I thank the Chairman. I have three questions in this round and will come back to the other pillars in the second round.
I want to pick up on the Minister's exchange with Deputy Darragh O'Brien on the speeding up of social housing delivery and this issue of whether the Government was going to raise the threshold for local authorities to use the one track or one stage planning process. Deputy Micheál Martin, in his contribution on the budget last October, made it very clear that an agreement had been reached with Fine Gael that the one stage process threshold would be increased to €6 million. He stated:
We secured agreement to reduce the four stages of planning applications from local authorities to the Department to one stage, we also removed the ceiling of €2 million that requires Authorities to apply for even very small developments. The ceiling is now increased three-fold to €6 million.
Members will remember there was a very heated exchange at the last committee meeting where Deputy O'Brien claimed that was agreed and the Minister, Deputy Murphy, took a different view to say it was agreed to examine it, but that was subjected to a consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. If I am not mistaken, this is the first time the Minister has publicly stated, or certainly to this committee, that on foot of that advice from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, he does not believe it is appropriate to raise the threshold from €2 million to €6 million. Can the Minister just confirm that is correct and that it is not the Government's intention, irrespective of other parties may claim was agreed in last year's budget negotiations, and that the threshold is not going to be increased? Therefore, local authorities, like those in Dublin, for example, which do not do social building projects for €2 million, will not be able to avail of the fast-track one-stage process.
My next question is on homelessness. The latest homeless figures were produced, as the Minister is aware, a couple of weeks ago. In the last 12 months, adult homelessness is up as is child homelessness. The percentage of individuals and families in emergency accommodation and the length of time they are spending in emergency accommodation have increased. Crucially, we are spending more on private emergency accommodation than ever before. We have more individuals, families and children in private emergency accommodation, and it is costing the State, the taxpayer, about €2 million a week for hotels, bed and breakfasts, etc. In Dublin, it is about €1.5 million a week and outside of Dublin, it is €0.5 million. Does the Minister not accept at this stage, given all those facts, and notwithstanding the fact there have been some positive outcomes on prevention, that what he is doing simply is not working and the problem is getting worse? What is he going to do in the coming months that is different and that we do not end up having the same conversation that we have every quarter, when the numbers are going in the wrong direction? I am not arguing that he should not be spending on emergency accommodation but it is about the relentless rise in homelessness.
On affordability, in our first of these meetings at the start of this year, I asked if the Minister would confirm that no affordable homes to rent or buy would be delivered in 2019 under any Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government funded scheme, be it costs-rental or affordable purchase? At that stage, the Minister declined to answer and said he would answer it later on in the year. Given that none has been delivered, will the Minister confirm none will be delivered for the remainder of this year?
The Minister said something interesting during Oral Questions in the Dáil earlier today. He said the delivery date, in terms of when tenants were likely to move into the affordable cost-rental properties in Enniskerry Road in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, is 2021. Given that these are the first of the affordable housing projects to be funded by his Department, can he confirm that no affordable properties to rent or to buy under schemes funded by his Department will be delivered at next year?
Related to that, many of us have huge concerns about what the Minister considers to be affordability. Enniskerry Road, as we know, is about €1,200 rent a month. That is not affordable for the vast majority of households that need it. We now have three sets of figures from Dublin City Council on the potential purchase price of the so-called affordable homes in O'Devaney Gardens. There was a report by the manager early last week and additional information was given by the manager to elected members this week and the Minister made comments today. The figures range from the high end of €420,000 for an affordable home to €399,000 for an affordable home. During Oral Questions in the Dáil today, the Minister said most would be delivered below €310,000. Even €310,000, of course, is not affordable because the average loan offered by Dublin City Council in the Rebuilding Ireland home loan is less than €200,000.
My concern is that we are not getting delivery of units and even the units that the Minister is promising us are not going to be affordable. What are the Minister's thoughts on all that? Crucially, given that the affordable housing to rent or buy is for those households above the social housing eligibility threshold, which is €38,000 for a family with several children in Dublin, and up to €75,000, the only way we can meet their needs to rent or buy is if we have rents at €700 to €900, and houses to purchase at less than €250,000. Does the Minister accept those points? Will he respond to what Mr. Brendan Kenny said when he was here the last time? He said that to deliver homes at those prices, he needs an additional intervention from Government, either longer maturities on the loans funding, for example, St. Michael's estate or greater capital investment at the start. How are we going to deliver genuinely affordable rental and purchase homes, not homes at €1,200 or €310,000 up to nearly €500,000, which is currently the case.