I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I thank the Minister of State for arriving. I know he had other plans, but such is life. This is a Bill to amend the Planning and Development 2000 and to repeal section 97(3)(b). The Bill arises because of the scrapping of height guidelines by the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government in 2018.
There are a number of strands leading to this Bill. First, under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, each private developer must provide 10% social housing under the rule commonly known as "Part V". Second, the scrapping of the height guidelines by the previous Minister with responsibility for the environment in 2018 creates a lacuna in the legislation. Third, any site that is 0.1 ha or smaller is exempt from the requirement to transfer units to the local authority for housing under Part V. Small sites which were just for developing up to ten homes were and are exempt from providing public housing. This Bill is not about going after the family home, a second home or even a small builder building a few homes. It is about stopping developers taking advantage of the gap in the legislation. I have a question which the Minister of State might answer later. If there is already an exemption for small developments of fewer than ten homes, why was there also an exemption based on the area or footage of the ground? This Bill will remove this exemption by deleting section 97(3)(b) of the Planning and Development Act 2000.
We realised there was a gap in the legislation when planning permission was granted for the development on York Road in Ringsend of a seven-storey apartment block. Having been granted permission for seven storeys, the developer then reapplied for planning permission to change the build to a 15-storey apartment block with 48 new homes and no public housing. The second application for 15 storeys was rejected, but if it had been granted the developer would have been exempt from making the 10% contribution to the local authority for public homes. If the new plans had been given the go-ahead, this would have set a dangerous precedent for the development of the area, likely to be replicated elsewhere throughout the city and in other urban areas and built-up settings. It should be noted that the approved application for the seven-storey development has not even been started. The developer has not gone near it.
The main reason the 15-storey application was blocked is the huge campaign that was organised by residents, Shay Connolly, Orla Murphy and many others. They engaged with residents, knocked door to door and let people know what was happening. They mobilised and held public meetings outdoors in the park during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a campaign that was successful and engaged people. It was really positive. People were interested and it was great to see the energy that campaign brought. This building would have been as high as Liberty Hall, towering over artisan red-brick cottages. It would have been, effectively, a Trojan horse for developer-led development in Ringsend. It would have allowed developers to build higher and higher along the river front of the Liffey and up to the quays. The campaign raised great awareness within the community of the issue of developer-led developments and the need for the community to be active, aware and mobilised. That is certainly what happened.
This development would be very much out of character with the street, where the average homes are red-bricked artisan one-storey dwellings, next to a school. These small artisan dwellings would have been towered over by a 15-storey block. Many other sites are building fewer units, yet they make a contribution through Part V. The loophole has understandably angered the local community. Ringsend is an area that has a considerable need for social and affordable housing, as is the case in communities across the inner city. Two and three generations of families are living in two-bedroom and three-bedroom flats and towering beside these families a developer is trying to avoid his obligation to provide public housing. It is rubbing salt into the wounds.
The community has developed and worked on this area to make it fantastic. It is an attractive area with parks, sports clubs and community facilities. Developers are now swooping in on the back of the fantastic work the community has done over the years to make Ringsend an attractive area in which to live. These developers are going to maximise their profits and avoid doing anything for the community. They will avoid it like the plague. All they want is to maximise their profits. This developer is a prime example of this mindset, and will just make money for the investors. The developer will promote and market this development using all the facilities the community has fought hard to build over the decades. At the same time, the developer is avoiding providing housing in the area, which has a real need for social housing. The amount of three generations living in a single house in Ringsend is phenomenal. It is not inconceivable that a developer with 0.3 ha could divide the site into three smaller parcels using different shell companies and build 120 homes and still be exempt from the 10% contribution under Part V. Stranger things have happened.
Ringsend must have a local area plan developed or the area will continue to have developer-led housing and community development. The residents' community development group made a submission to the development plan which outlined a vision for Ringsend and a vision that other communities can aspire to. Across the inner city many working families are being locked out of home ownership. The cost of a one-bedroom home is now €442,000 in Ringsend. It is absolute madness. Ordinary people, families and workers are expected to pay that. They just cannot afford it.
They are being pushed out of their communities and pushed down the country.
The cost of building a unit at the new glass bottle site is between €400,000 and €500,000. The development has stalled because Roadbridge has gone into receivership, but that is a separate issue. These will not be affordable to ordinary families. These homes will be occupied by the vulture funds and the well-paid staff of the high-tech companies. There are many high-tech companies and they have thrown a lot of shade at the local community. In other areas in the inner city, developers are looking for small plots of land and will be going higher and higher with the price. At the same time, they will avoid the provision of social housing.
The high-tech companies are coming into the inner city and require homes for their staff. The lack of housing and the cost of what is there is a big disincentive when trying to attract staff. They are investing in property and this is pushing up the prices of homes, putting them out of the reach of ordinary workers and families. I would not be surprised if they were not looking at a site for future development to house their staff. It is natural. This is what they have to do, it is what they are being allowed to do and it is what they are being encouraged to do. This is understandable but it has a huge knock-on effect on what is traditionally a working class community. This community has been neglected for years and is now being squeezed out as a result of Government policies that give free rein to the big high-tech companies. Government policy allows the high-tech companies and the vulture funds to work hand in hand to come in, buy up properties and drive working families out of the area.
Affordability is an issue. If the gaps in legislation we have identified are not sealed, as is the intention behind the Bill, developers will be able to avoid providing any public housing. The numbers on the social housing list are increasing daily. Without public housing, these communities will become increasingly fragmented. Flat complexes in inner-city communities have been neglected for decades. Look at the conditions in the Pearse House, Macken Street and Whitefriar Gardens complexes. It is unbelievable that families are allowed to live in these conditions. They are hard-working families who have worked throughout Covid. They are expected to live in these conditions. There are rats, raw sewage is overflowing and there are lighting defects. It is dangerous to live in many of these flats, and it is just not right. This neglect has to be reversed. Our inner-city communities deserve better and our city deserves better. Developers will be able to slip through the fence and avoid providing housing on small plots of land unless the Bill is passed. This is not only an issue in Ringsend; it will happen throughout the city and the remainder of the country unless the gap in legislation is filled. This Bill would fill that gap.