Residential Tenancies (Greater Security of Tenure and Rent Certainty) Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members]

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

I am presenting the Bill on behalf of the Labour Party and sharing time with Deputy Brendan Ryan.

The Labour Party is bringing the Bill before the Dáil as the number of individuals and families being squeezed in the private rented sector grows daily, as their level of insecurity and fear of homelessness also grows. It comes in the week when we expect to hear that the number of people, including children, who were homeless last month is likely to be close to 10,000. I expect the Minister to publish the figures this week because last month they were published on the 30th day of the month, even though in the previous month they had been published a little earlier. As a large proportion of the number will be children, we now live in a country with thousands of children in homeless services.

The Bill also comes on the day when four organisations that work at the coalface, Barnardos, Focus Ireland, Simon Communities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, highlight the hidden homeless who are living with relatives, without autonomy, adequate space or security. Mr. Fergus Finlay of Barnardos has estimated that there could be 20,000 or more in that category.

It also comes on a day when it has been revealed by Mel Reynolds that the number of local authority homes built last year was not 780 as previously claimed but 394 because turnkey houses bought from private builders were included in the figures. It comes a week after the review of rent predictability measures. The rent pressure zone legislation was put on the Department's website but I do not believe there was any accompanying press statement. It is quite limited in its proposals and I will return to it later when dealing with the issues facing tenants. I understand the Minister intends to bring forward legislation, which he indicated again this morning, in June to amend the residential tenancy legislation. I would urge that it be more ambitious and comprehensive than what seems to be indicated in what I read on the Department's website, which was quite limited and did not address some of the issues that were to be addressed in that review. I look forward to the Minister's response in that regard.

The fact is that fear and insecurity are rife among our fellow citizens who are renters, whether through choice or necessity. Most people who are being made homeless end up that way because their rents have been hiked up or they have been put out of their privately rented accommodation because their landlords have said that the home is needed for a family member, that the place has to be done up or that it is being sold.

The main purpose of this Bill is to address the real and distressing circumstances in which people find themselves. It is urgent that there are the kinds of protections that are the norm in other European countries. Many of us know people living in Germany, France and other European countries where there is a substantial suite of measures that protect renters and allow them to make a long-term home in rented accommodation. It is quite the norm in many other countries but we are not in that space. We have many accidental landlords and much insecurity. I would be particularly concerned about older people who are living in rented accommodation and who are very worried about their futures. I have met some representatives of older people and that is a particular worry now with which we should concern ourselves. I am also very concerned about children.

I published the Housing (Homeless Families) Bill on behalf of the Labour Party, and it was accepted in this House. It is designed specifically to consider the needs of children who are in homelessness and where they are simply described in the legislation as dependants of adults who are homeless rather than having the kind of rights children need in their own right. For example, they need to have play space, to be near their friends, to have places to eat, places to do their homework and all of those activities that are so important for children. They need to be specifically catered for by the housing authorities and by the State.

The anxiety and misery endured by families and especially children needs to end. We have had many debates on housing and we all know that more supply of housing for people at all levels of income is crucial. That goes without saying. We particularly need more social and affordable housing. During Taoiseach's questions today I raised with him again the need to use the 700 or so publicly owned sites for social and affordable housing rather than for private profit. I was disappointed when he talked about the social mix and that he indicated the private was very much part of it. If affordable purchase is part of it, that housing will be private too and they will be people with jobs and incomes. I do not accept the level at which local authorities now appear to want to involve the private sector in publicly owned sites.

While we wait for this supply to ramp up, the private rented market will be the only space available for so many families with different needs and, in most cases, limited income. It must be made a safer, more secure space for those people.

The Constitution contains property rights but they are supposed to be balanced with social rights and the needs of the common good. I strongly urge that, in the homelessness crisis, the common good needs to be served by giving people the kind of certainty and security their counterparts in the rental sectors in most European countries have. This needs to happen in a comprehensive way. The drip feed of change that has happened so far does no service to tenants or landlords.

An example of an area that is outside the rent pressure zones is my city of Limerick. There is constant speculation that Limerick may be included in the rent pressure zone the next time around, and the Minister's predecessor suggested that when he was in Limerick some time ago, but it has not been included yet. It is an incentive for landlords to put up the rent in advance of the possible inclusion of an area in the rent pressure zones. The drip feed is not helpful and the proposal in our legislation that would include the whole country as a rent pressure zone would eliminate that problem.

The Labour Party is presenting this Bill as a comprehensive measure to provide security of tenure and rent certainty to tenants. It is designed to protect people from losing their homes in the context of soaring figures relating to homelessness. I welcome the indications of support we have received from other parties and Members and the fact that the Government has indicated it will not oppose the Bill. We know that a large number of Bills have been sent to the Select Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for Committee Stage, including the Housing (Homeless Families) Bill, but what we all want to achieve is the implementation of the measures we have been proposing. What I and the Labour Party want to achieve is the implementation of the measures contained in this Bill without delay. I ask the Minister to consider incorporating them into his Bill which is due to be published quite soon, and he might clarify that.

Before I go through the detail of the Bill, I want to cite a few of the many individual stories we have heard, which make a huge impression in terms of the reality of people's lives. This morning when the groups, Barnardos, Focus Ireland, Simon Communities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, got together, they gave a number of examples of people who are in hidden homelessness. I want to quote from two people who are in hidden homelessness because they lost their private rented accommodation. One of them is Jenny and her Mam. I will not read their story in full but this will give an understanding of their circumstances. Jenny is seven years old. She shares a single bed with her Mam in a small room in a house share. All of Jenny's clothes and toys fit into two drawers under the bed. There is a TV in their room and a fridge for some food and snacks. Jenny is the only child who lives in the house. The other grown-ups who live there stay up late each night playing loud music and sometimes shouting. There are often visitors coming and going until after midnight. Jenny makes up excuses whenever her friends ask can they visit her house. She has not told any of them that she shares a bed with her Mam or that she eats her dinner on the bed every night.

Jenny can still remember when she and her Mam had a home of their own. It was a nice apartment with a bright kitchen where Jenny used to eat breakfast every day. They had to move out of the apartment as the building was being refurbished. Rents in their town had increased so much that all Jenny's Mam could afford was a single room in a house share. Her Mam said it would only be for a little while, but Jenny has had two birthdays since they moved in. That is an example of two people who had to move out of their home because they were told the accommodation was being refurbished. That is one of the measures we address in our Bill.

The other example from which I want to quote is the story of Laura, Noel, Barry and Sam. Laura, Noel and their two sons, Barry and Sam, aged eight and five, became homeless when their landlord decided to sell the property they had been renting for the previous eight years. They frantically looked for alternative accommodation, but there were hundreds of people eager to take the few places that were available to rent. The family have been on the housing list for nine years but they have had no offer of a house in that time. Once their eviction date came, faced with moving the family into emergency accommodation, Laura and her husband, Noel, decided instead to split the family up. Laura and the boys moved in with Laura's parents and Noel moved in with a friend. Their dog, Blondie, was sent to live with a relative in another county. Over a year later the family still do not have a home of their own and continue to live separately.

I will give an example from my constituency of a person I know quite well whom I will call Catherine, even though that is not her name. Even though she is living in one of the suburbs of Limerick that has very high rents, she does not qualify to be in a rent pressure zone. This is one of the areas the Minister needs to address. Rent pressure zones take in entire local electoral areas, and the local electoral area in this case contains rural as well as urban areas. The rents are much lower in the rural areas, so that does not help the people who live in the suburban areas.

Catherine is working. She is separated with two children. She was given a huge rent hike that she was not expecting which she simply could not afford. She tried everywhere to get something affordable and in the end had to move far outside the city, far away from her job and from the children's school, which was the only option she had having tried whatever she could to get appropriate accommodation.

This is an example of the problems for a city such as Limerick that is not included in the rent pressure zones. I urge the Minister to look at that particular measure. It was to be covered in the review but I did not see anything in the documentation I have that would indicate that this is being done.

In the time I have left I will go through some of the detail of different sections of the Bill. I will not go through them in chronological order but I will address the different themes.

On rent certainty we propose, as have many other Members in the House, that rent should be linked to the increase in the cost of living and it should not go any higher than the consumer price index. We also propose that the rent pressure zone should apply to the whole State. Not only are cities, such as Limerick, in trouble in this context, it also affects peripheral areas just outside existing rent pressure zones.

We propose a number of measures on security of tenure, one of which is that the sale of the property should not be allowed as grounds for the termination of a tenancy. The fact that a landlord is selling the property should not give him or her the right to evict the tenants. The National Economic and Social Council in its report on the rental sector in Ireland said:

Removing sale as a reason for ending a lease would significantly improve secure occupancy and the Council recommends that this be adopted for Ireland. One view is that this could reduce the price that those selling rental properties could achieve, compared to the price with vacant procession. On the other hand, the more the Irish rental system is driven by long-term yield, rather than changing asset prices, the higher the value purchasers will put on properties with an existing, secure rental stream.

There are two sides to that argument. Refurbishment would need to be substantial before a person should be asked to move. This was one of the examples that I quoted.

Where it is claimed that the property is to be used for a family member, we propose that this reason should not be as wide as it is, such as, for example, when a niece or a nephew can be said to need the property. We want to tighten this up to the immediate family such as spouse, partner, children or stepchildren.

We want to see longer Part 4 tenancies. Deposits should be no more than one month's rent. We are aware of landlords who ask for two or three month's rent. We also want to see the deposit protection scheme come in within six months. This is already provided for in legislation; I published it when I was in that role. The previous rent information should also be available to new tenants, so they know what the rent was and they know if it has been raised illegally.

We propose that receivers have the same duties as landlords. Many people are in tenancies under a receiver and they do not have the rights that other tenants have, such as to have the property maintained and so on.

This is a summary of the Bill. I very much welcome the support that has already been indicated. These are practical measures to protect renters. I understand the Government will not oppose the Bill but I really want to see these measures implemented to protect the people who, more and more, are in really precarious situations in the private rented market.

Despite the best efforts of the Government, landlords continue to dance around, or through, attempts at increasing security of tenure for renters. We believe that if enacted, and not just accepted, this Bill would be a real tenants' Bill. The measures in the Bill provide real protections for tenants, as outlined by Deputy O'Sullivan.

The housing crisis is not abating and I am concerned that there has been a definite shift by the Government towards the private rental sector and the private market as a means of solving this crisis. We need a State-led approach that focuses on building not on leasing. The focus should minimise any need to enter the private market to buy homes and in doing so competing with regular people, which I know is happening also.

While many renters find themselves at the coalface of this crisis, we need to put in place further emergency measures as exist in this Bill to protect them. When one is on the front line of the housing crisis dealing with people day in, day out, as many Members do, it never ceases to amaze the measures landlords undertake to end good tenancies for the goal of increased profit.

The problem is that the attempt to start building local authority housing in 2014 and 2015 as part of a real State-led approach to the housing crisis was halted and the focus has shifted too greatly towards the housing assistance payment, HAP and to the landlord-led solution. This compounds the housing crisis and keeps people in bed and breakfast accommodation and in family hubs.

Will the Minister tell the House why Fingal County Council housing projects that began the planning process in 2015 still do not have a shovel in the ground? Some have been finished, but it took three years to build nine houses in Balrothery, County Dublin, which the Minister of State, Deputy English, recently officially opened. It is four years since construction started on 70 houses in Lusk. Meanwhile, projects in Swords and Balbriggan that began in 2014 and 2015 have made had no progress at all. In the past two years, there has been next to no council house developments going to planning. It seems there is an ideological shift back to the solution of Part V properties and private rental accommodation from landlords. I put it to the Minister that this is not good enough.

Some landlords are running rings around the regulations. Fingal, for example, is in the rent pressure zone but many tenants are not aware of this and they engage in new rental agreements over and above the 4% limits, petrified that if they do not they will end up in a hotel or in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Our Bill calls for the entire State to be designated a rent pressure zone for a period of three years. This needs to be hammered home. I have had a case in Fingal in which a landlord gave notice to tenants that they had to leave as the house needed to be remediated for pyrite. One of the tenants accepted the notice and moved out. Within a week, there was a new tenant in place, no doubt paying a higher rent, and no pyrite remediation works had started because the house did not have a pyrite problem. This is the kind of stuff that is going on. The landlord lied. He got his tenants out and is, no doubt, reaping financial benefit from this unscrupulous decision.

There are many complex effects of the housing crisis. I have written to the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and I have pursued the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection about a case in which a person on invalidity pension had the household benefits package removed because she took her grown up son and family back into the family home due to them being made homeless. This person and her husband are doing the State a great service by providing short-term secure accommodation to their son and his family, which is what people are directed to do; stay with family and friends. They are saved from being a burden on the State and another homeless statistic. It seems somewhat cruel that they have their household benefits package removed as a result of this.

It would be a very simple solution, with a meagre cost to the State, if the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection allowed a 12-month grace period for people to keep their secondary benefits should they take in a direct family member who has been made homeless. If the person can provide a validated termination notice and a statutory declaration from the landlord, which all tenants are required to have as part of the termination notice, this should satisfy the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection without impacting on administrative resources.

I note that the Government is not opposing this Bill but what does this actually mean? I believe this is a political manoeuvre, performed on a regular basis, to avoid the Government getting a bad headline on a Wednesday or Thursday morning. There appears to be no appetite to move these Bills forward. By accepting it, the Government looks like noble practitioners of new politics but in reality it is merely allowing Bills to enter a metaphorical room from which they will never emerge and move on.

This is new politics but it is not good politics. As he is not opposing the Bill, I ask the Minister to either move it along swiftly through the legislative process or bring forward his own Bill which incorporates its contents.

I thank the Deputies for tabling this Bill. I assure Deputy Ryan that if I was trying to chase good headlines I would be on a fool's errand.

The Government will not oppose the Bill and I will now outline the reasons we will not oppose it, and which measures we can support in legislation that we have already signalled as forthcoming. This week in the House there are two Private Members' Bills on the rental sector; one on student accommodation and one on the private rental sector. I welcome both Bills and I welcome the opportunity to discuss Ireland's rental accommodation market.

In response to points raised by Deputies Jan O'Sullivan and Brendan Ryan, I have just been informed that the April homeless report is now completed and I will endeavour to get the report out as soon as possible today. It means I will not be able to stay for the remainder of the debate. I apologise to Deputies that I will not be in the Chamber to hear their contributions to the debate. It is, however, in the interests of getting the report out today, which is the 30th of the month. I do not want to delay the report.

Reference was made to the issue of turnkey projects. Sometimes when we debate the issues around housing delivery, it can become somewhat academic. I have no problem with that because I like to get into the detail of these things; I like to understand the numbers and what is behind the numbers. When we start to no longer serve a useful purpose in those discussions, this is where we start to confuse the public. Where we become so focused on an academic point we may move away from a substantive point of view. This is a risk when we start to speak about the delivery of social housing in the State not being what it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. We now use a number of different and new streams to make sure that social housing homes are built. The word "turnkey" gives the impression that we are buying a set of keys and moving into a house that is already built.

It actually means taking nothing and building something. It is the entire process of a project. Many approvals that cross my desk relate to lands that have not yet been built on. Only with local authorities putting money behind them are they built on, with the homes going to people on the social housing list. They are new social housing builds for local authorities and expanding the market, as opposed to trying to bite into a smaller market. They are an important part of the supply. Often, such projects can be undertaken more quickly than would be the case in using other channels.

I do not doubt Deputy Brendan Ryan's concerns about the issues he faces, given that he raises them with me regularly, but I may have detected an attempt to intimate an ideological shift between the time the Labour Party left the housing portfolio and the Fine Gael-led Government took it up and turned the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government into the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, with a dedicated Minister and a €6 billion fund to dramatically increase the social housing stock. In the last two years of Rebuilding Ireland there will be a sevenfold increase in the number of new social housing units built by local authorities and housing bodies. The reverse of what the Deputy has sought to intimate is the case. We have dramatically increased the number of new social housing units being built. We have had to rely on the housing assistance payment, HAP, and other methods because the stock is not available, but the last two years of Rebuilding Ireland which the Government introduced will see more people accommodated in new social housing than HAP tenancies.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan referred to the rent pressure zone review. The document was published and sent to the members of the Oireachtas joint committee ahead of my appearance before it last week or the week before. We had an opportunity to debate it then.

The Bill deals with further protections in the rental sector. When discussing that sector, it is important that renters of every age and circumstance have viable choices. Accommodation must be affordable, safe and secure, that is, the tenancy must have a degree of certainty. Of course, some like the flexibility renting brings. I enjoyed it while I was a renter.

This country does not have a mature rental market and the crash left us with a number of accidental landlords, something we are working through. Some 70% of landlords own just one property, while 86% own two or less. That is not a mature rental sector by any means. We must try to improve it, but developing a European-style rental sector during a severe housing shortage will be a challenge. I know what "European-style" means because I rented for 12 years. I lived in student accommodation and student halls in London, shared a flat in Geneva and had my own apartment in Vienna. I have also rented in Ireland. I have seen the difference in security and opportunities for a renter.

It is important to recognise that we cannot force anyone to be a landlord. The State is landlord to many tenants and we have responsibilities in that regard. We can incentivise more landlords through, for example, taxation measures which we have pursued previously and should do again and regulation. I hope the build-to-rent guidelines that I published last year and which were approved at the beginning of this year will incentivise the building of more rental properties in a mature rental sector. The guidelines have worked in the provision of student accommodation. That is why thousands of new student bed places are being built. We expect the same to happen in the rental sector. Any new stock of rental accommodation would be beneficial.

We need larger and more professional landlords. We must recognise that the international players that are doing this work successfully in other countries and starting to do it successfully in Ireland are a necessary part of the solution if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, which gave us today's situation where we have small landlords leaving the market because they are encumbered with debts that they should never have taken on, the sector is no longer an attractive place for them or the purpose for which they originally bought the units, for example, a child going to college, has come to fruition. We need larger landlords who will build to rent and bring rental accommodation to the market at scale.

The issue of student accommodation was debated yesterday. The Ministers of State, Deputies Damien English and Mary Mitchell O'Connor, are taking the lead where the provision of student accommodation is concerned. We want to introduce fair rents for students, but it must be done in the right way. We can do it. I received an email, one that I only just saw before coming into the Chamber, from Deputy Eoin Ó Broin suggesting he, Deputy Darragh O'Brien and I sit down to determine the best way of achieving it in legislation. We can achieve price control without having to introduce types of regulation and protection that are not necessary for student accommodation. Under such licence agreements which are often negotiated with universities, different protections are necessary for the business model and work fine for students.

The Government has introduced a number of measures to protect renters. Rent pressure zones are working. Rent inflation in Dublin last year was down 3% on the figure for the previous year. In the fourth quarter of last year there was an increase of 1.1%. This shows that the rent pressure zones are having an impact. We have new rental accommodation standards and new protections for tenants where multi-units are sold. We have a one-stop-shop in the Residential Tenancies Board to improve access for renters and landlords. We have broadened and strengthened the role of the board and are enforcing its determination orders in the District Court, rather than the Circuit Court, which is quicker and cheaper to do.

At the national ploughing championships last September I outlined my ambition for a two-year change management programme to make the Residential Tenancies Board a proper, independent regulator for the sector that would robustly defend the interests of both landlords and tenants. That begins with the residential tenancies Bill, the heads of which the Government approved last month. When enacted, the legislation will make it an offence to contravene the rent pressure zones, allow the Residential Tenancies Board to investigate and enforce independently the implementation of rent pressure zones and other measures, give greater security of tenure by extending notice to quit periods, in many instances, almost doubling them, and provide for rent transparency, which is welcomed by all sides of the House. The Bill will be published shortly. It was meant to happen this week, but there has been a slight delay. I hope it can be enacted before the summer recess, but it depends on how quickly we can get it through the Houses. That should not be difficult, given that its measures are supported, but if amendments to the Bill might be better suited to a second Bill that will be before us later in the year, I would prefer that option to be taken in order that the first Bill, on which there is broad agreement, can be passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess. The second Bill will deal with more complex issues and need more time to be walked through by the House.

We will not oppose the Bill before the House. I will go through my notes briefly, as I am caught for time.

We support the publication of rents payable to ensure rent transparency. We support the proposal on a deposit not exceeding one month's rent. There is no evidence of a major problem in that regard, but we are working with the Residential Tenancies Board to re-examine the 2015 legislative provisions that have not yet been commenced, as they may need improvements. It is important that, when we enact the Bill, we do so without placing an additional cost on the tenant and landlord.

Last year we introduced a definition of what constituted grounds for a termination by a landlord in respect of substantial renovations or refurbishments. I do not oppose bringing it into law, but we might do so in the second Bill later this year.

On tenancies of indefinite duration, extending a Part 4 tenancy from four years to six has happened, but we need to go further.

The definition of "landlord" is critical, as it ensures a tenant has protection where a receiver has taken over the property. If the Deputies have ever spoken to someone in such a situation, they will know how stressful it is. We must address this issue. An interdepartmental working group is examining the matter and will finalise a report on it. When I receive that report, I hope to progress it and include it in the second Bill.

My apologies for rushing, but I find a number of elements of the Bill difficult to support, for example, changing the definition of a family member. If a property owner's father or grandfather becomes ill, the owner should have the right to let that person into the property without any charge and to serve a notice to quit, bearing in mind all of the relevant legal processes once the notice is served.

On aligning rent pressure zones with the consumer price index, we cannot force anyone to be a landlord and there must be a reasonable return to cover the annual costs he or she incurs in maintaining the property. There must also be a reward for the risks he or she takes. It does not look like landlords take risks in the current market, but consider what happened after the crash when many people were caught. If we want there to be stable investment in the market, the return needs to be linked with something stable. A 4% increase is not excessive and is a Steady Eddie. I see no need to go beyond it.

The Minister's time is up.

This is not about being pro-landlord; rather, it is about being pro-investment and pro-stability in the rental sector.

I beg the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's indulgence for a few moments. The extension of rent pressure zones to the whole country would be unconstitutional. That was made clear when we were introducing the criteria for rent pressure zone designation. Rent pressure zones are working where they apply.

I have been notified that removing the intention to sell within three months as a ground for terminating a tenancy would also be unconstitutional. However, we could incentivise landlords to remain in the market. We could and should incentivise longer term leases. We could also incentivise the selling of rental properties with tenants in situ, a matter that I am considering with the Minister for Finance.

On a final note, rent affordability is key.

Someone is going to lose time.

If the Leas-Cheann Comhairle wants to take it from the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, that is perfectly okay with the two of us.

He is always draws the short straw.

That is collegiality.

A cost rental system must be put in place. It happens in almost every other European market and at scale.

It will take time to deliver but we need to bring it in as a pilot. Cost rental is important, not just for young professionals or young families but for people who are retiring and own their home so they can have certainty about rent payments for the next ten to 20 years of their lives. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for his indulgence.

I will share my time as agreed with my colleagues, Deputy MacSharry and Deputy Curran. I will do my best not to eat into their time. I welcome the Bill that Deputy Jan O'Sullivan has brought forward, the Bill we debated yesterday on student rents, and the Bill that Fianna Fáil published a couple of weeks ago in this regard. I know the Minister has to leave for the April report on homeless figures, which is important. There is one thing which we will discuss. Larger, institutional landlords do not necessarily mean longer leases. I agree that we need another mix within the market. That can happen. I have seen it work in other countries because pension funds are investing and want longer-term steady yields. Some of the investors coming into this market are not necessarily offering longer-term leases. I would agree wholeheartedly with incentivisation of longer-term leases. That can be done by way of certain tax measures if needs be. That will provide security of tenure. I know the Minister has to go. This will be on the record of the House.

To deal with the Labour Bill itself, the extension of rent pressure zones, RPZs, is required now. The review that the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, alluded to, which came to the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on 17 May 2018, just earlier this month, was in with a pile of other documents when we were trying to review Rebuilding Ireland. As part of the review of Rebuilding Ireland, which in itself is a monster of a document to get through, was a discussion document of the options for RPZs. I would fully support a review of RPZs. That was refused when the original legislation came in. We requested it and we need to look at it. Deputy O'Sullivan specifically mentioned the issue of Limerick. There are other cities and larger towns which have suffered.

We know that the market is broken. I looked at the quarter 4 report from the Residential Tenancies Board. The average rent in Dublin is €1,511 per month. The average rent outside Dublin is €1,103 per month. The vast majority of people becoming homeless are those coming out of the private rental sector. It is not working and Government measures are not working. Tenants' rights need to be strengthened and there needs to be better security of tenure.

The Minister, Deputy Murphy, said it was academic as to who produced houses and whether it was a turnkey or a local authority. I will put some figures on record. There is nothing academic about these. If I look through local authority figures from last year, Rebuilding Ireland's own figures say 780 social houses were built. There were not. Some 394 were built by local authorities and 386 were purchased which were turnkey. Turnkey is not just, as the Minister said, a little misleadingly, effectively council projects that they had initiated. That is not true. I know of turnkey properties in Fingal that have been purchased that were going out on the private market. The State is competing in a shrunken market. The couple or individual who is also working or trying to buy a house is competing with the State and the local authority because we are not building houses. The Minister, Deputy Murphy, may answer this when he looks at the transcripts.

There are 3,385 people on the housing list in Clare with no local authority builds or turnkeys in 2017. In Leitrim, there are 420 people on the housing list and zero builds. In Laois, there are 1,336 people on the list and zero builds. There are zero in Monaghan, Offaly and South Dublin, where there are 7,552 people, and not one house has been built or bought. Someone needs to talk to the chief executive there. Someone in the Custom House needs to pick up the phone. There are zero in Wicklow, with 2,749 people on the housing list. Fingal, my own local authority area, tops the charts for builds, with 83. That is the height of our ambition. There were 16 purchased turnkeys. That is 99 units. Cork has the best output but there are nearly 7,500 people on the list. I would nearly dispute that figure because it is higher than that. There is overdependence on housing assistance payment, HAP, as a measure to say that people are housed. HAP is not secure. The transfer from the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, to HAP has been problematic. We need to get our act together with the rental market and delivery of social and affordable homes.

I want to talk about the use of State lands. We have all heard about the Glass Bottle site, Oscar Traynor, all the famous sites, and O'Devaney Gardens where the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, went and announced that this would happen and nothing is happening. The State controls 3,008 ha of land. Some 1,317 of those hectares are controlled by the local authorities and nothing is happening on them.

We have the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, which has accessed some land in Donabate where we want a housing mix. There is a mix. I heard Deputy Brendan Ryan referring to a change in Government policy in 2014 and 2015. Looking at the delivery of social houses in 2014 and 2015, I would not be championing those as delivery of social houses either. We have failed in that regard too. Without an affordable housing scheme, we will not be able to move on.

The Minister said at committee that he would sign the commencement of the affordable housing scheme, which was the old scheme that the previous Labour Party-Fine Gael Government stopped in 2012. He was going to sign that back in and bring in regulations behind it. That would be a start. He said that two weeks ago, on 17 May. When will that happen? Across the House, in government, in opposition and in all parties, we want to work in a constructive way to see real improvements locally. The Labour Bill is helpful. The Sinn Féin Bill last night was helpful. Our own Fianna Fáil Bill was helpful. Instead of Government just saying it will accept this on Second Stage, we need to produce the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill and bring in amendments to put effect to certain aspects of these Bills. As I said last night, if that is not done, we will table amendments to the Bill ourselves and, as an Opposition, I believe we can work in a unified way to make sure that those amendments come into law.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this. I will start at the point at which Deputy Darragh O'Brien concluded. There have been a number of these Bills in this House. It is frustrating from the Opposition point of view because of the time and delivery. There has to be a mechanism to identify the key points in any of these Bills and have them delivered because they have the potential to have a significant impact. I recognise that the Minister has left to review the monthly figures.

I make the point in the observation, as Deputy Jan O'Sullivan did in her opening comments, that there are probably in the region of 10,000 homeless people. I remind the Government that the first action in Rebuilding Ireland was to provide rapid build housing solutions to address this group of people in particular. That has been a spectacular failure. At the end of the year, something like 200 units were built out of an estimated target of 1,000. The Government's own estimate would be less than 500 by the end of 2018. This is having a significant negative impact on this group of 10,000 people who are homeless.

Many of the issues relating to rent, residential tenancies and the high rents being charged are a result of supply and demand. Many people who are in private rented accommodation do not want to be there. They are applicants, people on social housing lists and people who ordinarily might want to buy their own house, and no properties are available. Everybody is being squeezed into what is now a very tight market. Until the Government significantly increases supply, this problem will persist.

In one regard, we are tinkering at the edges. We are not solving it, even bringing in rent controls and such. Until we get to a stage where we have adequate supply in the market, we are not dealing with the fundamental issue. We are bringing in somewhat temporary solutions. I remind the Government that enabling funding for infrastructure was first announced in this House by the then Minister, Deputy Noonan, in October 2016 when he was doing the budget. He announced €50 million. Virtually none of it has been drawn down. That money has to be drawn down and spent to provide the enabling infrastructure to develop the housing projects. On this side of the House, one can sometimes feel the frustration and concern that the projects are not moving at a quick enough pace.

We have seen the rents and rate of increase over the past five or six years. They are unsustainable for people in the short term and for long-term residents, even with the rent pressure zones.

They are consuming too much of a person's disposable income, especially in the greater Dublin area. The situation will not change until we radically address the supply side. The Government does not make it easy. The Minister and the Taoiseach previously said there would be 3,800 social houses and they talk about all the other housing solutions but it is difficult to get clarity and detail as they will not name the schemes that make up the promised 3,800 houses. It is a cloak and dagger situation. The Government is hiding behind big numbers without providing the detail we deserve.

I wish to make some observations on the Bill, most of which we support. There are concerns about the legality of having a national rent pressure zone but those issues could be addressed on Committee Stage. People who are paying significant rents are entitled to a good standard of accommodation. In my view the Government is negligent in that regard. Tenants are not being adequately looked after. There should be a greater regime of inspections. Last year we saw an RTÉ documentary which showed some of the conditions in which people live. I tabled parliamentary questions to probe the issue and discovered the Government is providing €2.5 million in 2018 to local authorities to provide inspections. Incrementally, the Government will increase it to €10 million by 2021, which would imply a one-in-four rate of inspection. I do not see why we should have to endure such a delay before getting to that level of inspection. There should be a reasonable prospect that properties would be inspected on a regular basis. I do not mean a couple of times a year, but every four or five years, to ensure compliance. I do not know why the Government is taking so long to do that given that only a relatively small amount of money is required.

In terms of security of tenure and the type of leases we have, it always struck me that if a landlord was renting a commercial property different rules would apply. If the term of lease was five years it would mean five years and one would sell the property with the sitting tenant. I fail to understand why we do not look at the matter in a more substantial way instead of tinkering around the edges. When landlords give a lease for three or five years, regardless of whether there is an incentive, that must mean five years. That happens every day with commercial property without any problems.

We have an anomaly on the residential side in that the landlord pays the local property tax but if it were a commercial property the tenant would pay the rates. We should try to have a parallel system so that the conditions that apply to commercial properties would work to the same advantage of a tenant in a residential property. That is not happening and I fail to see why that is the case.

In some cases I have seen, the behaviour and actions of receivers appointed by banks have been appalling. They have moved in a reckless way both in regard to tenants and the previous owner of the property. Properties were cleared out and left vacant for many years at a time of housing crisis before being eventually sold. In some cases former tenants became squatters and property ended up in a poor condition. The receivers did not serve anyone well. Apart from the Labour Party proposal, I suggest that the operation of receivers and their agents must be regulated. In my experience current regulation is either poor or non-existent.

Extending the legislation in terms of the notice to quit on the basis of requiring the property for family members and the grounds for same is a partial approach. If we have professional landlords, whether they are the big institutional landlords, to whom the Minister referred, or single owners, the rules that apply to the commercial property sector should apply in residential property. That would bring a lot more stability to the market where longer term leases of three, five or ten years would become the norm, with the annual rate of increase, whatever that might be. That would be much more beneficial than putting in conditions on the reasons for sale. The lease should mean the lease and it should be the norm to sell rented properties with the tenants in situ.

This is the sixth or seventh opportunity I have had to speak on housing related matters in as many months. I welcome the Labour Party Private Members’ Bill, and Sinn Féin’s Bill from last night. We will do all we can to try to progress them.

I agree very much with my colleague, Deputy Curran, that when it comes to the crisis we are all tinkering around the edges. There is a major supply problem that could help address many of the issues yet we still uphold a process that is duplicative, cumbersome and too lengthy. We have a lead-in time for local authority housing of between three and six years, and 18 months to three years in the private sector. We need both if we are to deal with the crisis.

Given that we have architects, engineers, planners and experts in sanitary services in each of the 31 local authorities, the local authorities own the land and the Department says it has the money, why does it not give the money to the local authorities to design and build houses? Deputy Darragh O'Brien has alluded to the amount of land in State and local authority control throughout the country. Why does the process have to go to Dublin, back to Sligo, back to Dublin, down to the building unit in Ballina, back to Dublin and back down for more planners, architects and engineers to all do the same job? It is unnecessary. We have the expertise in local authorities in terms of planners, engineers and architects and if we need more then let us get them. Let them do the job. The building regulations are in place and the standards are set out. If there is need for further oversight in terms of enforcement then that should be put in place, but let us get on with making less complicated what is a very simple process. That is what needs to be done. Otherwise, we are fighting fire with a bucket instead of a hose and it will keep getting bigger. I do not understand why the Minister does not do that.

In a previous debate I brought in what is ironically described as the Department's "streamlined" process for building local authority houses. It is a significant volume, which is unnecessary. Either people can do the job in local authorities or they cannot. If they cannot, then we must examine the reason for that. The local authorities own the land so let them build houses and get on with it. We could have a national oversight or enforcement section that could travel around and check that standards are being upheld.

On the private sector side, one of the fall-outs of the crash is that an awful lot of builders with expertise are now subservient, initially to NAMA and banks, and now to vulture funds. They cannot get money for development finance. While the banks will not say it on the record, they say off the record that they do not want to lend any money in tertiary areas. Tertiary areas are effectively the entire country outside Dublin, Galway and a couple of other cities. The banks will not lend and developers cannot get money. Developers must have a minimum of 50% of the overall requirement. Most parties, certainly Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, had references in manifestos to setting up a development finance bank. It was done well in the past in terms of agricultural credit from the Agricultural Credit Corporation, ACC, and the Industrial Credit Corporation, ICC, which supported industry and commercial activity. That needs to be done again. We need 30 good underwriters, X amount of money and to start getting money out there to people who have the expertise and want to build because they can do it more quickly than we can do it ourselves. In local authorities it takes between three and six years to build houses. We must get on with the job.

Boarded-up units around the country are an important issue. In Dublin alone there are 900 properties that have been boarded up for more than ten years, and one can add however many more to that number. The situation is replicated in every town and village in the country. We must do up those properties and get people living in them.

I read somewhere that from a retail perspective we have enough retail space in Ireland for 15 million people. Obviously, we do not have that number of people. We were possibly able to support that under a false pretence during the boom based on credit. We have a significant amount of retail space. In the north west, for example, the high streets in towns in the areas I represent are full of empty units. Let us incentivise the owners of such properties to provide for people to live over those units or even to live in some of the units which could be converted from shops to dwellings.

That would support existing retailers and would bring life back into towns and villages throughout the country. The Department should consider incentives to make it attractive to people to live in an urban setting. It could consider measures like providing free broadband or reducing refuse and other service charges. In terms of the elderly, the Government should consider incentivising the building of units which have 24-hour concierge services attached, for example. These are just some suggestions but if the Minister was only going to make one change, I ask him to tear up the streamlined process for local authority house building and do simply what ultimately is simple to do.

I warmly welcome and fully support the Labour Party Bill tabled by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. Most of the measures in the Bill are eminently sensible and should have been made law back in 2016 when we were debating the Government's Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill. The Minister is not opposing this Bill today but he should sit down with Deputy O'Sullivan and other members of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government and work this Bill's provisions into the upcoming Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018 - not the second one that will come later in the year but the one that is due earlier in the summer. When one looks at the proposals in the Bill, there is simply no reason not to support them.

If one takes the definition of a landlord, the idea that a receiver who is accepting rent from a tenant, having been appointed by a bank on repossession, should not have all of the obligations of a landlord and that the tenant should not have the same protections under the Residential Tenancies Act makes no sense. Good receivers are already doing it. That is already the voluntary practice of the good receivers out there. Some people have suggested that if the Residential Tenancies Act was tested, it would be found that receivers are included but why wait for that to happen? We should just legislate for it.

In terms of the provision that a deposit should not exceed one month's rent, one must ask why landlords are currently seeking more than that. They are doing that to avoid a criminal sanction for refusing tenants in receipt of the housing assistance payment, HAP. They know now, because of the changes in law which we supported, that if they refuse tenants in receipt of social housing support they can be taken to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC. They cannot refuse tenants on those grounds and this is the way they are doing it. By not supporting this measure and including it in its own legislation, the Government is colluding with landlords who are refusing to accept social housing support tenants in HAP, RAS and other schemes. That is something that is not supportable.

On rent certainty, I say again what I said at the time that the legislation was introduced, namely that the idea that it is acceptable to allow a landlord to increase rent over three years by 12.5% in current market conditions is simply not on. This is not 4%. It allows for 4% plus an additional bit of interest over three years and the extra thousands of euro that will cost working and modest income families is simply money they do not have.

I am very surprised that whoever wrote the Minister's script suggested that applying rent pressure zones State-wide would be unconstitutional. It can only be unconstitutional if the measure was arbitrary and disproportionate. The RTB's own rent index for the fourth quarter of last year showed that in Sligo, which is not in the rent pressure zones, the annual increase in rent was 29%. Other areas that are not deemed to be rent pressure zones include Limerick, where the increase was 10%, Waterford city where the increase was 7.4%, while Mayo and Westmeath saw increases of 13%. Clearly, there is a strong argument that given the disproportionately high levels of rent increases in those places, it would be completely constitutional to apply the rent pressure zones provisions to them. If the Government will not do that, I ask that it would at least do what we have been requesting for more than a year, namely, allow the rent pressure zones to be calculated in those urban areas at electoral division rather than local electoral area so that we can incorporate those parts of Limerick city, Waterford city and Sligo town that are outside of the scheme currently.

I fully support the restrictions on the notice to quit. Deputy Curran put it best when he described the huge difference between the commercial and the residential rental sectors so I will not go into that further. Obviously, the deposit protection scheme is not just good for tenants and landlords. It would also save a huge amount of the time currently spent by the RTB on deposit retention cases. Further, it would generate some additional income for the State because all of those deposits would be held in an escrow account and the interest would accrue to the RTB. That additional income could be used to assist with the exercising of the new policing powers that the Government is about to give to the board.

All of this is about fairness for tenants. It is about providing better security of tenure and preventing homelessness. I join Deputy Jan O'Sullivan in commending the four NGOs for publishing their hidden homelessness report today. There is an overlap between the problems this Bill is attempting to address and the people who were spoken about so eloquently by the NGOs today. I echo strongly the point made by Deputy Darragh O'Brien earlier. The Government will be coming to the Oireachtas committee in a couple of weeks with a new Bill. It is a Bill that we support and we have all said clearly at committee that it contains measures for which many of us have argued. I urge the Government to put some of these measures into that Bill, the ones that are not complicated, are relatively straightforward and which can be progressed quickly. If the Government does that, it will have even more enthusiastic support from the Opposition. If it does not do that, just as if it refuses to address the issue of student rents, then Members of the Opposition will sit down together, table joint amendments and then force those amendments on to the Government. It would be much better if the officials in the Department, using their expertise, crafted those amendments. Indeed, we are happy to meet them and work with them beforehand. I urge the Government to do this properly and provide tenants with the protections they so rightly deserve.

I welcome this Labour Party Bill. Sinn Féin has been saying for a long time that real rent certainty is needed in this State which requires linking rent increases to the consumer price index, CPI. I particularly welcome section 4 of the Bill which deals with deposits. We are hearing so many stories of landlords demanding not one but two or even three months' rent as a deposit. Almost two thirds of tenants say that they have had difficulty getting their deposits back when their tenancies end. It is clear that some landlords see the deposit as a way of increasing rents without breaching the rent pressure zone rules and this must stop. Section 7 of the Bill deals with the serious issue of landlords ending tenancies because they are renovating properties. We have all heard of instances where the so-called substantial changes amount to nothing more than a lick of paint or a new carpet. Threshold has reported that almost one in eight eviction cases that it deals with are the result of landlords renovating properties. While there have been some moves to tighten up the rules in this area, this loophole in the law is still being used. There is a similar issue with landlords telling tenants that they have to leave because the property is required for a family member. The provision in the Bill for a tightening up of who is considered to be a family member is welcome. Section 9 provides for a rent register which is needed urgently because at the moment some landlords are using every loophole possible to get around the rent pressure zone restrictions. It can be almost impossible for a new tenant to find out what the previous tenant was paying in rent. In that context, a rent register would be very helpful in protecting tenants' rights and ensuring that they are not being ripped off.

I am happy to support this Bill because we need real action on protecting tenants.

The rental sector can be a precarious place for those who are renting so it is incumbent on local authorities and the Government to ensure that tenants have the greatest possible security of tenure. This is vital so that families and individuals have stability and not just a sense of security, but actual security. Unfortunately, this is something that a lot of tenants currently lack. Rents have reached exorbitant levels in many areas, particularly in the larger cities. Sustained and major increases in the cost of renting will result in more people living in insecure and often overcrowded housing, with some facing the prospect of being made homeless. That is why the Government must link the cost of renting to the CPI as a matter of urgency. It must legislate to regulate the boundaries within which rents can rise and fall. There is no impediment to implementing such legislation. The only objection would be from those who have a vested interest in the way rents are determined now, for whom fairness and security of tenure for tenants for the common good does not matter. Linking rents to the CPI would require a simple change to the Residential Tenancies Act so that landlords would be unable to increase rents by more than the CPI figure in the period between the start of a lease and a new lease being agreed with current or new tenants.

This is already happening in countries like Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the US. The consumer price index is a very useful gauge of inflation in the Irish economy on an annual basis. Tenants are constantly living under the threat of having their houses sold from under them with little or no protections. It is essential for us to provide for a clear definition of why a landlord requires vacancy of a property. We support the Bill that has been introduced by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan and her Labour Party colleagues. Ultimately, the real answer is to increase the supply of social housing and thereby stabilise the market, which is completely and utterly out of control at present.

An aspect of this Bill that has not yet been mentioned in this debate is the requirement to take "reasonable measures" to "maintain the dwelling fit for human habitation during the refurbishment or renovation". I have raised the issues being encountered by the Leeside residents in Cork on a number of occasions in this House. The apartment building in which they live was purchased by the Lucas Capital vulture fund last year. It is very clear that the vulture fund's agenda is to increase significantly the rents these residents are paying to live in their homes. It is possible that they will be almost doubled. The renovation work that was done on this building in recent weeks and months, while the residents continued to live there, turned the apartment complex into a building site. Families with young children had to put up with masonry dust all over the place and the fierce smell of the varnish on the walls. As a result of skylights being left open at night, puddles formed in the corridors when it rained heavily. The use of drills and kango hammers caused a tremendous amount of noise. Almost half of the parking spaces used by residents were taken from them to facilitate the work being done by construction workers. It was clear that the agenda of the landlord was to drive the tenants out, even before an attempt was made to drive them out by doubling their rents. I assure Lucas Capital and its representatives that every time they try to inflict their dirty tricks on the Leeside residents, we will call them out on the floor of the Dáil. We support the proposal in this Bill that "reasonable measures" must be taken to "maintain the dwelling fit for human habitation during the refurbishment or renovation".

I note that the Minister has left the debate early to return to his Department to sign off this evening on the State's homelessness statistics for April. It is a pity that those figures were not provided a couple of hours ago so that they could be a feature of this debate. Instead, they will have to be debated in the media tonight and on the floor of the Chamber tomorrow. As the number of homeless people approached the 10,000 mark at the end of March, the Minister did not respond by announcing rent controls, plans for the construction of more public housing or a ban on economic evictions. Instead of making such announcements, he fiddled the March homelessness figures with breath-taking cynicism to keep the number of homeless people below the 10,000 level. We will see the figures for April when they are released later this evening. They will be debated in due course.

More than 800,000 people, or approximately 20% of the population of the State, are living in rented accommodation. This figure has doubled in the last decade. Action urgently needs to be taken to ensure the provision of high-quality, affordable and secure housing in the rental sector. Solidarity supports the limited proposals that are made in this Bill to that end. We support the proposal to limit rent deposits to one month's rent, the removal of the sale of a property as a ground for termination of a tenancy and the disclosure on a published register of the rent payable on dwellings. While we are prepared to vote in favour of the Bill at this Stage, if the Bill progresses we will bring forward amendments to it at a later Stage. For example, we will propose an amendment to remove the provision that allows a tenancy to be terminated because a family member is seeking to take up residence. We will also introduce a proposal that would reduce rents to affordable levels.

The proposal in the Bill to allow rent increases in line with the consumer price index is wholly inadequate. According to a recent Sherry FitzGerald survey, renters in Ireland are now paying a huge proportion of their net incomes on rent. The survey found that renters in Dublin are paying an average of 55% of their net income on rent. That is higher than the figure for London, Paris, San Francisco or any of the other cities in the world that were surveyed. The figure for Cork is 37%, which is also very high. That renters in Ireland face such a crushing financial burden is the inevitable outcome of the adherence of successive Governments to pro-landlord market-based responses that have failed time and again. Successive Governments have poured increasing amounts of public money into the pockets of landlords, some of whom are in this Chamber. No one should have to pay more than 20% to 25% of their net income on their housing costs. I suggest that facilitating rent increases based on the consumer price index would merely copperfasten the charging of rents are already unaffordable. We need to take strong action to reduce rents by as much as half, thereby returning them to affordable levels. If this Bill progresses, Solidarity will introduce amendments to enable a rapid return to affordable rents. In the meantime, we will support the Bill on Second Stage.

I would like to share time with Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I support this important Bill, which seeks to provide for greater security of tenure and rent certainty for tenants. It has been confirmed that a majority of those who are becoming homeless are from the private rented sector. Many of my constituents in places like Bantry, Baltimore, Skibbereen, Kealkil, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Bandon and Kinsale, to name just a few, are unable to get on the property ladder and have to resort to paying huge rents. The increase in rents is driving people out of rented accommodation. Renting is often more expensive than making a monthly mortgage repayment. In the week from 19 March to 25 March last, 9,681 people - adults and children - across Ireland were homeless. The number of families becoming homeless has increased by 37% since March of last year. More than one in three of those in emergency accommodation is a child. Urgent action is needed to address this serious problem.

The Government has said on many occasions that it plans to build more houses. When it introduced the Rebuilding Ireland scheme last year, it promised to deliver 47,000 social housing units by the end of 2021 in a bid to tackle homelessness. My concern is that this promise falls far short of the number of houses that are required if Ireland is to eliminate its housing crisis. There are 90,000 households on the social housing waiting lists. It has been promised that 47,000 social housing units will be delivered by 2021. We are just three years away from that deadline. Can we have certainty that the Government will deliver on this promise? While we are waiting in the hope that the promised houses will be supplied, we must intervene to ensure people do not lose their homes, for example, by addressing the issues of security of tenure and rent certainty. If better controls were put in place for things like security deposits, rent increases and termination procedures, they would go a long way towards giving tenants the protections they need. Landlords would also benefit from the more protected environment that would exist if clear rules were in place.

The Government needs to consider how to encourage more property owners to become landlords in order to reduce the extent of the housing crisis. I have advocated on many occasions in this Chamber for vacant spaces above commercial units to be refurbished, thereby providing much-needed residential dwellings across west Cork and elsewhere. If one drives through villages and towns like Ballinadee, Ballineen, Enniskeane, Dunmanway, Goleen, Kealkil, Leap, Schull and Skibbereen, one will see how many units above shops are vacant. I have encouraged the Government to consider offering refurbishment grants for these vacant properties in a bid to ease the housing and homelessness crisis and to protect and restore rural Ireland. It is time for the Government to listen and to take real action.

I want to declare an interest in this whole issue. I feel privileged to talk about it. The movers of the motion are dead right in what they are saying about security of tenure, particularly when we are talking about students. We talked last night about the hardship students and parents go through when all they are trying to do is educate themselves, get on in life and have accommodation while they are doing so. However, we have to be very measured and tempered in one thing. This and previous Governments, going back as far as we want to go, have not provided adequately for people who need accommodation. The private sector has had to make it up.

I hate talking about anybody who is not in the Chamber but another Deputy said it was time rents were halved. I agree 100% that we have to have realistic rents and do not want them to be too high. At the same time, if people are going to be involved in the private sector, if they are going to purchase properties and renovate them, as Deputy Collins rightly said, and make them available, it is going to cost money. They are going to need to have a reasonable and fair rent. I am not talking about extortionate rent. They have to make their payments and so on. If it does not wash its face, it does not work.

If a person gets €100 in rent from a tenant, 60% of that goes back to the Government in one way or another. The person who owns the property has €40 out of every €100. That is a terribly important point for the Government to understand. When other Deputies are talking about extortionate rent, they should remember that 60% is going back to the Government. Maybe the Government should look at itself when it is talking about rents being too high. Maybe it should consider doing something about tax. If it wants to encourage people in the private sector, rather than having them pay over 50% tax it should give them a reduction. Then they could afford to have cheaper rent for the tenants. The Government should not land it all at the feet of those who are buying property and trying to make it available for rent.

This motion was proposed by the Labour Party. That party was in government and Deputy Kelly was Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government for a long time, yet they built nothing. It is all about supply. It is not about demonising landlords as happens so much of the time here. There might be a few rogue landlords, maybe a good few. The vast majority of landlords, however, are decent people trying to make a living and we need them in the market, as Deputy Michael Collins said. We need incentives to ensure that they make properties available. We have to have legislation that is quite strict to regulate them. There is no place for rogue landlords. For people to get on the property ladder, however, they need to start in rented accommodation.

The county councils are failing utterly to deliver houses. A report this morning was found to have doubled the figures. The Minister of State, Deputy English, is in the Chamber. They are including turnkey units as delivery. We must get the county councils building and looking after people like they always did. What is wrong with them that they are failing to have enough properties?

During the negotiations on the programme for Government, I asked the then Minister, Deputy Noonan, if he would change the VAT rate for people to allow them, where shops had closed, to convert them back into living units. Then we would have living towns and we would ease the housing problem. It was just a matter of wiping off the VAT but the Minister said he could not do that because the builders would get a bonanza. It could be given to the end user, the person who does up the property, the small builder or property owner, not developers.

There is this frenzy that developers are bad. We need to have a very proactive examination of this. Putting in conditions such as rent controls does not work. We need a supply of houses on the market. The State is failing utterly to do this. The Minister of State, Deputy English, and the Labour Party Minister before him have failed utterly even to recognise this. They have been caught out this morning again with falsifying figures for what has been built.

I am sharing time with Deputy Catherine Murphy. I welcome the Bill and confirm my support for it. The measures included in it would certainly be helpful to the hundreds of thousands of people who are privately renting at the moment. The measures are reasonable, common-sense and fair. They are not groundbreaking and will not solve the housing crisis but they will certainly be helpful to families.

I also welcome the apparent conversion of the Labour Party to rent certainty, security of tenure and the building of public housing. The words "Paul" and "Saul" and the road to Damascus come to mind.

We have always been believers.

Careful about Damascus now.

The Labour Party is directly responsible for the current housing emergency. It was in government from 2011 to 2016 and held both junior and senior Ministries in housing during that period. In the coalition with Fine Gael, Labour Party Deputies could have ensured the building of large-scale public housing by local authorities-----

Print the money.

-----but they chose not to. Shame on them for that. Their predecessors, Labour Party Ministers in the past, built thousands upon thousands of houses. This Labour Party could have done the same but chose to abandon that approach and to embrace the market.

There was no money.

It embraced privatisation and now we have what we knew we would have, namely, a disastrous housing situation leaving 10,000 people homeless. Deputy Kelly as Minister told us he could not do anything about rent certainty because of the Constitution. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan introduced the outrageous HAP scheme, a bonanza for landlords and desperate for families that have not got two ha'pennies to rub together at the end of the week.

We need to abandon the market-based approach. We need to commence large-scale local authority house building programmes of at least 10,000 houses a year, like Labour Party Ministers did in the past. We need to bury the so-called constitutional issue. The way to do that is for the Oireachtas to declare a housing emergency. That would allow us not just to control rents but to decrease them and ensure rent certainty and security of tenure.

The number one issue that comes up in my constituency office is housing. It has been non-stop. The recent Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill proposed by the Social Democrats was largely adopted by Government and some of the issues facing renters, including notice periods and enforcement of the 4% limit in rent pressure zones, were taken on board. While the 4% measure was much needed at the time, rents were already way too high and unaffordable when it was adopted. I am seeing more and more people having to top up the housing assistance payment, which is way below market rents. It is a significant problem. If the rent cannot be increased because the property is in a 4% rent pressure zone, invariably we see the landlord saying he is selling. Almost daily, people are coming in to me with a copy of an eviction notice and an affidavit saying the house they are renting is for sale. There is something quite dramatic happening at the moment.

We cannot talk about rents without recognising the massive problems that the HAP scheme has created. I understand the value of people being able to go to work.

It is preferable to its predecessor which tied people into a poverty trap. It is certainly not the solution which is always going to be to build. Some of us came forward with proposals in 2015 to use the European Investment Bank for such purposes. The Government, however, was slow to take that on board. It was said there was no money at the time but that was not true. There was money. It was a case of doing the things needed to access that money. Those of us in the commuter belt could see the problem. In my area, in a counter cyclical manner, Intel hired 4,500 people. While it was very welcome at the time of the downturn, it was obvious from that what was going to happen. Some of us drew attention to those problems when the Labour Party held various Ministries. Ultimately, we can tinker around the edges but it is important we do what can be done. The key point is that we are not going to solve this problem unless we start to build. We should stop codding ourselves about the figures which we saw today. We want to see real houses in real places into which people can move. The local authorities have an obligation to do that.

Ireland's housing crisis could last for another decade unless the Government takes a range of measures to speed up the supply of affordable homes and social housing. Other than dealing with Brexit, it is the largest and most pressing public policy challenge that Ireland faces. If people were honest about this, then we might be able to develop a solution which would actually work and produce houses rather than hot air. There is an obvious uplift in house building in many parts of Dublin west, including in Carpenterstown, Ongar, Hansfield, Porterstown and Hollystown, which is welcome.

However, it should be borne in mind that this area, along with the Dublin north area, is one of the few areas in the State where a significant number of houses have begun to be built. In terms of the total national demand, however, it is a drop in the ocean. There remains a massive pent-up demand which was obvious when anxious purchasers - Members might remember this because it was only a few weeks ago - were prepared to queue up for days when new homes in Hansfield went up for sale. For those on the housing list, the situation is even graver as the supply of social housing lags behind with only a limited number of houses under construction in association with approved housing bodies. I admire the work of approved housing bodies and, even more particularly, of housing co-operatives. However, the scale of building required is simply not there. These bodies are excellent.

I have been at launches of 50 homes. I see Ministers now being photographed at the launch of one home. It is great news but there is no scale to it. We need to be talking about tens of thousands of homes. This is the core of the Government's problem. I do not know if it is an ideological problem for Fine Gael. I suspect it is that Fine Gael has a problem with renting on a lifetime basis and with social housing. I grew up in a rented home along with my family until I was in my 20s. I know that is not the experience of most Members. Until relatively recently, however, it was the experience of tens of thousands of families. Properly supervised and properly maintained, whether by a housing association, the owner or the local authority, it works really well.

Sites can only be developed if infrastructure, such as roads, water, sewerage, and electricity, is in place. Fingal County Council has received funding to develop three areas in my area which will enable approximately 2,800 houses to be built. Parts of Ballymun and Finglas require roughly the same number of houses.

They require much more.

I do not think myself or Deputy Ellis are good at drawing but we could show the Minister on a map where he could put this housing.

There are 2,000 extra homes. However, there are many other sites in all of the Dublin county areas, as well as in other cities and large towns around the country, which are zoned residential but which are awaiting pre-construction servicing. This is one area, whether for affordable or private housing, where the measures have been so modest that at times they are utterly disappointing. I remember as Tánaiste getting a large tranche of money, agreed by the Government in budgets 2014 and 2015, to provide for necessary infrastructures such as roads, water and sewerage services into sites to develop them. This Government has slowed down on all of that. It has not pushed the boat out to achieve scale.

A Government advisory body has urged action on one important matter, namely, the use of publicly owned land for building homes. There is a substantial amount of such land in State ownership previously used, for example, in town and city centres for docks and rail depots. Again, the Government has fallen behind in having the energy and leadership to actually unlock these assets which can be used to solve this problem. On the corner of Molesworth Street and on Dawson Street, for example, there are three stunning large office building developments which have been completed on a massive scale. They have been built and are ready for occupation in two years. How is the private sector able to do that? I accept it has to do with finance capital but I could show Members other examples all over the city. Frawley's on Thomas Street is now being redone for student accommodation and it is flying along. There are enormous sites on Dominick Street and in O'Devaney Gardens owned by Dublin City Council which were basically levelled ten to 12 years ago. I take the Luas to look at Dominick Street and it drives me mad every time I pass by it. People had proposals approximately three years ago to develop an urban garden there. I was told by the Minister’s predecessor that machines would be on site. I have yet to see one. I am waiting for the day when I can spot construction starting on those sites. O'Devaney Gardens is beside the Phoenix Park and is probably one of the best sites for housing in Europe. It is lying idle, having been knocked for ten to 12 years. It is entirely in the ownership of the city council. I know I have raised this repeatedly but until some Minister is able to say why this has been left, I will not believe in the Government's real determination to show leadership and build and develop to the scale required.

If one was to look back at our recent history, owning a home was a given in Ireland for most families earning the average industrial wage and above.

In a way, I do not believe we have thought about the fact that we are actually moving away from that. It applies to people on higher incomes where two in the family are working, and this has consequences for childcare and so on. Many Members know about this personally. This has now become the model.

Renting on a permanent basis has been a fact for people on lower incomes in all towns and village throughout Ireland down the generations. Again, the Government seems to have abandoned this model and not enough is being developed. There may be some building in small rural villages. That is altogether welcome but previously there would have been sufficient supply for an expanding population. In economic terms, our expanding population is one of the best things we have with regard to our position as a small open economy trying to make its way in the world.

House purchases were used by people to supplement pensions and perhaps to leave something for their children or to pay for nursing home care in older age and so on. That model is disappearing except for people in the top quintiles of income. Again, I believe we have given insufficient thought to that. We know the financial crisis of 2008 led to the collapse of the banks and the construction industry. That has changed all of the assumptions.

What about the teacher married to the nurse? Such people are going to be between 35 and 38 years of age before they can buy a house together. What are the social consequences? This is one of the anomalies at the moment. In financial terms, if such a couple could buy a house, their mortgage would be cheaper than their rent. I am unsure whether the Government has considered that problem, but that is absurd in the context of the long-term sustainability of our particular model of people as stakeholders in their society. What about two gardaí setting up home together? That profile seems to have vanished as well.

A series of clear points arise in the context of this Bill. The most important is the need for a recipe to bring together the issues of finance, land, construction and especially construction training. We are not training anywhere near enough apprentices for the building industry. The building industry is actually moving to a more skilled pre-built model throughout the world. Yet, we are simply not at the races in that regard. I appeal to the Government to use this opportunity to try to think about the areas where it can improve.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill and to deal with some of the issues raised. I thank Deputy Jan O'Sullivan for bringing forward the Bill. While we might not agree with everything in it, I hope we can do much of the work she is seeking to have done in our Bill or in conjunction with bringing Deputy O'Sullivan’s Bill through Committee Stage, whichever way it works out. I believe we have the same agenda on some points, although not all. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, went through some of the points we would not necessarily agree with. We will continue to discuss and debate them and research them behind the scenes.

This Bill brings an important focus to the discussion again. We have had numerous debates in recent years on this whole area. We set out the rental strategy with legislation in December 2016. The legislation went through and there were some positive changes. Again, it was all about trying to get balance in that market but we still have not seen it - I am keen to acknowledge that.

Rent prices in many cases are far too high or excessive. I agree with Deputy Michael Healy-Rae that it is about getting the balance and scale right. I believe Deputy O'Sullivan recognises that as well. The correct balance is not there at the moment and we must do what we can to try to intervene where it works and where intervention has proven to work. We must be careful that we do not affect supply as well. It is a matter of getting the balance right and we are trying to do that. In particular, are trying to give tenants more protection as we go along. That is the aim of most people in this House and it is what I have heard in most of the debates I have listened to as well.

Again, I wish to deal with some of the issues raised because they are not all to do with the rental market or protecting tenants. A range of issues were raised tonight in this debate and I wish to deal with some of them.

If it is okay, a Cheann Comhairle, I wish to tackle Deputy Mick Barry and what he said. I do not think it is right that the Deputy can come into the Chamber and accuse the Minister of fiddling the figures. I am surprised that was allowed to be said in the House. I did not jump in at the time because I did not want to have a row with him, but I think he should be asked to correct the record. I do not think anyone is allowed to come to the Chamber and accuse someone of interfering, fiddling figures and lies. That is not on.

I took what he said to be a political charge.

That is fair enough. I am not holding you responsible, a Cheann Comhairle. I am simply saying that it has happened repeatedly in the Chamber and in my view it is not a fair political charge. I believe it is completely out of order. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is very straight and honest in everything he does. Two things arise. First, it is not something he would do. Second, it is certainly not something he can do. Either way, it is wrong and it cannot be repeated in the Chamber. I have listened to this too often. We are in the Chamber genuinely trying to solve problems and work together to make changes. Everyone else has the respect to do the job properly. Some go too far and cannot do it right. That does not achieve anything for anyone. I certainly cannot stand in the House as the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and not tackle the matter. I will not accept it. It is not good enough. Above anyone else, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is transparent in everything he is doing when it comes to the figures as is the Department. Everything we have done in recent years has been done with complete and utter openness in this House and the same applies in the committee. Anyone has access to any of us here to go through any figures or facts. There is no hiding or messing. We do not do any of that whatsoever. It is clear and transparent. Therefore, it is wrong for Deputy Barry to go down that road. I am disappointed that he would do that, but that is typical of the person he seems to be.

Other issues were raised. Deputy Mattie McGrath speaks and then runs out the door before I get to answer back, as is usual. That is what he does; he throws something out and then runs away. Obviously, it is the same but he does it repeatedly. Again, he said that we are trying to cod people and make up figures and do everything else. That is not true. Others have managed to add to his comments since then.

Local authorities are asked to deliver houses any which way they can, whether by turnkey, acquisition, voids, new-build or lease houses. All these strands are needed. It is all required in the pot. All our figures clearly show what is delivered under each bracket. No one is codding or hiding or moving at all.

An attempt was made to say the Department was caught out. That is baloney. I listened to the commentator in question again this morning. The same commentator told lies about me last week. Deputies should cop on to themselves. They should stop listening to and believing the commentators who say stuff without ever checking it. They never ask the questions but they make their livelihood out of commentary without ever checking with the Department what is true or false. Yet, some Deputies come to the Chamber and quote it as if it is gospel. It is not true and there is no codding anyone. We have asked local authorities to do turnkey. In fact, local authorities have asked us to do it. It works both ways. We have asked local authorities to provide leasing, direct build and acquisition. They need to keep going, do more and scale up, as Deputy Burton has said. That is what we want them to do as quickly as possible. We all want that.

The Minister of State would need to get his hard hat on.

We all want that. I have had it on plenty of times. We need to be clear on this point.

The Minister of State looks good in a high-visibility jacket.

I must get one that fits. The turnkey is important.

The Minister of State put on his jacket to launch four houses.

Does Deputy O'Brien not want the four houses? Is there something wrong with the houses in his area, something he did not like? I did not see Deputy O'Brien giving them back.

I was not there because I was at the housing committee.

I was not slagging Deputy O'Brien for not being there. I asked whether he wanted to give them back. We all agree we want this on a greater scale but every house is important. Thankfully, when we open them in groups of eight, 12, 15, 20 and so on, eventually they add up. Last year, over 7,000 houses came into the system. The figure was a combination of build, voids, empties, acquisitions, turnkey and Part V housing.

The voids are building up again, Minister of State.

I did not interrupt Deputy Burton. I know they are but let us be clear. Some 8,000 plus voids were brought back into the system.

Dublin City Council is overflowing with them.

There is a different story there. I will come to that in a minute. I am happy to go there but there should be no voids. There is absolutely no reason for it.

I started that scheme.

I have no problem complimenting Deputy O'Sullivan on that. A total of €150 million has been spent. Voids are an essential part and must be brought back into use. The then Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, started it and we continued with it. Deputy Alan Kelly was in the Department as well. We always said there is no excuse for voids and they should not be there. Far too many are left in Dublin. There should be none and they will be dealt with. There should not be many left at the end of this year – I can assure Deputies of that. Some properties were set aside for regeneration but nothing has happened. Again, that has gone on for far too long. There is a long history of this, and it has not only happened under our watch. It is not acceptable and it should not be happening. We need to see things move on in some of those sites as well.

Let us be clear on what turnkey is. Turnkey is build-to-order. Local authorities require the developer on an unfinished estate or a new site to provide good value and to deliver houses to the local authority. To me, that is a normal way of doing business. It is perfectly acceptable and I think it is a great way of doing business. I believe we should do more of it because there is great value in some cases. It will not work in every area but it is something we should do.

Other comments were made by Deputy MacSharry about streamlining the process. Again, we have had this debate during the past year or two and Deputy MacSharry has made the accusation that the system is out of order and so on. We have made many changes to the system and to the protocol. It is now down to a 59 stage protocol. It took approximately seven or eight months of work last year with all the local authorities and housing bodies. It involved everyone coming together to change the system.

It is a good system. A lot of people in the local authorities sector have told me there was no guideline before. There was never a set number of weeks for each part of the process. They say it is nice to have that to work to. We ask all local authorities and approved housing bodies to stick to the 59 weeks and not to take on projects which take three, four and five years. Those days should be gone. That happened in the past but the 59 week target is in place now. If Deputy MacSharry wants to consult with a local authority, it will find it hard to admit that it can beat 59 weeks if the Department is taken out of the equation. Most will say that even if there were not the different stages of checking in with the Department, they could not beat the 59 weeks. If they can, I will compliment them. We have ironed out a lot of the problems there. In an ideal world, people will just say a local authority should go forward and not consult with anybody to build their houses. It would change nothing about the timelines. They would not deliver the houses any more quickly. I am told that by the local authorities themselves. Deputy MacSharry might want to check with whoever he is getting his feedback from, because it does not add up. It is not true. We have corrected the system.

I will let him know.

The Deputy might pass on the message to him. He has managed again to be gone by the time I get up to speak. It is important to correct these points in relation to housing because a great deal of work has gone into trying to change the system. I compliment the local authorities involved. People often ask why we have to open developments of ten or 12 houses. It is for one reason only, namely that taxpayers need to know that money is being spent. If one listens to the media or comes in here, one might think there is nothing happening. I would love if there were 50, 100 or 1,000 but people need to know the money is getting through the system. Very often, they hear comments from approved housing bodies, NGOs and others about solutions. However, those people rarely mention that these are taxpayer funded solutions. Every party represented here and every local authority member has committed a great deal of time and effort to drive the housing agenda. Whenever I visit a housing development, I say that every party here has played its part. However, we are all spending taxpayers’ money and they need to be able to see it is driving solutions. That is why it is important to do that every chance we get. I always say that regardless of changes in government, the Dáil has committed the €6 billion and money beyond that to deliver housing projects. When it comes to scale, ambition and ideology, there is a commitment under Project 2040 to deliver 12,000 social houses per year after Rebuilding Ireland. There is a commitment there.

It is the added benefit of having a Minister in the media every day of the week.

That helps too. It is a great bonus if it works. The commitment is there and there is no ideological difference. The difficulty is about how quickly one can scale up. In fairness, Deputy Howlin was in Cabinet and understands about finance and the fact that the money was not there in the past to deal with this. If it had been there, I have no doubt that Deputy Howlin would have found the money and got it spent as quickly as he could. When it was there in the budgets at the end of 2014 and into 2015 and 2016, it was committed and put in behind housing.

That is why the system is beginning to deliver. It has taken years to put the system together again but it is now beginning to deliver houses. Hopefully, we will get back to the scale we need. There is a commitment to get to 50,000 houses and then beyond that. The idea that it is part of Fine Gael’s ideology not to do social housing is not true. It is not fair to say that when the commitment is there. That commitment is backed up by everyone in the House.

The Minister, Deputy Murphy, addressed the changes proposed in Deputy Jan O'Sullivan’s Bill. We agree with parts of it but we cannot agree with it all. We are bringing in a Bill ourselves in the month ahead. Hopefully, we can include some of these proposals in that. A second Bill is being published for the autumn. With a bit of effort, we may be able to squeeze things in. Everything one does when one intervenes in the rental market must be analysed carefully, which the Deputies opposite will appreciate. That is why things will be done in the autumn if it is not possible to get them through in this Bill or the Bill coming through in June. There are proposals here with which we agree. We had a discussion last night on student accommodation also. This is an area in which we will act. I thank the House for the time.

I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. In particular, I thank Deputy Healy for acknowledging that every Labour Party Minister has always prioritised housing and produced thousands of houses, as he said.

Except the last one.

I am very glad that was acknowledged. Deputy Murphy said we could have built houses in 2011. In 2011, the country was on its knees. Our indebtedness was 30% of GDP, which was higher than that of Zimbabwe. That was a nominal figure. The actual figure, even taking out the bank debt, was 11% of GDP. We had no money to spend. Deputy Murphy thinks we could borrow the money from the European Investment Bank. I met the European Investment Bank at the time. I brought its representatives to Dublin. The very first meeting they ever had outside Luxembourg was in Dublin at my invitation. They would provide us with a loan but we could not borrow money because we were required to reduce our indebtedness from 11% of GDP to 3% or we would have no money to pay for health, social welfare and everything else. The first thing we need in the House is honesty about how we address and solve these issues. We have a habit of always trying to resolve the last crisis after the fact. The economy crashed in 2008 due to reckless bank lending and a property bubble. For most of the time we were in government, there was no property market. Nobody could tell one what was the value of houses because there was no market for them. Nobody was building houses because the builders had collapsed. The notion that it was a normal time merits revisiting given that we were barely clinging to economic survival. Let us be honest. It is nice and comfortable for people to make jibes, but if we are going to resolve the real crisis we now face, we must act collectively.

My colleague, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, has worked on many fine Bills in the housing area. This Bill contains a set of measures which would provide real support to the most embattled cohort of people right now, namely, those in the rental sector. They are genuinely being crucified across the country. Rent hikes have been monumental over the past five years or so. Rents are now higher than they were at the peak of the boom in 2007 and 2008. As my colleague, Deputy Joan Burton, has said it is perversely the case that the cost of rent is more oppressive than mortgages at current rates. If there were only houses for people to buy and they could convert what they were paying in rent into mortgages, they would be better off and in the process of acquiring their own homes and settling their circumstances forever more. That is the reality.

Figures revealed by RTÉ today show that half of new homes listed as local authority builds were bought directly from a builder or developer. Half of these houses were bought. I heard the Minister of State say that is the way it should be and that we are doing everything. However, he is saying, in essence, that the few bob the State has is now being used to compete with-----

They are built to order.

They are not competing. I can bring the Deputy to the sites.

I can show the Minister of State an estate in my constituency which a developer built and where eight houses were bought by the local authority.

And I will bring the Minister of State to lots of sites where they were built to order.

They were not built to order. These were private developments.

I can bring the Deputy to lots of sites. I will bring him with me.

I am sure there are others but the Minister of State must accept the point. Half of the so-called "council builds" were actually purchased. That is instead of having two streams to bring homes onto the market, one involving houses built by local authorities as they used to do when we had housing departments buying land years in advance, servicing it and building according to need, and a separate stream of houses coming from developers to service the private market. The problem is that we do not have anything like enough of the old-fashioned local authority houses. We are sitting on hundreds of acres of land. We have all identified it. Notionally, we have allocated the resources. When moneys became available, my very first act was to allocate the first few bob we got to social housing. There were problems, however. Let us be honest again. In the early part of the 2000s, there was a policy to hollow out the capacity of local authorities to build houses and to rely instead on the private sector to build and lease back properties. It was the wrong policy and it had a doubly negative effect.

Not only did it incentivise the private sector to build houses and create a boom, it also hollowed out the capacity of local authorities. In 2014, when we had our first few bob, I allocated it to housing as our very first measure because it was the number one social priority. That was four years ago. I was told quickly that the local authorities did not have the capacity to build the houses and I had to immediately allocate additional staffing. I had to alter the restriction on employment to housing departments because they had not got housing officers in the same way as they had for decades previously, and we are only getting to that stage now. There was a lag because of the policies that were developed over time.

Now let us recognise, as I thought we did across this House, that the biggest social challenge we face - there will be Brexit and other issues - as a community and as a nation is housing. There are too many people with no certainty about the roof they have over their heads and too many young people almost abandoning the notion that they will ever be able to afford to own their own house. Let us do something about it collectively. For God's sake, let Deputies stop scoring points off one another, with them running in here for five minutes, making a few mumbled charges and running out again solves no problems for anybody. Let us try to collectively allocate the resources - it is our constitutional role to Vote money - agree on the plan and, in the interim, when we need to solve the big issue which is the supply-side issue, utilise the landbanks we have, utilise the money we have available and the capacity within the local authorities and other State agencies and agree to quickly embrace proposals like those put forward by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan to ease the burden now on those in the rented sector so that they do not face rent hikes above the CPI.

Members come in here stating we should halve rents.

They know that is nonsense. It is a lovely soundbite but unconstitutional and unfeasible. It is not real. People need real solutions. If we embrace the measures we have here to give security of tenure to tenants and to give security to landlords too in a balanced way in order that they can invest in properties and bring unused properties back into use and at the same time invest heavily in the landbank and the resources we have to ramp up on the scale Deputy Joan Burton talked about, then we will have done a great social good collectively. Let us bend our will and our efforts collectively to do that, stop talking about doing it and get on with actually doing it. It is worrying, quite frankly, that despite the cross-party housing strategy, endless proposals and motions and Bills in this House, we seem unable to get on top of this issue. Let us ensure collectively that this is our social priority and that we find a solution.

Question put and agreed to.