That Dáil Éireann:
— access to secure and genuinely affordable housing is increasingly out of reach for many people;
— from the locked-out generation of students and young workers or unemployed people, to older workers facing into retirement, high-cost insecure accommodation is a reality for too many people;
— the failure of the Government to provide an adequate supply of good quality public housing in sustainable communities lies at the heart of the housing crisis;
— the most graphic symptom of this crisis is the growing number of children living in emergency accommodation;
— a new approach to housing is required to meet the housing needs of all those locked out of the private market including young people, those on modest incomes, those on low pensions, those on council waiting lists, Travellers, people with disabilities, older people and students; and
— important proposals to address the housing crisis have been put forward by a wide variety of groups including the National Homeless and Housing Coalition and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; and
calls on the Government to:
— declare the housing and homeless crisis an emergency;
— dramatically increase the supply of social and affordable (including cost rental) housing by increasing capital spending on housing to €2.3 billion in Budget 2019, increase Part V requirements to 20 per cent in standard developments and 30 per cent in strategic development zones, prioritise the delivery of public housing on public land, and aggressively target the return of vacant houses to active use;
— reduce the flow of adults and children into homelessness with emergency legislation to make it illegal for landlords, banks and investment funds to evict tenants and homeowners in mortgage distress into homelessness, provide real security of tenure and real rent certainty by linking rent reviews to an index such as the Consumer Price Index and introducing measures to reduce the cost of rent, and introduce a target for ending long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough; and
— hold a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution.
I am sharing time with Deputies Ó Broin, Adams, Gino Kenny and Coppinger.
Today, 10,000 people filled Molesworth Street. They could not all even fit on the street. There are still hundreds of students outside the Department of the Taoiseach supporting this motion, which was brought forward by the Raise the Roof campaign and supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the National Housing and Homelessness Coalition, the Union of Students in Ireland, the National Women's Council and dozens of housing NGOs and housing activist groups. Most important, this motion is being proposed on behalf of 130,000 families who are waiting a decade and more on housing lists, 70,000 families in serious mortgage arrears, 10,000 people, including 4,000 children, who are in emergency accommodation, a whole generation of young people and working people who are locked out of the housing market because of extortionate rents and property prices, and renters who are afraid they could be evicted this week or next by their landlord.
The response of the Government to this motion is a litmus test for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as to which side they are on. Are they on the side of those hundreds of thousands who need a secure, affordable roof over their heads or are they on the side of vultures, property speculators, corporate landlords and others who are profiting obscenely from the human misery that is the housing emergency? That is the equation. The vast majority in society are losing out because of this housing crisis but a small cohort is watching the profits pile in because of the human misery caused by it.
Our motion sets out an alternative set of proposals to the failed policies the Government has pursued of depending on the private sector, vulture funds and landlords to solve this crisis. It calls for a declaration of a national housing emergency, a dramatic increase in expenditure on public and affordable housing built on public land, including an extra €1 billion in the budget that will be decided next week. It calls for an end to economic evictions into homelessness. It calls for aggressive measures to take control of empty property and unused building land that is being speculated on and hoarded by landlords and vulture funds to make it usable for the housing that people need. The motion calls for rent controls that control rents and bring them to affordable levels. It calls for an increase in the portion that goes to social and affordable housing on private developments from the miserable 10% which we are not even getting up to a minimum of 20% for private developments and 30% for strategic development zones. It calls for a constitutional referendum to insert the right to housing as a basic right into our Constitution. Those alternative proposals are not just a critique of the policies of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. They are alternative proposals. How does the Minister answer them?
I will put a human face on this. This is just the latest tragic story, of which we hear many. In a way, it captures a lot of the themes that have come up in public debate this week. A woman, Terry O'Reilly, in her 30s is living in her car in Shanganagh Cliffs in Shankill, a council estate where she was brought up. She is sleeping in the car and has gone there because at least in that estate she feels safe. She served eight years in the Irish Army and now she is homeless. As a result of a medical condition, she has to use Lyrica patches, which means it is dangerous for her to go into hostels where there is active drug use because that medication is sought after by active drug users. The only accommodation she is being offered is a hostel in town where there are active drug users. The council will not even give her the right to self-accommodate, which is a miserable alternative to proper, secure housing. That is what we have come to. Someone who served the Irish State in the Army for eight years is sleeping in a car in the estate where she was brought up. Behind every single one of the 130,000 families on the housing list, the 70,000 in mortgage arrears and the 10,000 who are homeless, there is the same kind of human story, misery, anxiety, and fear.
Any Government that cannot deliver a secure, affordable roof over the heads of its citizens is not worth the name of "government". Is the Minister going to change tack? Fine Gael has had seven years of warnings, pleading and appeals from people on this side of the House to break its addiction to the private market and to the profiteering of the speculators and vulture funds that have swooped in on the human misery it has facilitated. We ask it to change tack for the sake of those hundreds of thousands of citizens and for the sake of the young people who are out marching now because their future is being stolen from them while the Government cannot secure an affordable roof over their heads. I appeal to the Government to support this motion and listen to the people outside.