still cannot do it overnight. It will take time to get there and in the meantime we also need increased provision of properties from the private sector that we can use for social housing and also to provide homes for those who do not qualify for social housing. In the rental sector it is a case of getting the balance right so as not to affect supply adversely.

The Labour Party Bill before the House sets out to address key problems in the housing market.

Everybody in this House understands that this is the social issue of our time and everybody is coming forward with solutions - sometimes thinking outside the box and grasping issues that we have been talking about for a very long time. I will make two brief points. In respect of the point the Minister of State made about infrastructure, during all the work we did during the past five years, we were always anxious to tee up in advance schools, health centres and so on so that when the planning came, and sometimes we were doing bundles of them, the groundwork was in place. That is what we are asking for here. The figure of €200 million allocated last year is not enough. We should allocate more money and let the roads be there before the planning for houses is granted. We should ensure the water and sewerage is there so that we can advance provision. There is no point in trying to build bridges or infrastructure after planning permission. That delays it for years.

In respect of a point made by Deputy Cowen, if he reads the Bill, he will see that it is not the Labour Party's position to bring forward the vacant sites levy by two years. The Bill would bring it forward by one year. This was our position in Government but we could not get agreement at that stage. Doing it as quickly as possible is a very important issue.

The history of this State has been marked by the insidious influence of private developers and property crashes. I believe there is a desire to change that. It is then that we need a strong role for the State in housing development and the rental sector. The changes proposed in the Bill will make a substantive change in tackling the housing crisis. Our Bill would tackle the unsustainable rise in the cost of living driven by escalating rents. That has been very clearly articulated by my colleagues on my left. Once again, the Government, along with its Fianna Fáil partners, proposes a delaying amendment, which is profoundly annoying. Everything that seeks to solve a major problem is now faced with an amendment. Is the Government expecting a general election next year because everything is pushed back into 2017, be it waste, water, housing or the Eighth Amendment? It is a case of put in an amendment and kick it further down the road. It is time we grappled with these issues.

There are two fundamental issues in the Bill. One is dealing with what will be an ongoing catastrophic situation caused by unaffordable rents. I spoke today to an individual who is earning €56,000, which is no mean income, who told me he cannot rent a house in Dublin. I spoke yesterday to an ambassador who was talking about companies moving to Ireland post Brexit. The number one question he has been asked is whether companies will be able to find housing for the people who move here. Housing is a critical issue and if we do not control rents, we will have soaring rents that will simply make it unaffordable for the majority of people. The suggestion to link rents to the consumer price index is a sensible way of dealing with that. They are already at an historically high level and already provide a very good return for landlords. I do not buy the line that landlords will not come in and that we will kill off the business. It is a very profitable business, thank you very much, and will remain so but there is a need for decent standards.

The other core issue in the Bill relates to finally tackling the cost of development land. I am as guilty as anybody else in this House. The Kenny report predates any of us coming into this House. It was a solution that was put forward then to ensure that someone would not make an unconscionable killing because they owned land that was simply zoned for development. We have seen people becoming multimillionaires on the basis of a decision by a council to zone land. We cannot go back to that. I do not for one moment buy the notion that this is unconstitutional. What we are proposing in the Bill are simply the proposals put forward by an all-party committee that reported in 2004. This all-party committee on the Constitution considered this in detail in 2004 and it is its recommendation across all views of opinion in the House that this can be done and is constitutional. It is worth noting that the legal adviser to that committee is a current leading member of the Court of Appeal and co-author of Ireland's leading textbook on constitutional law so he might know something about it. I believe these things can be done where there is a will to do them.

The simple reason the Government objects to the Bill is because it is bowing to powerful vested interests in this country who do not want either rents regulated or the price of land controlled in the way we are proposing. It is time for us to do these things. During Leaders' Questions, I listened to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government who was answering questions for the Government. He was passionate about thinking outside the box and doing these things now but when the opportunity arises to make a legislative difference, not a debate or statements, we have these kicking to touch amendments again. The reason put forward in the Government amendment for not accepting this Bill now is that there will be a report next week. Why will there be a report next week in the dying days of this Dáil session? If it is going to be published next Tuesday, it is probably ready now. The notion that we will have no alternative analysis put forward by anybody else this side of Christmas when this is, according to everyone, the critical issue of this Dáil is not embracing the spirit of new politics, which is that everybody's ideas are equally valid. So nobody's ideas are to be considered and certainly not accepted until such time as the Government sets out its stall and it cannot do that until two days before the Dáil adjourns. Will there be time next week for a debate on these matters? I do not know.

I am equally disappointed by the fact that Fianna Fáil wants to kick this to touch. Why is Fianna Fáil afraid to take on this issue? There are those who express concern and wonder why workers seek pay raises and why there is a clamour in the public and private sectors for some sort of pay recovery. It is because they cannot afford to pay the rents that are now being demanded. Certainly in Dublin or any place adjacent to - in fact, in any of our towns or cities - the pressure on the ordinary average income earner to pay his or her rent is becoming unsustainable. We must join up the dots and recognise that this issue must be cracked. We can work together. None of the parties that have put forward proposals on this issue claim to be the repository of all wisdom on it. There will be subsets of ideas taken by all. I can go through all the issues but Deputy Jan O'Sullivan has done that far more eloquently than I can. We can deal with the issue of controlling rent, which is the most oppressive weight on so many people thinking about how they are going to work and meet their rents into 2017. This would help to deal with the solution to the problem, which is dealing with the supply side without going back to the unconscionable profits accruing to individuals simply because their land is required for a public good, which is housing. They should be entitled to a modest increase on the nominal face value of it and in that respect a rate of 25% is what was suggested by the all-party committee. That is also what we are suggesting. These are practical real solutions to problems that exist today.

Even at this late hour I urge for the Bill to be supported by the Government side of the House and those who give it confidence and supply.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 15 December 2016.