That Dáil Éireann:
— Fine Gael have been in office for seven years and during that time homelessness has increased to unprecedented levels, house prices and rents have spiralled out of control, and tens of thousands of households are unable to access secure and affordable homes;
— the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness has been in place for two years, and has clearly failed to address the causes of our housing crisis, and its underinvestment in social and affordable housing and over-reliance on the private sector has exacerbated the crisis; and
— Deputy Eoghan Murphy has been Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government for 15 months, and on his watch, homelessness has increased by 25 per cent, child homelessness has increased by 34 per cent, pensioner homelessness has increased by 40 per cent, rents have increased by 7 per cent and house prices by 6 per cent, delivery of social housing remains glacial, not a single affordable home has been delivered by any central Government scheme, private sector output in the main is overpriced and unaffordable, and vacant housing stock remains higher than the norm in other comparable countries;
has no confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and calls for him to be removed from office;
and calls on the Government to:
— accept that the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness has failed; and
— urgently introduce a new housing plan that will meet social and affordable housing need through an ambitious programme of public housing provision, and tackle homelessness through a greater focus on prevention and reduction of the length of time adults and children spend in emergency accommodation.
I will share time with Deputy McDonald.
When Deputy Eoghan Murphy was appointed Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government 15 months ago I said I wanted him to succeed. I told the House that if he implemented the right policies I would commend him, but I also said I would hold him to account if he pursued the wrong options. Fifteen months later, it is clear that both Deputy Eoghan Murphy, as Minister, and his housing policy, Rebuilding Ireland, have failed. Since the plan was published over two years ago homelessness has increased by 60%, child homelessness has increased by 77% and pensioner homelessness has increased by an unimaginable 80%. Can any of us imagine if it was our mother or father living in emergency accommodation, not knowing where he or she was going to sleep tonight, moving from hostel to hostel, scared, anxious and confused? This is the reality of Rebuilding Ireland. Behind every statistic is somebody’s brother, sister, mother or father. Every one of the more than 10,000 homeless people, including the 4,000 children who will sleep tonight in emergency accommodation, is being failed by Deputy Eoghan Murphy and his housing plan.
The reasons for this are very clear. The Government continues to underinvest in social and affordable housing. It continues to rely on the private sector to meet social and affordable housing need. That approach failed when last tried by Fianna Fáil in government, and it is failing now. This year, fewer social homes owned by local authorities and approved housing bodies will be delivered by the Government than last year. Just 5,869 real social homes will be added to the social housing stock if the Government meets its targets. Meanwhile, more than 20,000 families will be pushed into subsidised private rental accommodation. Some 78% of so-called social housing need tenancies will be provided through expensive and insecure private sector tenancies. This is bad for tenants and our housing system and it is definitely bad for the taxpayer.
What about people who are not eligible for social housing? Rents are up 22% since 2016 and house prices are up 18% in the same period. Tens of thousands of working families are simply unable to rent or buy, yet not a single affordable home has been delivered by the Government this year or last year and probably will not be delivered next year either. The Government's much hyped Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme has delivered just 134 mortgages since February. Developments on public land such as on the Grange site in my constituency could have genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy, but the Minister refuses to intervene. Instead the houses will be for sale for between €320,000 and €500,000. How is any working family to afford a home at those prices?
Meanwhile tens of thousands of vacant homes lie empty in our cities and towns. We were promised 1,600 vacant homes for the homeless to be delivered by the Housing Agency. Despite 3,967 such homes being offered to the Government over two years, a paltry 529 have been bought. The buy and renew scheme promised 500 homes to be brought back into stock, but has delivered just 70. The repair and lease scheme promised 800 homes but has delivered just 15 so far. The Taoiseach’s proposal on the appointment of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, of a vacant property tax has been quietly dropped.
The Minister and his colleagues will say in their defence that the numbers of planning permissions and house completions are up. That is correct. However, overpriced student accommodation at €1,000 per month and unaffordable family homes from €320,000 upwards will not solve the crisis. The Minister knows Rebuilding Ireland is fundamentally flawed. It is failing and is making the problem worse. A good and courageous Minister would go to the Cabinet and say the plan is not working and that it must change. The fact that the Minister cannot even see the failure in front of him demonstrates why he must go. His blind defence of Rebuilding Ireland is proof of how out of touch and out of his depth he is. It confirms beyond doubt that he is now an obstacle to addressing the real causes of the crisis.
The Minister claims that this motion is a personal attack on him. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is the Minister and the buck stops with him. His plan is failing and it is time he and his colleagues took responsibility for that. He said that the housing crisis cannot be solved overnight. He is correct. However, Fine Gael has been in government for seven long years, and this is its housing and homelessness crisis as much as it is Fianna Fáil’s.
The Minister also claims that the Opposition has no policy alternatives and that we are devoid of solutions. Again, this is simply not true. We have produced fully costed budgets and a raft of policy proposals and Bills that the Minister has chosen to ignore. We have proposed a doubling of capital investment in social and affordable housing. We have urged the Government to take advantage of finance from the credit unions, the Housing Finance Agency and the European Investment Bank. We have published detailed proposals on how to accelerate the delivery of much needed public housing. We have tabled legislation to provide real security of tenure, halt rent hikes and improve standards in the private rental sector. We have proposed an emergency three-year rent freeze and a tax relief of a full month's rent to help make renting affordable. We tabled the Focus Ireland amendment which would have prevented hundreds of families from losing their homes. We introduced legislation to ensure all families at risk of homelessness would have homeless prevention plans in place at least 60 days before losing their homes. We also proposed detailed regulations for the short-term letting sector and offered comprehensive proposals for improving building standards and addressing the legacy of latent defects.
Unfortunately, time after time Fianna Fáil had lined up with Fine Gael to block these proposals. Deputy Micheál Martin's party refused to support our Bill that would have enshrined the right to housing in the Constitution. He blocked his Deputies from supporting the Focus Ireland amendment which would have prevented hundreds of families from becoming homeless. What Fianna Fáil has proposed instead is more tax breaks for developers. It clearly has not learned from its mistakes in the past. It will be the same tonight.
Deputy Micheál Martin is so weak that he is not willing to stand up to the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. He is so scared of an election that he is willing to allow a failing Minister and his failed housing plan to remain in place. It is time that party stopped speaking out of both sides of its mouth on housing. It cannot criticise the Government's housing plan and its failing Minister on one day and then support the Government's housing budgets and the same failing Minister the next. It is time for Deputy Micheál Martin, who is absent, to put up or shut up.
Passing this motion tonight would send a clear signal to the Government that its housing policy must change. It would ensure that budget 2019 would be a housing budget. It could be a turning point in our housing and homelessness crisis. However, if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will not listen to the Opposition they will have to listen to the people. Across the country frustration with the housing crisis is turning into anger. Take Back the City is giving a voice to a locked out generation. The Raise the Roof rally at 12.30 p.m. on 3 October outside the Dáil will be even bigger. This will be the largest civil society coalition demanding change since Together for Yes and the marriage equality movement. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and all its members, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Union of Students in Ireland and a raft of homeless NGOs and grassroots housing campaign groups will be speaking with one voice to demand a radical change in policy and real ambitious investment in social and affordable housing.
Rebuilding Ireland has failed. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has failed and it is time for both to go. I commend this motion to the House.