Planning and Development (Amendment) (Repeal of Part V Leasing) Bill 2021: First Stage

I move:

Bill entitled an Act to repeal the parts of the Planning and Development Act 2000 that provide for the provision of social housing via Part V leasing.

When Eoghan Murphy announced his resignation yesterday, he claimed credit for having, in his time as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, the largest spend on public housing in the last decade. How much we are spending is the wrong metric to be looking at. We should instead be looking at outcomes. Where social housing is concerned, the outcomes we should be looking for are how many people are being housed and having their housing needs met and how secure that accommodation is. At this stage we have 140,000 people on housing waiting lists or in insecure HAP tenancies and more than 8,000 people who have lost their homes living in emergency accommodation.

A headline in today's edition of The Irish Times reads "Social housing portfolio guiding €21m". The article states "The prospect of immediate rental income copper-fastened by the security of a 25-year government lease is expected to see strong interest from investors".

I must say it is a pity the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage is in full flight of conversation at the moment, because these are important points.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that is absolutely uncalled for and I will not have it happen again. He did that earlier on today-----

No, this is absolutely uncalled for.

Deputy Cian O'Callaghan is showboating, that is all he is doing, and there is no substance.

You should not be in full flight of conversation while any Member has the floor.

Deputy and Minister-----

The Deputy is against everything and for nothing.

Deputy and Minister, there is a Chairperson sitting here. If you could address your comments through the Chair.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I ask that all Deputies, including the Minister, might listen while I make my contribution, rather than being in full conversation.

Okay. The Deputy has asked for that now and time is running so I ask him to continue.

Housing has been turned into a commodity for investors and social housing has been turned into a commodity for investors. Part V long-term leasing is part of this problem and I seek to address it in this Bill. The aim of the Bill is to improve the provision of affordable and social homes. It does this by revising the Part V arrangements and seeks to repeal provisions introduced by the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 under the then Minister with responsibility for housing, Deputy Kelly, which allowed Part V obligations to be met through leasing. The reason for removing leasing as a Part V option is to ensure affordable and social homes are secured for long-term use by the State, which is a much better use of resources and much better value for money.

I am bringing forward this Bill because until recently, the number of Part V homes that were being leased was very low but over the past year we have seen a very considerable increase in that. Those numbers will not show up in the official figures for another two to three years, when the Part V delivery is concluded but we are currently seeing them show up in planning permissions and deals being concluded and agreed. Analysis done on Part V by the Business Post show that in 11 different deals, 384 homes are going for long-term leasing instead of acquisitions under Part V. These homes will be rented to the State by developers for between 20 and 30 years at an average rent of more than €20,000 per year and the annual cost of these 384 homes will be €7.8 million in rent or €181.6 million over the course of the 20 to 30-year deals. The State is in line to pay an average of more than €490,000 to rent each of these homes over the lifetime of the deals, a price significantly above the market value of each home. Documents released to me under freedom of information, FOI, showed that in some cases, developers have been getting the State to sign up to these leases without independent valuations taking place. Last weekend, analysis was published, again by the Business Post, showing that market rents are being recorded at artificially high levels rather than the actual levels of rent being paid. It is of course these artificial valuations which are being relied upon when long-term leases are being signed. This, therefore, is bad value for money. Analysis and commentary from Mr. Dermot Desmond estimated these long-term leases are using an outlay of about four times what would be done with direct build, so we could be getting four times the amount of social homes for a similar outlay.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

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

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

Before we move on, we all avail of time within the Dáil to talk to each other but it is difficult if there is a speaker and Ministers and Deputies are not listening. We are all guilty of it. Perhaps we might all reflect and do our talking outside. I am as guilty as anybody else of forgetting and talking but it is disconcerting to the speaker and we might try to show a little more respect.

Question put and agreed to.