Affordable Housing: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

That Dáil Éireann: notes:

— the absence of any targets for the delivery of affordable rental or purchase homes in the Programme for Government;

— the absence of any definition of affordable housing or any price points for affordable housing in the Programme for Government;

— the delays in delivering an affordable cost rental scheme since it was announced by the Government in 2014 and again in 2016;

— that rents have increased by 26 per cent since 2016, with average rents at €1,402 per month and €2,000 per month in Dublin;

— that in Dublin, house prices have increased by 12 per cent since 2016 with average prices now at €373,248;

— that Economic and Social Research Institute research shows that 70 per cent of private renters and mortgaged households in the lowest quarter of the income distribution have high housing costs; and

—that during four years of a Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Confidence and Supply Arrangement, not a single affordable home to rent or buy was delivered through any central Government scheme;

and calls on the Government to introduce an affordable housing scheme that:

— delivers mixed income and mixed tenure public housing developments on public land lead by local authorities, approved housing bodies and community land trusts;

— has a minimum target of 100,000 public homes to meet social and affordable need over five years;

— determines tenure mix in accordance with local need, combining social rental, affordable rental and affordable leasehold purchase;

— ensures that no land will be sold or transferred out of public ownership for the purpose of delivering public housing;

— defines housing affordability as no more than 30 per cent of net disposable income;

— is available to households whose gross incomes are below €75,000 for a couple and below €50,000 for a single person;

— delivers affordable homes to buy for €230,000 or less in cities and surrounding commuter belts;

— delivers affordable homes to buy for €220,000 or less in non-urban centres and non-commuter belt areas;

— delivers affordable cost rental homes to rent between €700 and €900 per month;

— ensures flexibility in the final entry level rents and purchase price to take account of variations in regional rental and purchase markets, with a particular emphasis on lower price markets in predominantly rural areas and smaller towns;

— is consistent with the National Planning Framework requirements for urban densification and mixed-use, mid-rise and higher-density master planning by the local authority; and

— is financed through a combination of capital expenditure, serviced sites fund, capital advanced loan facilities and long-term low interest public borrowing from sources, including the Housing Finance Agency, the European Investment Bank and credit unions.”

I am sharing time with a number of colleagues. A Cheann Comhairle, hundreds of thousands of working people are unable to afford a home. Too many are paying sky-high rents and others are forced to live at home while saving for a deposit. Average rents are now €1,400 per month and, in Dublin, €2,000 per month. Buying a home here in the capital will cost on average €370,000 and in many cases much more. Even couples with two good jobs are struggling to rent or buy. Single people and those on modest incomes are completely locked out. It does not have to be this way. There are solutions to the affordable housing crisis. Unfortunately, the people responsible for this crisis are back in charge. For years, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were in government together. During that time, not a single affordable home to rent or buy was delivered through any central government scheme. The former Ministers, Deputies Coveney and Eoghan Murphy, threw money at private developers - a €200 million infrastructure fund, a €300 million serviced sites fund, and a €750 million home building fund, all eagerly supported by Deputies Cowen and Darragh O'Brien. Despite this, not a single affordable home has been built, bought or let with these funds. Sure, a few are in the pipeline but they are nowhere close to being affordable. For example, an apartment in O'Devaney Gardens in Dublin city, whenever the scheme is finished, will set a first-time buyer back an astonishing €360,000. Not content with this debacle, Fianna Fáil wanted the scheme to include so-called cost rental homes costing €1,600 per month. Anybody who thinks these prices are affordable is not living in the real world.

Now we have a new Government, a new programme for Government and a new housing Minister. I would genuinely like to be able to wish the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, well. More importantly, the thousands of people in housing need whom I and other Deputies represent do not just want the Minister to succeed, they need him to succeed. Unfortunately, the programme for Government offers little hope. It is a reheated version of the failed Rebuilding Ireland policy of Fine Gael. It is more of the same policy that Fianna Fáil both supported and opposed during confidence and supply. There are no targets for the delivery of affordable housing and no definitions, prices or capital commitments. Despite having had four years to come up with a plan, neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael can actually tell people what they will deliver, when they will do so and for how much. Just like their countermotion presented here tonight, there are lots of vague words but no firm commitments. I have to say this simply is not good enough.

Last month, Sinn Féin published a draft affordable housing circular. It outlined what we believe a Government serious about affordable housing should do. It shows how we can deliver affordable homes for €230,000 and less with no hidden equity charge; and how we can deliver affordable rents of between €700 and €900 per month. It provides the kind of detail we should be hearing from the Government on how to finance and deliver an ambitious programme of affordable housing by building mixed income public housing on public land, delivering social, affordable rental and affordable leasehold homes and, crucially, doubling capital expenditure to €2.3 billion annually to deliver 20,000 homes every year and 100,000 social and affordable homes in the lifetime of a Government. This is in our view the only way to get a grip on our housing crisis.

If the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, is serious about public housing, Sinn Féin will work with him. If he is willing to abandon the failed policies of the past four years, including the controversial Land Development Agency, and embrace new ideas, he will have a willing partner in Sinn Féin. However, he and his Government will be judged by their record, that is, by the number, cost and quality of the homes they deliver. The time for empty promises is over. The time for affordable housing is now. I commend the motion to the House.

I commend Deputy Ó Broin and thank him for bringing forward this motion. The housing crisis has gone on for far too long. There have been too many promises, too many broken homes, broken lives and broken families. As a councillor and now as a Deputy for Dublin West, I have come across hundreds of families who have been on social housing lists for more than 12 years. I am sure the Minister has as well. It is absolutely shocking and unfortunately it is not getting any better. I have come across hundreds of families and individuals who are stuck in the rent trap paying unaffordable rents and unable to escape because they cannot afford to save for a mortgage. Many hundreds of others have moved back into their parents' homes and have saved tens of thousands. However, they are saying to me that the more they save, the more the cost of housing becomes unaffordable and the more the prices are getting out of their reach. I had a look on daft.ie this week at current prices for sale and rent in Dublin West. An average three-bedroom house in Dublin 15 costs €1,800 per month to rent and an average new house costs €400,000.

The Minister might let me tell him about 25 ha of land in Dublin 15 called Churchfields. It was proposed that this would become a wonderful new community of over 1,100 houses and apartments, a new park and community youth facilities. That was way back in January 2018. To date, about 60 social housing units have been built. I commend Fingal County Council on the work it has put in to try to deliver this project. However, there is a serious problem with the substantial delivery because central government, including the previous Government, does not have a funding model. The land for the 1,100 units is there. The services are in place and the road infrastructure is about to be put in place in the next months. We need the Minister to do three things: provide funding to build social housing for people on the housing list, those on the transfer list and people in homelessness; provide funding to build cost rental accommodation that would cost between €700 and €900; and provide funding to provide genuinely affordable houses for €230,000 or less. We now have a chance to give people a real hope that things are going to change. I ask the Minister to guarantee that there will not be a single inch of that land sold to a private developer for profit.

I stand across the Chamber from the Government party that gave us austerity and billions lost and owed. The Minister might need reminding about the smaller figures, those living month to month and week to week, those who on a Thursday night might be checking their coat pockets for the surprise fiver or checking down the side of the sofa for the extra couple of euro because they are desperately saving for a home of their own. In north Kildare, a modest three-bedroom house costs between €350,000 and €380,000. One would be very lucky to find a three-bedroom house to rent for anything around €1,500. It is massive money for a home.

I use the word "home" because hubs pertain to travel and shelter is something we use for livestock. Humans need homes. Paying €380,000 for a home is too much for too many. Saving while paying €1,500 rent is impossible. It is crippling for young people who are trying to save for their first home. What does it say about how we value our workers and their children when they cannot afford a home of their own? What does it say about our belief in the right to a home? Do we believe that only the successful, the well-off, those with a partner and those with access to the bank of mammy and daddy can have a place to call home or do we believe that a home is not a consumer luxury available only to the lucky few but a public right to be believed in, fought for and established for all? I believe it is such a right because a home is not just a building or something to bequeath in a will. A home gives us agency and authority in our lives. It is about stability and putting down roots in ones community. Above all, an affordable home gives single people, families and people with disabilities privacy, hope and dignity. With Sinn Féin, change is coming. For now, the Government has political power. I hope it takes on board Sinn Féin's practical plan. We must beautiful build public housing that is worthy of our people and their ambitions.

People have spent years waiting not only on council housing lists but for an affordable housing policy. It has been years since there has been any such policy that would work for them. Having one's own home, a permanent place to live securely, is instrumental in people's lives. Without it, many things suffer. Countless life decisions are put off and other things are held up. There is a lack of security and employment and other issues are affected. People cannot wait any longer. Every week, I am contacted by people who cannot afford a mortgage from a bank but do not qualify for social housing or any other scheme. For those people, there are very few solutions or options. This must be an urgent priority. It is impossible for many to save for a mortgage while renting in Cork city. I looked at the daft.ie website this afternoon. The average rent is €1,300 or €1,400 but rents are much higher than that for average three-bedroom houses. Níl aon pholasai ag na daoine seo. They cannot afford to pay that kind of rent and save at the same time.

Now we have a Fianna Fáil housing Minister. He promises affordable housing at long last but with a programme for Government that has no detail or costing or that even tells us what affordable means. Every year during the previous Government, Fianna Fáil promised it would extract a housing budget from Fine Gael and each year it failed to do so. The previous Government failed to deliver a single affordable house under any Government scheme.

This motion outlines what is plainly necessary. Affordable cannot be just a label; it must be meaningful. It cannot mean a home is just marginally cheaper than it would be if it was delivered through the private sector. It must bring housing within the reach of those who cannot afford it now. Recent Governments have completely failed to do that and people are beginning to lose hope. The motion before us shows how this can be done, how we can deliver homes for people who are currently locked out of the housing market through cost rental and cost purchase. I urge the new Minister to take the opportunities before him alongside significant challenges. I urge him to take on board the policy in the draft circular, and not oppose it for party political reasons. He should take on board good constructive proposals from the Opposition and implement them. People cannot wait any longer for the chance of a permanent home and the security it offers.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the motion put forward by Deputy Ó Broin. The housing crisis is not confined to Dublin. There is a housing crisis across the country. In the midlands, including Laois-Offaly, thousands of families are trapped in the rental market often at the mercy of rack-renting landlords. This is causing huge stress. Unfortunately for many of these families, their income is just above the very low threshold above which they cannot get on the council housing waiting list. At the same time, they have no hope of securing a mortgage from a bank. I know one family where the sole earner is a labourer with the county council and the family cannot get on the council housing list.

Sinn Féin's proposals aim to provide a solution for workers and families, the real squeezed middle, who have no access to affordable or cost rental housing. There has been a lack of ambition or urgency from the conservative coalition over the past four years. I find that difficult to understand. In County Laois, rents have increased by 7.3% in the past year to an average of €1,002. There has been a similar increase in Offaly, at 5.7%, with average rents now standing at €935 a month. A family of four cannot get on the housing waiting list in either county if their income is more than €528 a week. A couple cannot get on the housing waiting list if they have an income of more than €504. They will also be unable to get a loan from a bank or building society, which means they will be trapped forever in private rental accommodation without rent control. This is totally unfair and unsustainable.

Sinn Féin is putting forward solutions for these workers and families. We want a minimum of 100,000 public homes to be delivered over five years. We set out a plan for that with social, cost rental and affordable purchase housing. No family should pay more than 30% of its income on housing. Housing should be accessible for couples whose income is below €75,000 and single people on an income below €50,000. We make our proposal in good faith. It offers an alternative housing model led by the State to deal with the housing and rental crises. The market model has failed. The new Government has an opportunity to show whether it is on the side of workers and families or on the side of landlords and developers. For a long time, this House was told we could not have rent controls. Now we have rent controls on a temporary basis. We need them to be applied permanently.

Anois, glaoim ar an Aire agus gabhaim comhghairdeas leis as ucht a cheapacháin.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“acknowledges the extensive range of measures included in the Programme for Government - Our Shared Future, building on the initiatives already undertaken and in progress, which will be brought forward to support individuals and families to access affordable housing and, in particular, notes that:

— this Government has confirmed its overarching housing policy principle that everybody should have access to good-quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price, built to a high standard, and located close to essential services, offering a high quality of life;

— this Government believes that the provision of more affordable housing has a profound benefit socially and economically, and that the State has a fundamental role in enabling the delivery of new homes and ensuring that best use is made of existing stock;

— building on the progress made to date, this Government is also committed to supporting the delivery of homes through the Serviced Site Fund, the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan and the Help to Buy scheme;

— under the Serviced Site Fund, local authorities have indicated they will deliver 3,200 new affordable homes across 35 projects already approved;

— consistent with the National Planning Framework and the Building Control Reform agenda, this Government is committed to the delivery of quality homes and a planning

system that delivers homes in a strategic manner to meet the demands of a modern society; and

— the Residential Tenancies Board published a report in June 2019, prepared by the Economic and Social Research Institute, which shows that Rent Pressure Zones are having a moderating effect on rent price inflation to the magnitude of 2-3 per cent per annum; and

further notes the Government’s intention to:

— embed affordability at the heart of Ireland’s housing system;

— prioritise the increased supply of social and affordable homes;

— finalise and open a State-backed affordable home purchase scheme to promote home ownership for households that would otherwise be frozen out of the market;

— increase the social housing stock by more than 50,000 homes, with an emphasis on new builds, to ensure that those in the greatest need can access quality housing and to take pressure off other areas of the housing system thus ensuring more affordable supply for first-time buyers and renters;

— create the conditions for the delivery of the greatest number of affordable homes possible, including setting a target for the delivery of affordable homes over the lifetime of the Government, to be available for qualifying purchasers as a matter of priority;

— accelerate delivery of affordable homes by local authorities under the €310 million Serviced Sites Fund, to deliver 6,200 new affordable homes and expand the projects under the Fund and examine opportunities to expand the scope and potential of the Fund;

— ensure that local authorities remain central to delivering public social and affordable housing working with approved housing bodies, the Land Development Agency (LDA) and other state and private sector partners;

— work with the private sector, through the planning and regulatory regimes, to ensure that an appropriate mix and type of housing is provided nationally and locally;

— monitor and work to address, with key stakeholders and industry, issues arising in the area of construction costs, viability and productivity, particularly against a background of Covid-19 and Brexit;

— improve the supply and affordability of quality rental accommodation and the security of tenure for renters;

— recognise the need to re-invigorate our towns, put in place a new scheme to provide seed capital to local authorities to provide affordable serviced sites in towns and villages to allow individuals and families build homes;

— retain and expand the Help to Buy scheme for new properties and self-build properties;

— expand the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan;

— expand Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to encompass affordable as well as social housing;

— roll out the cost rental model for the delivery of housing that creates affordability for tenants and a sustainable model for the financing, construction and management of homes;

— complete the audit of State lands, identifying land banks in public ownership that are suitable for housing and other purposes;

— mandate the LDA to work with local authorities, State agencies and other stakeholders to develop masterplans for strategic sites; and

— avoid over-concentration of particular housing types in areas, by requiring local authorities to complete Housing Need Demand Assessments to inform the delivery of an appropriate mix of housing typologies to cater for the needs of disparate household types and sizes."

I thank colleagues for tabling this motion as it affords me an opportunity to outline my plans to deliver affordable and public housing. The Government is opposing the motion as it is flawed, poorly constructed and ill-thought out. In the amendment, the Government makes clear, at we have laid out in Our Shared Future, the programme for Government, that its actions will be guided by the core principle that everybody should have access to good quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price in sustainable communities that offer a high quality of life.

Tackling homelessness remains a key objective. I met the incredible team in the Department today to reinforce that message and offer any support I can. Accelerating the delivery of social housing, with an increased emphasis on direct build, is a key objective in the programme for Government, which contains an ambitious target of delivering at least 50,000 social housing homes over the term of the Government. Another key objective is to deliver affordable homes for people and families to be able to purchase or rent. In particular, I will bring forward measures to give hope back to our young people that they can aspire to own their own home at an affordable price.

I have spent my first ten days in office meeting key stakeholders and gaining further insights into the challenges that lie ahead. I have outlined the ambitions of the Government in the key areas of housing and homelessness and I have asked them to be as ambitious in their pursuit of delivering the homes that we badly need. I am meeting key delivery partners weekly, initially to target delivery this year, taking account of the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. I will also work closely in partnership with local authorities, approved housing bodies and the Land Development Agency to plot the course ahead and to agree output targets.

Affordable homes will be delivered through a number of channels. To this end, my intention is to extend the serviced sites fund, SSF; expand Part V to encompass affordable purchase as well as social housing while protecting the 10% social housing provision; and to provide seed capital to local authorities to provide serviced sites at cost in towns and villages to allow individuals and families build homes.

I want to expand the Rebuilding Ireland home loan, strengthen the mortgage-to-rent scheme and ensure it is helping those who need it and those who are in systemic mortgage arrears. I want to retain and expand the help-to-buy scheme for new properties and for self-build properties.

I am going to accelerate and expand the serviced sites fund. Under the fund €310 million is already available to provide enabling infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands. A maximum funding amount of €50,000 is available per home and on this basis and under the existing budget at least 6,200 affordable homes to buy or rent can be delivered. The funding is made available in those areas where local authorities have demonstrated a requirement for more affordable housing and that the viability for delivering such housing on their sites exists. Some €127 million of the serviced sites fund has already been allocated in support of 35 projects. I will ensure that these projects are expedited so that these homes will be delivered. This will provide for critical infrastructure work that will support delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes across 14 local authority areas, including the greater Dublin area, Cork, Limerick and Galway, seeing good a firm commitment outlined in the programme for Government.

Importantly, the majority of these homes are being developed across mixed tenure sustainable sites. The bulk of these projects, approved for funding under the serviced sites fund, are currently in the planning and design phase. The final sales prices of these affordable homes will be fully determined after the necessary planning permission has been obtained and the procurement process for the construction of the development in question has been completed. Local authorities have, however, projected indicative reductions of between 10% and 40% on open market values. I am determined to work with them and support local authorities and other delivery partners to ensure that these homes are affordable for the people and families that need them.

For example, in early 2021, a development in Boherboy, County Cork, is scheduled to be the first serviced sites fund scheme to deliver homes. It will deliver 116,000 badly needed affordable homes and Cork County Council has confirmed that these two and three-bedroomed homes are expected to be made available to first-time buyers between the price range of €198,000 and €223,000.

Just yesterday, South Dublin County Council issued an invitation to tender for the development of a supported project in Killinarden in Tallaght. The development site has an estimated capacity for 500 units with an anticipated tenure mix of 60% affordable and 20% social. Fingal County Council will shortly award a contract and commence construction on a housing project in Dun Emer in Lusk comprising two and three-bedroom houses and apartments which will be offered to the local authority with an average reduction of 20% on market values. Indeed, I have met Fingal County Council specifically about those 51 homes where the prices will range on or about €200,000.

We need local authorities to bring forward many more of these type of projects and this is the message I have given in my letter to chief executives late last week. For my part, as Minister, I will ensure that the necessary budgetary and statutory supports are in place. I intend to continue to use the finance provided by the serviced sites fund to support the delivery of more affordable homes on public land. I also intend to extend the use of the serviced sites fund and will be working with local authorities to that end. I am also looking at other potential ways to expand this fund to deliver more affordable homes in the shortest possible time.

Another important way in which I will be encouraging the development more affordable homes is through the expansion of Part V planning provisions. I intend to extend Part V to encompass affordable purchase in addition to its current important role in providing social homes. This commitment will not only add to the number of homes available in these areas but will increase the tenure options for people and will assist in providing a good tenure mix within our communities.

The Sinn Féin motion calls for absolute limits on the selling of affordable homes. It also places limits on the gross incomes of those who will be eligible to buy those affordable homes. These ideas, while well-intentioned, are flawed and not ambitious enough. On selling prices, the price of the homes that will be made available for purchase under the affordable scheme will be influenced by a range of factors which will vary from scheme to scheme. I will be working to make them affordable and attractive for people who need them, particularly in major of urban areas where people are facing the greatest access and affordability challenge.

Placing absolute and uninformed limits on the prices of as yet to be planned, procured and constructed homes could easily become a barrier to delivery. This could prevent the development of viable housing in areas of most need or prevent households identified as having a particular housing need from accessing the type of house in the location in which the house is needed.

The Government will not support the Sinn Féin position that households on gross income of more than €75,000 would be deemed unworthy of State support. This would represent something in the region of 40% of dual income households nationally and a significantly greater number of dual income couples in our urban centres. The approach this Government favours is proportionality. We do not intend to define affordability, as the Sinn Féin motion suggests, by reference to single points of income or price. If one takes the example of the median price of a first-time buyer home in 2019 in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown which was €465,000, or Dublin city where it was €343,000, is Sinn Féin really saying that a dual income working couple earning average wages just over the threshold of €75,000 and unable to buy a more affordable home in their own community would be excluded from availing of support to purchase a more affordable home under any Government scheme?

Affordability is not simply a question of how much is too much to pay on a mortgage but of how much is too much for whom and in what circumstance? That is why this Government would rather seek to try to accommodate each household’s particular family need and financial circumstance. It is why, in the first part, we will assess eligibility on the proportion of the net income a household would need to buy a house on the open market to meet their needs. The Government will ensure a balanced allocation of State supports both in terms of fairness regarding those who are eligible to avail of it, and on the amount of financial support they receive.

In addition to ensuring that local authorities will be central to delivering housing, the Government has also confirmed that the Land Development Agency, LDA, will have a crucially important and increasing role in the delivery of more affordable homes on State-owned land. This will include homes for affordable purchase, cost rental and social housing. As stated in the programme for Government, we will legislate as a matter of urgency to establish the LDA on a statutory basis to ensure State-owned lands are properly managed and utilised. The LDA will be tasked to work with Government Departments, local authorities, State agencies, and other stakeholders to assemble strategic sites in urban areas, and to ensure the sustainable development of social and affordable homes for rent and purchase. We intend that State lands being offered for sale, whether owned by a local authority, Government Department, commercial or non-commercial State agency, or any other agency, would automatically be offered first to the LDA.

I will also continue to encourage housing delivery supported by the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF. LIHAF was designed to fund the provision of large-scale public infrastructure to relieve critical blockages and enable housing developments to be built. Funding of €200 million has already been allocated under LIHAF and the projects will support the delivery of up to 20,000 homes. Construction of infrastructure and housing has started on many projects and more than 2,000 homes were completed to the end of 2019. About 40% of homes delivered under LIHAF will be sold at rates which provide a discount on market price. Up to 3,000 will be social housing homes and the remainder will be sold at market rates.

I have committed to introducing an affordable purchase scheme as a matter of absolute priority. It was with some interest that I read this Sinn Féin motion calling for the introduction of such an affordable housing scheme. I remind the House that Sinn Fein opposed and voted against a Fianna Fáil motion to build affordable housing on State and local authority lands in the last Dáil. It is a late convert to the principle of affordable purchase. I welcome the party’s conversion to affordable purchase.

I intend to announce the details of the new scheme in September, when I will confirm the arrangements under which discounted homes will be sold to eligible purchasers by local authorities. The underlying provisions for affordable purchase are set out in Part V of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 2009.

In finalising the details of this scheme, I am first taking a short amount of time to engage with the various sectoral interests to ensure the scheme is as I envisage and as envisaged by Government. I have instructed my officials to undertake a short and focused review of the 2009 provisions to ensure they meet those requirements and to identify the changes that will be necessary to reflect the priorities of this Government. Key eligibility criteria for an affordable dwelling purchase arrangement under Part V include that the applicant be a first-time buyer, with exceptions, that the net household income is such that the repayments on a 90% mortgage for the purchase of a suitable unit at market value would not exceed 35% of that net income. Net income here means income net of income tax and PRSI. In addition, a charge will be placed on the property equal to the percentage discount from market value, giving the housing authority an equity stake in the property. This is important to ensure that more homes can be delivered over time, helping more people to access affordable homes.

While I consider that 35% is a reasonable threshold, as I have indicated earlier, I intend to scrutinise the eligibility criteria as it relates to income level to ensure it reflects this Government's priorities and delivers the outcomes we need. Broadly, I consider that determining eligibility by reference to net income is fairer than doing so by reference to gross income. Take, for instance, two couples with the same net income, the first couple with one income and the second couple with two incomes. The couple with one income in this case will have a higher gross income. I do not believe two households with the same net income, which influences the ability to repay a mortgage, should necessarily be treated differently because their gross incomes may be different. However, as I have said, I intend to take a close look at this area before finalising the scheme. I further intend to publish that scheme in September, along with any amending legislation that would be required.

As Members will know, we are also preparing a cost rental model, a national cost rental scheme in respect of which a working group is finalising options for Government. This will also be published this year and brought before this House.

My tenure as Minister will see affordability at the heart of the housing system. My immediate priority in this area will be concentrated on introducing an affordable purchase scheme that will help struggling households access affordable homes. I am very much aware of the breadth of the task that is facing us in this area and I am determined to take on this challenge. I am confident the extensive range of commitments our three parties have made in the programme for Government will prove to be an excellent starting point for our collective ambition to make housing more affordable for people across Ireland, and as such I reiterate our proposed revisions to the motion before us.

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. During the general election held a few short months ago housing was the biggest issue arising on the doorsteps. In terms of affordability, it was far too common to come across a number of generations of one family living under the same roof, with people priced out of starting a life, with relationship break-up putting a huge strain on families and with people wondering what life chance they had to live in the area I represent, although this is a national issue as well.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the issue of housing this evening. The Labour Party Private Members' time tomorrow evening will focus on housing as well. This evening, we are focused on the issue of affordable housing. The Minister mentioned in his contribution that he proposes to initiate an affordable purchase scheme and he mentioned that he would welcome practical and positive suggestions. In this regard, I refer the Minister to the former rent-to-buy scheme. The Minister will recall that prior to the crash a number of housing schemes were in place during the late 2008 to 2010 period in particular, which afforded people an opportunity to get on the property ladder but these schemes were disbanded when the crash happened. The rent-to-buy scheme was operated by Dublin City Council and Louth County Council. A similar scheme operated in Northern Ireland.

I would like to speak to the scheme operated by Dublin City Council. Under this scheme a person entered into a three-year agreement with the council to rent at an agreed monthly rent of up to 20% less than the market rate in a particular area. If the person decided to purchase the property, 80% of the rent paid over the three years, or a shorter term but up to a maximum of three years, was offset against the purchase price, this price having been agreed before the tenant moved into the accommodation. One of the benefits of the rent-to-buy scheme was that a person had three years to decide if he or she wanted to buy the property, to continue to rent it or to walk away. This gave people an opportunity not to have to rent and save simultaneously. These are the couples and individuals all of us meet who cannot afford to rent and save for a deposit at the same time and so they feel completely locked out. What we need now is a scheme such that people do not have to rent and save at the same time. Such a scheme existed pre-2010. The Labour Party is suggesting that the Minister recommence that scheme, but nationally rather than in any one local authority area.

As I said, a similar scheme is operated in Northern Ireland, known as the rent-to-own scheme. Under this scheme a person signs a tenancy agreement, the rent-to-own co-operative buys the property selected by the rent-to-own applicant and it rents it to the tenant at market rent. The tenant then has an option to buy at the end of three-year fixed term. To qualify, a person must be able to show that he or she can make the repayments and does not have an alternative route into home ownership. The Labour Party proposal is practical and it should be taken on board to address the situation for the locked out generation. It is a proposal we could work on collectively across the House. As I said, schemes of this type were in place prior to the crash. When the crash came, over a short period a huge amount of property became much more affordable to people of a certain income stream if they were still in employment.

These are the types of schemes we need to revert to. The State should be happy to get involved. I do not understand the reluctance of successive Governments to have the hand of the State hugely, if not solely, involved in the provision of housing. The State does not have a profit motive. The issue with housing when it is left to the market is that the market has no conscience and it has a profit motive. If the State is involved it does not have a profit motive and there are standards that we can expect from the State and those who oversee the agencies of the State, be they local authorities or Departments. We would have more faith in councils, local authorities or direct funding from Departments to drive these schemes. Those who could avail of these schemes would have much more faith in them because they would know that in a private rented market situation they would not end up on the rough end of a tenancy agreement if things did not go their way. People can trust the State more than the market economy.

On that basis, tomorrow night we will flesh out other issues the Labour Party has in terms of the housing situation. As I said, when I was canvassing a rent-to-buy scheme was a measure many couples said they could potentially buy into. People should not have to rent and save at the same time. The two can happen simultaneously with tenants being given a three-year timeframe within which to make a decision. This would give people a level of comfort for a set timeframe. It also would not put a huge emotional strain on a relationship or an emotional strain on a family that just wants to move on and live their lives.

We have a fundamental choice as to the direction we want to go on housing affordability. We can continue with the current model of private provision, turning homes into financial assets and pushing up prices.

The Government is proposing to introduce more and more subsidies and discounts to the model but it is essentially continuing with the same model that has failed in recent decades.

The alternative model is to try to tackle land costs, land speculation and building costs, and to bring in affordability throughout the housing system, which will benefit everyone. If that is the approach we take, we will not have to get into a debate about cut-off points and income limits because the proposals will take some of the speculation costs out of housing and make it more affordable for everyone. That is the kind of approach I favour.

If the Government is serious about housing, one step it could take tonight to indicate its seriousness is to state it will accept in full Article 31 of the European Social Charter on housing, which is not a radical demand or anything like it. It commits the State to promoting access to housing of an adequate standard, to preventing and reducing homelessness with a view to its elimination and to making the price of housing accessible to those without adequate resources. The ambitions set out in Article 31 are not radical. It is incredible that the Government and the State signed up to the European Social Charter 20 years ago but to this day will not commit in full to Article 31. The Minister should show a bit of ambition and commit the State to Article 31. It would be a good signal of intent and I ask him to do that.

On affordability and the changes that have been happening in recent years, levels of home ownership have fallen, especially for younger people, and the growth in house prices has substantially outstripped the growth in incomes, resulting in intergenerational divides in terms of access to housing, deepening inequality, social exclusion, housing insecurity and homelessness. This is part of an overall trend of commodifying and financialising housing, turning homes into financial instruments and assets for investment. Much of this happened originally with the deregulation of the mortgage market in the 1980s, which led to a flood of cheap credit into housing, as well as when we joined the euro, which exacerbated that problem. There was a lack of regulation and control over the banks at the time, which inflated prices. Land hoarding and speculation has also contributed to house price inflation and unaffordability. More recently, the previous Government accelerated many of these policies, including favourable tax treatment of real estate investment trusts, REITs, encouraging arrangements such as short-term lets, reducing standards and even going as far as privatising the provision of homelessness services and hostels. There are significant negative consequences of that and we need a change of direction.

Internationally, there are good examples of housing affordability. In South Korea, for example, housing is becoming more affordable over time, the opposite to what is happening in Ireland, and that is where the state plays a large role in the provision and development of housing. Affordability in terms of people's incomes is becoming less of a burden over time, which shows that when a state gets involved and is serious about it, it can be very effective. In countries such as Germany, municipalities and local authorities can freeze the existing land use values and acquire land at the existing land value. There is nothing new in that idea; it was proposed in Ireland, as everyone in the House will know, some 47 years ago in the Kenny report. The current Taoiseach stated two years ago that he was examining whether the Kenny report could be implemented but there has been silence on that since.

That is what we should be looking at. One factor that creates housing unaffordability and drives up the price of housing and land is the public investment we make in infrastructure and our zoning process. There is no reason we should be gifting that uplift in land values to private developers. In effect we are using public resources to make landowners rich while, at the same time, making housing unaffordable for people. That is something we need to tackle and, if we are serious about affordability, it is something we should be doing. One of the arguments often raised against that relates to constitutionality. When the 2004 Oireachtas all-party group, which included representatives from the Government parties, examined the Constitution, its recommendation was that the Kenny report would be constitutional to implement. It noted that the Supreme Court had found that Part V provisions were constitutional and that the Kenny report had argued strongly that the legislation should be passed and referred to the Supreme Court in order that it could be tested beyond doubt. That would have an impact on housing affordability.

We need a systemic change rather than just initiatives that seek to subsidise and provide discounts, some of which, unfortunately, are modest. The LIHAF funding has not been entirely successful. Some of the discounts are very small and there is also an issue with the uptake of the LIHAF funding. In my constituency, funding awarded years ago has still not been drawn down and the infrastructure has not been built. We need more systemic reform than simply expanding some of the current schemes.

We have a fundamental choice as to what direction we go in. Are we looking at providing more homes or more commodities? Are we looking to provide places for families to be secure and in which to flourish or are we looking to provide more investment opportunities? Government policy dictates this. Will we be having more build-to-rent schemes or will we be looking for strong, stable and thriving communities? Will we be looking to subsidise affordable housing and land speculation or to implement policies that will make housing affordable across the board? What do we want to build and what kind of society do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a society or simply a market?

This is a political choice. The policies the Government takes will determine in which direction we go in the coming years. While its various initiatives are welcome, I urge it to go much further and consider systemic change and cutting out speculation. There is no reason, if that has been done successfully in other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and South Korea, that we should not avail of the same policies to make housing affordable, get rid of land speculation and improve the quality of people's lives.

I am sharing time with Deputy Paul Murphy.

There are too many hotels, too much overpriced student accommodation, not enough social housing and not enough affordable housing. I am talking about Cork city centre but I could be talking about other places too. A new hotel with 120 beds at Kent Station is now on the way, as well as a new hotel with 171 beds in MacCurtain Street, a new hotel with 183 beds at Morrison's Quay and a new hotel with 58 beds in South Mall. Overpriced student accommodation is on the way in Washington Street, Carrigrohane Road, the Lough and North Main Street, on top of the overpriced student accommodation built on the Western Road and the South Main Street.

Where is the social and affordable housing? There is very little of it. Some 43 units are on the way in White Street, 25 units in Miller Street, 17 units in Lower John Street and 33 in Grattan Street. I might be missing one or two but that is the bulk of it. If it is all added up, it is fewer than the number of beds in one of the new hotels. The gentrification of Cork city centre is a big mistake. Working people are being forced out of the city centre, forced to move miles out into the county to find affordable housing, and they become commuters. We will see what happens with the Government's proposals for public transport, but at the moment being a commuter, more often than not, means travelling to work by car.

The next big crisis, the climate change crisis, which we are already facing, is bad news. What is being done involves bad planning and it is the wrong way to go. In May of last year, Deputy Varadkar, when he was Taoiseach, went to Cork and told the Evening Echo he looked forward to the prospect of the first co-living development in Cork. It was a crazy idea at the time. One of the co-living developments in Dublin involved one kitchen for 42 people, which means overcrowding. If the idea was crazy in 2019 because of overcrowding, it is super-crazy in 2020, in the age of Covid. I hope I never see a co-living development in Cork city centre. The previous Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, said in May that he did not have any plans for scrapping the provisions for co-living developments so I am asking the new Minister tonight whether he will take a different approach to this issue.

The motion correctly criticises the absence in the programme of Government of targets for the delivery of affordable housing, the absence of a definition of "affordable housing" and the absence of price points for affordable housing. The programme claims €230,000 is affordable in an urban area or the commuter belt and that €220,000 is affordable in non-urban areas. In 2016, Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland said a three-bedroom semi-detached house could be built for €150,000. Mr. Mel Reynolds, who is obviously our foremost expert in the field, was asked his opinion and he said he believed that figure was slightly off. He cited €165,000 – in other words, 50% of the average price of a house on the market at the time, €330,000, when VAT, development profit, builder's profit, banker's profit and the price of land were stripped out. This shows why we need public housing on public land. We can eliminate most of these costs and cut some of the others. We have enough public land to build 100,000 social and affordable homes. I accept the quoted figures and prices are four years old but if the cost of building was €165,000 four years ago, it is certainly less than €200,000 now. That is what an affordable home should be.

I have some concerns about the motion pegging affordable rent as between €700 and €900 per month. That is in contradiction to the motion's target of 30% of net disposable income for a loan. For the majority of working people, 30% of their net disposable income is less than €700 to €900 per month in terms of rent. Despite that criticism, I support the motion and will be voting for it on Thursday.

This Government, as with the previous two, will be judged on its response to the housing crisis. All the now-governing parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party – had a hand in the creation of the circumstances we are currently in. I refer to the unprecedented level of homelessness and to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the housing crisis. Political choices, particularly by the last couple of Governments, have allowed the crisis to worsen further to protect the soaring profits of the big landlords and developers whom they represent.

The housing crisis is and always has been avoidable. An interesting figure from the last month illustrates that point in a small way: there was a drop of 500 people registered as homeless by comparison with the month before. There is no mystery there. The number has fallen because evictions have been banned. The socialist left has argued for a long time that we should ban evictions but Fine Gael fought the evictions ban and it fought the rent freeze tooth and nail. It denounced it as unconstitutional and impossible to achieve. It took a global pandemic to implement a temporary ban on evictions and a rent freeze. Even then, the measures were taken extremely reluctantly. Unfortunately, all the indications are that this Government is going to offer more of the same.

We should examine the promises concerning new public housing builds. Somehow Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have managed to negotiate a programme for Government and collectively come up with a commitment to build less public housing than was referred to in the Green Party manifesto, the Fianna Fáil manifesto and even the Fine Gael manifesto. Perhaps the Minister can explain how the parties all managed to negotiate each other downwards to a point below where each started. The programme for Government refers to increasing "the social housing stock by over 50,000 over the next five-years, the majority of which are to be built by local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies and State agencies". That is actually a commitment to build 25,001 houses, with all the rest potentially being acquisitions. A majority of the 50,000 is to be built by some of the bodies in question, and this indicates the same sort of tricking around with the figures as practised by the last Government and the pretence that HAP houses or long-term leases by councils and big handouts to developers and landlords represent social housing. It simply will not work, except to further enrich the landlords and developers.

I will be supporting Sinn Féin's motion. In saying that, I do not believe it goes far enough. Some 20,000 homes per year is still short of what is possible and what has been achieved in the past. It is short of what is necessary. We need to build at least 33,000 new homes per year for the next three years.

There is an important omission in the motion. When we are campaigning for the building of public housing, we must always say we want the houses to be of passive-housing standard. A public housing programme is part of a green new deal. In addition to having retrofitting programmes, we must say when building houses that they should be built to passive-housing standards. This should be seen as providing potentially hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

Who should be doing this? It is not enough to say local authorities should be designated to lead. The essence of a left-wing housing policy is to decommodify housing. Housing should not be something from which landlords and developers make profits; it should be provided so people can have a decent place to live. That means taking the profit motive out entirely and nationalising the construction companies, big corporate landlords, land banks and vulture funds. It means developing a State construction company given a mandate to truly resolve the housing crisis through the mass building of public housing and making public housing accessible for all, with enough public housing built to allow for the removal of the income caps and to decommodify housing.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin for introducing this motion. It is refreshing for a change to be talking about an issue that came up on the doorsteps and in the House during the general election campaign instead of Covid-19.

I congratulate the new Aire and wish him the very best of luck. If I can give him one small piece of advice, it is that he should take on board the constructive suggestions that come from the House. It should not be about opposition and government. The Dáil should not be treated as a dunce. Good ideas do come from here. They came from the Opposition benches during the last Dáil. Some of those ideas were implemented over recent weeks because of the Covid crisis. Ministers were told that they could not be implemented and that the Constitution would not allow it, yet we could find a solution when there was a need. I urge the Minister to steer away from the temptation that will be whispered into his ear to shoehorn through a particular proposal on the basis that the Government has a majority. He should take on board the good ideas. They may be amended and altered and we may not agree with the amendments and alterations but the Parliament should be used as a vehicle to bring about change, not just to rubber-stamp proposals coming from the Government.

The problem of affordable housing is complex and there is no single measure that can promise a comprehensive solution. There are certain risks with some proposals and there will be unintended consequences but we must take those risks in the interests of the thousands of families across the country that do not own their own home or do not have a roof over their heads tonight.

If we are going to deal with the challenges of housing in our cities, in particular in Dublin, as well as the challenges of congestion, we must recognise that we cannot just keep building houses in Dublin to solve our problem. We need to bring about regional balance, so as well as building housing in high-demand areas, we must take other immediate steps, including bringing families into new communities where the taxpayer has already paid for infrastructure such as schools, roads, water and sewerage treatment facilities. Infrastructure like schools is already in place in many parts of our country but we still have a problem in locations because of depopulation. We need to address that imbalance.

The Minister's Department deals with housing and every serviced site in this country costs that Department an average of €30,714 arising from infrastructure that has been put in place. It is not just about the serviced site on its own but it is about putting the infrastructure in place right across the country. If we can get somebody to move out of an urban area, which has a high demand for housing, into a vacant home, it would in itself save the Exchequer more than €30,000 while leaving one fewer serviced site required.

In the current housing crisis one of our key actions must be to maximise the use of our existing housing stock. There are 1.75 million houses in this country and a conservative estimate sees approximately 50,000 of them vacant at any one time. Some of these are in areas of high demand but some are in regional locations, including my constituency. We need to target those regional vacant homes immediately. As I stated, it is costing the Minister's Department more than €30,000 to put a serviced site in place in this country. We should introduce a regional home regeneration grant. If a first-time buyer purchases an existing property in a town or village with a significant residential vacancy rate, that buyer should be eligible for a grant of €15,000 that could be offset against mortgage deposit requirements.

I am thankful we are putting major investment into broadband infrastructure after a long struggle within previous Governments and this will transform the country both in urban and rural areas. Major investment is being put in place and as a basic and standard offering across rural Ireland, 500 Mbps broadband will be available to rural homes from the end of this year. We need to encourage people to move out of our cities and utilise this infrastructure.

The big difficulty in my constituency and many other parts of regional and rural Ireland is that people are commuting long distances to work. People in my constituency must travel long distances and they are commuting to Dublin, Galway and Sligo to obtain employment. There will be major benefits to the economy, society and our environment if we can get people to work remotely.

I know that until now it was like banging one's head on a brick wall to speak about remote working. I am thankful that Covid-19 has changed that attitude. As well as bringing life into communities where there has been a drop in population, remote working would take pressure from existing infrastructure in our urban areas and use existing infrastructure, including housing, roads and schools in many provincial or rural locations. It is important to really consider this now. If we encouraged one person in rural Ireland to reduce his or her weekly car travel by up to 300 km per week, it would diminish carbon emissions by 1.7 tonnes per annum.

If we are to do this, the Government must take the lead and set a target within the public sector that within the next 18 months, 30% of all staff would work remotely. If the public sector and the Government leads by example, others will follow. We must develop a policy right across society, not just to deal with Covid-19 but to deal with the environmental challenges arising from commuting, regional imbalance and congestion and housing issues, particularly in this city. We must develop a remote-first policy.

This means that when meetings take place in Dublin, whether in Leinster House or any other business in the city, people sit down in front of a computer screen. They may be speaking to two or three colleagues across the table but they may also be speaking remotely to two or three more colleagues. A simple remote-first policy would allow people to work far more constructively from rural areas and regional locations. It is a mindset change that must happen. We are now moving from a position of working remotely in a complete way to some type of hybrid system but we cannot allow this to go back to how things were.

It is imperative that we start with a remote-first policy. It makes far more sense to try to encourage people to think about moving to a rural locations. We will not get people who were born, bred and reared in Dublin to move to rural Ireland. However, in my constituency of Roscommon-Galway, we have the highest third level participation rate in the country but we have the lowest level of graduate employees working within that constituency. If we can get a proportion of those people who are from east Galway or County Roscommon and who are working in different parts of Ireland or the globe to come back and work from a remote site in my constituency, where some parts have issues with depopulation, there would be a major benefit for everyone. We must change our thinking and attitude in how we work and have worked to date.

Deputy Michael Collins is sharing time with Deputy Mattie McGrath.

I wish the Minister the very best in his new role. Affordable housing is every family's dream but, sadly, it is not the reality for many families. Over the past four years, I have seen a large amount of lip service but no delivery on the ground. Housing and planning in this country is a total mess. It goes against families, building and local communities; it is basically anti-everything and it has left us a mess that will take us years, if not decades, to clean up.

I urge the new Government to look at models that have worked throughout the world. I met a Norwegian native living in west Cork over the weekend. He came to Ireland to live and has bought some ground. He loves our country, our culture and that he can farm his land; due to ridiculous planning regulations, however, he is unable to build on that land. Looking at the new Cork county development plan, I can see nothing will change, and if anything things will get worse. Anybody who wants to live permanently in a place could prove it but every obstacle is put before such people to ensure they cannot set up a home even if they have fallen in love with the land. This man tells me it is different in Norway, where everything is done to accommodate people who want to reside in rural communities. Instead of obstacles being put in families' way, they are encouraged to get the application across the line.

Affordable housing sounds like a good deal but one "affordable" site among many was sold in west Cork for lottery money a number of years ago, taking it from the hands of local families who wanted to purchase it.

The Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme could have made a major difference to people who are unable to get loans from banks. Figures indicate, however, that more than 50% of applicants have failed to secure funding under the scheme, leaving many dreams in tatters.

During discussions on a programme for Government for the previous Government – I was around the table at the time – a promise was made to look seriously at a rural resettlement scheme. Falling populations have completely devastated rural communities and such a scheme would have been a way of turning this around, as was done in County Clare many years ago. Instead, we read week after week and month after month of rising numbers in emergency housing in our cities. A living over the shop type scheme in rural towns and villages could have tackled the housing crisis and would have been a main charge going forward for genuine applicants. However, rural Ireland was not on the radar of the previous Government. I hope we will not the same again this time around but time will tell.

Every day, single people and families plead with me for houses in west Cork. Most of them cannot afford to purchase through housing schemes in west Cork. In my time on the council, I remember a big launch being held in 2014 for a scheme in Clonakilty, an area that is desperately in need of affordable housing. It is now 2020 and the scheme has still not been delivered. This is a cause of great concern locally. While Clonakilty is doing well as regards employment, the area needs social and affordable homes to be made available. The same applies in Kinsale. Last night, a young man called me to plead for accommodation. There is little difference in Dunmanway, although I will admit that a number of houses have been allocated to people in Rosscarbery in the past two weeks. I thank Ellen in my office who has helped people to get homes and settle in. We have had cases in Skibbereen, Bandon, Bantry, Castletownbere and Goleen. The story is always the same. Every day, the phones in my office are jammed with calls from people pleading for homes.

I sincerely hope that affordable homes will be made available to those who desperately need them in the weeks and months ahead. I also hope the new Minister tackles head on the planning policy units and stops this nonsense that prevents families from building on their own lands. Decisions preventing people from building have resulted in the loss to communities of great families over the years.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak tonight. I want to issue my comhghairdeachas to the new Minister, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, and the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage, Deputy Malcolm Noonan, who is from Kilkenny in the south east, where I am from. I wish both the Minister and Minister of State all the best. I worked with the Minister when he was a member of the housing committee. Some people have criticised me for my attendance at that committee. If words and paper could build houses, no one in this country would be homeless. That was my experience of the committee and I became pure frustrated with it.

We need real action. Members of my family were among the founding members of the Fianna Fáil Party, which has a history of building houses, especially local authority houses. I hope the party has the say on housing in this Government. The Minister with responsibility for housing is a member of the party and I wish him well in that regard as I know he is capable. Fianna Fáil must build ordinary local authority housing for ordinary people. It must build schemes as it did in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 2000s. People travelled in the backs of lorries and had no equipment. They dug foundations by hand. Now we have cranes, equipment and earth moving machinery and we still cannot build homes.

Planning is a disaster. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, will not make matters worse. He has a track record of objecting to planning applications for forestry felling licences and to many other planning applications. Green Party members are top class at objecting. They are serial objectors and we do not need those. We must have balance and good planning laws but we do not have either.

Deputy Michael Collins mentioned this issue. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae, who was here earlier, is always talking about the rural cottage. Councils always built rural homes but they are no longer building them. Deputy Alan Kelly was the Minister with responsibility for housing for several years. There have been more housing Ministers than I have had hot dinners but we cannot build houses.

Planning has a major role to play. I spoke to the Minister earlier about a planning case in my town of Cahir in County Tipperary. There is a lovely family and community in the area in question. They built their own homes, which are private houses. They are not snobs and it is not a case of NIMBY. The county development plan is about to expire and a new one is to be developed. A planning permission for a large number of houses was granted by An Bord Pleanála with many conditions and expires on 29 July. Last Saturday, cowboy builders arrived on the scene before anyone got up. They continued to build on the site despite a warning notice being issued by the county council. No commencement notice was sent in to the building control authority either. The county council officials are aware of the matter and have issued notices but that is not good enough. These people want to plough on and this evening they dug foundations for houses right up on top of other sites for which An Bord Pleanála had denied permission to build. This land is deemed to be dezoned in the new plan because there is too much land zoned in Cahir. These people want others to get affordable, local authority and private houses but they want to be consulted and respected.

Above all, we cannot allow the planning laws of the land to be flouted by this company, which is apparently from this town and in which celebrities are supposedly involved. It cannot ride roughshod over the planning laws and especially over the people. I stand with those people who have housed themselves and their families. All they want is that the same law is applied to developers as is applied to individuals. If someone built an extension or a downstairs bathroom for a disabled person or someone who had a stroke without issuing a commencement notice, adhering to planning requirements or within weeks of a planning permission expiring, that person would be stopped in his tracks by the council. This company seems to think it is all-powerful and can ride roughshod. It broke every health and safety law in the book last Saturday morning. I called to the site and there was not one sign, yellow jacket or hard hat in sight. They had a hard mix alright and they disrespected the people. An Garda Síochána had to be called.

I want Tipperary County Council to go to the courts if necessary. One might as well send a copy of The Irish Times or another newspaper as send a warning notice because the company does not respect warning notices. This is the culture that has grown up around some of the big developers. I know some very good developers who build houses and want to be unshackled and allowed to build. This kind of carry-on by rogue developers and landowners cannot be allowed to continue in 2020. Rogue landowners want to sell their land in a slipshod way without plans for crèches or community facilities. We wanted to build a scouts hall back in the day when the planning was done first. The previous owners did a good job and talked to people. We want engagement with people, from whatever communities they come. Ní neart go cur le chéile. We want good will and support. We want people to live in harmony, whether they live in private, social or affordable homes.

We need to get a building campaign going for social housing. The Government must give the county councils money. Councils will send a report to the Department which will be sent back six months later. They will then send it up to the Department again six months after that and it then goes up and down again. Instead of building homes, we have paper being pushed around the country.

The banks are not functioning. What sickens me altogether is that I have at least 20 farm families in Tipperary on my books where the son or daughter is helping the farmer and wants to get married. These people have the money and wherewithal to build their own houses but they cannot get planning permission. It is bizarre. Rural Ireland is being denuded of its population. It must be allowed to thrive. We must have living towns and villages. We cannot herd everyone into Dublin and Cork where all the menaces are. There will be no one in the west. We used to sing that the west was awake but the west has been forgotten and written off. It has been cut off into the Atlantic. We must have supports for ordinary people. The Government should build houses for the people who want them.

We move to the Independent Group.

I will share time with Deputy Catherine Connolly. I congratulate the Minister and Minister of State on their appointments and wish them well in their jobs. I would love to be able to say in five years’ time, if the Government lasts that long, that we are well on the way to solving the housing problem. Unfortunately, I believe this issue will not be solved in that time and we will be discussing motions similar to this one when that time comes.

Deputy Mattie McGrath stated, when discussing the committee on housing, that if words and paper could build houses, everything would have been fantastic as all the houses would have been built. The final paragraph of the amendment to the motion jumps out and deserves to be read out. It refers to avoiding “over-concentration of particular housing types in areas, by requiring local authorities to complete Housing Need Demand Assessments to inform the delivery of an appropriate mix of housing typologies to cater for the needs of disparate household types and sizes." That statement certainly lives up to the description of the committee as it is rubbish.

Every local authority already carries out an assessment of housing needs. Why would they do another one, except to delay and ensure that things do not happen? Every local authority assesses the type of houses it needs. Donegal County Council, like every other council, can say how many two-bedroom houses, three-bedroom houses and four-bedroom houses it needs and in what part of the county it needs them. Why do we need all this? It can only be to delay, delay and delay.

It is a pretty serious situation. There are 1,600 people on the waiting list for two-bedroom houses in Donegal town. Donegal County Council is building 20 houses at the moment. At that rate it will take 80 or 90 years to deal with the list. That is an appalling reflection on the way housing has been dealt with in this country in recent years and, unfortunately, on the way it probably will be dealt with in the future. That can be repeated throughout County Donegal. I imagine it could probably be repeated throughout the country. That is an appalling and sad indictment.

Several Members have spoken about the properties available to rent on daft.ie as a way of dealing with the housing list. I tried that as well. There are no properties in Donegal town for rent on daft.ie. There are no properties for rent in Killybegs. In the entire county of Donegal there are 80 properties on daft.ie that are available to rent for less than €2,000 per month and 12 of those properties are outside Letterkenny. That is a county of 138,000 people. This is a huge crisis. It is not just a crisis in Dublin, Cork and Galway, but right across the country. Everywhere has been left behind. I do not believe that what the Government is doing will deal with it. That is the sad thing about it. The Minister can prove me wrong in the next five years. I hope he will. That would be powerful.

Tonight's motion is about affordable housing. There is a motion tomorrow night that concerns housing lists. That is unfortunate. We should have started with houses and the need to make sure that council houses are developed and delivered right throughout the country.

The Minister has laid out his plan without any idea of what will be delivered. Earlier he said he would be launching some sort of housing programme in September. We will then see plans against which we can measure his actual success. Then we will see how he delivers for the people. As I said already, I do not have much confidence. The situation is very stark right across the board. While 1,600 people are waiting for houses in Donegal town, unfortunately they will still be waiting in five years.

I wish the two Ministers the best. When the Minister is finished with his phone, I will mention someone who was on the phone to me in my office. This person has been on the waiting list in Galway city for 15 years. Earlier today the woman who works with me in Galway told me about a call from a woman with six children who is pregnant with a seventh child. She has been in a bed and breakfast in Galway city for the last 15 months. The Simon Community has been producing its periodic Locked Out of the Market reports to provide a snapshot of a point in time. On average, only approximately 5.5% of the rental market is within reach of the housing assistance payment, HAP. The HAP was of course introduced by Fine Gael and Labour. It is a major problem. If the Government is seriously interested in dealing with the housing crisis, it must set a date for the end of HAP. Its cost doubled in one year. The last figure I saw was approaching €500 million. It is now higher than that. That money goes straight into the landlords' pockets. Moreover, the tenant is left to come up with a top-up payment. It used to be an under-the-counter payment. Now it is an over-the-counter payment, fully endorsed by city councils and local authorities. We are actively bolstering the private market.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin for tabling the motion. I have some difficulty with some of the wording concerning affordable housing, but I support the tenor of the motion. We need to recognise we have a crisis, just as we did with the climate. We have a housing crisis. We have a crisis because we relied on the market to no avail. We did not build a house in Galway between 2009 and 2016. We used to file quarterly reports on the housing situation that would state how many houses would be built. From 2009 onwards, that column stated that construction was suspended. We have begun to build a small number of houses in Galway.

It is difficult to get the housing figures, of course, because someone in receipt of HAP comes off the waiting list even though we were told that did not happen. Such a person is considered to be adequately housed. This adds to the total dishonesty of the language in this area. We are now calling HAP placements social housing. We take recipients off the waiting list and say they are adequately housed. On Sunday last, I was on a political panel. The councillors on that panel said there were approximately 4,500 households on the waiting list. That figure refers to households, so we can assume that between 10,000 and 15,000 people are waiting for a house in Galway city.

We have no master plan for the city. Public land and private land is being developed by developers without a master plan. It is on the Dáil record that on two occasions Deputy Coveney agreed with me when I said that development in Galway was developer-led. We have no master plan. The Galway city development plan calls for the city council to facilitate master plans drawn up by developers. A vast amount of land in the docks is held in trust for the people of Galway by one company. We have 14 acres of land at Ceannt Station. There are 21 acres of land on Sandy Road, some of it public and some of it private. I do not know how much is public and how much is private.

I am intensely worried by the role of the Land Development Agency. I understand that just as there were 12 apostles, there are 12 members of that Land Development Agency. Of these, three are women and the other nine are a mixture of developers, bankers and so on. They are looking at that Sandy Road site in Galway. Before I came down here, I looked again at what has happened. The Land Development Agency used public money to engage five architects to come up with their vision. Does the Minister know what the video presentation of one of those architects said? It called the site a place to live well by accident. We are paying taxpayers' money for this.

The vision statement calls for "a high-quality mixed use regeneration project, seeking to create a new sustainable neighbourhood in Galway City with usable public amenity [if Members can imagine that] in a vibrant and inclusive development". There is no mention of a housing crisis. As an afterthought, it adds that a "strong residential bias for the site is being sought". This is public land, by and large, and we are asking for the vision of architects, who tell us it is a place to live well by accident. There is no mention of a housing crisis or the housing task force that was set up under pressure because of the enormity of the housing problem in Galway. There is public land and institutional land in lots of places. There is no vision and no master plan and the Land Development Agency is pursuing developer-led development.

At this stage I would almost give up, but I cannot. It is a privilege to be here and to have been elected for the second time. Since February 2016, I have been making exactly the same speech about housing and the housing crisis. I appeal to the Minister of State as a member of the Green Party. If we are going to have any change, let us make language mean something. Let us make Galway an example of sustainable development. I agreed with Deputy Naughten when he spoke about balanced regional development. That is another part of the problem and the solution. I represent a constituency that runs from the Aran Islands to south Mayo. Many towns are going under because of a complete lack of support from the Government. Let us look at all possible solutions. Ultimately, the Minister will have my support if he builds public housing on public land in recognition of the serious emergency that we face.

We now move to Sinn Féin. Deputies Maurice Quinlivan, Johnny Mythen, Dessie Ellis and Thomas Gould will share ten minutes. Will they be sharing equally?

Yes. I welcome and congratulate the two new Ministers. I wish them success, though unfortunately I do not think they will be successful unless they change their tack. Housing remains a critical issue in my own constituency of Limerick City. It was the number one issue on the doorsteps during the recent general election. The lack of affordable housing for either rent or purchase is creating massive problems in our society. We now have incredible situations where generations of families are living in the same crowded homes. Children cannot study properly because there is no place to do their homework.

There are grandchildren living permanently with their grandparents. While the grandparents love to have the children in their home, they do not like them being there the whole time.

We are storing up a national disaster unless there is a massive intervention in terms of building houses, including affordable houses. A generation of working families have been robbed of the opportunity of owning their own homes. This is the legacy of the failed housing policy of the previous Fine Gael Government. However, that Government did not fail alone. Its failure was enabled by Fianna Fáil through the confidence and supply agreement. I welcome that Fine Gael is no longer leading the housing portfolio, because it has been an absolute disaster on housing. However, I have concerns about its enabler-in-chief, Fianna Fáil, taking over the brief. The new Minister, Deputy O'Brien, needs to act now and outline his plans through which affordable housing will become a reality. To date, we have had no such detailed policy from the Minister's party and his statement this evening does not inspire much confidence in me.

The legacy of the so-called housing policy of the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil confidence and supply Government is the creation of an unflattering new normal. Generations of families are living under the same roof, often in overcrowded conditions. That has to stop. Young couples are spending their earnings on high rents, with little prospect of owning their own homes. That must end. Sinn Féin is the only political party to publish a costed housing policy. My constituency office, like that of many other Deputies, is inundated on a daily basis with housing queries. I urge all Deputies to support the motion put forward by my colleague, Deputy Ó Broin. We must introduce an affordable housing scheme that will offer hope to those people who are working hard without any possibility of owning their own homes.

I wish the Minister well in his new portfolio. I thank my colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, for bringing forward this important motion on behalf of the many thousands of our citizens for whom owning their own home is simply a pipe dream. It is imperative that we tackle this aspect of our housing crisis head on and with immediate action.

This issue is a particularly dominant one in my own constituency. House prices across County Wexford have risen consistently in the past couple of years. According to the daft.ie report for the first quarter of 2020, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the county has increased by 6.1% since last year. For a two-bedroom house, the increase was 3.3% and, for a three-bedroom home, the monthly rent increased by 2.4%. I have also examined the CSO data, which show that the median house price increased in both Gorey and Wexford in the period from April 2019 to April 2020.

We can conclude from these data that we are seeing a steady increase in house prices in Wexford. It is enough to cause alarm that we are following the trend in Dublin and other areas where workers are completely priced out of the market. We are also seeing Wexford become a destination for families priced out of the capital and its hinterland. As this happens more and more and as demand rises, market prices will continue to increase and we will find ourselves in a similar situation to what we see across the country, where accommodation is unattainable, unaffordable and unavailable for first-time buyers, average industrial wage earners and, especially, hard-working families. Nationally, we need to get a grip on the imperative to provide good-quality, affordable housing. The lack of such housing is already developing into a major societal problem, including in County Wexford. It is time to act and we can begin by supporting this motion.

It is a huge disappointment for people who voted for change to see Fianna Fáil in charge of the housing portfolio. I agree with Fine Gael's assessment in a 2019 report in which it described Fianna Fáil's housing proposals as lacking any credibility. That was a bit rich coming from Fine Gael, given that Deputy Eoghan Murphy proved to be both unfit and out of his depth as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. The programme for Government agreed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party can be summed up in one sentence, namely, that there is nothing to see here. This is especially true in regard to affordable housing. There are no targets for the delivery of affordable homes or affordable rental properties. The Government seems to be clueless as to what affordable housing is or the cost of an affordable house.

This is a kick in the teeth to young people and families wanting to own their own homes. Clearly, this Government will continue to dither in delivering the affordable cost rental scheme that was first announced in 2014. It is proving almost impossible for many people to get onto the property ladder as most rents and property prices are beyond their means. I know of a one-bedroom apartment in Ballymun renting for €1,6000, which is absolutely scandalous. A three-bedroom semi-detached house with two bathrooms in Drumcondra is on sale for €845,000. A semi-detached house in Artane with three bedrooms and two bathrooms is selling for €545,000, and a similar property in Whitehall is on sale for €540,000. Such prices put the prospect of owning a house beyond the reach of most people in my constituency. The Government needs to look at the example of Ó Cualann, a voluntary housing body that is building three-bedroom affordable homes in Ballymun and selling them for between €170,000 and just over €200,000. Why can the Government not do the same and replicate it across the country?

I have no faith in this Government implementing an affordable housing and rental scheme, just as the previous Government, which Fianna Fáil supported, did not deliver any affordable homes to rent or buy through any Government scheme. The Minister mentioned the Part V provisions and the retention of the 10% requirement. The fact is that his party reduced the original provision from 20% to 10%. He supported that reduction together with his Fine Gael colleagues.

The Deputy is wrong.

This is an opportunity to reinstate the requirement that 20% of all developments be set aside for affordable and social housing.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin for bringing forward this motion, which proposes to build 100,000 houses in five years. The motion on its own will not solve the housing crisis we are facing but it will allow us to start solving it. Cork City Council has 5,381 families and individuals on its housing waiting list and a further 2,737 families and individuals on the housing assistance payment or rent supplement schemes. This means that in Cork city alone, there are 8,000 families and individuals who are looking for social housing. That number does not include the thousands of people who earn too much to qualify for social housing but not enough to get a mortgage.

Deputy Ó Broin is putting forward a solution for tens of thousands of individuals and families nationally. We are seeing three generations living in the one household because people cannot afford the ridiculous rents landlords are demanding. People have a choice either to stay at home with their parents to try to put a deposit together. The Minister referred to the Boherboy Road housing scheme in Cork. I was the councillor in Cork City Council who proposed that motion. I thank the council's housing department, which, with no Government plan or strategy, went away and developed its own affordable housing scheme. Local authorities are having to step in where the Government is not stepping up. In 2019, only 68 Rebuilding Ireland housing loans were approved in Cork. I was in touch with a young woman who was approved last week and I take the opportunity to thank the council officials who helped her. It took a year and a half to get that home loan over the line. The reason it took so long is the bureaucracy and red tape that Fine Gael has put into the system, backed by Fianna Fáil.

People are looking for hope and for the Government to listen to them. This motion lets people know we are listening to them, we care about their needs and their problems and we are trying to do something about them. It is time to stop making promises and start building houses. We need to offer people hope. What is proposed in this motion will not fix everything but, for tens of thousands of people, it will be a start towards giving them an opportunity to own their own home. We can leave here tonight saying that we have delivered affordable housing for people. Would that not be a great thing?

I thank Deputies for their good wishes to the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, and me. As somebody from a large family who grew up in Army married quarters and subsequently in local authority housing, I really appreciate the start my family and I were given in life by being able to access affordable housing. It is an issue I certainly will take seriously.

The Government is keenly aware of the housing affordability challenges facing people across Ireland. It is only by taking measures all aspects of our housing system, including housing for purchase or rent and whether delivered privately or publicly, that we can begin to improve affordability for citizens across the board. This is what we wish to achieve. The measures and commitments detailed in the programme for Government seek to address these concerns. They represent the start of our ambition in delivering for citizens on this most important of policy areas. Specifically on affordability, this includes actions to deliver homes for purchase under the affordable purchase scheme at prices that are significantly discounted compared with open market values. It also includes a new form of tenure in cost rental which will deliver housing options at significantly below market rates. It also includes the delivery of at least 50,000 social homes.

In doing this, we will ensure that local authorities are central to the delivery of housing. We will task the LDA with driving strategic land assembly to ensure that the sustainable development of new and regenerated communities is well served by central services. It will be tasked to work with Departments, local authorities, State agencies and other stakeholders to assemble strategic sites in urban areas and to ensure there is sustainable development of social and affordable homes for rent and purchase. We will also work with the private sector to ensure that an appropriate mix of type of housing is provided nationally.

I believe there is a shared recognition that there is no single or simple solution to the challenges facing our housing system. In addressing these challenges, we will demand that the objectives for the delivery of affordable housing be ambitious and achievable. I am happy to confirm that a range of schemes and policy measures will be used to assist in the delivery of affordable homes as set out in the programme for Government. These include the extension of the serviced sites fund, SSF, which will assist local authorities in the delivery of affordable homes for purchase and rent. The SSF is currently being used to progress planning for some 3,200 affordable homes. Local authorities have estimated that the fund will support them in making these homes available at discounts of between 10% and 40% on market value. The SSF is assisting schemes such as that at Boherboy, Co. Cork, where 116 affordable homes are due for completion early next year. These represent the first of many new affordable homes for purchase that will receive assistance from this programme. The SSF is also supporting a cost-rental pilot development on Enniskerry Road in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, which is due for completion next year. Delivery is starting. Collectively, we have far more work to do, and we will do it.

Utilising State funds such as the SSF and LIHAF to contribute to the cost of delivering shared services infrastructure and utilities can make a real difference in reducing the ultimate cost of these homes for purchasers or the monthly rent paid by tenants in cost rental. The €310 million SSF is an important policy tool in helping us to deliver on our ambitions and we intend to expand its application as a priority.

Another important way in which we will be encouraging the development of more affordable homes is through the expansion of Part V provisions. We will expand Part V to encompass affordable purchase and cost rental homes in addition to its current important role in providing social homes. This commitment will not only add to the number of homes available in these areas, it will increase the available tenure options and assist in providing a good tenure mix within communities. Other policies committed to in the programme for Government to assist in the delivery of affordable homes include the provision of seed capital to local authorities to provide serviced sites at cost in towns and villages to allow individuals and families to build their own homes, the continued availability of affordable loans through the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme, strengthening the mortgage to rent scheme in order to ensure it is helping those who need it and retaining and expanding the help-to-buy scheme for new priorities and self-builds. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, at which I am also a Minister of State, will progress the town centre living initiative and the town centre first policy which will deliver on unlocking the potential of our historic town centres, a point raised by Deputy Pringle with regard to Donegal.

One of the Government's key priorities is the completion and roll-out of a new affordable purchase scheme. By helping to lower the entry purchase price for households, the scheme will provide an equitable way of assisting people to afford their own home, while also building a sustainable and recyclable model that reflects the State's support for home owners. The engagement of the Minister with key sectoral interests in the coming weeks and the short review of the existing provisions that he has instructed his officials to undertake will form an important part of this policy. This will ensure that primary legislation remains fit for purpose and will inform new provision he considers necessary to reflect the priorities of the Government. However, I must reiterate that in the context of the affordable purchase scheme, the Government will not support the Sinn Féin motion, which proposes using income limits based on gross salary combined with counterproductive limits on the purchase price of affordable homes. Rather, it will endeavour to accommodate each household's particular family needs and financial circumstances. That is why we intend to assess eligibility based on the proportion of its net income a household would need to buy a house that would meet its housing needs on the open market. Our scheme will take a more proportional and fair approach when it comes to these issues that have such a key impact on eligibility for prospective applicants than the Sinn Féin proposal. The Minister will announce details of the new scheme in September and confirm the arrangements under which discounted homes will be sold to eligible purchasers by local authorities.

In conjunction with our immediate aim of introducing an affordable purchase scheme, our long-term strategic aim is for the introduction of a cost rental sector. This will begin to form a vital part of the housing sector in Ireland through the course of our term in office. It is critical that this new aspect of the housing sector be developed on a firm policy footing in order to ensure that it is sustainable in the long term. Pilot projects are in development on Enniskerry Road, Emmet Road in Kilmainham, and in Shanganagh in Dún Laoghaire. These projects will help to shape the policy development that is currently under way within my Department and through an external research project that has been commissioned on our behalf by the European Investment Bank. Next year, the Enniskerry Road project will deliver two-bedroom homes for rent at €1,200 per month in an area where market rates are at least €2,000 for similar accommodation. We hope to see this model widely replicated. Cost rental has the capacity to be a sustainable means of providing secure rental accommodation to moderate income households. Utilising the development of public housing schemes and situated between social housing and the private rental market, it will form an entirely new aspect of the rental sector.

Cost rental will complement the range of other actions that will be taken by the Government to improve the entire rental sector over the longer term. In the private rental market, these measures include the regulation of short-term lettings, the reform of the fair deal scheme and the further empowerment of the Residential Tenancies Board to deliver a range of actions in order to improve the operation of the sector. We also aim to reform elements of the social housing sector and empower local authorities and AHBs to assist in delivering an additional 50,000 social housing homes over the lifetime of the Government.

We believe that everybody should have access to good quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price and in sustainable communities. We understand that the provision of more affordable housing has a profound benefit socially and economically, and believe that the State has a fundamental role in enabling the delivery of new homes and ensuring the best use is made of existing stock. The Minister, the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, and I are very much aware of the breadth of the task facing us in this area. I am proud to take on this challenge. The Government will put affordability at the heart of the housing system. I am confident that the extensive range of commitments in the programme for Government will prove an excellent starting point for our collective ambition to make housing more affordable for many people across Ireland. As such, I urge Deputies to support our amendment.

Deputy Mitchell is sharing time with Deputies Buckley and Ó Broin.

The issues of housing and rip-off rents were on the agenda almost every week during the previous Dáil. Housing was the number one issue on most doorsteps during the general election campaign in February. For more than a decade, workers and young families have been let down by the failure to tackle housing affordability and the rental crisis. They have been caught up in a never-ending cycle of being unable to afford a deposit because of the cost of renting. Government support for the motion would signal its intent to rectify the issues of housing affordability and spiralling rents and show that Fianna Fáil will stand by the promises it made during the general election campaign.

The current average rent in Dublin is €2,000 and the average house price is an eye-watering €380,000. People in my constituency of Dublin Bay North cannot afford houses at that price level. We have a locked-out generation of young people who will never be able to afford a home of their own if housing policies do not change.

There are hard-working families earning too much to qualify for social housing who cannot qualify for a mortgage to buy their own home, while we have sites such as the Lawrence Lands on the Oscar Traynor Road, which was earmarked for 640 units, remaining untouched since this was granted in 2015. This is not good enough. We need the Ministers to invest substantially in public housing units for the sake of young families and those young people who are locked out. We need the Ministers to commit to an agreed definition of affordability and then deliver those affordable homes under that definition. They need to deliver them fast.

I congratulate the Ministers and welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion. Housing was one of the biggest issues of February's general election. People who I met on the campaign told me they were put to the pin of their collar and mentally stressed. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were in power for the last four years and have failed to deliver affordable homes to rent or buy in my constituency of Cork East. As of today, there were just 333 properties to rent in County Cork. In my home town of Midleton, a two-bedroom apartment will set one back by €1,150 a month. A three-bedroom house in Ballymacoda will set one back by €1,730 a month. A two-bedroom house in Watergrasshill will set one back by €900 a month. In Cobh, a one-bedroom apartment is €840 a month. How do people survive with this?

Working families cannot afford to pay their rent and survive. People with disabilities are like somebody who is forgotten. What is the chance of anybody on €208 a week renting anything? They have no hope. This is why I call on the House to support this motion. The motion says to build public housing developments on public land, led by local authorities, to deliver affordable homes, affordable cost rental homes, and to use long-term low interest borrowing from the Housing Finance Agency, the European Investment Bank and our credit unions. No one should have to live to work. We should be able to work to live. The Government must undertake one of the largest ever housing building programmes in the State and this will be the only way to deliver what is needed. I ask the House to support Sinn Féin's motion.

If I was concerned about the new Government and new Minister before tonight's speech, I am even more concerned having listened to his words. Nothing in the speech from the Minister or the Minister of State would not have been said by Deputy Eoghan Murphy in this Chamber only a matter of weeks ago. The former Minister may not be here in person but his spirit is very much alive and well on the Government's benches.

Let us unpick some of the claims. The serviced sites fund is a good fund but it is not being used properly. Homes in O'Devaney Gardens, with €50,000 per unit from the serviced sites fund, will cost a first-time buyer €360,000. Enniskerry Road in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, which is cost rental, has €80,000 per unit from the serviced sites fund, and the rents will be €1,200 per month. Neither are affordable to the working families who we all represent. In County Cork, the Minister is not including the cost of the equity stake of the State which the home buyer will have to pay back. When one adds that on to the full price, it goes from €248,000 to €273,000 if the full €50,000 serviced site fund is allocated. Again, that is not affordable. If one takes the same shared equity model in Part V, and the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, knows that I support the increase of Part V, these will not be genuinely affordable to hard-working families. I am even more concerned by what I hear from some industry lobbyists, that they want a private sector shared equity proposition, which would be even more bizarre.

The most remarkable thing that we have heard this evening is the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, arguing against limits on price, because that is exactly what was in the Fianna Fáil election manifesto. It referred to €250,000 or less, a clear limit on price. Today, we have the first Fianna Fáil U-turn on its election manifesto commitments. In fact, limits on price are the only way to guarantee genuine affordability. If the Minister had done his homework and read the circular that I sent him five weeks ago, he would have seen that the Sinn Féin model mixes limits on price and affordability based on net income. It is the very centre of our proposition. I was glad to hear the Minister say on the radio today that he will review the income limits set by Fine Gael of €75,000 and €50,000. If he had read the details of our proposal, it includes exactly the same proposition published five weeks ago, and we will happily work with him on that.

The local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, has been an abject failure. It was meant to deliver 20,000 homes, including a large number of affordable homes, by 2019, and it has done none of that. The Minister may come to the launch of my detailed analysis of LIHAF later this week. I will send him an invitation. We are calling for that scheme to be scrapped. It has not done any of the things that it was meant to do and it is a waste of taxpayers' money. The biggest problem is that we are not hearing anything new about the Land Development Agency, LDA. We will not have the answers to the questions I will ask until the legislation is published but, for example, will the LDA still be a commercial designated activity company? Will it develop unaffordable, open market price homes on public land? What percentage will be social? What percentage will be affordable? What will the price of those units be? If one looks at Shanganagh Castle in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, neither the rental nor the purchase units will be affordable to working families. Will all of its activities be subject to freedom of information? Not just some, but all, including its commercial activities. Will it have comprehensive compulsory purchase order powers, because the programme for Government is silent on all of that?

I was delighted that the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, true to form, mentioned his famous 2018 affordable housing motion, a motion so bland that I cannot even remember if it contained any commitments. If the Minister tabled it again tomorrow, I would vote against it. What the Minister failed to tell the House is that we tabled a motion with seven specific additions and he voted against every single one. He voted against increasing capital investment in public housing, increasing the Part V commitment, giving local authorities more staff to deliver social and affordable homes, and also against amending Home Building Finance Ireland to deliver genuinely affordable homes for working people. He voted against credit unions lending for affordable housing, which is absent from the programme for Government. He voted against the redesignation of approved housing bodies and against ensuring the local infrastructure housing activation fund was used for affordable housing. They were in the amendment that we tabled and Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael voted against them. That tells us that the Minister is all talk. Where is his plan? When we see his plan, we will judge it, and when he starts to implement it, we will judge it by delivery.

On the basis of what we have seen today, this is the same Fianna Fáil speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It supported Fine Gael for four years while criticising it. The Minister now says he will do something different while implementing exactly the same housing policy as his predecessors. That is why his opposition to our motion tonight shows, just as it was before, that nothing has changed and that this crisis will unfortunately get worse.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 9 July 2020.