I extend a very warm welcome to Deputy Bacik. Fáilte mhór agus comhghairdeas. Well done on a very convincing and wonderful victory. She is now the 37th woman in the House and that is good news for all of us.
Congratulations to Ivana. We all look forward very much to working with her.
Last week, the Taoiseach and his Government forced through an amendment to legislation dealing with Covid-19 business supports that provided yet another tax break to investment funds and cuckoo funds. This was an incredibly bad move, representing very bad value for taxpayers' money, lowering the number of homes available to buy by ordinary workers and families, and pushing up the cost of housing for everyone. Indeed, it is a prime example of all that is wrong with the Government's housing policy and another example of how the Taoiseach, his party and his partners in government do not understand the scale of the crisis in housing.
On Sunday, the Business Post reported that the Government's plan to lease 2,400 homes this year alone will cost in the region of €1 billion over the lifetime of those leasing arrangements. What is worst of all is that, at the end of the 25-year period, the State will not own these properties, despite paying in excess of €375,000 each for them within the 25-year timeframe. We know these leasing arrangements are even more expensive, by the way, in the city of Dublin, running at almost €500,000 for each unit. Little wonder that the funds industry is delighted by the Government's latest move, which continues apace despite the Taoiseach telling the Dáil in May that this practice should cease.
On the flip side of the coin, the latest figures available from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage show that the cost of building social and affordable houses is much less than these expensive leasing arrangements, coming in, on average, at approximately €240,000. It is now apparent that the Government is content to fork out well over the odds to these funds for leasing arrangements for properties that will not be in the ownership of the State at the end of the leasing arrangement. None of this makes any sense at all. In fact, it is the same mentality that has given us the disastrous deal in respect of the cost of the national children's hospital, which, as the Taoiseach knows, is running spectacularly over budget. Private interests should not be skimming super-profits off the top of building public infrastructure, yet that is what the Taoiseach is facilitating. His repeated assertion that these leasing arrangements are short term does not stack up when one considers that the arrangements will be in place for 25 years and, in the case of the 2,400 homes to which I refer, will cost the taxpayer and the State €1 billion.
Can the Taoiseach confirm that cost of €1 billion? Can he confirm what I have said, namely, that at the end of the 25 years, these homes will not be owned by the State? I urge him again, as I have urged him before, to cease and desist from pursuing these failed policies and, instead, invest in the construction of social and affordable homes. What we need is not sweetheart deals for these cuckoo funds; we need a doubling of capital investment in social and affordable housing. That is what should be announced in the summer economic statement.