An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The business this week shall be as set out in the first revised report of the Business Committee, dated 20 May 2019. In relation to today’s business, it is proposed that No. 13, motion re Sectoral Employment Order (Electrical Contracting Sector) 2019, referral to committee, shall be taken without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken immediately; and No. 54, Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2019, Second Stage, shall conclude within two hours.

In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall adjourn on the conclusion of the Topical Issue debate until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 28 May 2019.

In relation to business on Tuesday, 28 May, it is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that questions for oral answer by the Taoiseach under Standing Order 38 will not be taken and questions to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will take place after the Order of Business.

There are two questions to be considered by the House. Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed.

As I said earlier, we have seen reports that the Tánaiste has advised the Cabinet that the risk of a no-deal Brexit has never been greater in the past two and a half years.

The latest OECD report states the impact on the Irish economy of a disorderly Brexit, if all this goes wrong, could be very grave and that we could go back into recession. Could the Taoiseach advise us whether the Cabinet made any decision today on Brexit to intensify our preparations and efforts through extra supports for companies, customs registration and the hiring of additional officials? Did the Government make any decision in light of its assessment that the risk of a no-deal Brexit has never been greater?

The Cabinet had a detailed discussion today on foot of a memorandum brought by the Tánaiste on planning for no Brexit deal. I reviewed some of the areas where much progress has been made. The legislation was passed by this House. We now need to put secondary legislation in place in some areas. More work needs to be done on the European health insurance card and Erasmus. We noted that the staff are now in place for customs, the Revenue Commissioners and other areas where they are needed. We are going to resume information campaigns, particularly informing businesses of the actions they need to take and the supports that are now available but which have not been fully availed of.

Many businesses are prepared. They have got their EORI numbers and have done their Brexit health checks. There are others that are perhaps still taking the view that it will be all right on the night. It may well be all right on the night but we cannot assume that. We will ask businesses, in particular, to step up their planning and avail of the information, supports, advice and funding already available.

The programme for Government states the Government will introduce a new model of affordable rental accommodation to provide more housing solutions for those on low incomes. Despite his lofty rhetoric, the Taoiseach has dragged his heels on the cost rental model. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government now has a new pet project, which he calls "co-living", which he presents as a solution to the rental crisis. He goes so far as to tell people we should be all excited about this new co-living plan he has devised. Consider what is being developed. In Dún Laoghaire, for example, there are 208 studios, over 6,500 sq. m, on one floor. That means 42 people will share one kitchen, with rents in excess of €1,300 per month. That is not a solution and people should not be excited about it. It is a step on the road towards the tenements of the 21st century. The time of the Government would be better devoted to developing and rolling out affordable cost rental homes. The co-living concept has been-----

I will finish on this. The co-living concept has been described by Threshold as 21st-century bedsits with a glossy makeover. Will the Taoiseach heed its advice? Is he even listening to me?

Is the Deputy listening to me? The time is up.

With respect, I have been addressing the Taoiseach but he has been continuously in conversation with the Tánaiste during this period.

The time is up.

I know he has no interest in this issue but the people whom he is telling should be excited are very worried about this.

Will the Deputy adhere to the orders of the House? Will he resume his seat, please?

The rent is to be €1,300 for 42 people to share a kitchen. Is it not time to heed the advice of Threshold, abandon the plan and deliver on what the Government committed to, which is an affordable cost rental model?

I thank the Deputy for the question. Sinn Féin needs to pay closer attention to the housing market because the guidelines were actually announced and introduced a year and a half ago. They are not a response to the crisis in and of themselves. We are trying to build a future housing market that provides choices for every type of person in this country. It is not an attempt to bring in bedsits through the back door.

People need choice. It should not just be the privilege of a few; it should exist for everyone. That is what we are trying to do, especially for people from abroad who might be coming here for only six months, a year or two years. They would have a choice of accommodation types. Co-living has been welcomed and has been successful precisely in those cities whose rental markets we are trying to emulate, including those with models such as the cost rental model. It is a part of the choice. People should not rush to judgment based on one planning application.

Insofar as our plans for cost rental are concerned, they are being developed with the National Development Finance Agency, European Investment Bank and Dublin City Council, in particular, and also housing bodies and the Land Development Agency. We have sites earmarked and we hope development can get under way once we get the finance is right. Once people have a cost rental arrangement and get the percentage deduction on their rent, it will apply for five, ten, 15 or 20 years. If we get the finances wrong on this, people could get hurt in the future. In everything we do in housing, we are trying to protect people from the mistakes that happened so they will have sustainable, secure and affordable housing.

I was listening to the Minister saying everything he is doing is to protect the tenant. He stated in Saturday's Irish Independent that he would act to protect tenancies of indefinite duration later this year.

He was quoted in the Irish Independent as saying, "Currently, a landlord can evict a tenant after six years without reason. That will change". He has been told that for a very long time. In fact, he could have changed it a fortnight ago but he refused to accept an amendment tabled in this House by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan to address that very issue and which would have changed the law. That was voted down by the Minister and Fianna Fáil. The Minister has now told landlords that he will change the law at some point in the future and, obviously, there will be time then for them to make whatever arrangements they can.

As the Taoiseach said in an earlier reply, the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill is on Report Stage in the Seanad later today. Will the Minister take the opportunity presented by that Bill, since he missed the opportunity in this House two weeks ago, to make that adjustment?

It is actually the same Bill. It has been Government policy for quite some time to move to tenancies of indefinite duration but it is nowhere near as simple as the very brief amendment the Labour Party tried to put forward.

If we had accepted that amendment, it would have undone Part 4 of the 2004 Act, which currently gives the bulk of the protections to tenants when it comes to section 34 and notice to quit periods. By accepting the Labour Party amendment, we would have undone the existing protections.

When is the Government going to do it?

In the fourth quarter of this year, as I told the House when we were taking the Bill through, we will come with the second rent Bill, which will deal with tenancies of indefinite duration, the area around deposits and tenants who find themselves in a property that has gone into receivership, or where the loan has been sold to another financial institution. We recognise there is more to do to protect tenants. Every one of the 38 sections of the current Bill protects tenants. However, we have to ensure there are landlords operating in the market as well. It is about finding that balance. As landlords leave the market, more people find themselves in housing insecurity. Doing the things we are doing in this rent Bill will allow us to protect tenants in so many ways, as the Taoiseach outlined, while also making sure we have a European, affordable rental sector, which we are all trying to build. However, it cannot be done in a year or two.

Last Thursday, I was the first Deputy to bring up and condemn the proposed Bartra so-called co-living development in Dún Laoghaire, which has now sparked a national controversy. Indeed, we have been campaigning in the local area against this shameful, greed-driven development for the last number of weeks and have submitted an objection under the strategic housing development, SHD, process. I brought this up with the Tánaiste last Thursday. Has the Minister reflected, given the response from housing NGOs and so on, as to whether a 16 m² room with a fold-out bed, for which people will be paying €1,300, is the sort of accommodation we need to address the housing crisis? On a question I asked him last week, although he did not answer, is it not an abuse of the strategic housing development fast-track planning process to even consider such a proposal? Is it not, in fact, a manifesto for modern day tenements, with 42 people sharing a kitchen?

The time is up.

Will the Minister reconsider this? This is just greed and profiteering by some of the Celtic tiger developers who helped crash this economy. Now, they are at it again on a site-----

Please, Deputy.

I will conclude on this. Now, they are at it again on a site that local people have been campaigning to get public and affordable housing on for years, and these greedy people want to grab it for tenements. It is absolutely shameful.

I cannot talk about an individual planning application which is under review but we should not rush to judgment on the basis of one planning application. The Deputy might have raised this last Thursday but I talked about these guidelines a year and half ago, and they were welcomed then because they have been successful in other cities for some people who want that choice, and this is about bringing choice to everyone. Too many people in the country at the moment do not have a choice when it comes to a housing solution and that is what we are trying to fix.

A choice to live in a box. It is worse than a hub.

Please allow the Minister answer.

These are new guidelines and the first applications are coming in. Of course, we will keep them under review but they were developed looking at best practice abroad. I believe the interpretation of them is straightforward in terms of what we are trying to achieve and the benefits they will bring to people, who are perhaps only going to be working for a short period in this country or who need some sort of transitional accommodation, such as moving from student accommodation-----

It is not what we need in Dún Laoghaire.

That is not a decision the Deputy gets to make.

Ask the people in Dún Laoghaire.

What we are trying to do is provide choices for the people who are looking for homes.

It is not allowed under this SHD process. They cannot even have an input.