That Dáil Éireann:
— the overarching goals of housing policy should be affordability, sustainability, equality and social inclusion;
— the high cost of housing can lead to deprivation, exclusion and poverty at the household level and lower levels of consumption, and economic growth at the national level;
— since 2015, national house prices rose by over 35 per cent or an average of seven per cent per annum;
— house prices rose by 14.4 per cent in 2021;
— the Irish Independent/Real Estate Alliance Average House Price Survey of the actual sale price of three-bed semi-detached homes reports that house prices have increased by €100 every day to date in 2022;
— rents are almost 40 per cent above their pre-crisis levels in Dublin and 20 per cent higher across the rest of the country;
— the National Planning Framework estimates that structural demand for new housing, based on demographics, is between 25,000 – 35,000 per year; and
— the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan Scheme failed to meet its annual target every year and was 41,000 units below its overall target;
— there is an untapped supply of vacant or derelict housing throughout the country, in both rural and urban regions;
— the GeoDirectory Residential Buildings Report states that there are more than 90,000 vacant dwellings across the country;
— according to the same report, there were 22,096 residential addresses classified as derelict;
— the latest Northern & Western Regional Assembly report entitled "Regional Vacancy and Dereliction Analysis" indicates that 44,905 residential and commercial properties are empty in the West, North West and Border area;
— 72 per cent of the towns and villages in the West, North West and Border area recorded a residential vacancy rate above the national average;
— 59 per cent of the towns and villages in the West, North West and Border area registered a commercial vacancy rate above the national average;
— every year up to 4,500 people leave behind an empty home when they enter long-term nursing home care, yet just 400 of these homes are rented out as the Nursing Homes Support/Fair Deal Scheme charges an older person three separate times if they decide to rent it out; and
— interest rates on loans for retrofitting homes are far too high and inaccessible for some homeowners; and
calls on the Government to:
— provide the resources to regenerate derelict and vacant properties in cities, towns and villages as a major priority action;
— revise the Repair and Leasing Scheme operated by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to remove the test for social housing in the area, therefore immediately releasing additional housing to meet broader social housing needs and/or private rental needs;
— provide first-time buyer grants of €30,000 for the refurbishment of vacant and derelict properties as homes;
— extend the Help to Buy scheme to first-time buyers of second hand and vacant properties;
— expand the Local Authority Home Loan Scheme to include refurbishment costs in addition to the acquisition costs;
— allow flexibility of planning regulations for the refurbishment of properties to bring them back into use as homes;
— introduce zero per cent long-term loans for retrofitting homes, whereby repayments are made through utility companies based on energy savings, to include micro-generation technologies;
— engage with the Irish League of Credit Unions to establish an interest-free loan scheme for home retrofitting;
— incentivise the development of clustered bungalow housing close to services for older people, allowing them to downsize and freeing up family homes;
— reform the Nursing Homes Support/Fair Deal Scheme to remove the financial barrier to renting out a property, thus releasing vacant family homes across our cities, towns and rural areas;
— provide additional green spaces, recreational facilities and biodiversity areas adjoining town and village centres, and related infrastructure to attract people to live in cities and town centres;
— review the housing grant limits due to rising construction costs;
— address supply-side constraints, including:
— skilled labour shortages;
— rising costs of construction;
— rising costs of materials; and
— excessive lead times, which are limiting the affordability of new dwellings; and
— establish a framework for the supply and installation of prefabricated 3D volumetric modular homes, which can significantly reduce the construction time for social and affordable housing.
I am happy to open this debate on behalf of the Regional Group. It is ostensibly about the housing crisis that is being driven by the lack of available dwellings for temporary or permanent habitation, increasing input costs and rising inflation to finished construction costs. This is creating an affordability crisis for many in our population, especially those with aspirations to buy and live in their own homes.
Supply deficits are also affecting the rental market. Monthly rents have totally eclipsed most average monthly mortgage payments and, for many individuals and families, renting is becoming unsustainable. The housing crisis is also creating great difficulty for local authorities tasked with making housing available to the vulnerable and those qualifying on low incomes. We have dysfunction in builder housing finance availability and the overarching regulatory requirements stifle new-build timelines and opportunity. This is significantly slowing the housing delivery process and adding to the costs.
Our motion calls on Government to introduce initiatives that will bring the significant stock of vacant and derelict properties sitting unoccupied in the State back into use. Activating this housing stock for sale to new homeowners or supply to the rental market will go some way towards alleviating the supply crisis and the upward trajectory in housing costs.
More than 90,000 vacant properties have been identified throughout the State. These could form the basis of a recyclable housing stock with the right initiatives. Many need retrofitting and refurbishment but a sale into use price would reflect that. Many of these homes are located in our regional towns and villages and developing them could breathe new life into our regional economy while venting pressure from our large urban centres, which cannot cope with the current housing demand.
In my region, the south east, there are over 53,000 young people aged between 18 and 49 living at home. Those competing for the local authority housing list in my county of Waterford, for example, will, if they qualify, join a queue of 3,000 on the housing list for an annual local authority allocation of 300 homes. Across the south east, there are more than 23,000 vacant homes, excluding holiday units, and some 500 are vacant under the fair deal scheme. The Government must move to make the houses locked up in the fair deal scheme available for rental agreements and to the rental market. There must be several ways of creating innovative financial solutions to ensure the State gets fair recompense in terms of the fair deal, while allowing these houses to be made available to the rental sector.
The Government is making €4 billion available to tackle the housing situation and new modular building methods may be a significant step forward. At present, a company in Carlow can provide new one-bedroom units for €75,000 to €100,000. Adding some site valuation could deliver first-time buyer mortgages of just €400 to €600 per month in large parts of the country.
An initiative has been suggested to me which I offer to the Minister of State. I believe it is worth considering under the Housing for All strategy. It requires that over a 12-month period under Housing for All, a tax credit could be used and converted from unallocated finances to first-time buyers of vacant homes. This credit could target, for example, vacant homes of €200,000 valuation, where the allocated buyer grant delivers €100,000 spend capacity. A similar grant could target first-time buyers for new modular home construction at less than €200,000.
In Waterford, for instance, the local authority's Housing for All allocation is €125 million per year. If the council failed to allocate 30%, this would amount to €37 million that could be reallocated to a new housing grant that could deliver between 180 and 360 new developed properties. This could deliver a significant number of new homes from vacant housing stock. These homes would meet both supply and affordability criteria and would allow many people to get the housing start they desperately need. Delivering this affordable solution would also allow these families and individuals to retain some discretionary spending each month, which would deliver benefit to the regional and local economy.
Significant initiatives are available to the Government to help deal with the housing crisis but they require Government to have an open mind and need the Department of Finance to show latitude in terms of providing new innovative debt solutions to the domestic housing sector.