I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has done it again. Once more, he promised one thing very loudly, brashly and publicly, but unfortunately delivered something very different. He promised he would increase the provision in Part V of the Planning and Development Act to ensure all new housing developments would deliver not only the 10% social housing that is currently required to be provided under law, but also another 10% for much needed affordable housing, be that rental or purchase. That was an important commitment particularly given the rising rents and house prices we hear about every day. However, when one reads the fine print of what the Minster has actually done, he has done nothing of the sort. During the last-minute of proceedings of the Affordable Housing Bill before the recess, in a session where only 90 minutes were allocated for Committee, Report and Remaining Stages, final Seanad Stage amendments were introduced without adequate time for consideration and with no explanation, no debate and no vote. Despite the fact that other Opposition Members and I expressed concern about the technical importance and consequences of these amendments and asked for a detailed briefing from officials, no such briefing was subsequently provided. The full significance of those amendments only became clear when they were explained in plain English in the detail of the Government's new housing plan. What is that detail? Landowners who bought their land between 2015 and 2021 will not have to provide any affordable housing on their site if they apply for planning permission between 2021 and 2026. That means the vast majority of live development projects that seek planning permission this year, next year and the year after will be under the old rule of 10% provision. If that is not a sweetheart deal for large landowners, I do not know what is.
What makes this even worse is the embarrassingly low levels of genuine affordable homes that are to be delivered under the Government's new housing plan: some 2,200 homes next year, although I do not believe those targets will be met; possibly 3,500 in the following year; and then possibly 4,000 in 2024 and 2025. The Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, knows as well as I do, because he lives in the real world, that this is nowhere close to the current level of affordable homes to rent or buy that is required. It gives me no pleasure to say that this does not come as any surprise. Let us look at what the Minister has done since taking office. When industry asks, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, delivers. Industry asked for a shared equity loan scheme. What did the Minister deliver? Against all the advice of economists and even Government officials, he provided a shared equity loan scheme. When he was lobbied by industry to give an exemption for the increase in stamp duty for the block purchasing of houses and duplexes to be leased to local authorities, he went running to the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and secured an exemption which was exactly what industry asked him for. It was then confirmed by the late release of documents by the Department on Friday evening. Thankfully, due to diligent journalists, The Business Post captured and published on Sunday that developers asked for this sweetheart land deal and the Minister delivered. The consequence of this is that thousands of affordable homes that would have otherwise been delivered will now not be. I heard the Tánaiste say today that this was what the Housing Agency recommended. That is not true and I hope nobody says that today. My understanding is that the Housing Agency was asked to produce a report in which it provided a list of options. It did not recommend one option over another. It provided a list of options. That is not the same as the Housing Agency recommending this course of action. I understand the Housing Agency would have liked to have seen the same kind of transitional arrangements that existed when Part V was originally introduced in 2005, namely, 20% introduced straight away but where landowners bought the land before the introduction of the Bill, they would be fully compensated for the land value rather than existing use value. That would have been fair, constitutional and would have delivered the genuinely affordable homes that people need.
Once again, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, had to make a choice. Does he stand with large landowners, big developers and institutional investors or does he stand with working people who are desperate to put an affordable roof over their heads? He made his choice clear. He is not on the side of working people; Sinn Féin is. That is why we have tabled this simple legislation to scrap that exemption to ensure that all new planning applications from here on in would be subject to the 20% requirement. If the Minister wants to table an amendment to the Bill on Committee Stage to reintroduce the original transitional arrangements from the Planning and Development Act 2000, we would have no difficulty supporting that. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.