I thank Senator Norris, and other colleagues, for the welcome. I said some months ago that we would try to initiate as much legislation as we could in the Seanad. I served in the Seanad before I served in the Dáil. Even though we are in the Dáil Chamber, Senator Norris's presence raises the talent level of debates here as well.
This Second Stage debate has been good. It covered a lot of aspects of the Bill. I ask those who have not looked at the Bill in detail to do so and to familiarise themselves with it because it is the most comprehensive piece of affordable housing legislation that has pretty much ever been published. It takes in a wide range of views - not political views but there is a wide range of potential solutions to the problem of affordability. If we all believe that a cohort has been locked out of home ownership and is paying rent at exorbitant rates, then we have to do something about it. We all believe that a generation of people aspire to owning their own home or, indeed, want to have more secure tenures in rent. To do that, we have brought forward very practical measures.
I was appointed Minister at the end of last June and in the very beginning of July we started working on this legislation to see how we would work it though. There are complexities to it. It might require some changes on Committee Stage and I am open to all reasonable amendments. However, I ask those who are opposed to the measures being introduced to come forward with real alternatives; not just with sound bites or throwaway remarks, but with real policies backed by real finance that will work. It is incumbent on us all in the Oireachtas, in the Seanad and in the Dáil, among those of all parties and those of none, to address this crisis. As Senator Chambers said earlier, this is bigger than a housing issue because it is a societal issue. If people do not believe they have a future in the country with one of the most basic fundamental things of having a secure roof over their head, that is a major problem. They will end up being exploited by others who may not want to see progress in housing because it does not suit them politically and does not suit their own political narrative. Frankly, we should rise above that. All parties have a responsibility to address the crisis.
A couple of Senators opposite mentioned task forces and what we need to do to bring certain things about. I chair two task forces, one of which is on homelessness. It has been mentioned here because someone having a safe and secure home is fundamental. I do not wish to be complacent, but this Government has made progress, particularly in the area of child and family homelessness. There has been a reduction of nearly 40% in less than 12 months, and 75% fewer families are using hotels as emergency accommodation. There is no question that we need to do a lot more. We are right in this country to be critical and self-critical but it is also important to recognise when progress is being made. My focus as Minister will be on that cohort, working with Government colleagues who I had the pleasure of addressing at their own parliamentary parties last week. I thank Senator Martin and my colleagues in Fine Gael for their kind words, and indeed my colleagues in Fianna Fáil. I am always open to people talking about solutions and what we need to do to work things through.
This legislation must be looked at in the context of the overall housing package. Senator Wall mentioned local authorities getting back building. That is exactly what we are doing. It takes time to build that capacity but the budget that this Government brought forward, which was opposed by the Labour Party, contained the largest housing budget in the history of the State - €3.3 billion, with €2.1 billion in capital. There is a target of 9,500 brand new social housing builds. We have actually changed the approval process. I have encouraged all local authorities to use it. It has been changed to a single approval up to €6 million. I would like to go further. I am meeting the chief executives of all the local authorities from this Friday into next week because the Senator is right that we need to build the capacity there. I have mentioned project management expertise at local authorities. We are working on ensuring we have housing delivery teams in each of the local authorities. We need to do that.
On the social house building side, I am confident that through Housing for All, through the work we are all doing in the Oireachtas and through the programme for Government, we can push through social housing at scale. As we do that, we need to look at new tenure in housing which many have mentioned, namely cost rental. Cost rental and versions of it work very well in continental Europe. We want to put it in place here. Only last October, during budget negotiations, we secured the first €35 million to be able to start cost rental. It involves long-term rent, backed by the State, that covers the cost of building and maintenance of properties. We set a threshold for the first eight schemes, and they will be in place within 12 months of the announcement in the greater Dublin area and in Cork. The individual schemes will be announced. That is the first and I hope there will be many more. That is on top of the 50 cost-rental units in the pilot. To give a sense of how long it can take to get things done in Ireland, and to demonstrate that we need to focus not only on policy but also on delivery, I should mention that the first 50 cost-rental units, on Enniskerry Road, were announced in 2015 but have not even been tenanted yet. They will be tenanted this year and we will have a national cost-rental scheme.
Those who support this legislation will be supporting cost rental for working people. Those who oppose it will be opposing cost rental for working people. That is what it gets down to. We will build on it, as Senator Martin asked, and we will go much further. This is the first year, and we have €35 million in Exchequer funding backed by €100 million by the Housing Finance Agency, with eight schemes in place. We will move that on further. Then we will look at how we can deliver affordable homes on State-owned land. A very good concept during the last Oireachtas, which was agreed through the confidence and supply agreement, was the serviced site fund of €310 million to deliver over 6,000 homes in that one cohort alone. That is another thing that has been misrepresented by some in the Opposition who have said the target is only 6,000 affordable homes. No, it is not. We are talking specifically around the serviced site money of €310 million. With that, we will repurpose it to make a national affordable purchase scheme in order that our local authorities can be directly involved in building on their own land, as I assume everyone wants. We want to be able to have housing for all those who are locked out, not only those on social housing waiting lists but those who are working as well. Should they be precluded from being able to buy or own a house on public land?
Is it only a certain section of society that has a right to anything on public land? I do not agree with that fundamental belief. We need to get on with delivery instead of these ideological debates back and forward where we are now looking at infamous pieces of land like Oscar Traynor Road, and Senator Wall has mentioned Nurney, County Kildare. The Senator's colleagues in Dublin could have a look at how they voted on the Oscar Traynor Road proposal where we could have delivered hundreds of homes. I will help the local authority to deliver that more quickly. People need these houses and need to see that.
That is the affordable purchase element which will be done on State-owned land. We need to do more of it and to give local authorities the ability to buy more land to do that. Again that will be done. Those who support this Bill support affordable purchase on State-owned land. Those who vote against it do not. That is what it is going to be come down to at this stage.
The third element we are looking at is shared equity. Shared equity is very simply to enable a working person or couple to be able to bridge the affordability gap. It was not opposed by the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, in any way, shape or form and we have calibrated our scheme in a very focused way to those who need it who will only be able to get the requisite equity amount based on their own income. This will be targeted at around 2,000 households per annum. That is in addition to the other 6,000 households, and it works. A comparable scheme, not the same one, in Britain delivered a 14% increase in supply with less than a 1% increase in the house price index, HPI. That is based on the UK equivalent of the Comptroller and Auditor General report, and not on any other report. We all generally hear of and support our Comptroller and Auditor General and his work in the Oireachtas. Let us not twist this in any other way and say it was increased. Our scheme is going to be different. It is calibrated and there are price caps based on regions. Those price caps, by the way, are not targets, they are caps and like in any area there are variations in prices within that area. Fundamentally, this will give people an opportunity to buy and own their own home this year or else, what is the alternative? They can sign up to continuing to pay rent at an exorbitant rate for another number of years while trying to save every cent they have or they can live with their folks well into their 30s or even their 40s trying to save. No, these are immediate solutions that can be tweaked as we move on. If the Members support this Bill, they support the opportunity for young and not so young people to be able to get on the housing ladder where the State will take a very small equity at a very low rate of interest with no obligation to buy that out. If Members do not support this Bill they do not support this measure. It is as simple as that.
We have got to get to a stage whereby we are bringing in the legislative blocks to enable that supply to increase. All of these measures are supply-side ones. On Committee Stage in the Dáil - I flagged this on Second Stage - I will be bringing forward the increase in the Part V provision. As Members will know, in every new estate 10% of the houses will be set aside for social housing and it will be absolutely protected. I will be bringing in an additional 10% in respect of affordable houses. That will be brought in on Committee Stage in the Dáil and brought back to colleagues in the Seanad for Report and Final Stages.
I do not intend to use all of my time allocation this evening but suffice it to say that across the parties there have been some very relevant and good points made. We will open to looking at amendments that are tabled. The Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, will be here on Friday for a portion of the debate because the Cabinet is also meeting on Friday morning. There is no disrespect to the House intended but I will not be here for part of Committee Stage but as soon as I can be back in, I will be.
There are other elements on the general housing side, in the area of voids, building cost, and other items which are very relevant but are not specifically relevant to this Bill and I have taken specific notes of each of them. These are areas that we are very much looking at, such as the vacant housing stock across the country and what we can do to activate that stock. We are certainly looking at how we can help people where we may have a lease and repair scenario and at how we may potentially help people to be able to buy those vacant homes that are there.
I genuinely thank all colleagues for their contribution and co-operation here this evening as we bring this Bill through the Seanad. I look forward to engaging with colleagues on Committee Stage later in the week and, indeed, early into next week and I thank the Acting Chairperson.