Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness: Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government

At the request of the broadcasting and recording services, members are requested to ensure that their mobile phones are completely turned off or switched to airplane, safe or flight mode for the duration of the meeting. It is not sufficient for members to put their phones on silent mode as this will maintain the level of interference with the broadcasting systems. Apologies have been received from Senator Grace O'Sullivan. Senator Kelleher is here in her place.

The purpose of today's meeting is to discuss the third quarterly progress report of the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness and emergency accommodation. I welcome to our meeting today the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. On behalf of the committee, I congratulate him on his new appointment. We wish him well and look forward to his ongoing engagement with this committee. I also welcome the Secretary General of the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Mr. John McCarthy, along his departmental colleagues Mr. David Walsh, Ms Mary Hurley, Ms Nina Murray and Mr. Eamonn Waters. I now call on the Minister to make his opening statement.

I thank the Chairman for her good wishes and I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear here on one of the first sessions since my appointment as Minister. I see today’s meeting as a chance to hear at first hand the committee's views on how we can build on the significant progress being made to implement the Government’s Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, as well as discussing the third quarterly progress report. I would also like to take this opportunity to briefly outline what I see as my own priorities for action on housing over the coming months and how I envisage the undertaking of the targeted review of Rebuilding Ireland, as signalled by the Taoiseach last week. I am joined today by a number of officials from my Department, as already welcomed by the Chairman.

The first quarter report focuses primarily on actions identified for delivery during the first three months of the year, detailing progress under 47 actions across the five pillars of the action plan. In addition, an updated social housing construction status report has been published, setting out the position at the end of the first quarter of 2017. Before I run through the highlighted actions in the first few months of this year, however, I will briefly set out some of my own priorities over the coming weeks and months.

As we approach the first 12-month milestone for Rebuilding Ireland next month, it is timely and appropriate that we take stock of how implementation is progressing, assess the impact of the new investments, policies and initiatives, and consider where we need to focus and redouble our efforts to address the remaining supply and affordability issues. In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that some of these actions, for example, the infrastructure investment of €226 million, will take some time to make an impact on the building of new homes. What is most important is that the appropriate environment be created to ensure that the housing output that we need comes on stream. As the Taoiseach outlined in the Dáil last week, the Government's commitment and mandate to create and foster a republic of opportunity is also an opportunity to reflect on the substantial progress already made in delivering more homes to buy or rent, in opening up lands for housing development, in making better use of the empty homes we have, and in supporting those most in need of accommodation.

In acknowledging the progress that has been made, I in no way underestimate the challenges remaining. Resolving these challenges remains a top priority for the Government and we must continue to push the boundaries of ambition in what we are doing, whether that is in accelerating and expanding our social housing targets, encouraging and facilitating landlords to offer more and more affordable homes for rent, or maximising the potential re-use of vacant homes in our cities and towns. I am undertaking a prompt, overall review of the Rebuilding Ireland action plan, focusing on where we can strengthen the measures already in place and identify new initiatives that would add value. I want to be clear that this is not a question of starting again from scratch. The Government clearly signalled back in July 2016 that Rebuilding Ireland had to be a living and evolving plan and that it would be important to refine and review the overall objectives and measures in place as we progress along the implementation journey. This is exactly what we are now doing.

All of the evidence and trends point to the fact that the number of new homes being planned, constructed and finished is increasing. Our focus must, therefore, be on maintaining this momentum and on accelerating delivery of more homes to meet current and future demand. I do not want to pre-empt what new or enhanced measures might come out of the review, but I would welcome the views of members here to inform the work that we will be doing over the coming weeks. As members will have already received the latest quarterly update reports, I will give just a brief overview of some of the key areas of progress across the five pillars of the action plan during the first quarter of 2017.

As the committee knows, a key priority of Rebuilding Ireland is to address and prevent homelessness. A range of initiatives is contributing to the work in this area. While the overall ramp-up in social housing delivery is playing an important part, progress is significantly underpinned by a number of specific initiatives, particularly the housing assistance payment targeted at homeless households. I had an opportunity over the past few days to see some of the homeless services in Dublin at first hand, visiting a Dublin Simon Community medical detox and recovery unit, supported emergency accommodation in Carmen's Hall, and a new project delivering long-term accommodation for homeless individuals and families being provided by the Peter McVerry Trust. This morning, I opened 28 new social housing units which Focus Ireland has built on Harold's Cross Road, targeted at homeless individuals with long-term needs, including older people and people with mental health issues.

Just over 3,000 sustainable exits from homelessness were achieved last year, an increase of 31% on 2015. Over 200 additional emergency beds were provided. Significant additional resources are in place under budget 2017, which will enable the achievement of a further increase this year of sustainable exits from homelessness. In Dublin, the homeless HAP scheme saw more than 400 tenancies created in the first three months of the year, assisting both in preventing homelessness and in providing a pathway out of homelessness for individuals and families already in emergency accommodation.

Rebuilding Ireland recognises that accommodating families in hotel arrangements is inappropriate for anything other than a short period of time. The target set to limit the use of such accommodation to exceptional circumstances by mid-2017 is a challenging one. This is particularly the case as the numbers presenting as homeless between March and May of this year was three times the normal rate of new presentations. While it is a challenging objective, progress is being made. At the end of April the number of families in hotels and bed and breakfasts in Dublin had reduced from 871 to 695. This number will continue to reduce. I expect that the data from the end of May will show a further reduction in this number as additional substantial progress continues to be made week by week.

As well as addressing the long-term housing needs of homeless families, housing authorities are also pursuing the delivery of additional and enhanced supported temporary accommodation that is more suitable for the short-term accommodation needs of such households than commercial hotel arrangements. These custom-developed facilities will offer family living arrangements with a greater level of stability than is possible in hotel accommodation while move-on options to long-term independent living are identified and secured. Such arrangements will also facilitate more co-ordinated needs assessment and support planning, including on-site access to required services such as welfare, health, housing services, cooking and laundry facilities, and appropriate family supports.

I had the opportunity to visit one of these new family centres this week, the new Mater Dei facility. It is nearing completion and will provide much improved short-term accommodation for 50 families.

The second pillar is focused on securing a significant increase and acceleration in the delivery of social housing. Over 19,000 households had their needs met across the range of programmes in 2016, exceeding the target of a little over 17,000. The construction programme of local authorities and approved housing bodies continued to be the focus of concerted action in the first quarter of this year. The updated social housing construction programme status report, which has been published as a companion document to the overall first quarter progress report, shows strong progress in the first quarter of the year with some 1,600 new housing units added to the programme. The overall programme at the end of the first quarter stood at over 10,000 houses in over 600 developments across the country. Only yesterday, I saw some of the finished product that is now coming on-stream with the opening of a project providing 70 new social housing units by the Iveagh Trust in Ballyfermot in partnership with Dublin City Council.

The Housing Agency acquisition programme also got under way in earnest in the first quarter, utilising a €70 million rolling fund to purchase vacant properties from institutional investors. By the end of the quarter the agency had made successful bids on 330 housing units and had closed over 130 contracts. In addition, the first quarter saw a significant milestone under the housing assistance payment scheme with the nationwide roll-out of the scheme being completed following its introduction on 1 March 2017 in the Dublin City, Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority areas. Eligible households in all 31 local authority areas can now avail of the scheme and €153 million has been made available for its operation in 2017. The scheme is on track to achieve its target of supporting 15,000 households during 2017.

Current and capital funding of €1.3 billion is in place for housing in 2017 with the aim of meeting the housing needs of some 21,000 households. The significant increase in momentum in programme implementation is evident in the pace of spend across the housing budget this year. In the period to the end of the first week of June 2017, spending was running at €0.5 billion, which is close to three times the spend in the corresponding period in 2016.

The third pillar addresses activity levels in the wider housing market. There is strong evidence that the measures outlined in Rebuilding Ireland are beginning to have the desired impact on increasing and accelerating housing supply albeit from a historically low base. Monthly housing activity reports prepared by the Department consistently show that planning permissions, commencement notices and residential connections to the ESB grid are rising steadily month-on-month. The Ulster Bank purchasing managers index points to a strong increase in house-building activity. The house builders elements of the index for May 2017 reached the highest point for over a year and registered the second fastest rate of expansion in residential construction during the 17 year history of the survey. In March, approvals were announced for 34 projects across 15 local authorities under the local infrastructure housing activation fund, paving the way for investment of €226 million in critical enabling infrastructure works between now and 2019. In turn, this will facilitate the delivery of 23,000 new homes by 2021.

Another recent achievement involved the publication of the Rebuilding Ireland housing land map, a comprehensive online mapping database of publicly owned lands in key areas that identifies potential additional land suitable for housing. The database includes details of over 700 local authority and Housing Agency owned sites, totalling some 1,700 hectares, as well as 30 sites with a combined area of 200 hectares in key urban areas owned by State and semi-State bodies. The map also shows the location of 144 active residential construction sites in the Dublin region, encompassing the construction of some 5,200 new dwellings. The land map will inform the approach to strategic State land management in the new national planning framework and will provide an evidence basis for a more proactive approach to strategic land management. The imperative now is to ensure that the State, in particular housing authorities, does everything in its power to deliver quality homes from these sites in the shortest possible timeframe. The Housing Agency has prepared a strategic management and development plan for the 73 land aggregation scheme sites. My Department will shortly be engaging with local authorities seeking similar plans for the delivery of housing from their sites.

The recent announcements from two local authorities, Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council, that they are bringing forward four key sites capable of delivering 3,000 social and affordable homes are an early indication of the potential opportunities presented by publicly owned lands. These sites are at Emmet Road, Infirmary Road and Oscar Traynor Road in Dublin city and at Kilcarbery in south Dublin.

The fourth pillar is focused on improving the rental sector. During the first quarter, ministerial orders were made designating a further 14 local electoral areas in parts of counties Cork, Galway, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow as rent pressure zones. These further designations mean that 57% of tenancies nationally, that is, some 186,000 rental households, now benefit from the rent predictability measures provided for in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016. The recently published Residential Tenancies Board rent index for the first quarter of the year shows a significant moderation in the rate of rent increases with rents virtually flat during the quarter. This is a welcome early sign of the impact of the Government rent stability measures, but we will be continuing to keep developments in the rental market under close scrutiny.

In February, major infrastructure works were launched at Cherrywood in Dublin as a first step in the delivery of over 1,300 new build-to-rent homes within an overall development of 8,000 homes within the strategic development zone site. All in all, this initiative represents one of the biggest urban development projects seen in Ireland in recent times. The aim is to start the construction of new homes this autumn. Easier, cheaper and more efficient means of enforcing Residential Tenancies Board determination orders will become available after new District Court rules are finalised next month. The new rules will allow such orders to be enforced through the District Court rather than at Circuit Court level. In addition, following its establishment in the first quarter, the working group on the tax treatment of landlords is continuing its work. Following the completion of a public consultation process the group will report to the tax strategy group and to Ministers in the third quarter in the context of budgetary preparations.

Under the fifth pillar, the Housing Agency has completed its preparatory work on a vacant housing re-use strategy. This is now being considered within the Department. We are engaging with other Departments, as appropriate, with the aim of bringing proposals to Government for consideration in the coming weeks. In the meantime, significant measures are in place to address vacant housing, including the roll-out of the repair and leasing scheme and the buy and renew scheme as well as the Housing Agency acquisition fund, which I have already mentioned. Local authorities are using the detailed census data to identify and follow up on vacant properties in key areas. They are actively engaging with property owners to support such properties being brought back into use, either for private or social housing purposes.

The report of the latest survey of unfinished housing developments was also published during the first quarter, confirming that a further 248 developments have now been fully resolved in the 12-month period since the previous survey. The latest survey has identified vacant and near complete units that have potential for social housing purposes. Local authorities will now be actively engaging with developers and receivers with a view to realising that potential. In overall terms, since the first survey in 2010 the number of unfinished developments has fallen from 3,000 to 420.

That is a quick summary or overview of progress on some key areas under each of the pillars, with a particular focus on key developments during the first quarter of 2017, the period covered by the third progress report. The three progress reports published to date and the additional comprehensive information we have published on the dedicated Rebuilding Ireland website as well as my Department's website show that relevant Departments, agencies, local authorities, approved housing bodies and other stakeholders have collectively made significant progress within the first nine months of what is a six-year housing and homelessness action plan. We are fully aware that further significant and challenging work remains to be done in accordance with the objectives and timelines set out in Rebuilding Ireland. Ongoing implementation, therefore, continues to be a top priority for the Government and will be evaluated in detail as part of the targeted review of Rebuilding Ireland that is now getting under way.

The next update on implementation will set out progress made in the second quarter of this year and will be finalised in late July or early August. I am happy to respond to any questions that members may have.

I have been requested to address a topical issue at 5 p.m. on the issue of a hotel being used for homeless accommodation for families as well as some concerns around fire safety. If the committee is willing, we might be able to suspend at that time to allow me to take that topical issue in the Chamber. I am happy to take any questions now.

I thank the Minister. We talked about that beforehand. We hope to be finished by then, but, if needs be, that is no problem.

A number of members want to put questions. We will stick to the first and second pillars, which address homelessness and accelerating social housing. We will be strict in sticking to the pillars being debated. The first member to speak is Deputy Ó Broin.

I have several questions on homelessness and social housing. I raised the issue previously of the monthly report and the numbers of people that the Department is reporting as homeless. The figures that come from the Department go through the pathway accommodation and support system funded through the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. We know that currently approximately 390 families have stamp 4 visas and are in direct provision. These people are on social housing waiting lists and full-time social welfare payments. They are effectively using direct provision as a form of emergency accommodation. The same applies to the figures from Tusla for domestic violence, refuge and step-down accommodation. This is accommodation for homeless adults and children as well. We do not have the 2016 figures but the figures for 2015 indicate almost 2,000 adults and almost 3,000 children are involved. There has to be a way for the Department to lead a conversation with Tusla and the Department of Justice and Equality to provide, on a quarterly basis, accurate figures of the number of adults and children who are homeless and in emergency accommodation funded by all three Departments. I urge the Minister to look at that as something that he could tackle quickly.

The major news item today is the announcement by the Minister that the deadline in Rebuilding Ireland to get families out of hotels by the end of this month has been missed. I am not surprised by that. It was patently clear for some time that the deadline was not going to be met because of the lack of supply of housing.

My question on this, however, is specific. The commitment on page 17 of Rebuilding Ireland was not to move families from hotels into other forms of emergency accommodation even if that other emergency accommodation is of a better quality. The key action on page 17 is explicit. Families were to be moved out and into two other types of housing: rapid builds and the Housing Agency initiatives. At what point did the Department change that target from being one to move those families out of hotels into permanent housing to being one to move some into permanent housing and others into emergency accommodation? At the end of the month the Department will notify families about where they are going. How many will remain in emergency accommodation after they are moved out of the hotels?

I am also concerned by some of the media reports on the hub. There will be a Topical Issue debate on this with the Minister. I have a specific question about it. At what stage did that premises get its certification of completion? My understanding is that a premises cannot be occupied legally until it gets its certificate of completion validated by Dublin City Council. Did it have its fire certificates and its disability access certificates certified by Dublin City Council? I am not looking for general assurances that it was fire safety compliant. I want to know if it met the legal requirements of the BCAR system before the families that recently spent the night there moved in, albeit it for one night. I would also like to know who is the assigned certifier for that premises.

Will the Minister give us an update on Housing First and the number of tenancies that have been delivered to date? I have three quick questions on the social housing end. I do not want to get into a row about the figure of 10,000 in the pipeline because I know that we will not agree on it. Of the 10,000 units that the Minister is saying are in the pipeline, I would like to know how many have commenced the Part 8 process. For how many of those has the Part 8 proposal been published? For me, the pipeline does not start until the Part 8 proposal is published.

I am very concerned about what I am hearing from a number of local authorities inside and outside of Dublin county around the ongoing problem of the approval process. We discussed this with Mr. John McCarthy and others. However, I am hearing that there is no improvement in the length of time between passing Part 8 and construction work starting. It is incredibly frustrating to elected members who pass Part 8 proposals to council officials. I would like us to return to that matter to see how long it is now actually taking from Part 8 approval to commencement and then to tenanting.

My last question concerns joint ventures. The Minister mentioned four. I am hearing worrying signals from at least one of the possible locations in Dublin city in terms of the market not coming back with viable alternatives. I am also hearing worrying things in terms of whether there will be any affordable units delivered and, in particular, in terms of Dublin, if there will be any affordable units. I would like more information on that. If the affordability cannot be guaranteed, I am urging the new Minister, as I did with his predecessor, to consider allowing, at least in one instance, a local authority to pilot a fully funded, council-led, mixed tenure estate on public land. Many of us have argued from the start that that would be a better and more cost-effective and sensible way from a housing management point of view of delivering those. I urge the Minister to consider that and ask for his responses.

As a member of the committee, I wish the Minister well and congratulate him on his appointment. It is in all our interests that Rebuilding Ireland would be a success, notwithstanding the gaps that we know that are in it in terms of supply initiatives. We hope to use our influence in so far as we can to try to ensure that the Minister takes on board some of our initiatives and policy directives in that area. Rather than going into that now though, as the Chair has said, we want to focus on the progress and the implementation of the existing plan under the various headings and pillars to ascertain what improvements can be made in order to make some progress. Unfortunately, we have not seen the level of progress that had been intended. That is quite obvious.

Based on the figures we have been examining, homelessness has increased since January 2016 to April of this year by in the region of 28%. Based on the figures associated with that percentage increase, 11 people every day have presented themselves as homeless during the lifetime of this Government. The Minister states that there have been 3,000 successful exits. As previous speakers said, he states that within this plan it was envisaged exits from homelessness would be directed towards modular units and social agency homes. Will the Minister confirm that we still have only 22 modular units completed? We have been hearing about pipelines for close on two years now. However, specific to this plan and the commitments made within it, will the Minister confirm that, as of now and the completion of the quarter about which we are questioning the Minister, only 22 units have been provided?

It is clear that the social housing units are not being delivered at the pace envisaged either or we would not have the increases that we have in homelessness. As has been alluded to, the Government has made a conscious decision to provide family hubs. As temporary forms of accommodation, I welcome them. They are an improvement, one would say, on the hotel and emergency accommodation that was provided heretofore. However, it is quite obvious that the Government will not meet the commitment made by the previous Minister. Will the Minister say when the Government might realise that success? In terms of what the Minister has said to us today, he states that "significant additional resources are in place under budget 2017, which will again enable the achievement of a further increase this year of sustainable exits from homelessness". Is that a further commitment to us that the Government will have achieved its targets then? Has the Minister reassessed the targets considering the increase in homelessness? Is it purely confined to the area of family hubs in terms of how people will exit homelessness?

The other point relates to what is to be discussed this evening. It follows on our discussion yesterday with the Department in relation to the Airbnb situation. As I said then, based on a decision of An Bord Pleanála last year and circulars by the Department to local authorities, there is a responsibility on local authorities and planning authorities to enforce the planning laws and guidelines. In those cases, one would have expected a trawl of units that were being offered although they did not have the relevant planning permission given the decision of An Bord Pleanála. However, it is patently obvious that local authorities do not have the staff, resources or inspectors to ensure that that work is done.

When we hear today that emergency accommodation which was to be provided for the homeless fails a fire inspector's test, I am sure that it sets off alarm bells. Do we have the inspectors, manpower and resources to ensure that property being made available for those in these circumstances also meets the requirements? I spoke to a representative of a local authority this morning about the responsibilities for the housing assistance payment and the rental accommodation scheme and was told that the local authority had not got around to inspecting all the properties that are currently let and are in receipt of funds. Given what happened in the UK last week, this sets off alarm bells. There must be an immediate effort on the part of the Government and those in responsibility to ensure that whatever funding, personnel and expertise are necessary is made available so that we can say categorically that the issue is being dealt with effectively, properly and to the letter of the law. If there is any deviation from that, there is a culpability and those in authority with responsibilities must respond immediately to it.

If the Department truly believes that local authorities do not have adequate resources or staff to deal with those issues, we want to know about it. We do not want to hear about it after some tragedy. The tragedy of homelessness is bad enough and urgent enough. It is a crisis and an emergency. Unfortunately, that urgency did not manifest itself yesterday when I heard a Department official say that, as far as it is concerned about the Airbnb issue, which is only one aspect of many commercial realities contributing towards this crisis, local authorities have not had a reported incident that would agree with the decision of An Bord Pleanála.

They have not been trawling their own records and files because they do not appear to have the wherewithal, manpower or expertise to do so. God forbid that the same situation would arise with regard to the inspection of properties being offered to people to reside in. I remind the committee that in many such cases, the State makes a contribution through the housing assistance payment and rental accommodation schemes. That is the issue in a nutshell. I ask the Minister to respond to it. What progress is being made with modular units?

As I said to the previous Minister, we should be told if there is a legislative issue with the provision and deliverability of modular units. Members of the Opposition and others are willing to consider legislation to ensure speedier progress can be made with this issue so that homes of this type can be made available. That is what we are interested in doing. We sat late into the night a few years ago to deal with the banking crisis. We are only too willing to assist in ensuring adequate legislative provision is made. We are prepared to enable emergency legislation to be put in place for a period of time to ensure people can see there is real urgency and a real effort to deliver.

As I have said, this well-intended plan received the resources needed for the input and effort of stakeholders. When it was initially proposed, we said it was all about its implementation. Just nine months later, we are unable to realise some of the modest targets contained in it. This issue is being overtaken by events and commercial realities. The measures being taken in respect of the house construction and provision sectors, including the social responsibility measures, are driven by demand initiatives, with no emphasis on supply. I have explained what I would like to see happen, which is a broader point. I have asked a few specific questions about homelessness that I would like to see answered.

I thank the committee for graciously facilitating me. I will have to leave shortly. I was here at 2 p.m. I understand someone was detained elsewhere. I welcome the Minister, who holds one of the most important briefs in the Cabinet. It is because there is so much riding on his success that we all want to work constructively with him. As Deputy Cowen has said, we want to help to remove any roadblocks that are in the way.

I would like to talk to the Minister about the position with regard to rough sleeping in Cork. Many of the examples he gave in his opening address referred to Dublin. I assure him that there are serious and unattended homelessness issues outside the capital. The number of rough sleepers in Cork has increased ninefold from 38 to 345. While those numbers can be managed, they are greatly in excess of what we have known in previous years. When I left Cork in 2011, there were enough beds in Cork city for every homeless person who wanted one. We were worried about long-term homelessness and getting people out of emergency accommodation, but now there is an actual problem with rough sleeping.

When I attended the AGM of Cork Simon on Monday, I heard that housing is the key. I learned that those involved are tearing their hair out because they cannot get access to housing. They are running into all sorts of difficulties. They are anxious for housing to be developed in the city in the first instance. They are waiting for the go-ahead to do that. They have argued that a rolling programme of funding under the capital assistance scheme would be of assistance. Every time they receive a new call, they have to go back to the drawing board. They sometimes find that the houses or sites they have identified have gone because the market is so competitive.

This year's target for the rapid-build programme, which enables people to move out of emergency accommodation, was 1,000, but I understand it now looks like the final outturn will be just 200. What are the hold-ups in this regard? Should we be refocusing on permanent housing, rather than moving people from pillar to post from hotels to hubs and into rapid-builds? Children need to have permanency. If they do not know where they are and what schools they are going to, we will store up huge mental health problems for the future.

What about the funding for mental health and homelessness? The Minister said that when he visited Dublin Simon, he saw its excellent detox and addition services. It is running a counselling service on fund-raised moneys. The provision of €140,000 a year would cover these costs, but instead Dublin Simon has to raise funds. It supports approximately 450 people every year. A modest investment in its ability to provide these services would make a big difference.

Approximately 2,500 children are living in emergency accommodation. I am concerned about them in the here and now and also about their futures. We are impairing their futures by not acting.

While Rebuilding Ireland is well and good, I suggest we need to step back and look with fresh eyes at a fundamental new approach to housing in Ireland. Deputy Ó Broin and I share the view that there is a need to look at constitutional rights in this area. I intend to convene a seminar on this issue on 13 July next. All members of this committee will be invited. I hope they will be able to attend.

I heard the Minister on the news last night. I saw him with my colleague, Gene Clayton, in Ballyfermot. It is great to see that this scheme, which has been in development for a long time, is happening. I congratulate those involved.

I understand the Minister is looking for fresh ideas. I would like him to turn his attention to Singapore, which solved its real housing problem by establishing a housing development agency to build houses on very tight pieces of land. Approximately 80% of people in Singapore live in houses that were built by that country's Government and sold on 99-year leases. The remaining 20% of people are renting. It is an innovative place to look at. We always look at the Nordic countries. The Singapore approach to housing provides us with an interesting example. I will leave some details of that with the Minister to be considered in addition to what we are looking at now with Rebuilding Ireland.

We are falling behind on key targets. I do not think we are winning the war. I suggest we should consider the right to housing and look at the Singapore example. I am really sorry that I have taken up the time of proper members of this committee. I wanted to catch the Minister before I left. I hope I can stay for another five minutes to hear his response.

As the Senator is deputising for Senator Grace O'Sullivan, she is a proper member of this committee.

I am never quite sure. I am still learning.

We are very accommodating.

I would like to raise the topics of homelessness and social housing with the Minister. It is no surprise to me or to many others that the July target for solving the emergency accommodation issue will not be met. The Minister apparently announced €10 million today to move 200 families from hotels and B&Bs into hubs. It seems to me, unless I am interpreting the figures incorrectly, that he is talking about spending €50,000 per family. This equates to approximately one third of the cost of building a house. I ask the Minister to reflect on that for a minute. There are 650 families in emergency accommodation or hotels. Rather than allocating €32.5 million to put them into hubs, why not provide €100 million to build houses for all of them? This follows on from the point about Housing First that was made by a previous speaker.

As someone who deals with many homeless families, I think it is better to be in a hub than in a hotel. We all agree that it is certainly a step up. Families in hubs can cook, enjoy certain facilities and have a bit more security. We all know that there are curfews. It is like a Magdalen laundry-type situation in so far as it involves putting people in collective units. The Minister can shake his head, but I remind him that one of these facilities is an old Magdalen laundry. The point is that it is better than a hotel, but it is not very good in the long term. People cannot bring family members back. People cannot socialise or have a glass of wine. Their way of life is restricted.

Rather than pursuing the hub strategy, why does the Government not try to acquire vacant housing? We all know that there is loads of it in Dublin and all the other areas. We are always told this is never possible until it actually becomes possible. After the Grenfell fire in London, the Tories in Britain suddenly found the money to rehouse families that had lost everything in housing that was lying vacant.

How come they could do that? They could do it because of the political pressure on them to do it and because Jeremy Corbyn has been raising it for a week and there have been protests. We could do the same here but there is no political will to do so.

On social housing, the Minister stated that he went over the target. The targets are a joke. They are obviously too low, otherwise homelessness would not be increasing. Of the 19,000 households that had their needs met across the range of programmes, only 652 were newly built social housing units. That is an incredibly low figure considering there has been an emergency brewing for years.

Dr. Rory Hearne from TASC has made the point, which I am sure the Minister has heard, that in the Dublin City Council area it would take 40 years at the rate things are going to house everybody on the social housing list. It is actually worse in that it is estimated that there are approximately 211,600, or 10%, of households in so-called unaffordable and insecure housing. It is actually double the social housing list. One would be waiting 80 years to sort their problems out.

I will be frank. This is an ideological issue. The Minister must know this is not working for those affected, although it is working for some. It is working really well for the developers, for the elite who are building luxury houses, for example, all over Dublin 15 but mainly in the plush parts of Castleknock where one cannot afford to buy them and where the crisis is not as acute.

The Taoiseach stated he intends to invest more in social housing. How much more? Does the Minister know? How many decades will it take to house all those on the social housing list and in that severe unaffordable and insecure sector I mentioned? That would include a range of different people who have already been mentioned, such as those in direct provision and those in refuges for domestic violence.

On social house building, I doubt it will be dealt with today but maybe the committee could consider undertaking a session on it. The pattern of social house building that has been favoured in recent years is getting private developers to build social housing but the problem with that is twofold. It adds to the cost of a house because the developer has to get a cut, which can be anything from 10% to 20%. In the old days when local authorities were given funding, they could build them directly and it was much cheaper. The other aspect is work conditions. The Minister comes with an interest, and from a background, in finance, and maybe this is a session we could have to go into it in detail and invite in building workers. However, I have good information that there are building workers on the Dolphin regeneration project, for example, for a number of weeks who have been told that they are PAYE workers but who have not yet seen a payslip, have not had any interaction from Revenue and are getting paid in cash or by cheque. We all know building workers have been forced to be entrepreneurs and self-employed. It is a bogus way to operate and the State is losing out massive amounts of revenue which does not seem to be of any interest to it. If this is going on in social house building projects right now, it is a real cause for concern. Will the Minister look into it? There have been many instances of it.

What is happening is sub-contractors are being brought in from the North. I have no problem with where a sub-contractor is from but that generally creates a lot of difficulties - Rapid and Malmac being two of them. I heard a joke from a Dublin worker that, ironically, the harder the Brexit, the better for them. The reason the worker said so is because building workers are coming down from the North and driving back up every day. When that happens, it is not good for work conditions and for pay. It is bad that this is going on in projects getting State investment. We had a campaign about welfare fraud but this is fraud as well, if people are not-----

I am not trying to curtail Deputy Coppinger but, because she does not have any proof of that, it is unfair to go down that line.

Whether it is true or false, we do not have anybody here to defend or verify that.

Okay. I am finishing on that now. The proof is that workers have told me they are not getting payslips and they work on the Dolphin regeneration project. Officials from the Department of Finance or wherever can look into it.

I am sure it is quite depressing for those who, believe it or not, occasionally listen in to these debates, that we are not hearing any announcement of a change in policy or that maybe the Minister needs a bit of time to make a change. There is no way we can resolve the scale of the housing crisis through relying primarily on the private sector through HAPS, RAS and all these schemes. It seems it is difficult to get a movement in society around this issue, like we got on the water charges or on other issues because people are in such dire straits. That is the only way I can see pressure being brought to get change from Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil is not fundamentally different - maybe there is a nuance of a difference. Does the Minister see that it is just not possible? Unless there is public affordable housing on a major scale, we will see people suffering in this way.

Will the Minister take the first four? We will then have another round on this pillar. We have a further five questioners after this.

I thank the members for their questions. I have taken a note of each one and I will come back to each. Please bear with me. Deputy Ó Broin raised the issue of the numbers of reported homeless, what we count and how we count it, and it is a valid question. We in the Department are responsible for our own numbers and we publish them. We are good in getting the information we get out there. It is appropriate that we do so. I understand the point the Deputy is making, and I have spoken about that with officials and I will look at it. We cannot be responsible for how others report their numbers but if there is scope for us to co-ordinate with other parts of Government to see how we can get a total figure on this, we will try to do that. Whether or not the Deputy was counting those who are in direct provision is another question but I am coming into this brief with an open mind, which is important. My predecessor, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, has done an excellent piece of work in Rebuilding Ireland and given all the work everyone on this committee, led by the Chairman, has done as well, now is the time to see whether there are new initiatives we can bring forward. We are 12 months in and whether a new person is coming into the brief or not, it is good practice to review what one is doing every 12 months, at least when it comes to policy initiatives but also given the importance of this brief. I am keeping an open mind.

The target for homeless families was an ambitious one. However, having an ambitious target was good because it has driven a huge amount of work to get homeless families out of hotels across the country, in particular, in the four local authorities in Dublin where it matters more than most because 85% of homeless families have presented in Dublin. If one looks at the total figure from when this plan was launched last year to the end of May, approximately 1,200 who presented as homeless were either moved out of hotels or prevented from going into hotels because other supports were found for them. Of course, that speaks to the scale of the crisis but a huge amount of work was done by the local authorities.

Earlier today, I announced that we would allocate an additional €10 million to the existing €25 million for the building of these family help supports so that rather than have 600 families accommodated, we will have 800 families accommodated - an additional 200 families. At the end of May, although we are still waiting for the final figure, there were roughly 650 families in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation. I have made the commitment not only with that funding but also in working with the local authorities that by the end of this month, those 65 families will either have been moved out of their commercial accommodation or will know where they are going because they have been given a letter telling them where they are going. That will happen in a number of weeks. Of course, some families will remain due to exceptional circumstances. Unique individual needs will need tailored solutions.

However, we have seen an increase in families presenting as homeless, in particular in the last number of months, which is why I have made that new funding available for the new hubs. That will accommodate 200 families. One site has already been chosen and we will get those other sites up and running as quickly as we can.

How many families will remain in some form of emergency accommodation by the end of July, for example?

We do not yet know the total number who will present-----

Of the 600 or so currently in the hotels, how many will get permanent homes and how many will remain in other forms of emergency accommodation?

Of the approximately 650 families there at the end of May, a large number will move out of commercial accommodation in hotels into hubs or other supports while others who will not have been moved by the end of the month will have been notified by letter where they are going.

The Minister thinks all those families are going to stay in emergency accommodation.

Of the 650-odd families currently in hotels, how many will be moved to permanent tenancies and how many will be in another form of emergency accommodation, hub or otherwise, by the end of the summer?

This is the purpose of the meeting I am having with the local authorities in the morning. I have been interacting with them all week. I held a meeting with them on Monday and asked the Secretary General to write again on Tuesday. Obviously, when I came into the Department the first thing I asked about when I met the Secretary General on the Thursday morning was Grenfell Tower, to be completely honest, and my responsibilities and what we needed to do in that regard. I can come back to that in response to some of the earlier contributions, as I will in a moment. The second thing I asked about was homeless families, fully aware of the ambitious and useful target that was there. We have to stretch that out now, which is why I have allocated the additional funding requested and will work with the local authorities to ensure there is certainty for the number there at the end of May. We will then see how we are going to deal with the increase in presentations we have had over the course of June. We know there has been an increase because that is what I was informed on Monday.

I am dealing with the local authorities every day to try to get this done. As I have more information, I will present it. I have had the opportunity to be at a couple of fantastic events in the last few days and yesterday I got to give a lady the keys to a new home. It is very exciting for her and very important. I know this is absolutely inappropriate and that it must stop. We are committed to making it stop which is why I am meeting the local authorities tomorrow morning again to find out exactly what we are going to do here.

On the same question, can the Minister comment on my point that €10 million to deal with 200 families is €50,000 each?

Certainly. I was going to come back to that because I have taken a note. I wanted to go in sequence. It is the same question and there is a thing around costs. I visited the Mater Dei hub and encourage anyone to go and see this building. What would have taken 18 months has taken about 18 weeks. There are over 160 people on site working continuously.

It is the Mater Dei site. It is one of the family hubs coming on stream to support about 50 families.

We are under time pressure. There is no problem with members coming back in at the end, but if we want to get through the answers, we must allow the Minister to respond without interruption.

I am only apologising because I have to leave at 4 p.m., because it started an hour later. This is in case I have to leave before the end. Just to say, however, that our job is to interrogate the spending of money.

Absolutely, and if we allow the Minister to reply without interruption, we might get the answers.

These hubs are not hotels. They are incredibly impressive. They will have playrooms, cooking facilities and wraparound services for children including homework clubs and supports to help families move out and on to permanent forms of accommodation, which is what we want. It is well worth it. When the Deputy talks about the spend, we have to solve this now. I understand that she says if we spent three times as much, we could put these people into actual homes. However, we cannot build homes overnight. However, we can build hubs in less than 18 weeks. If our priority is to get them out of hotels, we will work on that. What we are getting for what we are spending is good value. Families will come in and families will move out and we will have these units for a number of years. We will be able to deliver good value for the money being spent.

I will be addressing the Lynams Hotel issue as a Topical Issue in the Dáil later. No closure notice was issued. This is being operated by Dublin City Council in conjunction with the fire authorities. When the building works and the project is completed, this hotel is going to become a hub for families. It is being operated in full compliance and no one is there as a tenant at the moment. There is, therefore, an opportunity to do the work that needs to be done to make it a first-class hub. That is what is happening. If it is all right with the committee, I will address that in a little more detail when I speak on the Topical Issue. It is important to note that this particular location was used as an absolute last resort when it was used. Ten rooms in the building were made available on one floor and 24-7 surveillance was put in place by the fire authorities to ensure that it was safe and that everything else was up to standard. However, we do not want to see Lynams - sorry I do not want to name the hotel - continuing to be used as emergency accommodation in its hotel form. We want to transform it into a hub and that work is under way.

This is quite an important point. Is it legal to have people in that property without a certificate of completion? This is the last BCAR certificate.

My understanding is that it is legal because the fire authorities have inspected the building and put in place any measures they feel are necessary at the moment. There are no families there at the moment. Given the window they have, they are working with the local authority to continue completion works.

Deputy Ó Broin also referred to Housing First and the number of tenancies to date. There are just under 100 under the Housing First policy but more will be coming online in August. I have had a great deal to do already, but I have had a chance to look at this policy and to see exactly what it means by meeting with the McVerry trust. It is a very exciting way to look at things. I know they have been doing even more innovative things in Canada and I am looking forward to looking at that to see what more we can do.

Deputy Ó Broin also raised the issue of the 10,000 houses in the pipeline. This is an issue he has raised before in terms of what and how we are counting. We can come back to how we discuss numbers in more detail if this is a target we want to meet. If a particular site will not be met by local authorities, then they will have to find a new site. In the Deputy's own local authority area, 40% of what is designated is already on-site, which is a welcome development.

On getting Part 8 and moving to construction, Deputy Cowen talked about supply. One of the things I have been speaking about since I took the brief is the need for direct measures to improve supply. Of course, that means ensuring that once we get planning permission, we get on site and get building quickly. We are going to move to put timelines around the four-stage process we have so people can be clear on the timelines at each stage. Where there were previous bottlenecks, for example, with the rapid builds, the previous Minister, Deputy Coveney, to be fair to the very good work he has done, put in place a special framework for procurement so that we could move more quickly.

Deputy Ó Broin also raised the matter of affordable rent and the idea of the council piloting a mixed tenure estate. This is something I am going to look at. Deputy Ó Broin has done some work on this. Affordable rental has to be a big part of the new measures we bring online very quickly because it is a key part in this chain or pyramid, depending on how one likes to analyse the problems we have, in ensuring homes are affordable for people to rent. When we have the supply at affordable rents, we will look at measures to get people greater security of tenure.

Deputy Cowen said the homelessness figure had increased since January with 11 new people presenting each day. Obviously, that is very worrying and difficult for those who present. Social housing output got ahead of target last year from 17,000 to 19,000, as I noted in my opening statement. Good work is being done but this continues to be a challenge. No one is saying this has been solved or that we have finished what we needed to do. We need to continue to do as much work as we have been doing which is why it is good to see the progress that has been made under Housing First. I had the chance to look at St. Agatha's Court, which is where some Housing First people will get new homes. That is very welcome. We also have the new HAP homeless scheme, the flexibility and achievements around which members will be familiar with. That has also been very welcome. I was asked how many modular units and rapid builds had been completed. There will be 68 completed in July with an additional 30 by August, however 500 are advancing. The delay there was procurement but that has been solved. We have that new framework, which is very welcome.

Deputy Cowen also raised the issue of getting families out of hotels. It is not a question of saying the problem will be solved when the families have moved from hotels to hubs. That is not the solution. The hubs are a first response and not the end of what we want to do. What we want to do is find sustainable, secure tenancies for these families.

That is incredibly important. I mentioned this earlier today when I was with Focus Ireland and spoke about some of the issues that I was made aware of by people who were working in early years education. A number of years ago, some of the problems that people were having were around social and language skills with children aged from birth to three years because of problems we had coming out of the recession and the problems in terms of resources and unemployment in families. Some of the problems that are being presented today are in relation to motor skills because of the lack of crawling space for children who are in crowded accommodation or are in hotels and everything else. That is why the hubs are so important but they are only the first response, not the final response in dealing with homeless families.

The issue of Airbnb was raised and I know that officials were here talking about it yesterday. By the third quarter, we will have the report that was intended to be ready by now. The shared economy is fantastic in a nation wherever it arises, be it in relation to issues around motor vehicles, GoCar, car sharing, how we deliver food but also how we live and how some people manage to get a little bit of extra cash each week or month to meet their own accommodation bills. The shared economy, however, also presents new problems when it comes to things such as Airbnb and that is why we will need to reach a memorandum of understanding between the Government and Airbnb around some of these issues.

The Minister has answered questions on hotels and I want to clarify a point. The numbers are increasing, unfortunately, in respect of those who are presenting as homeless. The Government is not meeting the target that was set. The Minister has said that hotels will be used in exceptional circumstances. Does the Minister consider we are in exceptional circumstances if the figures continue to rise? Will it remain a policy to use hotels in exceptional circumstances?

Let me clarify what exceptional circumstances refers to and that is where there is an exceptional circumstance for a family that is already being looked after in a hotel and we are not going to move as quickly or as easily with that particular family because of a unique consideration that might be there that will require a tailored response. The policy commitment was always to make sure that families that were presenting as homeless would go into hotels by the middle of this year and that those already in hotels would be out of hotels, apart from those exceptional circumstances where we are working very hard to find those tailored solutions.

When one talks about presentations, there has been a spike in the number. At the end of May, the figure was 650. In terms of the increases we have seen in the past couple of months, between March and May 600 new families presented as homeless. If we step back, however, and look at the figures at the end of March and at the end of May, we see a decrease in homeless families in hotels, down from 847 to 650. The actual number is much higher because, in that period, 600 additional families presented as homeless and what happened with those additional families was that some were prevented from going into hotels directly, which was a good intervention, but others had to go to hotels. Far more people have been accommodated and if it were not for this spike in the past couple of months, the target would have been met.

Rents are still increasing, so more people will present. Of those people who find themselves homeless, their last residence was more than likely rental accommodation. Families go from rental accommodation to families, to displacement and then to homelessness. We are still in exceptional circumstances. It is still an option and it must remain an option. It is unfortunate, but it remains an option. I want to have the Minister confirm that rather than making a commitment that cannot be adhered to.

We have provided an additional €10 million for hubs. One hub has already been identified to house 200 new families, so that we can get them out of hotels as quickly as possible.

That is the point. The Minister referred to budget 2017, but it did not provide for spikes or exceptional circumstances which have arisen and are quite obvious to us now. Does the Minister have enough funds within his existing envelope or will he need supplementary funds to meet the demands that are being placed on him in this area?

We have put in this additional €10 million to house an additional 200 families. I have been able to move money from elsewhere in the same budget to the hubs budget to increase it to €35 million. Sites have already been identified to do this. It is an unfortunate situation to be in that, as we move into the beginning of the second half of this year, there will still be, according to the latest numbers I received on Monday - I will get an update tomorrow morning from the local authorities - homeless families in hotel accommodation that are not some of those in the exceptional circumstances that we talked about. We will have to stretch out the target, get the new hubs up online and get those families into those hubs. The hubs are just the first response. We will move them on from there as quickly as we can.

Are local authorities adequately resourced and funded to carry out the inspection responsibilities and duties that are incumbent on them in relation to the issue I mentioned in respect of Airbnb, and in relation to fire services?

I allowed Deputy Cowen back in because I had allowed Deputies Ó Broin and Coppinger. We will now allow the Minister to finish.

I was coming to that point. It is important to state that there is responsibility in the Department because of the local authorities and the fire authorities. The Department is also responsible for the building regulations. One of the first things I did was to request all local authorities to carry out inspections of their multi-unit developments to make sure that life safety, being the first issue we have to be concerned about, was in place so that if there was an event, people could get out of the buildings alive.

The second thing I requested the fire authorities to do was to ensure that they were happy they had the resources to respond to an event of such scale if it were to happen. It has been confirmed to me that they have confidence in their ability to respond. We have also communicated with the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, and to all people under the RTB, about their responsibilities to ensure that life safety measures are in place. We have also used the people registered under the building control management system, BCMS, to make sure that they understand their responsibilities in this regard. That is 57,000 users and that work has been completed. That is the first piece we have to do here.

The second piece, which we are moving to now - it was always intended to be done in fairness to the Department - is inspections and considering how we now move, using the BCMS, to a risk-based model of inspection and what resources are necessary to do that. We are inspecting the riskiest buildings first and we know which buildings are involved. That is the work that I will embark on at the beginning of next week.

My first piece of work this week was to make sure about life safety measures and that is what we have been doing.

I can give a concrete example of a local authority that is way behind in its inspection of properties that are being funded by HAP and RAS.

This is exactly the work that is happening now. We are looking at the resources that will be needed and what has happened already to date. We know that in some local authorities the inspection rate is as high as 70%, but in others it is not as high. That is why we want to move to a risk-based model because that is the better model.

An inspection rate of 70% is not good enough. We need to know exactly what it would cost to have it foolproof. The Minister has a job to do in respect of Government finances to ensure that local authorities are adequately resourced and financed to carry out those inspections, which we would expect them to do anyhow, but which they cannot do at present.

I confirm to the Deputy that the first piece of work is around life safety and making sure that people are safe where they are at the moment. There are a number of further pieces of work that we need to do around the regulations. There is a new volume coming out at the beginning of July and there is a second volume to be reviewed in relation to fire safety. We need to get a full output in relation to what we think probably happened at Grenfell, and that means information on the use of materials, how they have been used to date, whether the regulations were breached and around the inspections. We will move to that phase now because I received a report yesterday evening on the life safety measure and the things that have been done. I reported that to the Dáil during Private Members' business.

Deputy Cowen raised the issue of supply. We have to look at direct true supply measures. Part of that will be the strategy on vacant housing and vacant sites as well, which is on my desk. There is some work that I want to do first to ensure that we unlock all those stranded assets that are there. We have seen the figures and if even a small percentage of existing housing stock that is vacant could be unlocked, it would make a significant impact on the market for people who need to rent at a more sustainable rate.

Senator Colette Kelleher mentioned the number of people sleeping rough in Cork. We are bringing the homeless HAP payment to Cork. We are bringing that forward at the moment. A new hub is coming on stream.

Sorry, Chairman, where is that?

Cork. I mentioned Housing First, and I spoke to the McVerry trust about Housing First. I know more progress has been made in Canada. A couple of new ideas could be added to Housing First. That is good and I will look at the suggestions and report back on them when I can.

In respect of Ballyfermot, I apologise that the local representatives were not invited to the Ballyfermot meeting.

I did not know that at the time and if I had, everyone would have been invited. I am glad to say that Deputy Ó Broin and Councillor Doolan were there this morning at the Focus Ireland event. I apologise to Deputies because they wanted to be there and should have been there. It is a great project and it is more than just 70 new homes. We need to find solutions for people who want to downsize. The lady to whom I was fortunate enough to give the keys to her new home was downsizing from a house and 16 new tenants in those homes had come from larger family homes in the area. We did not just unlock 70 new homes; we actually unlocked 86. The Iveagh Trust, together with the council, the authority and the Department, were able to do that. I have been given the documentation on Singapore. I will look at it to see what they are doing with their housing development agency. I am open to ideas and Deputy Ó Broin has his own document which I will also look at. It is very helpful at this point in time in terms of the review we are doing.

On not winning the war and meeting our key targets, what I would say is that in the course of the previous year, 1,200 homeless families were either removed from hotels or prevented from going into hotels because we found other solutions for them. That is very important to say when we look at the figures. It is a big challenge. A lot of resources have been put in to tackle this challenge and additional resources were made available today by me. The social housing output is ahead of target which is a good thing. We have to keep driving it. We cannot let up at all in terms of making sure we are doing as much as we can for those targets.

On the points Deputy Coppinger raised, we spoke already about the new hubs and funding for homeless families that was made available today. I am glad the Deputy welcomes the hubs although I would not compare them to Magdalen laundries. If she goes to Mater Dei-----

Deputy Coppinger had to leave.

Deputy Coppinger is not here. One would not compare it to a Magdalen laundry. It is grossly unfair. I hope the Deputy can get down there while some of the workmen are still on site because it is an incredibly positive story. Fifty families will go in there, not forever but for a short period. The assistance that is there will get them out of the hub into more permanent accommodation. It is far superior to where they find themselves now. The Deputy will be pleasantly surprised when she looks at things like the homework room or media room. There is a really great play space with a tree house and everything else. There will be a playground outside and there will be allotments, which are for gardening, although I am not quite sure if they will be growing vegetables in them. There is a lot there for the families for the time they will be there, which will be temporary before they move on to more permanent solutions.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Deputy Coppinger is not here. It is grossly unfair to compare it to a Magdalen laundry. I hope the Deputy can get down there while some of the workmen are still on site because it is an incredibly positive story. Fifty families will go in there, not forever but for a short period. The assistance that is there will get them out of the hub into more permanent accommodation. It is far superior to where they find themselves now. The Deputy will be pleasantly surprised when she looks at things like the homework room or media room. There is a really great play space with a tree house and everything else. There will be a playground outside and there will be allotments, which are for gardening, although I am not quite sure if they will be growing vegetables in them. There is a lot there for the families for the time they will be there, which will be temporary before they move on to more permanent solutions.

Deputy Coppinger also raised the issue of vacant housing and what we are doing on that. I will publish the strategy when I am happy with some of the new measures I want to bring into it but 1,900 homes were acquired last year. It is very important that stuff is being done. When it comes to political will, there will not be any ideology coming from me on this.

That would mark the Minister out from Leo and Paschal.

Not at all. I spoke to the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, earlier about this. I made that exact point to him and he made the exact same point back to me. I have also said it to the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar. When he appointed me, he said no idea is too radical. He told me to think of everything and not to dismiss anything because it does not sound like something Fine Gael might support. That is the approach I am taking. I see this as an emergency and a crisis. I have also signalled to the Attorney General that I want to sit down with him. I mentioned this earlier today. If we need to find new laws and new powers, we have to move quickly to do it. It is very important to me.

It is true that only 652 social housing units were built last year. It is true but we were starting from scratch in terms of what had been done previously. The target for this year is 2,400 and 2,000 are already on site in terms of construction, which is positive. A lot of good work has been done by the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney. Deputy Coppinger said there were 211,000 households in insecure housing. I am not sure what service she was referring to. People are probably asking when we will get the housing market fixed but it is not just a market issue. We have had a dysfunctional market here in many ways since the mid-1990s. We have to find a way to fix the market but we also have to make a much bigger intervention in terms of what has been done to date by the local authorities and Government. The Deputy asked what the Taoiseach meant when he talked about investing more money in social housing. What the Taoiseach said was that if new money needed to be found, we will have to find it. Meetings have already been held by the Minister of Finance in the Department of Finance and my own Department on EUROSTAT and what can be done to fund projects off-balance sheet and through public private partnerships. That is important. Meetings have also been held by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, with the European Investment Bank on new avenues for funding. We need to make sure that in finding solutions, money will not be the problem. That is what we need to make sure of. We will do everything we can to do that in investments that need to be made.

I will not comment on the site the Deputy mentioned because I do not have any evidence in front of me. Deputy Boyd Barrett has reported sites previously when he was worried about suspicious work practices. It can be reported on and inspected. The construction cost review was touched on by Deputy Coppinger. This work is being done at the moment. Two reviews are being done. One is an international benchmarking exercise which is important to see if we are outliers in any way when it comes to construction costs. The other review being done, which my Department is involved in, is on the cradle-to-grave construction costs. We will have the results of that review at the end of August. What does it actually cost at each point in the chain and what can be done to try to reduce some of those costs? That work will be completed at the end of August. I think I have answered all of the questions raised in the first round.

I compliment the Minister on his new position. I know he will do lots of work for us because we are counting on him.

I had massive concerns when I read in the paper this morning that homelessness targets in Rebuilding Ireland are not being met. As previous speakers said, I am not surprised. Many of the issues previous speakers mentioned have been raised over the past number of months. Sometimes I feel they are not being listened to. We all know Dublin has a crisis. It is great we are working with Dublin and trying to sort it. Rural Ireland also has a crisis, although perhaps not to the same degree. We have massive issues. Rural areas are forgotten. I say this all the time. If one reads the reports that came in yesterday and the Minister's response, one will see the statistics are on Dublin. I have no issues with that, but I have concerns that no other counties in Ireland are being mentioned apart from Dublin. It is unfair. Nothing can be accurate until there is some sort of information on other parts of the country. We are getting figures but I do not think they add up.

Another concern, which I have brought up on several occasions, is to do with women's refuges. I am told they are the responsibility of a different Department. Nobody is taking responsibility. I have massive issues with this. Every county in Ireland should have a women's refuge because women and children are at risk of homelessness. There is none in Carlow and Kilkenny and Waterford are full. It is the Minister's duty to have a refuge in every county where there is a population as big as Carlow county, which is over 50,000. We have no women's refuge. We cannot get people to Kilkenny or Waterford. In 2017, there is no need for this. Every time I bring it up with different Departments I am told it is the responsibility of another Department. It is a housing need so perhaps the Minister can look at it.

In terms of the hub, I am not sure what impact it will have on Dublin. In rural areas such as Carlow, I do not know if the hub will be a solution. We have buildings that could be bought cheaply. I have said it here on several occasions. We now have a market in which housing and buildings are quite reasonably priced and could be bought more cheaply than renting them. My other issue is renting. We have spoken about the HAP scheme here before. I have massive concerns about it. It changed from the rent allowance scheme to the HAP scheme but landlords do not want to accept HAP. It is a massive concern particularly in rural areas. There needs to be legislation or something from the Department to say that if one is on the local authority housing list and qualifies for HAP, they should be put on the HAP scheme if they go looking for a rented house and have a good record. It is not happening and that is why the homelessness crisis is getting worse. The scheme has changed from the rent allowance scheme. It is quite good because under the scheme people are allowed to work a certain number of hours. All of that is taken into consideration, which I appreciate because it gives people an incentive if they want to work.

However, getting people to take the HAP is the biggest issue. They are then coming in to the local authorities and presenting as homeless. It must then be asked what is the criteria for homelessness. As far as I can see, every local authority is saying that this is homelessness and that is not homelessness. What is homelessness? What are the criteria? Every local authority needs to have in writing the criteria for homelessness. That is crucial. I have so many issues with this and I cannot understand how the Department is not doing something about it. If the Deputy compares Carlow to Portlaoise or Kilkenny in our neighbouring counties, the limit is €27,500 to qualify to get on the local authority housing list in Carlow but in a lot of other places it is €30,000 and over. If one is €20 or €30 over that limit, one cannot get on that local authority housing list. One then goes for a mortgage but does not qualify for it. One actually does not fit in anywhere. Where are those people then? They become homeless.

It is the common sense approach that is not being followed. It is as though the Department is making all these rules and regulations but they are not adding up because people are not qualifying for them. There is no common sense and no one saying that this is what is happening or that this case or that case needs to be looked at. I know the last time I brought it up with the different Departments, they said to go back to the local authorities. Who is over the local authorities? Who is actually able to sit down with local authorities? It is like what Deputy Cowen said - I had better give him his proper title - about staffing. Who is responsible for it? Is there staffing there? After dealing with people that come into my clinics, I have come in here for the last few months to meet the Minister and the heads of the Department and bring up issues, but I feel that I am going back down to the clinic to say that I am highlighting them but not getting an answer. It is the same with the local authorities. In our own local authority, we have many boarded up houses. Why is there not money to buy them? One could buy a house more cheaply than to give the rent allowance of €800 or €900 every month to a HAP tenant. The local authority could actually buy it cheaper in the long term. Then there are people who come into my clinic to say to me that there are three houses boarded up in an estate and to ask why they are not being developed. There needs to be a programme put in place.

Carlow is not as dear as the Dublin area and I can understand that the Minister has to look at the hub to try to get people off the housing list there and into emergency accommodation. However, in rural Ireland, the houses are that bit cheaper. They could be bought cheaper than the HAP. I cannot understand why the Department is not doing that. I have said before that I have major issues with the dezoned lands that the local authorities own. Years ago when I was on a local authority, the Department gave the initiative that all the land inside the county was to be dezoned. Now local authorities need to look at building on local authority land that is dezoned.

A few months ago, the Department contacted all local authorities requesting what the build was going forward for each local authority. Two years ago, we were promised 26 houses near my own home place. I am still waiting on them. There were six houses that were meant to be built for people with disabilities. The plans and all had gone through. They were in the council offices for the last year but there is not even a word of them being built. We have co-op housing that has provided some houses near to where I live. There are four houses sitting idle for the last few months. I met the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, twice and asked him if he would please allocate the four houses that are ready. I am still waiting. I cannot understand it. I am going to the Department myself now. For a long time I was going back to the local authorities and they would come back to me. I am now going to the Department myself. I find that I am getting the same answers. Could common sense not prevail, particularly in rural Ireland where we have boarded-up houses that we would buy and build cheaper than the cost of paying out the HAP scheme? The HAP scheme is fine in the short term but it is a very expensive scheme for the country on a long-term scale. If the local authorities invested, it would be cheaper in the long run.

There are issues there that we need to work on. I brought up something else yesterday when we talked about homelessness in the short term. There are families that might have a room or might be able to help their family on a short-term basis and there could be an initiative given to them. At the moment, for a local authority tenant paying rent of €90 and trying to help the family that is homeless the rent can be increased to €150 per week, with no other help coming in. Such tenants are just getting by. Could there be some small incentive for families that maybe have a room in their house in order to help their family on a short-term basis so that they are not in a bed and breakfast or hotel, because that is not good for the family or the children? There needs to be an incentive for families to help themselves if they can. That needs to be looked at.

I repeat what the previous speaker said. Common sense needs to prevail here. It is not happening. All of the money that we are told we have is not coming through to local authorities. That is a fact. If the Department was going down to local authorities, we would not be waiting that length of time to get houses built or waiting on reports on houses that need to be done. It seems to be happening in all local authorities. Somebody needs to take action on this and there needs to be accountability. Unless we start stepping up to the mark, the homelessness crisis will only get worse. It will not get any better.

I call Deputy Ellis.

Has the Chairman got my name down? There will have been two Sinn Féin speakers now. I am not complaining but I want to get in if I can.

I am taking them in the order in which people indicated, which is what we normally do.

I am a member of the committee. I am not being rude.

Could the Chairman call out the names and the order in which we are waiting? We need to know if we need to leave. We are here since 2 p.m.

I do not want to be here all night.

It is a long day.

After Deputy Ellis, I have Deputy Casey, Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, Senator Victor Boyhan and Deputy Fergus O'Dowd.

What time is the meeting running to?

We have to suspend at 5 p.m. We can reconvene at 5.30 p.m. or we can reschedule for another afternoon, whichever the committee decides.

We have business to deal with-----

It is up to the members. We will decide at 4.50 p.m. what we want to do and whether to reconvene at 5.30 p.m. or schedule for another day.

Did we not say that we would reschedule?

Yes, we said that we would reschedule at 5 p.m.

We said that before the meeting.

Is the committee happy to do that? Agreed.

So the meeting will reconvene on another day, is that it?

Could the Minister be able to come in again because he has to leave at 5 p.m.?

Yes, my apologies. It is for a Topical Issue matter.

I understand that, but he will be back another day.

We will get going if that is okay. I call Deputy Ellis.

Can I clarify that we will reconvene on another day?

We will reconvene on another day, yes. I call Deputy Ellis.

I welcome the Minister and wish him well in his job. There has been a huge amount of work done over the last year or two in terms of putting plans together by everyone, including this committee, the local authorities, the different Departments and all of the different homelessness and housing agencies. This plan that set up the different pillars, 1 to 5, is by and large a good plan in terms of focusing efforts. However, one of the big problems is that when things are not working one has to ask what the cause of them is. It is clear that there are many areas in which things are not working. The main issue is the delivery of social housing. Why are we not delivering enough social housing, never mind affordable housing, which the Government has not even considered. It has constantly talked about affordable leasing but it has never talked about affordable housing. Affordability is one of the areas the Government really needs to look at. To give an example, the Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance in Ballymun is delivering five houses from between €140,000 and €150,000 in the next week or two. It says that it is capable of delivering a lot more. It is looking for more contracts to fulfil. Therefore, it has an agreement with the construction company it is working with and it is prepared to do more. There is a model we can work with and have a look at.

There are areas in which we are failing to deliver. I will outline some of them and I hope the Minister will take some of them on board. The first area in which we are getting hammered is due to the ideology the market is set to. We rely on the markets and we are told we are to leave it to them and not interfere with them. We rely on the private markets.

We also do not want to upset the construction industry because the prices are as they are on the market. We now have houses that are priced at least €300,000 and upwards in areas where there is no way such prices are sustainable. We must get to grips with the situation because it is absolutely unsustainable, totally over the top and totally driven by greed and the same applies to the rental market. Who in their right might can handle paying high rents? Realistically, we can talk about the HAP scheme and rental supplements but these rents are way beyond control and something must be done. My own thinking on this, and we have suggested it many times, is that we should have a State-run company that is run by local authorities to build and direct the building of social and affordable housing. It would be one way to stop the markets from running away and prevent people making massive profits. I know that a State-run company goes against many people's ideology but I ask the new Minister to seriously consider the idea.

I will give another example of where we have allowed things to get out of hand. NAMA and the banks are selling off large portfolios and individual places left, right and centre. Such a situation should never have been allowed happen. We could have brought in legislation to control that practice instead of allowing them the option. Originally NAMA was given a certain role but it one that could have easily been changed.

We have not delivered on the public private partnerships, PPPs. We have ran into all sorts of problems to deliver PPPs and we will face even more problems. Another area is the financial contribution. In my own area alone people have been asked to give up larger accommodation for senior citizens because we need greater housing concentration. If we take what has happened in my area then how many units can the initiative deliver across the city? A huge number.

We also have not delivered on the mortgage-to-rent scheme. We have talked about the initiative many times. In terms of the amount of mortgage-to-rents and properties that have kept people in their homes, it does not make sense that we have not delivered the scheme. I have suggested some areas for the Minister to consider. I hope he will assess whether the initiatives are possible.

Talk of a housing supply frustrates me more than anything else. In every area that I can think of we built schemes with shops at the bottom of them but, unfortunately, they have all been left lying idle. It has never made sense to me why they have been left sitting idle for ten or 15 years. It seems the Government would rather let these places remain empty and unused instead of converting them into accommodation. I do not understand that mindset. I urge the Minister to do something about the problem. Commercial units are lying idle in Ballymun, Finglas and everywhere one looks. The other day I was in Sallins and I saw that the place was littered with boarded up premises. The situation will not change unless something is done. We have talked about small towns and the number of shops that are closed. Many of the complexes were built in the past few years and a couple of hundred, literally, were built in Finglas. I urge the Minister to do something about the matter.

I get very frustrated now because I remember when the idea to introduce rapid build houses was first mooted. At the time I was the Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing and I said I would consider the whole idea but the newspapers went ballistic at the prospect of people living in containers. I was the first person to say I would consider rapid build and I got lashed out of it for saying so. I do not have a problem with hubs if we put in proper, decent accommodation that is well controlled and properly dealt with. Crucially, we cannot afford to allow rapid build units to become long-term accommodation. We must be in a position to move people on. That is the only way I can see rapid builds working. We must be honest with ourselves about the waiting list. We still have 90,000 applications or thereabouts on the housing waiting list. We have not moved an inch. In fact, the waiting list has increased a bit due to a greater number of homeless people and a greater number of people waiting for a house. Things are not working. Can we change tack? Can the Government consider some of my ideas? Will the Minister consider incorporating some of my ideas? We want to improve the situation as best we can. Without doubt, everything takes time but we cannot afford to wait any longer. We need to move and act quickly.

Deputy Cowen focused on Pillar 1 so I will focus on Pillar 2, and specifically the social housing construction programme. I wish to state that committee members were delighted to get all of the data in the open format and Excel format. They have made it a lot easier to follow what is happening. Is it possible to provide each project with a unique identification number? I make the suggestion because I found it hard to compare the programme data from three months ago with this month's programme. We discovered some differences.

I would like an additional column in the report to show when houses become occupied. The term "partial completion" does not mean anything. It would be useful to have a column that shows how many houses have become occupied and that people are living in as it would give us definite defined data.

The only advice I would give the Minister is that the social housing construction programme is too small. If we realistically want to tackle the housing crisis then we will have to intervene a lot more. What we have been presented with here today is just not enough.

In terms of the Government's construction programme, 75% of the 600 projects are for 20 units or less and 45 of them are for single one house units. We have only two projects for over 100 units and we have one for 100 units. The largest project in the country is for 106 units and it is located in Deputy O'Dowd's constituency of Louth. Fair play to him for getting the largest project to be located in Louth.

Sinn Féin gave me permission to come in here today.

I do not want to go back to the rapid builds. Last year I visited the Poppintree project and I can say that we were all very impressed with the houses that have been built. Equally, we have done an injustice to rapid build technology. As I have repeatedly stated, we seem to define a rapid build house as an inferior project. It is not an inferior product. One gets a longer guarantee for a rapid build house than for a traditional build house.

They are better and nicer.

I feel disappointed because we were told this time last year that the problems were fixed and that we were not going to run into the delays that we had envisaged for the first 22 units. Yet it is now June 2017 and we have only 22 units. The maximum that will be delivered by the end of the year is an additional 177 units. That is 800 units short of the stated target. I know there are reasons for the delay but I felt that we would have had more units built by now.

I have analysed the movement of the different construction projects and I identified eight projects that have gone backwards. Maybe it is just that we are not matching them properly or something. I have a list of them in front of me. The eight projects have moved from either stage 4 to stage 1 or whatever but I will not go into the details now. Equally, we can see that there have only been 181 completions in Q1 of this year. If that is all we have delivered in Q1, and that is the momentum, then we have realistically done nothing in terms of delivering social housing.

Can we get an update on the fast-track planning? Is it now in place? We were told it would be in place in May but I am not sure if it is.

That is pillar 3.

I am just asking. I think we will all be out of here at 5 o'clock anyway, so I may as well get as much in as I can.

I want to go back to a statement made by the former Minister, Deputy Coveney, in the Dáil last week or the week before. He stated that no local authority had been refused a construction project. I find that hard to believe, unless there is a pre-consultation process taking place where local authorities are told not to submit anything. I cannot believe the small volume of the projects submitted. Given the crisis unfolding in every county, I cannot believe local authorities would be submitting application for five, ten or 20 units; they would be submitting applications for significantly higher units. Are the local authorities being consulted prior to them submitting construction projects to the Department? We need to know that because we are not delivering on social houses. Unless we get real about this, I do not think we will get there.

The issue of vacant properties was brought up. This is a win-win situation for everybody. We do not need infrastructure because it is already there. There is no cost involved. We have 198,000 vacant properties according to the Department's website and have only targeted 800, or 0.4%, of them. Targeting vacant properties is a win for everybody. There is no huge infrastructure cost.

On the issue of infrastructure, I know approximately €200 million is there for it. We are only rolling out €50 million or so of that on an annual basis, however. If we are only rolling the last €50 million of that out in year four, it will be three or four years before that infrastructure is in place. That infrastructure, then, will not produce results for six or seven years.

I wish the Minister, Deputy Murphy, well for all our sakes. Setting aside ideological differences, which I am glad the Minister has also indicated he is willing to do, is important for all our sakes and for the people affected. I hope he can get the results we need.

The Minister and a number of other people mentioned the fire safety issue. This is not the central point I want to raise but I will mention it briefly given the urgency of it. I will not mention particular places at this point, one or two of which I am going to inspect at the weekend. I have been told by experts, however, that because of the defective nature of the building standards regulations in the area of fire, named estates have dangerous, inflammable materials, including cyanide-emitting materials, such as those which have now been identified as a factor in the Grenfell fire. This is very serious. It is not just issues of enforcement, staff and inspections, important as they are. The actual regulations are defective. The Department has been ignoring submissions it sought on these issues and is continuing instead with defective regulations.

I will let the Deputy finish what he is saying. As we discussed yesterday, we really want to focus in today's session on Rebuilding Ireland.

I know that, but the issue of fire safety was already mentioned.

I am not cutting the Deputy off and saying he cannot finish. What I am saying is that we are not getting into the issue of building regulations today. The Minister has said he will address that at this committee in a few weeks' time. The Deputy is very welcome to come back on this then. We really want to focus now on the Rebuilding Ireland plan.

That was my intention, as I mentioned at the outset. I just wanted to mention this in passing. My question is: when we will see the fire safety review? I understand the new regulations were agreed at the beginning of this year. When exactly are we going to see them?

On the issue of homelessness, I would like to pick up on Senator Murnane O'Connor's point. Before getting into specifics, we need a change of attitude. We need to accept at this point that we have let every single homeless person down. We have to start with that. I know where the Senator is coming from when she says some of these hubs are very good but no hub, no hotel and no emergency accommodation is good from the point of view of the people in it. Their being homeless means we have failed them and it is not good. There needs to be an attitude change from the very top right the way down through everybody engaging with the homeless. People should not be expected to be grateful for getting slightly better emergency accommodation. That attitude exists. We have failed everybody who is homeless. We should recognise these are human beings and the first thing we should do is apologise to them and then listen to them. We should not have arbitrary self-imposed targets such as getting people out of hotels by a certain date, getting them into hubs, etc. Some people would rather be in a hotel near their children's school than be sent to the best hub in the world 15 km away. Other people might want to be in the hub rather than the hotel. The key is to start with the human beings, the individuals, rather than having arbitrary self-imposed schemes.

The second group of people to whom I would urge the Minister to talk is the staff in the housing departments whose morale is on the floor. These are the people who have to take the flak for the failure of successive governments. The Minister needs to really listen to them and to ask what it is they think would help matters. I would start with the human beings affected by the crisis and move on to those working on the front line.

On the July issue, in my area in particular, and this may be true elsewhere, I do not want to keep hearing of people being told they are being put out of hotels because the local authority needs to clear everybody out and that they will be put in a hub in town, whether they like it or not. That should not happen. I have had to fight and go to the Department on this. Bob Jordan has been very helpful. We need to start with what is best for the children and for the families and that may mean staying in a hotel until something better can be found. Nobody should be in a hotel or in a hub, but the point is that we need flexibility based on humanity.

On vacant properties, I really urge the Minister to look at this issue and to conduct an audit. We need staff to go out to look for these vacant properties. Let us take the Robin Hill apartments, an example I highlighted before. These should never have been sold by NAMA to Cerberus. There are 15 empty apartments there now. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council tried to get them a year ago and was refused. These apartments are empty. Can we have them please? Can we have action to get those apartments and can we please tell Cerberus, which has made a fortune out of this, that it is not to evict anybody? We cannot allow them evict anybody, which is what it is currently trying to do because some of those people evicted from Robin Hill at the end of July will then be down to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council looking for emergency accommodation. That is the reality. Either we stop those evictions or those people will be down to the county council.

More generally, can we have an audit of empty properties in every area and the resources provided to achieve this? We need to approach the owners of every one of these empty properties and the councils need to look to acquire them in some shape or from for the purpose of social housing.

Of Rebuilding Ireland's target of providing 110,000 to 120,000 social housing units of all sorts by 2021, approximately two-thirds is through HAPs. Does the Minister now accept this is simply not going to happen? Some of it will happen. For two-thirds of the social housing strategy to depend on HAPs, however, when this scheme is self-evidently failing in a number of areas, has to be revised. I am not saying some degree of HAPs cannot work but there are reports that in many areas landlords cannot be persuaded to sign up. Worse still, many landlords are pulling out of the HAPs arrangement and making people who thought that they were socially-housed homeless.

There has to be some recognition that this is not a viable strategy. The extent to which the social housing strategy depends on the scheme has to be scaled down and replaced with something better.

In so far as the Minister is persisting with housing assistant payments I have a request for every local authority. We do not have place finders in Dún Laoghaire. We are dependent on the offices down town. Under the current set-up the responsibility for families who are in homeless accommodation is on the council. The council must help them to find a rental property rather than someone who is trying to get the children to school from some hub or hotel, especially when that person is also being told to find their own HAP arrangements. It is absolutely scandalous.

I asked officials in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council whether they know about the place finders unit. They did not even know about it. There is no place finders unit in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. They refer us to town and they do not even know what is going on in the place finders unit in town. It is crazy that senior housing officials in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council barely know what the service is. I appeal to the Minister on that point.

Another question on housing assistance payments relates to the projection. I appeal to the Minister to scale it down and replace it with something else. In so far as the Minister intends to persist with it, what is he going to do with the lack of security on HAP that is emerging? Is the Minister going to revisit the nature of the HAP arrangements in order that there is some security to them? Otherwise, they do not represent a form of social housing. It is not social housing if a person can be turfed out a year from now.

The Minister mentioned Cherrywood and affordable rental schemes and so on. Currently, we are only going to get 10% of Cherrywood for this. The Minister said it is one of the biggest residential developments happening anywhere in the country. If we got a higher proportion, we could, with that one development, almost solve the housing crisis in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. However, we are only getting 10%, even though under the original strategic development zone we were supposed to get 20%. Can the Minister explain what we are going to do about that? Can we please at least insist that we get the 20% level that was in the SDZ?

Will the Minister please ask NAMA about it too? NAMA has property there that is not included in the Hines element. Will the Minister ask NAMA to provide its land up there for social housing? We do not know the status of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council land in the Cherrywood development. Can we ask that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council also provide social housing on the council part of the land in Cherrywood? That would significantly increase the proportion of social housing.

I wish to ask about the contrast between the Government's stated policy commitment to social mix and other arrangements. Why is it that on private land – some of it used to be public, but we sold it – we are only asking for 10%? This means the social mix amounts to 90% and 10% is for social housing. However, on public land the Government appears to be proposing 33% for social housing and 66% for various forms of private housing. I do not agree with any public land being privatised, as the Government is proposing. Anyway, at least for the sake of consistency, if the Government believes in social mix, then surely the same percentage should apply to private land. Why is the social mix different on public land and private land? I am asking the question seriously. If there was consistency within the Government policy - which I somewhat disagree with - the proportion of social housing in overall residential developments would significantly ramp up. Will the Minister respond to those questions?

Finally, threshold limits on eligibility for social housing must be revised immediately because people are getting knocked off the list simply for doing some extra shifts. Their income would not be anywhere close to allowing them to be able to rent or buy but they are being knocked off housing lists. Can that be reviewed urgently? Can the Minister issue an instruction to local authorities to stop taking people off the list now until we have revised those limits? This is vital because people are being thrown off the list as we speak.

Do you want to wait until the next meeting, Senator Boyhan?

I think it would be better.

Deputy O'Dowd, do you want to wait until the next meeting so that you have a proper amount of time, or do you want to ask a quick question?

I am happy to talk now.

You will literally have three minutes. I do not want to cut you off.

Perhaps I can clarify a point. What is the rule as regards membership? This is not personal to anyone but I thought members of the committee would have priority over those who are not members. That is no reflection on anyone who is not a member.

At every meeting, Deputy O'Dowd, I have operated in this way.

I am not asking that question. My question is whether I am a member of this committee.

Yes, you are a member of this committee.

Did people speak who are not members of the committee but who have every right to be here?

I have no problem if they did. Usually, the custom and practice is that members of the committee – I am not complaining-----

Deputy O'Dowd has-----

Deputy Ellis, let him finish, please.

I have spoken to a Sinn Féin member about this and he has no problem with it. I am keen to get the view of someone who is on the other side of some of these arguments. It is very difficult at the end of three hours of discussion - that is my only point. I will be happy to come back afterwards, after 5 p.m. or on another date. I would be happy to do that certainly - I have no issue with it.

Some of the members have left.

We will be refreshed.

I am always refreshed.

Yes, but Deputy O'Dowd will be even more refreshed.

The questions will wait, but they are very good. You will be delighted to hear them, Chairperson.

Some of the members have left. We had agreed that we would reschedule. It is probably unfair to reconvene after 5.30 p.m. now that they have left.

We have looked at dates including next Wednesday and Thursday. We will come back straight away to the committee before that.

I suggest that we do not have another meeting on Thursday. We cannot have people here. We were sitting here on Thursday. Thursday afternoon is a no-no. I respect that Deputies and Ministers have to be in for both, but we cannot be left sitting in here like we were today. We were waiting around at 2 p.m. and looking at "Vótáil" on the screen. We are here and we are busy. We make cancellations and priorities. This is not a criticism of the Minister, the Parliament or Deputies but I am not coming back in here to sit here and wait for an hour. We have cancelled other meetings to be here. I think Thursday afternoons is a no-no for it.

We can go in the order in which we have indicated now if we are adjourning the meeting. Is that the way to do it?

We will adjourn and the first speaker will be Senator Boyhan to be followed by Deputy Fergus O'Dowd.

I take it I will not get the opportunity to reply now because there are too many questions. I have made extensive notes. Can I begin the next meeting by replying directly to the people who have asked questions, rather than with an opening statement that the committee does not need to hear again? I have the questions because I have taken notes.

We look forward to it, Minister.

The Senator did not ask any questions.

I did ask questions. I asked six questions and I was expecting six answers.

I have answers for the Senator.

It is always a relaxed and informal meeting, Minister. Deputy O'Dowd is right. Since I started as Chairman I have always taken whoever indicates first. I always show impartiality in that regard. However, Deputy O'Dowd is correct. Some other committees operate in a party way or in that way.

Thank you for your patience this afternoon. We will reconvene and I will come back to you as soon as possible with a date. I thank the Department officials for being with us this afternoon as well. Our next official meeting will be next Wednesday to carry on our discussion on short-term lettings.

The joint committee adjourned at 5 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 27 June 2017.