Acquisition of Development Land (Assessment of Compensation) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I wish to share time with my colleague, Deputy Howlin. More than 50 years ago, in the late 1960s, amid concerns about the high cost of housing for home buyers, a situation which has repeated itself several times since, the then Fianna Fáil Minister for Local Government, former Deputy Bobby Molloy, commissioned a report on ways to tackle the supply of development land. A High Court judge, Mr. Justice John Kenny, was appointed to lead the committee established to examine the issue. Its report, the Kenny report, was published in 1973, 48 years ago. It contained a set of radical recommendations to help solve Ireland's housing problems and should be commended. It is a report that has been talked about ever since but despite all of the chaos and disaster which property has created for Irish people in the time since 1973, it has never been implemented.

We stand in Dáil Éireann in 2021, at least two generations after the report was published, in the middle of yet another housing crisis. In the time since 1973, we have had housing crisis after housing crisis, including a calamitous economic collapse in which property development and speculation, facilitated by multiple Fianna Fáil Governments and not regulated by the banks, bankrupted the country. We have had numerous tribunals and scandals, costing hundreds of millions of euro, and all too many criminal cases about corruption and rezoning in the planning process. They have all passed and the Kenny report still has not been implemented.

The housing crisis is worse than ever before. We have thousands of homeless people, extortionate rents, increasing house prices, a lack of housing supply and a generation of young people locked out of home ownership. All the while, there is rampant hoarding of development land again and again. Land speculation is rife. The victims of this crisis number in the hundreds of thousands.

Instead of continuously shouting at one another, I ask Deputies when we will act collectively to make this stop. What will it take to end Ireland's dysfunctional property market? After a century of independence, economic collapse and housing crisis after housing crisis, when will Ireland finally have a functioning housing system? I will tell the House the answer. It will be solved when this House has the guts to take on the vested interests, landowners and property speculators who have rigged the housing system in their favour, facilitated by this House. It will stop when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael stop kowtowing to massive land hoarders, investment funds and speculators and, for once in their political lives, do more to help renters, first-time buyers and families.

As many economic commentators have said, land is at the centre of the housing crisis. Many of the problems we now face could have been avoided if the Kenny report had been implemented. The recommendation is simple but effective. It is that local authorities be given the power to do a compulsory purchase of land at its existing use value plus a 25% gratuity. This measure, which has been opposed by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for generations, would immediately have ended the ability of land hoarders and speculators to make enormous profits at the expense of first-time buyers. It would have effectively ended land hoarding as a practice. If it had been implemented, there may never have been a property bubble and collapse, nor a housing crisis or anything like the scale of the crisis that exists today.

The people who should be at the forefront of the Government’s mind, but who clearly are not, are the victims of this current crisis. They are those paying extortionate rents, experiencing or living with the threat of eviction and homelessness, people forced to move back in with their parents rather than find their own home, and the entire generation of young people who have been condemned to spending enormous shares of their income on housing. Behind each and every number in the housing and homelessness statistics, there is a human story of pain and hurt and, in many cases, trauma, as a result of this man-made disaster.

The ideologues in Fianna Fáil and particularly Fine Gael who worship at the altar of the market and believe the market will sort out all problems have been found to be wrong time and again, with disastrous results for our country and generations of Irish citizens. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's approach has demonstrably and repeatedly failed to build housing for citizens in the right place, at the right price and in the right quantity. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael like to pretend that the housing crisis is out of their hands and is something akin to a natural disaster or an act of God. This is complete rubbish. The housing crisis is as bad as it is as a direct result of the political and policy decisions made by both parties.

Nobody in this Chamber could argue with the fact that our housing system is simply disastrous. Ireland's housing crisis is out of control and there is, without question, a need and public demand for radical action. That is what we are doing today. We are taking real radical action, finally grasping this nettle and pushing for radical change.

For the third time in our history, we are bringing this legislation before the Dáil. People may ask about the practical effects of this Bill so I will go through it. The Real Cost of New Housing Delivery 2020, a report by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, SCSI, published in August last year, estimates that the land component of a newly-built house in the greater Dublin area is €53,000 per house, which represents 16% of the final cost of the house. Based on these figures and agricultural land values from the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, IPAV, and the Central Statistics Office, CSO, taking into account current planning density guidelines of between 35 and 50 units per hectare, we estimate that, if implemented, this Bill will reduce the cost of a new-build, three-bedroom semi-detached house built on a greenfield site in the greater Dublin area by approximately €30,000. This would not be a silver bullet to the housing crisis, but it would finally be a major step in the right direction that has a substantial practical impact on prices.

By finally implementing the Kenny report, which has been blocked by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for 48 years, a length of time which is hard to believe, this Bill will effectively eliminate the ability of land speculators to pocket enormous profits. We have also seen a senior counsel's legal opinion, which we commissioned, that this legislation is completely constitutional. I know it is completely constitutional. It also needs to be said that the ninth report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in 2003 also found that implementation of the Kenny report was constitutional. Let us not hear any of that rubbish today.

For legal reasons, there needs to be a grandfather effect included in the legislation, which means it will effectively only apply to land bought in the future. Remember that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing. There is no excuse for delay. To paraphrase a Chinese proverb on the best time to plant a tree, the best time to implement the Kenny report was 1973. The second best time is now.

The Labour Party is not alone in having voiced support for implementation of the Kenny report. The Green Party - I note the Minister of State is here today - has for decades called for the implementation of the Kenny report. In 2004, Ciarán Cuffe, now a Green Party MEP, said, "The Kenny report on the price of building land back in the early 1970s made some great proposals, but they weren't acted on", and they should have been. He is absolutely right. It will be interesting to see if, on the floor of the Dáil today, the Green Party, which is now in government, will follow what we are pushing and support this commitment of which it has long been supportive.

The Green Party is not alone on the Government benches in having voiced support for the implementation of the Kenny report.

In 2018, no less a figure than the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, said the following:

I think implementing Kenny is morally the right thing to do - I don't think there should be windfall profits once land is rezoned but it would also undoubtedly reduce the cost of housing because the price of land at the moment is a significant factor in increasing the price of houses.

That was what the Taoiseach said, so surely he and the Government are going to support the Bill. The Taoiseach was right: the Kenny report should be implemented. As Taoiseach, he has the opportunity to do the right thing morally, as he said in 2018, and to implement the Kenny report. If he fails to do so, given what he has said, his own morality and what he said in 2018 will be called into question.

Many other bodies have recommended the implementation of the Kenny report, including the National Economic and Social Council, which only recently concluded that the core principles of the Kenny report remain as relevant today as they were in 1973. This Bill is not a panacea, but it will be a major step in the right direction, and will force land hoarders and speculators to start building housing on the sites which they have acquired, or to sell them to somebody who will. That, in itself, will release more development land and reduce prices.

In addressing the housing crisis, there is much more that needs to be done. We also need action to protect renters, by freezing rents, which we all know can be done. We must build tens of thousands of social and affordable housing units and stop investment funds from gazumping first-time buyers. These are all political choices that the Government must address. This Bill is also something it must address. Given how serious the housing situation is - the skyrocketing rents, the endless homelessness crisis, and all the other dysfunctions in our housing system - surely the time is right for radical action. The time is right to implement the Kenny report, once and for all. I ask all Deputies across the political spectrum to support the Bill. Failure to do so will mean that they lack the will to solve the housing crisis.

This is the Labour Party's third attempt to legislate for the Kenny recommendations. In 1990, my former colleague, Gerry O'Sullivan, introduced the legislation. In 2003, my former party leader, Eamon Gilmore, did so. It was always opposed but I believe we now have a change. I said at the beginning of my contribution that I believe there has been a change of heart and that the proposals rejected down the years can now be accepted. Just as we in the Labour Party have worked to change the minds and votes of parties and individual Deputies on the major social issues down the decades, I believe we can achieve consensus on this issue now.

The purpose of this Bill is simple; it is to remove the unwarranted windfall gain to a landowner who is enriched simply because his land is needed by a community and his fellow citizens as a place to build homes. We would ensure a fair price is paid and, in doing so, make a significant reduction to the price a person needs to pay to provide a home. Ultimately, that proposal benefits everybody in society.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Dáil Éireann, while acknowledging the relevance of the Acquisition of Development Land (Assessment of Compensation) Bill 2021 in regard to securing more cost efficient development land with the objective that all persons insofar as practicable have good quality and affordable housing appropriate to their needs, in accordance with the principles of social justice and the exigencies of the common good, resolves that the Bill be deemed to be read a second time this day 12 months, to allow sufficient time to consider the work of the Law Reform Commission and finalise proposals currently being formulated by the Government, in line with the Programme for Government commitment."

I thank Deputies Kelly and Howlin for introducing this Bill. In summary, it raises an important issue of land value capture for community gain. In essence, it is an opportunity to debate the long-standing question as to how best we can ensure a share of increased land value arising from public policy decisions and investment, including in respect of zoning and the provision of infrastructure, may be acquired for public benefit. While I agree in principle with the aims of the Bill and acknowledge it is well intended, I am seeking support to defer its reading for 12 months. My rationale for doing so is very genuine. In the first instance, the Bill is premature with regard to the final report of the Law Reform Commission on the reform and consolidation of compulsory purchase order laws, which is expected before the end of 2021 and which I understand will include a draft compulsory acquisition of land (consolidation and reform) Bill. This will be the culmination of an extensive process that has been ongoing for almost five years. It will be substantive work that will need to be considered.

The Bill is also premature with regard to alternative Government proposals. In this regard, the programme for Government includes a commitment to bring forward proposals for reform in the area of community gain at the land zoning stage of the planning process, work which is now advanced. This will take the form key flagship measures arising from the forthcoming housing for all strategy and directly related legislative proposals being concurrently formulated as a general scheme of a new legislative proposal.

Like the Deputy, the Government is committed to dealing with this complex and thorny issue. How we tackle the matter needs to be comprehensive but also fair, equitable and proportionate. The Deputy's thinking is not far removed from the Government's position. The difference is in the approach. I will elaborate further on some of the differences but, before doing so, it is important for me to note that the Bill's provisions apply only to housing, with no consideration of infrastructure that may be required to enable housing development. That is a significant limitation. The provisions of Deputy Kelly's Bill are based on the 1973 Kenny report, which proposed the land value capture mechanism whereby designated development lands at the edge of built-up areas could be acquired by the State at existing-use value, generally envisaged as agricultural land value plus 25%, to facilitate the development of housing. Although adopted by the Government at the time, the provisions of the Kenny report were never implemented but have remained a point of reference.

To summarise, the Bill's proposals are to enable local authorities to acquire development land that is transacted after 3 June 2021 and without planning permission at not more than existing-use value plus up to 25%. In other words, it is not to exceed 125%. This is as per the 1973 Kenny proposals although the Kenny report was intended to apply to designated lands. In this regard, the Bill, as drafted, would apply to all "development land". The Bill would apply only to such land transacted after 3 June 2021, meaning the development lands that do not change hands at any stage after that date would not be affected. The Bill would exclude any benefit in respect of land on which there is an extant permission as full development and improvement value plus investment return would remain payable.

There are immediate considerations if the Bill, as currently drafted, were to be enacted. It would be a disincentive to buy or sell development land for the delivery of residential development that could impact housing supply in the short to medium term. It would create uncertainty in the development sector; be disproportionate and discriminate against new entrants to the market and not provide a mechanism for fair or equitable application; and be impractical to apply. The Bill, as drafted, would risk the immediate creation of a two-tier land market as it would give rise to motivation to cease all land transactions in the short to medium term. This is due to the cliff-face nature of the provision whereby there would be no impact on lands transacted before 3 June 2021. Those transacted after that date could lose significant value by comparison to those transacted prior to 3 June 2021. It would serve to remove any motive for a landowner or developer to transact current development land if such a course of action were to result in a near total loss of value, as would be the case in respect of recently zoned agricultural land. In addition, the Bill, as drafted, in combination with other existing planning provisions, would effectively exclude development lands on which there is an extant planning permission. Current planning extension-of-duration provisions enable existing planning permissions to be extended for up to five years.

It is possible for a landowner with a site acquired prior to 3 June 2021 to seek an extended period of planning permission, for example, ten years. These provisions would enable those with current permissions or no intention of transacting land to effectively hoard land with planning permission. The provisions of the Bill would therefore act as a barrier to any new entrants to the development market.

It is also relevant that there were an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 unimplemented permissions for residential units at the end of 2020, with 42,000 in Dublin alone. The Bill could result in a premium value in respect of unaffected lands benefiting from an extant planning permission, causing the value of sites with unimplemented permissions, especially those with permissions of remaining long duration, to increase. This could slow the output of housing in the short to medium term when rapid acceleration is required.

While the Kenny report has remained a point of reference, there are critical differences between now and when it was completed. For example, housing was delivered differently and in a much less complex operating environment, with less onerous procurement and tendering rules, which would have enabled the timely development or disposal of any lands acquired for housing purposes as recommended in the report. Moreover, at that time, the dominant form of development was low-density, suburban expansion. Extensive greenfield development sites were available as cities were relatively smaller and distances were shorter. Almost 50 years later, there is a much greater need to facilitate higher density brownfield and transport-led urban development to develop more sustainably in the face of climate change while improving both quality of life and competitiveness.

The emerging measures being developed in our Department, in the context of the housing for all strategy, are intended to be more practical, equitable and proportionate proposals for community gain related to the land zoning process that seek to balance the needs for land, infrastructure and affordable housing while at the same time taking into account the rights of private landowners, having regard to the overall benefit to society. I am confident that the proposals that will be brought forward by my Department will ultimately achieve the goal the Deputy has intended without the potential negative consequences I have outlined. Therefore, while the general intention behind the Bill is acknowledged, the Government proposes to defer the reading of this Bill for 12 months. This will facilitate the finalisation of relevant measures that will be brought forward under the forthcoming housing for all strategy and directly related legislative proposals.

It will also allow for consideration of the final report of the Law Reform Commission on the reform and consolidation of compulsory purchase order laws, which is expected before the end of 2021.

The Labour Party is very disappointed that the Government has sought to defer the Second Reading of the Bill for 12 months. We are disappointed because for thousands of people throughout the State the acquisition of a home is urgent in the here and now. Dressing up the deferment of this legislation, which arises from a report issued 48 years ago, and calling it premature because it is at variance with the Law Reform Commission's consideration of the Acquisition of Development Land (Assessment of Compensation) Bill is not an honest argument to make as a rebuttal. It does not speak for the people who anxiously want to own a home, live in a home or have fixity of tenure at least or for those who wish to be able to rent a home. It speaks volumes about the fact that, from an ideological point of view, this Government and its component parts still believe that the market alone will deliver housing.

In this country, we have always had an approach whereby the State could provide. The implementation of the Kenny report is one mechanism for doing so. The promulgation of this legislation, which many people accept as being the outworking of the Kenny report and its recommendations, could not be deemed or adjudicated to be premature when it is self-evident, with many thousands of people waiting to get a house, that this issue is urgent and needs to be dealt with now.

There is no reason the Government could not support this legislation now, allow it to pass Second Stage and then deal with all the issues that the Minister of State raised in his contribution. The views of the Law Reform Commission on the consolidation of compulsory purchase order laws could be dealt with easily through the prism of this legislation. It could be done now rather than waiting for 12 months. It could be dealt with coterminous with the Government's housing for all strategy. We ask the Government to reconsider its position in respect of our humble legislation, which is the culmination of a wait of 48 years. We have been trying for some time to promulgate this legislation. If the Minister of State says that he is in principle in agreement with it, I do not see why it could not pass Second Stage at this point. All the issues he highlighted as reasons it cannot proceed could be debated on Committee Stage. There will be ample time in the coming 12 months, as opposed to going beyond 12 months, to deal with the issues the Minister of State has outlined.

The bottom line is that we, as public representatives, are dealing with thousands of people, young and old, who cannot get access to housing. They cannot build houses or purchase houses in their localities. There is no sense of a timescale for when they will see houses on the horizon.

The national planning framework is having the effect of dezoning land. Local authorities, like my local authority in Cork, are now taking zoned land out of the equation. In addition, Irish Water and other infrastructural deficits are not being addressed quickly in order that planning permissions can be secured and we can house the people we represent.

There is an opportunity in the here and now to address the issue of housing. It is the issue of our time and of our generation of politicians. I am disappointed that the Minister of State has come to us with this response.

I, too, am disappointed with the response of the Minister of State. Ireland has had a dysfunctional relationship with property and housing for many years and it is making a great many people utterly miserable. Highly disproportionate amounts of people's incomes are shovelled into mortgage repayments and rents every month. That money could be spent on their families, on life and on connectivity with other human beings. Instead, we have all been sucked into the race to believe we have to chain ourselves to a mortgage for 30 or 40 years and spend a vast and disproportionate percentage of our income on servicing that mortgage. We are led to believe we have to spend vast amounts on rent to survive.

For years, we have handed the entire housing game to the private sector. This leads to people trying to make a quick buck. That leads, in turn, to issues like those we have seen this week in Donegal, Mayo and throughout the country, as well as issues in my constituency of cowboy developers building apartment blocks that are not fit for purpose. Ten, 15 or 20 years later these issues then come to the fore.

We have people who are utterly miserable. The belief system is that this is the way it must be. People take the view that they must get on the ladder. This is a legacy issue. It is part of our cultural mentality that this is the way it should be. We convince people that they need to build their castle. Once a person builds the castle and is spending all that money on it and investing blood, sweat and tears in a mortgage, he or she will defend that castle. This leads to a lack of social cohesion. What happens is that people, in what is in many circumstances an understandable attempt to defend their castle, cannot look beyond it. Thus, the social cohesion needed within the wider community is lost. There will be objections to HSE facilities, social housing in the community, halting sites and other local developments because we have convinced everyone that they need to get a castle and plough money into it. Even though this is making people miserable, they believe they must defend it.

We cannot change the Irish psyche overnight. We understand the need for security and to have a home and live and raise a family in it. However, there has to come a point when we realise that we are in a cycle of misery.

We come back again and again to the issue of housing. It has collapsed Governments and almost collapsed our country ten years ago. It has brought the political system into disrepute. There have been tribunals. Why? They came about because of bribes. Why? They arose from housing, developers, dirty politics and brown envelopes. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were up to their necks in it. There comes a point where we have to stop, change and believe we can do better. We have to understand that there is potential for a better way which the entire country can buy in to so that we do not have to be forever on the misery wheel. We may think it is making us happy but it is actually making us desperately unhappy. Think of all the money we could be spending on our children and families and on our lives.

The Kenny report spelled it out in 1974, which was before I was born. The suggestion was made that the Bill is pre-empting policy or is somehow previous. To be honest, we cannot take that comment seriously. Then it was suggested that we should delay Second Stage for 12 months. As my colleague, Deputy Sean Sherlock, said, that shows the Government does not understand the seriousness of the situation.

If we are serious about housing, if we realise how immense this issue is for young people who are locked out of the housing market, for the generations of people who are living in the same home, for people spending money on rent which they cannot afford and for the country being done in by dodgy developers, then this is the type of Bill that the Government should definitely support, and support today and not in 12 months time.

Glaoim ar an Teachta Ó Broin. Tá ocht nóiméad aige.

I thank the Acting Chairman. Sinn Féin is proud to support fully this legislation to give effect to the 1973 Report of the Committee on the Price of Building Land, the Kenny report. The leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Kelly, rightly reminded us that on three occasions his party has introduced similar legislation. What he forgot to say, of course, is that during that same period of time his party has participated in six separate Governments since the Kenny report was published in 1973. While I am very grateful to him to give us this opportunity to support this legislation today, many of us can agree that it would have been better if the Labour Party had sought to introduce this legislation when in government rather than just from the Opposition benches.

The Labour Party spokespeople are completely right that at the core of our housing crisis over the last 30 years has been a refusal of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to accept that when the private sector is left to its own devices not only can it not solve our social and affordable housing crisis but, as we have seen in recent years, it will make it worse. Again, it has to be emphasised that on many occasions the Labour Party, as a junior partner in coalition, has facilitated those bad policies, notwithstanding its opposition to those policies from the previous Opposition budgets.

If one looks at the last time the Labour Party was in government, it is a testament to that failure. When last in government from 2011, the Labour Party contributed to the cutting of social housing budgets, resulting in social housing output crashing to its lowest level in decades in 2014. In that same year the Labour Party Minister of State with responsibility for housing, former Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, steered the housing assistance payment legislation through the Oireachtas which was a particularly retrograde change and not a short-term support for people while they were rightly waiting for social housing. This was a long-term social housing support which has resulted in very many families waiting even longer for their forever home.

The author of this Bill, Deputy Kelly, was the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and his Social Housing Strategy 2020 is very difficult to distinguish from its successor: Rebuilding Ireland, with a low level of investment in the direct delivery of social housing and a dramatic over-reliance on the private sector and, in particular, on the private rental sector, to meet social housing need. This was a promise of cost rental that was never fulfilled during, in fairness to him, the then Minister’s short-term in office. The introduction of long-term leasing and other current expenditure delivery mechanisms which we have seen in more recent years have proved to be very costly to the taxpayer.

In fact I remember a very high profile spat between the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Kelly, and veteran homeless campaigner, Peter McVerry, who described the then Labour Party Minister’s housing policies as Alice in Wonderland stuff.

Unfortunately, and it gives me no pleasure to say this, what happened in the years after those policies were introduced made the housing crisis worse. Not all of that was the fault of Deputy Kelly. He argued strongly for an increase in rent supplement but unfortunately his party colleague, the then Minister for Social Protection, former Deputy Joan Burton, blocked that. He also is argued strongly for rent certainty by linking rents to the consumer price index, which was something that Sinn Féin also supported then. Former Fine Gael Deputy Michael Noonan actively blocked that. As a consequence rents spiralled out of control from 2014 to 2015 onwards which directly led to the accelerated homeless crisis since then. Fine Gael must bear the full and primary responsibility for that crisis, but it would be disingenuous for anybody in the Labour Party to say that their failure to convince their coalition partners to do the right thing absolves them of responsibility for the spiralling cost of rents and the homeless crisis that followed.

Having said all of that, I will work with anybody from any party who wants to do the right thing on housing and that is why Sinn Féin is more than happy to support this Bill. Land values, especially in our city centre, are now spiralling out of control. In some developments the unit price of land can be as much as €100,000, adding 25% to the cost of purchasing or indeed renting that home. This has been driven up by sweetheart tax deals for institutional investors. There is no tax on the rent roll or on capital gains and there are huge volumes of cheap money flooding into our housing system and pricing out working families, whether young or those who have left their homes due to mortgage repossessions or relationship break-downs and are looking to rent or buy at a later stage in life.

The consequence of all of that is that the only thing that is being built in Dublin city at the moment is high-end, expensive, build-to-rent. That is not conducive to the kind of sustainable urban development policies that the Government is meant to be espousing and that the Green Party argued so eloquently for during the election campaign. As a further consequence of that Sinn Féin and anybody with a wit of sense in how to deal with this housing crisis will support any measure that would dampen land prices.

I would go further in saying that this good piece of legislation needs to be supplemented by other measures. We desperately need a reform of the vacant site levy. It was too low initially and local authorities do not have the ability or the resources to collect it adequately. There is a strong argument not only for it to be increased but for it to be transferred to Revenue on a self-declaration basis to ensure that tax does what it is intended to do.

We also urgently need to introduce use-it-or-lose-it zonings in planning permissions. Having been given the uplift in the value of the land by a zoning or a grant of permission, a landowner developer should not be allowed to sit on that property indefinitely and not develop it out. Unfortunately, not only is the Government not considering that but it is bringing forward legislation to the Seanad this week to extend planning permissions even further when there is no argument from a particular developer that necessitates such an extension.

At the core of any radical change in housing policy has to be a dramatic increase in direct State investment in the delivery of social, affordable rental and affordable purchase homes. The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, has confirmed what Sinn Féin has been saying for many years which is to double that investment to at least €2.8 billion annually, if not by more, to deliver those 20,000 public homes in social, affordable-cost-rental and affordable-purchase that are required.

I fully agree with Deputies Sherlock and Ó Ríordáin in respect of the Minister of State’s remarks. It is telling that not a single member of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, as far as I can see, is in the Chamber. They are leaving it to the mudguard in coalition, the Green Party, to defend the completely indefensible. The idea, for example, that a Law Reform Commission report is a reason to delay is laughable given how often Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led Governments ignore those reports and leave them sitting on the shelf. The fact that the Government has other, similar proposals, somehow means that another good proposal cannot be progressed is, again, disingenuous. To hear the Green Party trot out the lines of former Deputy Eoghan Murphy and Deputy Coveney about unintended consequences on the private development sector that is not doing its job is completely laughable.

Crucially the Minister of State’s remarks show that he does not understand the purpose of this Bill or the intention of those who have introduced it. It is to increase the supply of land to our public authorities to deliver public housing to meet social and affordable housing need and to dampen house prices and because this Bill does that Sinn Féin enthusiastically supports it and urges all others to do likewise.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach. As my colleague, an Teachta Ó Broin has outlined, we will be supporting this Bill. I was talking to my dad last night who is a very long-time housing activist and campaigner. I nearly used the word "veteran" but I would be afraid that he might be listening to this and I would be in trouble for that. He laughed when I told him that the proposal that was coming before us was from the Labour Party and he said that it was easy to know that the party was in opposition, as that party is always very enthusiastic for measures like the Kenny report when in that position. He asked me to ask if I got the chance why it is never that much of a priority when the Labour Party is in government. Deputy Howlin has outlined the attempts that were made by previous Labour Party people to bring this in but it was always done in opposition and never done when in government. That demands the question, notwithstanding that an Teachta Ó Broin has outlined that we will support this Bill, that some might ask whether it is very cynical on the part of the Labour Party to try to claim some kind of ownership now of any housing activism.

Notwithstanding that, if it is having a Damascene conversion, that is welcome. As an Teachta Ó Broin outlined, we will work with anyone and everyone who has a progressive policy on housing in order to address the crisis.

I wish to refer briefly to the remarks made by the Government representative here today to the effect that this move is premature. I will give my age now: I am the same age as the Kenny report. I was born in 1973. I am not premature, I am very much mature. We have a housing crisis. This report has been around for decades. I have heard my father and others who were activists with him in the Dublin Housing Action Committee talk at length about the Kenny report, how important it is, how we need to appreciate what is in it and implement it. It is not premature, in fact if anything it is bloody decades overdue. If the Government cannot see that, I genuinely fear for the people who are depending on it to do the right thing.

When I was almost 25 years old, I was able to buy a house with my husband. We both had normal jobs, I worked in administration and he had a job in the area of technology. We had very normal, ordinary incomes. We were the first of our friendship group to be able to do it but we were by no means outliers. It was a reasonable aspiration at the age of 24 or 25 if you had decent, secure employment that you would be able to buy a house, which in this country is the only way you can have the type of security you want if you have a young family, as we did at the time. That is no longer the case for people. The Minister of State would do well to reflect on the lived reality of his policies and those he supports.

I want to quote Mark O'Halloran, a very well-known actor and screenwriter. He wrote:

My career might be judged a success - but when it comes to the property market, I'm a complete failure ... Our political class have forgotten that housing is a right and not simply an opportunity to redistribute money upwards to the wealthy.

He also stated:

I'm one of those people doomed to live amongst other people's furniture. The type of guy who has to ask, at the age of 51, for permission to own a cat. It’s sort of funny really. Except it’s not, ’cause now I’m afraid for the future. And with good cause.

There are real people depending on us to do the right thing.

This Bill is welcome for a number of reasons. I commend Labour on introducing it. The need for a more equitable and rounded view of land, the purchase of land and policy relating to land has been urgent for decades. I noticed it in particular last night when canvassing on behalf of Senator Lynn Boylan around the Irishtown and Ringsend area, where, time after time, it came up on the doorsteps that people cannot afford the €500,000 needed to purchase houses for themselves or their families to keep them close to their loved ones in the area. There is no social or affordable housing being built in the area to any significant extent. It is not only in Irishtown and Ringsend, it is the whole country. In Tralee, after the economic crash and particularly under the Government that came to power in 2011, the waiting time relating to the town council's housing list increased from approximately seven years initially to 14 years in 2020. That was as a direct result of Government policy which led to the building affordable and social housing being halted. The list expanded unbelievably. There were plenty of schemes, such as the housing assistance payment, HAP, leasing, the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, etc. The abolition of the town council in Tralee by the Labour-Fine Gael Government also made things more difficult. Community cohesion was affected because houses that had been constructed during the boom became investment properties and were rented out. The good council policy of integrating estates was thrown to one side when investors threw Tom, Dick and Harry into the houses without any vetting, something that led to disputes and difficulties with unsuitable tenants.

We are continue to suffer the consequences of housing policy over decades but, particularly, that adopted over the past ten years. Housing policy has resulted in rising house prices, no social and affordable housing and vulture funds running amok.

Another reason Sinn Féin supports the Bill is that it is a response to ever-increasing constitutional rigidity within Government policy. Previous speakers referred to matters being unconstitutional. Now, the Government has given the excuse that we must wait for the Law Reform Commission's reports. That is ridiculous. The constitutional provisions relating to property are also causing problems. This rigidity is, of course, performative and insincere in many instances, but is particularly marked by Fine Gael Ministers professing all too often that their hands are tied legally. The courts understand that the Legislature has the right to legislate for the benefit of the common good. Housing is one of the most important services we, as a society, provide. The response "We would need a referendum for that" is not good enough. Of course, that prompts the question of how the Government's case and record would stand up in the face of such a referendum.

Another reason the Bill is welcome is the failure of successive Governments' policies on housing, particularly as the fundamentals of land and land pricing have never been addressed. The serviced sites fund is one example in this regard. That fund is supposed to support local authorities in the provision of key enabling infrastructure on their land and to prepare sites for the delivery of affordable housing. In the estates of Cahermoneen, Westcourt, Ard na Lí - all good estates close to the centre of my town - local people were allowed to buy sites that were serviced. This kept the community together and, importantly, provided assistance to small and medium builders and tradespeople to stay working and boosted the local economy. Despite being open for four years, the serviced sites fund has delivered zero homes in Kerry and has not delivered homes that are affordable in other parts of the State either. Serviced sites works so well but the fund is practically dormant. It could be used unlock solutions and possibilities in towns and villages throughout the county.

I commend the Labour Party on bringing forward this Bill. It does not offer the full solution to our country's diabolical housing crisis but it does provide a significant valuable tool to local authorities to combat land hoarding and landbanking. Herein lies the inevitable challenge. There are existing unregulated land banks where developers distort the market by limiting supply. Owners of large sites have held onto underdeveloped land rather than build new homes because it will depress prices and affect future returns. Over-reliance on market forces will never solve the housing crisis. I formally request that the Minister do something that has never been done here, namely, get his Department to carry out a thorough empirical analysis of landbanking. Let us face facts: the market disregards social justice and certainly does not take into account the common good.

This Bill is based on the principle of social justice and the right of the Government to exercise its constitutional power through Article 44 to delimit, by law, private property rights for the purpose of the common good. In a sovereign republic, the delimiting of private property rights must be subservient to social justice and the well-being of all citizens.

I was contacted by a young working couple from County Wexford. They managed to save a deposit despite paying substantial rent of €920 per month. The house they wanted to buy was valued at €275,000. The agent, advised by the bank, gazumped the price by €30,000 within a week of their bid, putting their hopes and dreams of owning a home of their own out of sight. This is not a one-off; we have seen it happen again and again across the country. It is an indictment of successive Governments that, in 2021, almost 48 years after its publication, we are still trying to introduce the Kenny report, which proposes that land being purchased under compulsory purchase order by a local authority be capped at its existing value, plus a reasonable addition. I again call on the Minister to commission a thorough analysis of landbanking and land hoarding through the Department as it is one of, if not the biggest, obstacle to affordable homes for middle and low-income families. I ask all Deputies to support the Bill.

The Social Democrats strongly welcome and support this Bill. In life and in politics, we must look at what people do rather than what they say. That is true in respect of housing policy, in particular. It is not just the veteran trade unionist and housing activist, Mick O'Reilly, who has noticed that the Labour Party has consistently raised the implementation of the Kenny report while in opposition, and consistently forgotten about it while in government. Everybody who has taken an interest in the Kenny report has noticed that.

It is 48 years since the Kenny report was introduced. For 21 of those years, the Labour Party was in government, over six Governments, from 1973 to 1977, 1981 to 1982, 1982 to 1987, 1992 to 1994, 1994 to 1997 and 2011 to 2016. During most of the times the Labour Party was in government, the Ministers with responsibility for the environment and housing were Labour Party Ministers. It rings hollow to hear the Labour Party talk about the implementation of the Kenny report when it has had so many opportunities to implement it.

I agree strongly with Deputy Kelly's statement that if the Kenny report had been implemented back in 1973, we would not be in the position we are now. That is correct. It is also the case, unfortunately, that when Deputy Kelly was the Minister with responsibility for housing, the number of social homes built was the lowest in decades. Rents started spiralling out of control when he was Minister. No rent certainty or regulation was introduced. It was left to a Fine Gael Minister to bring in the rent pressure zones, ineffective as they are. The numbers of homeless people, particularly families and children, started to go through the roof when Deputy Kelly was Minister. While the Bill is welcome, when parties get into government they must show as much commitment to these measures as they voice in opposition.

David McWilliams stated:

Ireland is the least populated country in western Europe, yet we have among the highest land prices. It's a stitch-up. It is really that simple.

He is entirely correct about that. It is a stitch-up. It is the result of failed policies on housing and land, where the policies benefit the few at a huge cost to everyone else. The uplift in land values from public investment in infrastructure and rezoning, which is done through a public process, is captured privately. That is why the implementation of the Kenny report is so important.

Deputy Howlin spoke eloquently about land speculation and windfall profits from it. He was dead right about that. People who speculate on land do not do anything productive to reap those profits. They just happen to have the money to be able to buy up a load of land, sit on it, wait - or indeed lobby - for it to be rezoned and accrue massive profits from it. What Deputy Howlin seems to forget is that when he was the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and introduced budget in the Dáil with the then Minister for Finance, former Deputy Michael Noonan, he abolished the 80% windfall tax that was in place against profits on rezoned land. It was probably the measure that came closest to some sort of implementation of the Kenny report in the 48 years since the report was introduced. This measure was abolished when Deputy Howlin had responsibility for it. He now talks about windfall profits and speculation, correctly so, and how they should be tackled but seems to have no memory as to what he did when he was the Minister with responsibility for this area.

Eloquence is great, as are the points that have been made. However, what we really need is for those who articulate those points and those who are in government to fight to implement them every step of the way, not to shrug their shoulders and then suddenly remember them when they are back in opposition. That is no use to anyone. It is no use to the thousands of people who have become homeless, especially in the years since the Labour Party was last in government, during which time rents have spiralled.

Public land is the key to providing the number of social, affordable and cost-rental homes that we need. We need to provide social homes at affordable purchase prices or costs to the State that represent good value. The key to that is ensuring enough public land is available. It is simply no good if parties continue to vote to sell public land to private developers at knock-down rates so they can build homes on the land, the majority of which are sold at full market prices. That is what is happening. It is what Labour Party councillors recently voted for, alongside Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party councillors. We can make all the eloquent speeches we want, but if we keep selling public land at knock-down prices to private developers, including one of the largest developers in the country with one of the largest land banks that is producing homes at a very slow rate in order to maintain market prices at the level at which it wants to deliver them, we will not get any closer to solving this problem. Keeping land in public ownership is key.

The other key part of the equation is following the advice of the ESRI to avail of historically low interest rates in order to finance the construction of public and social homes, cost rental and affordable purchase. At the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage, in a discussion on the Land Development Agency, I raised the point that we should no longer follow the fiscal rules, which are an orthodoxy that no one else is following. The Minister legitimately responded that he does not have a crystal ball and cannot see into the future. I am not asking the Government to get a crystal ball and see into the future. I am asking it to see what is happening now in terms of 120,000 households that are on housing waiting lists or in insecure HAP tenancies and need their housing needs met. I am asking it to see what is happening in terms of over 8,000 people living in emergency accommodation. I am asking it to see, as the ESRI has pointed out, that growth is outpacing interest rates. Even in the most fiscally conservative analysis that the ESRI has produced, it still makes sense to at least double investment in the construction of homes. That is a conservative fiscal analysis. In fact, the ESRI has stated that it would be irresponsible not to do that. What the Government is doing now is irresponsible. It is irresponsible not to avail of current interest rates.

The Social Democrats very much welcome and support the Bill. However, I hope those proposing such legislation will actually seek to deliver on it when they are in government, and not just when they are in opposition.

People Before Profit will support the Labour Party Bill. We welcome it. Indeed, it has some similarities to the Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2020 that People Before Profit recently introduced in the House and which, fortunately, passed to Second Stage, in that it seeks to delimit the rights of private property relative to the social and common good of ensuring that people have a right to secure and affordable housing.

Insofar as the Bill seeks to empower local authorities to compulsorily purchase land suitable for housing and ensure that landowners and property developers hoarding land do not benefit as they have done, obscenely, from the ownership of land that is rezoned or serviced, then it is a good measure. It will help control land prices which have contributed significantly to the current housing crisis, particularly the extraordinary unaffordability of the housing that has been built, and curtail the shocking and obscene profits made by land hoarders and speculators.

The Bill will also deal with one of the key issues that contributed to corruption in this country around the rezoning process.

The Regional Group is next. Deputy Seán Canney is sharing time with Deputy Verona Murphy.

Deputy Murphy may not arrive in time as she is running late. If she does not arrive, I will take the reminder of the time.

Housing is probably one of the biggest topics to have come back on the agenda since the advent of Covid in March of last year. I welcome the Labour Party's introduction of this Bill. It is very appropriate we enact policies we believe will make housing more affordable to more people.

I know from my experiences over the past ten years that people who have money have been buying land and property and sitting on it. In the trade, it is called hoarding and flipping at the appropriate time to make a killing without actually doing anything with the land or site. The practice is prevalent throughout the country. People who are cash-rich, such as companies and investors, can do this at will. They can sit on land and wait to see how the market goes. They are speculators. We need to remove that from the whole industry of construction and housing.

It is very clear that, right now, the housing market is dysfunctional. There is no one silver bullet that will solve it. Many things will have to be done. We are getting to a stage where throwing money at the problem will not solve it. We need to have the fundamentals right, which may not get houses built today but will ensure that, in future, houses will be built at an affordable price.

I will raise the issue of our county development plans. When I was councillor, one practice I never really agreed with was the zoning of only a certain percentage of lands in an area on the basis of projected growth. That has created a scarce commodity, zoned residential land, only a certain amount of which is available in every town and city. We have an issue, therefore, when somebody who owns this land can sit on it and command a higher price. We should be zoning more lands in our towns and villages. We have an opportunity to do that now in our county development plans, which are being reviewed. We need to do that to ensure more land is available for development at an affordable price to allow people build their homes.

Yesterday's protests about the mica disaster have highlighted how important our homes are to us, as families, in Ireland. Everybody has the right to live in a home and to be able to live life to the full without being a slave to a huge mortgage.

We need to ensure that people are allowed to live in their own homes in an affordable way.

An issue that has arisen recently relates to construction costs. The cost of building houses or any form of construction is rising. Part of the reason for the increase is that the standards in construction have been upped to such an extent that between 15% and 25% additional cost is being added to the cost of building a house. This is moving the cost of building and the cost of sale very much out of the reach of many people. If additional regulations are being implemented, we need to be able to give supports to people who have the courage to get a mortgage to build their own homes, rather than relying on the State to do it. We have to give them more encouragement to do that in a way that will not inflate the entire market.

A bugbear that I have raised on numerous occasions in the House is that there is potential to house people within a very short time through usage of existing housing stock that is vacant. There are numerous properties in every town and village in which people could be living over shops or developing units into modern living spaces. They are being hampered from doing so as they are caught up in issues relating to planning and protected structures. Assistance has to be provided in that regard. It may be necessary to exempt these buildings from planning in order that they can be developed and we can ensure there are living spaces in towns and villages.

As for the affordability of housing, I have raised many times the fact that Irish Water was set up to provide waste water and water services in order that we could develop housing and other residential communities in a strategic way. The problem with Irish Water - it is not the problem of the company but it is our problem - is that it has not been funded to the extent it needs. I have first-hand knowledge of that in my county of Galway. While I was a county councillor, we did feasibility studies on setting up municipal treatment plants in towns and villages in the county. A site was earmarked for a waste water treatment plant for the east of the county, to be located to the east of the city, to allow the city and county to develop. This was all being worked on by Galway County Council prior to the inception of Irish Water. When Irish Water was formed and put in place, all of those projects dropped off the agenda for the simple reason that Irish Water does not have the funding to put waste water treatment plants into towns such as Craughwell, Abbeyknockmoy, Mountbellew or Corrofin in my constituency, which are growth centres that can feed the city and larger towns. The reason it cannot develop is because it cannot get planning permission from Galway County Council. It has been refused permission by An Bord Pleanála. Effectively, planning in these areas has been frozen out. The contradiction is that many Members are frowning at the idea that people can live in a rural area in the county and every obstacle is being put in their way, be it by Transport Infrastructure Ireland or from a housing need perspective. In some cases, family members are not even allowed to build on family farm land. This cannot continue. We need to address this issue in a wholesome manner.

Anois, we move to the Rural Independent Group.

I thank the Acting Chairman for giving me his speaking time on this issue. I very much appreciate the opportunity. At a time when the Government and the Department are trying to envisage every way they can stop people from living in the countryside, it is more important than ever that local authorities be given the wherewithal to purchase land at affordable rates and do what they used always do and what they were good at, that is, buying a piece of ground and getting a local building contractor to build local authority houses that local people would be allowed to live in and eventually purchase. That is what we want. Obviously, there is room for and a need for developers as well. Anybody who thinks that business will not, cannot or should not continue is wrong. What we do not want is for that to happen at the expense of local authorities because, for instance, in the county I represent, whether in Tralee, Listowel, Killarney, Killorglin or the other towns and smaller villages, there is a massive housing need. While it is acceptable for a person to be on a housing list for a certain length of time, what I have seen through the years, first as a member of the local authority and subsequently as an Oireachtas Member, is that the time people remain on the list has increased. No notice is now taken of a person who says he or she has been on the list for eight, nine or ten years. In our case, that is not the fault of Kerry County Council. Rather, it is due to local authorities not being given the wherewithal by the Department, under not just this Government, but successive Governments, to address this issue. Of course, I am totally against the idea of people hoarding land. Doing so is wrong. I want to see local authorities being allowed to and given the money to purchase land on which to build local authority houses.

As all Deputies know, the housing crisis is out of control. Far too many people are being refused the basic human need of shelter. Their need is not being met though absolutely no fault of their own. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have failed repeatedly to build the housing our citizens need in the right place, at the right price and in the right quantity. The crisis is touching every demographic. It can be felt across the country and has victims numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Housing has become too costly and too scarce and the ability to buy a home has become the reserve of the privileged few. The time has come for radical action. In the absence of action being taken by the Government, it is up to others to step in.

In spite of the boom, bust and boom again in the housing market, the housing needs of an ever-growing number of people are not being met. The housing system is one of winners and losers. The winners are landlords, investment funds, property speculators and developers, while the losers include the homeless, those on low incomes, first-time buyers, tenants and those with special needs. In my constituency of Cork South-West it is becoming an impossible situation. The Government will have to step up because it has put so many restrictions on young people trying to get planning. These people are not looking to get a house through the social housing system at all. They are being refused planning day in, day out. I have been approached by numerous people who have been refused planning permission. These are young people trying to get off the ground. Some of them cannot get a mortgage even if they go through the system. The system is completely and utterly corrupt and wrong and against ordinary young families trying to start off, get a little bit of ground from their father and mother and apply for planning permission. It is outrageous how the Government has stood idly by.

Deputy Canney is quite right regarding waste water and Irish Water not being properly funded. I refer to towns such as Castletownshend and Goleen and the extension to the sewer system in Ballinspittle. All these towns are stagnant. Nothing is happening because of the inaction of the Government.

I thank the Labour Party for opening up the debate but I do not agree with the proposal that seeks to give local authorities authority to issue compulsory purchase orders, CPOs, for land in order to build houses. That is wrong. The Planning Regulator is dezoning land. I believe we should zone more land around towns and villages or, otherwise, not zone any land but let every planning application go through on its merits, whether that is through the local authority or An Bord Pleanála. Dezoning land is giving a monopoly to the developer.

When the developer has that, the price will be more expensive for the couple trying to buy a house. I am not in favour of CPOs.

Kerry County Council has not been able to buy land for over 20 years and all its plots of land are gone or built on. Instead, it is getting money from the Department to buy built houses and that is actually competing with young couples who are trying to buy houses. The local authority has 165 voids and it does not have enough money to bring them back to the standard which is being demanded. As to the cost of materials, we know what is happening with timber as we cannot cut a stick. Small builders have to carry the full cost of building houses because there are no stage payments. Between them, levies and regulations are detrimental to progression.

The time is up. I call Deputy Richard O'Donoghue.

It is more than a year since I was elected before which I was on the county council for six years. This was brought to the House today by the Labour Party. While Deputy Kelly was in government and was the Minister with responsibility for housing, he had a track record like the LDA - he did not build a bloody house. This is what we are coming down to. The records are there to show Labour's double standards. Here today, its Members are saying, "Let us look at this", but while they were in government, they did nothing about it.

Limerick needs 1,000 houses built per year, as announced by the Limerick chamber of commerce, and we set up Limerick 2030 to help us build these houses. What has Limerick 2030 got that the LDA does not have? The LDA has a national problem but we need these houses implemented locally. On Limerick 2030, we have council representatives and local authority representatives whose job is to produce houses for the city and county, which they are doing, and there are 250 planning permissions in at present to build houses at Mungret. It is also investing in towns and villages in our county. However, this Government and successive Governments have never invested one penny in infrastructure so that a house can be built in the towns and villages of the county. That is a failure of the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and now the Green Party, which are making it impossible for people who want to build houses to get planning permission to build houses, and build them without putting any pressure on the local authorities.

This is what we have to look at today. The record shows it and history shows it. If the media can do anything, they should go back on the history of all of these parties and show their double standards.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. I want to support this important Bill. There is no doubt it is needed and that the ongoing speculation and profiteering on land values is disgusting and should be addressed. The political system has always made it so and that is why this Bill should be supported in order to try to curtail the political system making speculation profitable. The political system has always hidden behind the single judgment of the Supreme Court and never challenged it in order to provide cover for itself, and to ensure that a policy that would benefit all our citizens, rather than the chosen few who own land, would never be developed.

It has generally done this to facilitate the owners and profiteers who have been supporters of the parties in control or in power. Since the publication of the Kenny report in 1973, that party in power has predominantly been Fianna Fáil. However, for a significant portion of that time, Fine Gael has been in power. What is interesting about Fine Gael in this context is that it could not have been in power without the Labour Party, which today is lamenting that the Kenny report has never been implemented. I read with interest the introduction to the Bill by Deputy Kelly, in which he outlines that this is the third occasion on which the Labour Party has introduced this Bill, having done so in 1990, 2003 and again today. The interesting thing about these dates is that they are when Labour was out of government. Maybe that is the time to do something like this. We have seen how principles and policies made in opposition are left outside the door when government beckons in supporting Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

I want to put the following dates on the record: 1973 to 1977; 1981 to early 1982; late 1982 to 1987; 1992 to 1994; 1994 to 1997; and 2011 to 2016. In 19 out of 48 years, the Labour Party has been in government, and they are the years Labour has been in government since the Kenny report was published. Why, then, could Labour not have used one of those occasions to do the right thing? Sure, its Members will say they were only lowly Labour and could not implement the policies they wanted - but on six occasions? There is a saying about repeating the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Not to mention that it was a Labour Party Minister who introduced the housing assistance payment, HAP, that tied crazy rental prices to landlords with the result that €1.3 billion is to be paid to private landlords this year, or that it was the Labour Party which made the austerity of Fine Gael possible in from 2011 to 2016 by keeping the unions quiet, not all of them but the majority of them, although, thankfully, there were some notable exceptions.

I hope there is a lesson here for other parties and individuals thinking about the possibility of government, namely, they should implement what they say and make that a central plank of their policies. That is what I will do. I will be not be putting forward great policy ideas in opposition and then dropping them when the possibility of government is on the horizon, along with a comfy ministerial seat. It gives politics in Ireland a bad name when people see parties sitting in opposition, espousing great policies, and then, when they go into government and get the opportunity to do that, they do not actually do it. They change and everything is left outside. We have seen it with the Green Party in the last year, we saw it with the Labour Party before that and we saw it with the Green Party before that; we see it continuously and it keeps repeating itself. It is time to change that. Maybe the Labour Party can be part of that change, if it decides it is going to do it properly and not do it by selling out.

I thank all the Deputies for their engagement. For my period in the Chamber, I have listened very carefully and with interest to many of the contributions made. It has been useful to have an opportunity to explain the Government position to the Members of the House and to hear their views on the long-standing question of how best we can ensure a share of increased land value arising from public policy decisions and investment, for the wider public benefit. This is a matter of significant concern not just to Members of this House but to the wider public and cuts deep into the heart of the challenges we face today regarding housing and related issues.

I hope the debate has clarified why the Government is seeking to defer the reading of this Bill for 12 months. I want to acknowledge that the points raised during the debate may be very well intentioned. However, I am still convinced that this Private Member’s Bill will have many unintended consequences and will only serve to undermine what the Government is working to achieve. As explained by the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, the Bill is premature when we take account of work currently under way, and the extra time will be well used to achieve a better outcome. While there is some common ground on the need to address these issues, this Bill would be premature to both the final report of the Law Reform Commission on the reform and consolidation of compulsory purchase order laws, which is expected before the end of 2021, and proposals on the issue of community gain currently being advanced by my Department, in line with the programme for Government. This will take the form of a key flagship measure arising from the forthcoming Housing for All strategy and directly-related legislative proposals being concurrently formulated as a general scheme for a new legislative proposal.

Like the Deputy, the Government is committed to dealing with this complex and thorny issue, underlined by the fact it has not been addressed to the extent now proposed since the Kenny report was published in 1973.

It is to some extent a legacy issue but also remains relevant to the challenges we face today. Therefore, how we address the matter needs to be comprehensive but it also needs to be fair, equitable and proportionate, in line with the principles of social justice, espoused in the Deputy’s Bill. The key difference between the Deputy’s Bill and the Government’s position is the approach.

As previously referenced, the provisions of Deputy Kelly’s Bill are based on the 1973 Kenny report, which proposed a land value capture mechanism, whereby designated development lands at the edge of built-up areas could be acquired by the State at existing use value generally envisaged as agricultural land at agricultural value plus 25%, to facilitate the development of housing. Although adopted by Government at the time, the provisions of the Kenny report were not implemented but have remained a point of reference. The issue of community gain and a more equitable distribution of increases in land value as a result of the planning decisions in respect of zoning and public investment in infrastructure must now be addressed. I know Deputies from all parties and none agree with that commitment.

The proposals in the Bill have been well aired at this stage. However, it is important to recap on the implications of the Bill, if enacted, and to reiterate the potential adverse consequences which are a key concern for the Government. In summary, if enacted, this Bill would be a disincentive to buy or sell development land and for the delivery of residential development that could impact housing supply in the short-medium term, create uncertainty in the development sector, be disproportionate and discriminate against new entrants to the market, not provide a mechanism for fair or equitable application and be impractical to apply. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, explained the finer detail of these points in his opening address if Deputies need to refer to it.

It is also worth noting that while the Kenny report has remained a reference point, it is vital we acknowledge the critical differences between now and when the Kenny report was completed. There are now 2 million more people living in Ireland, our cities and towns are much larger and society has change immeasurably. The Kenny report was of its time, a point of reference, but we need to treat it with caution given the changes in the intervening period, almost half a century later. The principles of land value capture as set out in the Kenny report and informing this Bill remain important considerations, but need to be applied in a manner that is appropriate to 21st century societal and environmental priorities.

The extra 12 months being sought by the Government will allow us to treat this matter with the utmost care and consideration. I think it is a reasonable request given all the complexities involved and outlined. It is really important we to use the time to achieve the best possible outcome and to address this properly and in a manner that can withstand any future challenge rather than just get it done. This needs to be robust and enduring. I want that to be the legacy that we leave to future generations and I am confident that all Members are genuinely committed to that principle.

The emerging measures being developed by my Department, in the context of Housing for All, are intended to be more practical, equitable and proportionate proposals for community gain related to planning and public investment that seek to balance the need for land, infrastructure and affordable housing, while at the same time taking into account the rights of private landowners, having regard to the overall benefit to society.

The proposals that will be brought forward by my Department will ultimately achieve the goal the Deputy intended, without having the potential negative consequences. While I cannot be definitive on the specifics at this stage, myself and my officials will be happy to engage with this House, or indeed the joint committee or other fora, once the proposals are approved by the Government and published. While the general intention behind the Bill is acknowledged, the Government proposes to defer the reading of the Bill, as outlined earlier, for 12 months.

I want to refer to one or two points made by various Deputies. One of those points relates to an area of my responsibility, namely, rural planning. I never hear it acknowledged in this House that rural planning has consistently represented 25% of housing output in recent years and it has remained at that level despite many of the charges we hear that it is impossible to get rural planning permission. I also point to the Office of the Planning Regulator, OPR, report, which gives a clear line and detail of planning in every county and the planning decisions that have been made. As referenced earlier, 87% of all one-off planning applications were granted in Limerick county during the past five years; 7% were refused and 6% were withdrawn. Members need to take a proportionate approach when making charges about rural planning in this House. We need to be consistent in what we say.

In terms of zoning, taking account of housing demands and needs into the future, ten local authorities in this State will have to increase their housing output by 250% over the next five years and more than ten will have to increase it by 100%. That gives us a clear line in terms of zoning. We hear people say that not enough land is zoned but there was a time when we had enough land zoned to accommodate 10 million people. At that time infrastructure was not aligned with the key potential for development. We did not have key wastewater and sewerage services and all the infrastructure needed to make communities more sustainable. When people are making these charges they need to make reference to those important facts and check the reports and decisions that have been made. Sometimes when one listens to people speak in this House one would think there was not one one-off housing application granted in this State when that could not be further from the truth. It represents by far the majority of applications. In some counties it represents well above 87%. While there are counties that are in difficulty in terms of environmental issues, such as Leitrim with which we are working, in the main the facts speak for themselves. As I have said previously, we are updating the rural planning guidelines in that regard. In terms of our rural debate, we need honesty and a bit of truth to reflect some of the facts that are spoken about.

I welcome this opportunity to respond to the Labour Party’s Private Members’ Bill. It is very well intentioned and I acknowledge we want to work with it to bring many of the points in the Bill to fruition.

I call na Teachtaí Ged Nash agus Duncan Smith who will each have cúig nóiméad.

I agree with the Minister of State that honesty and truth would be very welcome, and from the Opposition as well. Many of the lazy contributions we heard this morning remind me of the lads who have never kicked a ball in their lives who roar at the top of their voices at the telly telling the Irish intentional team how to play football. Most of them have never togged out. In fact, the idea they would ever tog out for Government would bring them out in a cold sweat. They should put on the boots, wear the jersey and come back to us.

I missed Deputy Ó Broin’s contribution earlier but I am informed it was reliably and predictably enough a load of old guff. I will not take a history lesson from a party which would like us to air-brush its recent horrific past. Sinn Féin is completely untested in this jurisdiction but where it is tested the youth homelessness statistics speak for themselves. Northern Ireland is no utopia when it comes to the housing issue. Sinn Féin cannot say one thing in Dundalk and do an entirely different thing in Derry. That is partitionism par excellence. The part-time progressives in Sinn Féin really ought to drop the partitionist act.

Why can we not get housing right in this country? It is because of the crushing financialisation of housing, the fetishisation of land ownership and the rewarding of speculation. I am a generation away from the corporation house. I can say the same for practically all of my Labour Party Oireachtas colleagues. My parents benefited from the great schemes of well-designed homes built in towns like Drogheda when the State was only 20 or 30 years in existence. When they married in the early 1970s, an unskilled factory worker and a confectioner, they could afford to buy a modest three-bedroomed home for the family they planned to have, safe in the knowledge that come what may they would be able to pay the mortgage. In 2021, a hardworking couple of modest means does not stand a chance. The option of a decent home built by the local authority in my area is ten years away and a fortune in taxpayers’ money wasted on the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme.

Housing and speculation as a source of enrichment for a small few at the expense of the common good began under a business and political culture made by the previous generation in Fianna Fáil. The younger citizens of today’s Ireland are the longest suffering victims of a financial crash that was the logical result of an economy based on the hope that people would endlessly keep selling homes to each other at ever inflating prices.

This Ponzi scheme and the lax regulation and greed which let it happen wreaked havoc. From 2011 to 2015, there was little money to do anything apart from staying afloat. This point is deliberately ignored by some and conveniently so. When more resources became available, Fine Gael Ministers were ideologically incapable of seeing the scale of the problem and fixing it by finally tackling extortionate land costs, building more public and affordable homes and properly managing rents in a fair manner. Instead of moving heaven and earth to provide the homes we need, they spent almost 600% more on the housing assistance payment, HAP, in 2019 than in 2016. What a manifest waste of money.

Until now, Fianna Fáil's signature intervention was an enhanced help to buy scheme - same old Fianna Fáil, never learning - another waste of taxpayer's money with developers factoring the terms of the scheme into their price and prices are driven up with a policy which has been shown to benefit disproportionately those who already have the price of a deposit. This is economic illiteracy at its worst. The Labour Party's Bill, if the Government decides to accept it and which it is kicking to touch, would be a critical piece of the jigsaw in terms of housing supply.

By supporting this key legislation, the Government would be sending out a message that this Government has learned. It would signal it has finally learned the financialisation of the housing market must end and speculation must come a distant second place to the common good and the public interest. The calculation both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have always made is that once house prices keep rising, the voters will be happy. However, the world has changed and Ireland is changing.

If the Minister of State does not want to listen to younger people and their families, he should listen to IBEC and the American Chamber of Commerce, which are hardly radical, left-wing organisations. They have a similar view on housing and the infrastructural deficit as we have in the Labour Party. They know we face a massive challenge and radical solutions need to be provided. If the Minister of State is not minded to listen to us or the younger citizens waiting for homes, while trapped in homes and often still living with their families into their 30s and 40s with little prospect of getting out, he should listen to IBEC, the American Chamber of Commerce and others.

Nowhere is the gap and difficulties younger people have, in terms of them being a generation which will be less well-off than their parents, better expressed than in terms of access to affordable, sustainable and secure housing. This is part of the solution and I am disappointed this Government is failing to acknowledge that by adopting this legislation now and is kicking the can further down the road.

I am delighted to close this debate. Labour Party Private Members' motions are taking on a familiar pattern. They are getting broad support from the Opposition. In fact, the support was quite effusive from most Opposition spokespeople who opened and closed their contributions with it. In the middle of those contributions is where they get their clips for Facebook and whatever other social media platforms they decide to put their messaging out on. That is the way it is.

However, we know they support it. They support it because this is the right thing to do. Some in opposition do not support it. They have a philosophical view which is contrary to us, in terms of planning. They are entitled to it and are consistent with it, but they are in a very small minority.

We have been bringing this forward for a number of years. The question of why we did not do it in government has been thrown back at us by a number of contributors today. However, we have always tried. Governing during a recession is difficult. Being in government during a unique recession, the worst recession in the history of the State, is especially difficult. The subjective view which was thrown across this House that we have done nothing, or in the view of one Deputy, that we did not build one bloody house, is utterly false.

Spokespeople such as Deputies Ó Broin and O'Callaghan, who were rehearsing their social media video clips in the middle of their contributions, know that. They know Labour did important work on housing. If they do not, it is a level of ignorance which I would not imply; they are both intelligent and experienced. They know we have built houses. Just last night, I received a query on a vaccine from someone who is living in a house the Labour Party supplied the last time we were in government.

When we did have the reigns of housing for a short period of time at the end, we ran through as many Part 8s as county councils were able to do. In Fingal, which I represent, we got a vast number of houses off the ground which came on stream in the past couple of years. Fine Gael Ministers cut the ribbon on them but it was a Labour Minister who delivered them. That is the reality. I have a standing offer to anyone to bring them around to the many estates we built in the short amount of time we had during the worst recession in the State's history.

We have a record which we stand over. The housing assistance payment, HAP, is thrown at us a number of times. The HAP is not a long-term solution but prior to HAP, we had rent supplement. The rent supplement was the biggest poverty trap in the history of this State. If one was on rent supplement, one could not get a job, go out to work, or do anything. One was resigned to a life of poverty. The HAP is not the long-term solution, but it allows people to go out and get a job.

The same councillors for parties which are criticising HAP are the councillors who are on to the housing departments in every county council up and down the country, begging council officials to get tenants onto HAP. There is rank hypocrisy here.

All these measures we brought through is not the full Labour master plan for housing we would like to get through, because we have always been in government with parties ideologically opposed to us. That is the reality. That is where stuff such as the Kenny report has hit the sands, because parties such as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have historically been against it on fundamental ideologically grounds. We have had to operate within that space and do the best we can.

We will take some slings and arrows in the back for the stuff we did not do, but the Opposition also has to tell more sides to the story about the stuff we did do, the houses we did build, the tenancies we did secure and the progress we did make. The Opposition is entitled to its own view but it is not entitled to its own facts on this. I cannot stand here and not say that. We would have been able to do more if the Kenny report had been implemented. That is a fact.

There is broad support for this. The Taoiseach who has entered the Chamber now, said three years ago, as our leader, Deputy Kelly, stated at the start of his contribution, it is morally just to bring in the Kenny report. He said that three years ago. We believe that. He believes that, so let us do it. I ask the Government not to kick the can down 12 months. Let us bring it in now.

Our Second Stage debate on the Acquisition of Development Land (Assessment of Compensation) Bill 2021 is complete. We must first consider the amendment in the name of the Minister of State. Is the amendment in the name of the Minister of State agreed to?

Amendment put.

Insofar as a vote has been called, it is deferred until the voting time later this evening.