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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 10 Jul 2018

Vol. 971 No. 5

Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to highlight the State's adherance to EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights in regard to the present emergency in the housing sector and, in particular, in dealing with mortgage arrears; to provide for a platform for an open market - “the national affordable cooperative housing exchange” - in which mortgagees and purchasers of home loans and security housing must deal; to secure for preferred not-for-profit housing providers a purchasers first refusal on such sales via a non-compulsory purchase order call option; to designate the Registrar of Friendly Societies as the exchange point for such sales; to promote not-for-profit third sector non-state provision of affordable housing ranging from mutually funded to internationally funded in the ethical bond market; to allow for the broadening of the Mortgage to Rent mortgage rescue model to be available without any local authority involvement to voluntary, mutual and not-for-profit housing providers funded privately and without recourse to public funds or state guarantee; and to provide for reconfiguring Abhaile as a mortgage resolution agency.

I wish to acknowledge the work done by Mr. Edmund Honohan, the Master of the High Court, and the huge contribution he made in terms of the Bill. He did this in a non-political way for reasons arising from his experience in the courts. I compliment Mr. Honohan and also Mr. Brian Reilly of Right2Homes. What is being done by Mr. David Hall in respect of a particular pilot scheme shows that this Bill can work.

The Bill would keep Ireland in line with EU law and with the European Convention on Human Rights in the context of the housing crisis and the mortgage arrears issue in particular. It would also provide for a national affordable housing exchange and a non-compulsory purchase option for preferred not-for-profit housing agencies. Furthermore, it would expand the mortgage-to-rent rescue model by removing the dead hand of local authorities and replacing it with the caring hand of voluntary, mutual and not-for-profit housing agencies. The Bill would reconfigure Abhaile as a mortgage resolution agency and would give authority to the not-for-profit housing agency designated for the purpose to raise funds on the open market from ethical funds.

Above all, this Bill, if enacted, would keep people in their homes and would bring vulture funds, which are causing havoc for families and individuals throughout the country and causing homelessness by means of evictions, to heel.

What is happening has to stop. As parliamentarians, we have a choice. We can go down the tired old political route, which is stale and out of date, and protect the status quo. We can ignore all of what is happening in our courts. We can ignore all of the evictions and repossessions. We can ignore people that are in distress with their mortgage and living with a very poor quality of life. We can say that the Bill lacks clarity. We can say that it is not fit for purpose. We can say all of those things and we can reach for any excuse. However, I am asking the Government not to do so. I am asking every single Member of this Parliament to examine the Bill with a view to bringing it to Second Stage in order that we can debate the real issues that are central to society right now with a view to keeping people safe in their homes. I have said it umpteen times; the first obligation of a Government is to keep its people safe.

I invite Members to go to any of the courts or to attend any meetings involving the vulture funds. One can see how arrogant and aggressive they are, and how their lack of understanding is pitted against ordinary individuals and gives them no chance whatsoever. The people have turned to us and to this House. Mr. Edmund Honohan and Right2Homes have given us the option to take this Bill on board. If it is not perfect or if it lacks clarity in any way, let us debate that. Let us move the Bill forward. It is not in my ownership; it is a non-political approach to what is a crisis for society. If we do not do it, more people will be thrown to the vulture funds. People will lose their homes and families throughout the country will be devastated.

Those with family farms are next.

The banks are queuing up to bring people to court.

My answer to all of that is to call on this House to say "No" to vulture funds and to say "Yes" to families and to keeping them in their homes. I ask Members to support this Bill. Debate the Bill, amend it and add to it. I invite Members to do what they like to improve it, but please bring it to the House for a full debate. I am introducing the Bill, but I ask Deputies of every single party and none to find space on agenda in order that it might be debated. If it is not Fianna Fáil that takes this matter forward, it could be Sinn Féin, Labour, Fine Gael or anyone else. It could be the Independent Alliance. Regardless of who it is, the critical thing is that society needs an answer to the problems of today. We will not find that answer in the Bills that are hanging around this House. Unfortunately, there seems to be a reluctance to take on the vulture funds or to walk away from financial institutions and banks and allow them to fend for themselves.

We are repeatedly informed by the banks that the protection for the mortgage holder travels with the loan. That is simply not true. By turning a blind eye, we are allowing the vulture funds to do huge damage to society and to families. Please, let us find the time to debate this Bill and have it enacted.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

If it is possible to debate the Bill in Government time, I would like that to be considered as well.

Question put and agreed to.