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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021

Vol. 278 No. 8

Housing For All - a New Housing Plan for Ireland: Statements

I welcome the Minister and thank him for coming to address this important topic for all our citizens.

It is great to be back. A good job has been done on the room.


No, no. It is good to be back today. Let us not misunderstand what I am saying.

Is the Minister looking for a permanent transfer?

No, no. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Cathaoirleach.

Right now, Ireland's housing system is not meeting the needs of enough of our people. My colleagues in government and I are keenly aware of this. We know that the impact of the housing crisis is felt in every family across our country, whether hard-pressed tenants stuck in a rent trap or those at the sharpest end of the housing crisis, who will spend tonight sleeping in emergency accommodation or, worse, on streets in our cities. Housing for All, our new housing plan for Ireland, addresses these challenges head-on. It is ambitious. It should be because it needs to be.

The housing crisis is multifaceted and complex. It is only by viewing it as a whole and taking measures across all aspects of our housing system that we can begin to improve upon the situation for all our citizens. That is what this plan is all about. It is a whole of-government approach that will get to grips with this crisis and will improve the lives of all our people.

As Minister, I recognise the scale and depth of the crisis and the urgent need for action. Housing for All is a plan that will give the squeezed middle the opportunity to buy their own home. It is a plan that will help to protect renters. It is a plan for people who are looking for a fresh start and for people who are looking for the opportunity to rightsize. Housing for All is about providing people with real choice while ensuring we create the kind of society that helps those who need it. The breadth of ambition in the plan will help to stop and reverse the decline in home ownership and break the rent trap that many are caught in.

We need all hands on deck to get to grips with this crisis. Refusing to fully mobilise the private sector of small and medium-sized builders would be taking on this fight with one hand tied behind our back. The engagement from all stakeholders is key to our success. At its simplest, the plan will dramatically expand direct State building of affordable and social homes, remove barriers and give support to allow the private sector to grow, and intervene where it fails to build. We need to increase the capacity and efficiency of delivery in both public and private sectors. We will also rely on continued collaborative engagement with the construction sector and other important stakeholders, who are pivotal to its success.

Housing for All is the most ambitious housing plan in the history of the State. It sets out a series of 213 bold actions that rise to the challenge, backed up by an unprecedented financial commitment in excess of €4 billion per year. It is the first time that any Government has published a multi-annual, multibillion funded plan. More than 300,000 new homes will be built by the end of 2030, including a projected 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable purchase homes and at least 18,000 cost-rental homes. It is the largest State-led building programme in our history, surpassing the heydays of the 1940s and 1950s.

At the heart of Housing for All is a dramatic expansion in the role of the State in providing affordable homes for purchase and rent, while building historic levels of new social housing. I have always firmly believed in the State taking a role and leading by example. The plan involves the public and private sector working in tandem to meet our housing requirements of an average of more than 33,000 new homes every year. Housing for All is about pathways to a better future that draws this comprehensive approach together. It will support homeownership and increase affordability. It will eradicate homelessness, increasing social housing delivery and support social inclusion. It will increase new housing supply across the board. It will address vacancy and ensure the efficient use of existing stock. It is the most significant intervention by the State in housing ever. It is a fully funded, multi-annual, multibillion euro plan.

The first pathway's vision is clear. We will place the opportunity of homeownership back in the hands of ordinary working people. The first home scheme will see people buy their homes with the help of Government by bridging the gap between the finance they have and the cost of the home that they want. The local authority-led affordable purchase scheme will see homes at an average of €250,000 be available across the country. A reformed local authority mortgage scheme will see more single people eligible for State-backed mortgages. I have already reduced the rate in that mortgage product by 0.25%. The Planning and Development Act 2000 has been amended, meaning 20% of all developments will be set aside for affordable and social housing.

The affordability measures provided for in this plan will set us on a path to reversing the current trend which has seen homeownership rates fall to historic lows in this country. I believe in homeownership and this plan supports it. The introduction of cost rental, a new tenure in Ireland, will be a game changer for those renting. It will result in thousands of individuals and families renting safe and secure homes at rates at least 25% below the open market value. We have cost-rental tenants already in place in their homes within 12 months of the formation of this Government.

The second pathway puts forward the vision of eradicating homelessness and supporting social inclusion. This will be achieved by delivering 90,000 social homes by 2030, by expanding the Housing First programme and ensuring the provision of necessary health and mental health supports. We are targeting 1,200 Housing First tenancies over the next five years. This has been an incredible success, with tenancy retention rates of over 90%. We will continue its expansion. The second pathway will also be achieved by focusing on the construction and acquisition of one and two-bed homes. This will increase the housing options available to people with complex needs, those who are looking for a fresh start, people who want to rightsize and older individuals to allow them to age in place with dignity and independence.

The third pathway is all about increasing housing supply. We must act decisively to increase the supply of private, affordable and social houses to meet the needs of people in a wide variety of circumstances. We will do this by significantly increasing funding, with an average of €4 billion each year for the next five years to give the sector the certainty and the stability it needs. We will provide more State land to the Land Development Agency for social home construction and will provide increased funding for local authorities for land acquisition. We will overhaul and simplify the planning system to ensure certainty and stability. The plan also includes modern Kenny report-style powers to ensure the State gets a fairer share of the increase in the value of land resulting from rezoning decisions and that the community benefits as well. This will have the effect of reducing the speculative value of land in time.

We are empowering local authorities to get back building again and with our affordable housing body, AHB, partners, we will deliver an average of 10,000 new social home builds each year. Major planning decisions will be returned to local authorities and will be subject to strict timeframes, while judicial reviews are and will be overhauled to unblock obstacles to development. Rural communities will be given greater certainty over building homes in their areas. These measures are targeted and radical but are necessary to respond to the challenges we face. These will all create the environment we need to supply of 300,000 new homes for our people by 2030.

At a time of such housing need, we have to ensure that the housing stock we already have is being fully used. I am introducing a number of initiatives in our fourth pathway to directly address this. These include establishing and funding a town centre first policy, making our towns and villages vibrant to meet, live and work in; tackling any remaining unfinished estates; and launching a new compulsory purchase order, CPO, programme to allow local authorities to acquire up to 2,500 vacant properties over the next four years and present them to the open market for sale, as well as better understanding the levels of vacant properties in residential property with a view to introducing a vacant property tax.

Despite the pandemic, Government has been focused on progressing major reforms that will accelerate and increase the supply of public, affordable and private housing. We got to work straight away last year, while at the same time developing Housing for All. We passed the first ever comprehensive affordable housing Act and reformed the Land Development Agency, giving it a legislative backing and adding to its powers. Just recently, we opened Ireland's first cost rental homes comprising 25 units in Balbriggan, County Dublin. It is a start. We signed the Lisbon Declaration, thereby committing to ending homelessness by 2030; increased grant funding to assist older people and people with a disability; extended rent pressure zones and limited rent increases to general inflation. We introduced five separate items of tenancy legislation to protect renters through the pandemic, brought 3,600 vacant social homes back into productive use, increased Irish Water funding by more €100 million and banned co-living.

These actions demonstrate the Government's commitment to fixing our housing system. Housing for All takes that commitment a step further and it is a step on the pathway to a sustainable housing system by clearly setting out how we plan to address the serious short-, medium- and long-term challenges to 2030. The housing system is complex. There is no magic fix. I cannot tell Members it will be resolved overnight and they all know that. We have the solutions, ability, drive and capability and now we have a plan to make a real impact, which is backed by real money. This plan will make a real difference for real people. Together, the Government is determined to make it work.

I thank the Minister for coming in to discuss this very important new housing policy. In election 2020, voters went out to vote and the vast majority of them voted for change. They voted for change on a number of issues but on one issue in particular, namely, housing. The Minister and I heard it, as did members of my party and members in all parties in government, and they understood the change voters were demanding. They wanted a change from the failed housing policies of the previous decade and we will deliver that in Housing for All.

The new Government faced many challenges, such as the immediate one of Covid-19 and the objective of protecting lives and livelihoods and it is recognised and credit is due to every front-line worker and everybody in our State who worked together to defeat the pandemic. Thankfully, we are coming out the far side of that. Climate action is a huge challenge facing us, not just on our island but globally, and the Government is also committed to working on that. Today, however, we are talking about housing.

In that regard, the Minister has not wasted the last year. I commend him because, he was firefighting a decade of undersupply of housing, the legacy of the co-living and the market-led approach, which has short-changed many people, especially young people, the pressures on people to pay rent to secure a home and the threat of homelessness. The Minister really understands all of those threats and has not only brought forward a plan which will bring us over the coming four years and the next decade but has also started to address those concerns in the immediate. He has already mentioned the protections and supports he put in place for renters during the pandemic. They were vital. Others would criticise them, but they made a real difference to people's lives by protecting them from becoming homeless.

The Minister secured record and historic budgets, not just in the past year, but with Housing for All. The big difference and change in this plan is there will be multi-annual funding. It is a State-led, as opposed to a market-led, approach to solving the housing crisis. It is all underpinned, not by fanciful electioneering leaflets or videos, but by legislation and Government policy. It says to all of government, not just the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government, at a national and local level, that this Government is absolutely committed to addressing the housing crisis, eradicating homelessness and ensuring everybody in our society has access to a secure and affordable home.

We will do that by increasing supply and ensuring affordability, by using the State's assets, the most valuable of which are our land and our human resources, available to us in our local authorities. The Minister's affordable housing legislation was the most comprehensive housing Bill. There are those who like to talk about a narrow section of that Act, which is a vital financial support to people who are paying more for rent than they can, would or should do, to own their own home through a mortgage. The big game changer in the Affordable Housing Act is the fact we are empowering local authorities. Affordable housing that was abolished back in 2011 will now be provided by local authorities and approved housing bodies, not just in the city, but in every county.

It is hugely important and it is by supporting and resourcing the local authorities and approved housing bodies that we will achieve the Minister's targets of 300,000 new homes; 54,000 affordable homes and 90,000 new social homes. That will be an average of 33,000 homes per year by the time we get to 2024. It will all only be achieved because the legislation and policies will underpin it and the funding will be there. I commend the Minister. I know he has his detractors but he should be encouraged to know that serious organisations dedicated to help those at the most acute end of our housing crisis, such as the Simon Community and the social housing and approved housing bodies have commended him and backed his plan because they know it differs from previous plans and has the legislation and multi-annual funding to deliver.

I was talking to somebody earlier about a few areas of the plan and while it now sets the direction and tone and will ensure the State's resources are all going in the right direction, as the Minister is aware there are a number of areas that we want to see progressed and on which we are already working through the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Some of them will fall to the Minister for Finance and they will be budgetary issues. I will run through a few of them. There was an historic homeless budget of €220 million last year and the fact Housing for All will be a housing-first approach, with the continuation and resourcing of preventions for homelessness by increasing the housing supply through delivering 90,000 new social homes, is really important.

In the short term, as we did in Dublin, an increase in the homeless housing assistance payment facility, HAP, which is an operational and an annual budget issue, could be extended to other local authorities. We have raised this at the Oireachtas joint committee. The lease and repair scheme, which is funded by the Minister's Department, is very powerful in taking vacant housing stock, having it repaired and then leased for social housing. There is no faster way to increase the housing stock than to address the dereliction and the vacancy. The Minister knows this. As well as the lease and repair scheme, the Minister's Department funds local authorities to purchase homes that are going to be sold. That is very important.

The Minister's ban on co-living schemes sent a very strong message that we believe that people deserve an adequate form of housing and that this Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that. The Minister has also capped rents at inflation and this gives a lot of reassurance to renters. We are actually going to deliver affordable cost rental, which the Government has already started and the first tenants have moved in. By legislating for that, creating a scheme for it, and funding it, affordable cost rental is now a game changer for people.

On the student accommodation crisis that is being spoken about, the Minister has directed local authorities not to change the planning permissions where they have been granted for student accommodation. I put it to the Minister that there is also a financial way to stop that behaviour. It is not within the Minister's remit but I urge him to take it up with the Minister for Finance. Any purpose-built student accommodation that was built received a tax break based on the fact that it would provide accommodation to students from named educational institutions. If any of those operators now wish to change from being student accommodation providers they need to be aware that the tax treatment they enjoyed will not apply and will not travel. That is a matter for the Minister for Finance and for Revenue. I urge the Minister to take this up with them.

On the planning process, the ending of the strategic housing development plans and the introduction of the Minister's large-scale residential development planning application permissions is a really important game changer because it restores the democratic process at a local level.

The Cathaoirleach is being very generous with the time and I appreciate it. This House and all members of the Government parties are absolutely committed to realising the change and the vision that is being projected in the Minister's Housing for All plan. We need to make this change for generations to come and the Minister has our full support.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Darragh O 'Brien, to the House. I thank him for the enormous amount of time and energy he has put into Housing for All. I acknowledge in particular the work of the Oireachtas joint committee, the previous committee of which the Minister was a member. I too was a member of that committee. I thank also the current joint committee operating in this political term. I acknowledge too the enormous commitment of the Department's staff who are really active. Sometimes we forget them in the greater debate of things in politics. I acknowledge the work and the constructive way they have operated within the Department.

I have in front of me two documents. I have Housing for All and I also have a copy of Rebuilding Ireland, which is now a collector's item. Thanks to the Minister's Department I secured a copy last week.

I thought we got rid of them all.

They did suggest a hard hat and jacket also with Rebuilding Ireland, but I said "No, this was enough". It is important that for a few moments we take a look back at Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness from July 2016. At the time I spoke in favour of it and I thought how brave the then Minister, Deputy Coveney, was in setting it all out. When one sets out objectives, deadlines and timelines it really puts it up, and that was a brave move on his part. I will quote extracts from Enda Kenny in the forward to the Rebuilding Ireland action plan document of July 2016:

Ending rough sleeping and the use of unsuitable long-term emergency accommodation, including hotels and B&Bs, for homeless families, are key priorities [of the Government] [...] In order to ensure its success, the key targets of this Action Plan will be subject to regular Cabinet review [and monitoring]. The Cabinet Committee on Housing which I chair, will actively oversee its implementation [...] I am committed to ensuring a [...] critical national ambition of ensuring that all of our people have access to quality and affordable housing, either through their own endeavours or with the support of the State. [...] None of us can fail to be moved by the plight of people who are homeless, especially families and children living in hotels, and people who are sleeping on our streets.

In the same document, the then Minister, Deputy Coveney, said, "A key priority is addressing the unacceptable level of homeless families and long-term homeless people in emergency accommodation, by providing rapid housing delivery, alongside measures to support those at risk of losing their homes."

I have a lot of time for Deputy Coveney, but we must deal with some facts here when we talk about the history. We must remember that it was a Government that was supported by the current Minister's party. The policies were pursued by the Government. It was a confidence and supply arrangement and I appreciate the complexities around that. This week, however, we all received an email confirming the latest figures showing the number of people who are homeless in Ireland is now at 8,200. I accept that historically this is a drop and that it is going in the right direction, but it is really very disappointing, and 2,189 of those are children.

This is the context for the plans, where one had a plan and set out to have a Cabinet and a Taoiseach overseeing it and it still did not deliver. To be fair, I acknowledge that it did deliver in some areas, but it did not deliver in many others. It is very important that we address this issue. It ties up with this Cabinet sub-committee and the oversight and delivery of the Minister's plan. This is an important point that needs to be made. This is the Minister's plan and the plan of the Government. The time for debate and elongated discussions is over. I accept that this is the plan. It is a serious attempt and it has been through dialogue. We must accept the reality that this is a major Government majority, this is their plan and this is their vision. That is their prerogative and that is their right. The Minister, Deputy O'Brien, is the Minister and he is going to pursue it.

As the Minister is aware we had engagements on the Affordable Housing Bill. We did not always agree. We had a lot of engagement with the Land Development Agency Bill. We did not always agree across this House. In fact, there was not a willingness to take on many of those amendments but, again, that is the Minister's call and prerogative, and I respect that. We had a debate about the definition of "affordability". Somehow, we never really grasped or put into words what one defines as terms of affordability, be it to rent or to purchase. Affordability generally is defined as one third of one's income. I am not saying the Minister has said this, but others have suggested that a house for €420,000 or €450,000 in south County Dublin is affordable, which is nonsense.

We still have the challenges around homelessness. We still have the challenges around vulnerable people who are homeless, and do I need to say anything more about that? This is an area we need to focus on, and I believe the Minister is committed to doing that. We have issues around rural housing and I am aware that people in the Government are committed to developing that and giving certainty to rural families and people living across this country who wish to establish homes close to their families, and rightly so, subject to proper conditions and planning. We still have the urge of local councillors, city and county, who want to see their local authorities deliver housing. I acknowledge that the Minister is supportive of this and the document is supportive of this. We have the issue of student accommodation. This week we heard that people were now queueing up at soup kitchens for food and staying in cars. We heard other students this week talking about not being able to go to university and perhaps cancelling out. This is a serious challenge. How we condition planning around student accommodation is about the serious delivery of the targets.

As I said earlier to the Minister, this is his plan and the Government's plan. There are 30 overarching policy objectives in this 160-page document, so it is easy to track and it is easy to follow, which I believe is good. We all know what has to be done, and the Minister more than anyone knows what has to be done. The Government will be spending unprecedented levels of Exchequer funding, which the Minister has said in his statement today. This policy document seeks and will pursue State lands that will be released for the construction of housing. Quite frankly, I do not give a damn where the sites are coming from and I do not give a damn who is building them once we are building houses and making sites available for affordable homes.

This plan is expected to deliver at least 33,000 new homes per year over the next decade. I genuinely wish to Minister well in this. It is ambitious. I believe the Minister is determined and if left in the job I believe that he will pursue that and get it over the line. There must be a strong focus on the implementation of the plan and for it to be overseen by Cabinet. Perhaps at some future time, if not today, the Minister might elaborate just how he will monitor and drive the objectives so that it will actually happen.

I say respectfully, as a member of the Opposition, that I will be constructive and supportive, as will my colleagues on the Independent benches, in the ongoing debates on the housing challenges that face the Government. That is our responsibility. The Government has responsibility for policy. I will also monitor and seek accountability for the Minister's and the Government's performance in meeting their targets and plans and I will track the delivery of their promises to the people. I genuinely wish the Minister well in the task ahead.

We had a plan in Rebuilding Ireland but it and the Cabinet sub-committee did not deliver what people were promised. Housing for All, the Minister's plan, is a commitment to the Irish people to address and respond to their call. As the Minister's colleague, Senator Fitzpatrick, said, the people spoke in the election and gave the Government a clear mandate. They want affordable housing for all, both to rent and purchase. I know the Minister is committed. I genuinely and sincerely wish him and the Government well in the delivery of this plan.

I welcome the Minister to the House to discuss and listen to statements on what I believe will be one of the most important policy documents the Government will deliver in its term.

Improving the number of housing options available to the people of this country and supporting them to set down roots and have a place to call their own have been among my main priorities since entering politics in 2009. I am delighted to be in the privileged position of being a member of a Government party and of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage, which had the opportunity to make an input into the plan over the past 12 months. I thank the Minister and his officials for taking on board many of the suggestions made by both Government and Opposition parties.

As public representatives, we all know that the impact of the housing crisis is felt by every family in the country. Housing for All is a radical, realistic and costed plan underpinned by record State investment which will help citizens to have access to affordable, high standard housing to purchase or rent in the right places. It includes actions to increase the housing supply of all types in the short term and measures to ensure we have a sustainable housing system in the long term.

Ultimately, this plan will be judged on delivery. Everyone in government is acutely conscious that we must use every tool at our disposal to deliver for individuals and families. We will not do that by using catchy sound bites or advocating the abolition of schemes that support people to get their foot on the property ladder. We will not do it by objecting to housing schemes or limiting the many and varied mechanisms by which housing can be delivered. As I have said time and again, my party, Fine Gael, and this Government are not hung up on ideology. We do not care who builds homes, whether it is approved housing bodies, local councils, the Land Development Agency, co-operative housing trusts, public private partnerships or the private sector. We do not mind who builds the homes; we just want them delivered. Unfortunately, there are some on the Opposition benches who have the utopian view that housing must be of a certain type and be delivered in a certain way for it to be considered worthy. The reality is that every housing unit that is delivered has a positive impact on supply.

Over the past 12 months, the Government has been working to address the challenges we face, while at the same time developing the Housing for All plan. The new plan builds on the solid foundations laid by Rebuilding Ireland across many strands. While some initiatives have been more successful than others, the resolve of this Government and previous Governments to address the supply issues facing the country and our people remains resolute.

The facts are that housing output increased from 4,575 units in 2013 to 20,584 in 2020 despite Covid-19 closures, and 39,524 social homes were delivered between 2016 and the end of 2020. It should be noted that the main Opposition party, in its 2015 housing policy, promised to deliver a combined total of 36,500 social and affordable homes between 2016 and the end of 2021. The Government has, therefore, exceeded the Opposition's target with one year to spare and we hope to reach 50,000 social units by the end of this year. Yet, my party and this Government are constantly ridiculed and criticised for under-delivery despite outstripping the Opposition's targets with 12 months to spare.

The Minister outlined some of the key items that have been delivered by the Government over the past 12 months. They include the largest housing budget on record; passing the first comprehensive Affordable Housing Act; reforming the Land Development Agency and placing it on a statutory footing; banning co-living; passing five separate tenant protection Acts; extending the relief in the help-to-buy scheme to €30,000; opening the first ever cost-rental units in the history of the State; investing in Irish Water and focusing on the development of a specific fund for towns and villages; limiting deposits and extending protections for student renters; extending rent pressure zones; legislating to protect traditional family homes from bulk purchases; bringing 3,600 vacant social homes back into use, which we will do again this year; and allocating €1.3 billion from the urban regeneration fund which is already having a positive impact, while also streamlining the buy and renew scheme and extending the repair and lease scheme.

While much progress has been made, we are acutely aware of the issues that persist in the area of homelessness, which will continue to be a focus of the Government. There have been some positive measures such as the introduction of housing action teams and integrated homes service teams, including one in Waterford city. However, homelessness remains a huge concern. Schemes such as the repair and lease scheme have been used exceptionally well in places such as County Waterford. Unfortunately, other local authority areas have not stepped up to the plate in using the schemes that are available. In Waterford, we have eradicated the use of bed and breakfast accommodation and hostels because we focused, through the scheme, on delivering one and two-bedroom units. It should not be the case that 50% of all repair and lease units in the State have been delivered in Waterford. I reiterate my call on the Minister to set specific targets for local authorities to deliver under the repair and lease scheme.

Housing for All commits to the delivery of 300,000 homes over the lifetime of the plan, consisting of 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable purchase homes, 18,000 cost-rental units and 156,000 private homes for sale or rent. These are ambitious targets that we can deliver. The first home scheme, the affordable purchase scheme and the reformed local authority mortgage scheme are critical in providing homes and giving hope to families and individuals in the middle whose incomes are too high to allow them to qualify for social housing and who cannot get their foot on the property ladder.

I ask for the extension of the help-to-buy scheme at the 10% rate in the upcoming budget for 2022. The scheme, which has been very successful, is essential for first-time buyers and anyone buying their first home. The latest figures available from Revenue show that 28,300 claims have been made under the scheme. This means 28,000 individuals and families now have their first home as a result of the help-to-buy scheme. While some members of the Opposition want to abolish the scheme, I believe its retention, at least in the short term, as a measure that will boost supply and help people to get their foot on the property ladder is essential.

Finally, I reiterate what others have said in terms of our support here on the Government benches for the Housing for All plan, for the Minister and for his officials. We will always be there to assist in any regard with the delivery of housing.

I propose to share time with Senator Boylan.

This plan was an opportunity to move on from the failed policies of Rebuilding Ireland and to introduce a radical new plan for housing. Instead, this is a plan that is wedded to the status quo. It is lined with figures that are disingenuous and projections that are meaningless. It is disingenuous to claim that €4 billion will be spent annually by the Government. This is a fiction because the real figure is €2.5 billion of voted capital expenditure.

The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, says that this cannot be solved overnight. I should say that promises of housing delivery in a decade will do nothing for struggling renters, those desperate to buy and those waiting on housing waiting lists. It is clear that there will be little, if any, increase in direct capital investment in social and affordable homes between now and 2025 above what is already in the pipeline. This means that rents and house prices will continue to rise and that supply will lag behind.

I want to focus in the few minutes that I have on those struggling to rent at the moment. A quarter of Dublin's population are renters. For them, this policy will be a massive disappointment. There is no commitment to ban rent increases. Frankly, it is incredible that one year into a Government term a policy could be published that includes nothing to ban rent increases and that it would talk about tenancies of indefinite duration - something that tenants are crying out for - when we know that this Government will not change the law when it comes to stopping evictions on the grounds of sale of property or use by a family member, both of which amount to 70% of all notices to quit. The test of whether renters will be protected by this Government is whether rent increases are banned, whether renters are given a tax break to the tune of one month's rent put back in their pockets because, God knows, real estate investment trusts get enough of a tax break as it is, and whether we remove section 34 grounds, as I mentioned, on use of property by a family member, the sale of property or the renovation of the property, that would ensure tenancies of indefinite duration.

There is nothing here for renters because other interests win out, and no ideas on the part of the Government, only more of the same that created this mess in the first place. We need to ban rent increases for three years and reduce rents with a tax credit that puts one month's rent back in the pocket of every renter in the State, we need stronger legal protections to prevent renters being evicted into homelessness and we also need a date for the referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution. We need this referendum in 2022.

It is incredible that a plan could be published that fails to give certainty to tenants who are paying, in Dublin, the fifth highest rents in Europe, after London, Zurich, Geneva, and Moscow.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien expects us to believe that the same policies that have got us into this crisis will solve this crisis. The policies that rely on the private market have us where we are today. They will not solve the problems that we face.

Housing costs in the State are the most expensive anywhere in the EU. According to the latest figures from EUROSTAT, we are at the top of the housing cost table. It is no wonder people are crying out for more affordable homes.

We are in this mess because of the failed policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that have created the housing crisis and yet the Minister and the Government expect us to believe that the people who caused the crisis are somehow the same people we should entrust to fix it. It is clear from their plan that the Government will not deliver what is necessary to deliver affordable homes. For one thing, their figures just do not add up. The Government is saying that it will deliver 4,000 affordable homes this year, 5,000 the year after and 6,500 the year after that, but that is just not true. The Government should be honest with people because 2,000 of those homes annually are unaffordable homes priced on the open market that will be purchased with the shared equity loan scheme. That means affordable housing provision next year will, at best, be 2,100 units. It might go up to 3,000 the year after and somewhere close to 4,000 the year after that, if the Government meets its targets. The number of affordable homes to be delivered through the cost rental equity loan and affordable housing fund this year is so low that I do not see how the Government will deliver 2,000 affordable homes through those schemes next year.

It is clear from reading this plan that the Government is out of touch and out of ideas. It is becoming more and more apparent to the public. Again and again, the Government sides with the interests of big developers, large landowners and international institutional investors over the needs of ordinary workers and families.

The Government does not have the mettle to stand up and do what is necessary to address the housing crisis, and a great example of this is the Part V provision. The Housing Agency released a good report that gave a variety of options to reform it. Needless to say, the Minister chose the most pro-developer option available, which is that any landowner who has not secured planning permission has until 2026, and only the 10% applies. That is not reform. That is giving the developers everything they have asked for on a plate to the detriment of delivery of affordable homes for working people.

The approach to housing policy shows how blinkered the Minister is because he believes the private sector can meet the overwhelming majority of social and affordable housing need. We are not seeing the fundamental change that is necessary to undo the damage of decades of failed Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael policy. We need a doubling of direct capital investment by the Government in public housing on public land. We need 20,000 social and affordable homes every year delivered by local authorities, approved housing bodies, AHBs, and community housing trusts. That is the sort of fundamental change that is required to address this problem. Instead, we have a housing Minister who is out of touch and out of ideas. He will ensure that the housing crisis will roll on for years and years while big developers and investments will be laughing the whole way to the bank. Only a Sinn Féin Government and a Sinn Féin housing Minister will make the kind of change in housing that is needed to end the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael housing crisis.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and thank the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, for again coming into this House to discuss it. I welcome the opportunity to discuss Housing for All, which is a comprehensive policy document which will form the basis for our housing policy for years to come. We have, however, seen other comprehensive policy documents in that regard such as the Rebuilding Ireland policy of 2016. We have stated previously that we want the Government to succeed on housing and that we will, where allowed, be constructive but it is also the job of the Opposition to challenge and over time, hold the Government to account in terms of delivery because, as we saw from Rebuilding Ireland previously, Governments can be big on ambition and on targets and not directly address it. Indeed, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, who was present previously, was the one who over time put in parliamentary questions to show that the previous Fine Gael-led Government was not delivering on the targets that it itself had set in Rebuilding Ireland.

Housing for All is big on ambition in terms of certain parts of the sector but it is very short on specifics. It also does not address some of the key issues and stakeholders in the housing debate. First, I want to address the issue of renters and the lack of real commitment to or acknowledgment of them in the policy document. Housing for All commits to bringing forward legislation with provisions to address long-term security of tenure. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has said that it would be dependent on the legal advice that is received from the Attorney General and the Department, and it is hard to describe this as a firm commitment to delivering real security of tenure for renters.

Renters do not need security of tenure to be "addressed". They need it to be comprehensively enshrined in law. They need long-term security of tenure to be a feature of the rental market in Ireland rather than an exception, which is what it was. Most importantly, renters - families, single people, young, old or whatever their situation - need somewhere to be able to call a home.

This month, it was reported that the figures for August show that a further 23 families were made homeless, taking the total numbers without a secure home to 593. The number of children entering homelessness increased in August by 60 to 2,189. This is the direct result of the lifting of the eviction ban which the Opposition had warned about. We know from the statistics that the main reasons for termination of a tenancy are the sale of property, at 51%, and the use of a home for a wide range of relatives, at 24%. Last week, the Labour Party brought before the Dáil a Bill that would restrict these practices and ensure that people living in rental accommodation are protected. We cannot do that without enshrining in law long-term security of tenure. The Minister needs to give us specifics on how his housing policy will do that. Housing for All does not address that issue.

There is an imbalance in favour of landlords. There are sections of government that believe paying off a mortgage is more important than keeping children out of homelessness. There is need for a rebalancing. A person's home is more important that another person's or entity's investment. I am unequivocal in saying that. I urge the Minister to implement indefinite duration tenancies and secure tenancies to bring us in line with other European countries. All renters deserve certainty of tenancy and affordability. The patchwork effort of the Government does not help renters. It highlights the Government's continued failure to address the twin central issues of soaring rents and lack of secure tenancy. We must change the dynamic in the rental sector if it is to become a sustainable option for the people who need it. The Minister says he supports home ownership. That is fine and a legitimate aspiration. There is a right to purchase in regard to local authority housing. Why not be radical in the Housing for All policy and provide for a rent to purchase for tenants in the private rental sector as well? Other jurisdictions in the European Union, such as France, allow that. To be truly radical and shake up the rental market, a commitment in that regard is key. Renters are not transient. Security of tenure is the bedrock of key protections and rights which they deserve, as well as a rent-freeze on the basis of rising rents and where they stand regarding the living wage. We also need a ban on eviction to try to stop families and children entering homelessness.

Moving to student accommodation, it is important this area is addressed in light of the guidelines issued today. The guidelines are non-specific and they provide get-out clauses for developers. Developers already had get-out clauses under the development plans. We need to legislate against the repurposing of student accommodation and to ensure such accommodation is not rented at the type of rents currently being charged. Landlords should be required to either drop rents in order that students can afford them or we need to stop granting approvals for an oversupply of student accommodation in specific areas. Issuing guidelines with non-Covid get-out clauses is simply not good enough. It is similar to the approach taken regarding investors being able to buy homes under the noses of first-time buyers in that it pays only lip-service to that practice and does not ban the bulk purchase of apartments or build-to-rent developments.

Another area where Housing for All fails is in regard to a vacant property tax. We understand that this is a complicated area and that there are issues with probate and the fair deal scheme, but we all know of properties up and down the country that have been lying idle for years and are of no consequence to the people who own them and of properties within the build-to-rent sector that are allowed to remain idle to keep rents high. The effect of the Housing for All policy is such that these sectors will dominate for years to come. Can we allow them to develop a semi-monopoly and to restrict supply of housing? What is contained in this measure in terms of a vacant property tax is not good enough.

Fundamentally, the Minister says that we cannot tackle the housing crisis with one hand tied behind our backs. We also cannot tackle the housing crisis when one sector refuses to build quality housing for all. The construction sector is building, but it is focused on purpose-built student accommodation, which it is then turning into hotels, and on the build-to-rent market. It is not building housing which will still be in use in 100 years' time. The private sector has a fundamentally different objective when it comes to the provision of housing. We cannot control what that sector is doing in terms of building homes. Housing for All gives enormous power to the private sector regarding delivering the aspirations of the Government. On that basis, I fear this Government is bound to fail in terms of delivery and meeting the targets. There is a need for a radical rethink of housing policy in this country. This is a missed opportunity on the part of the Government to put State direct build back at the heart of our housing policy.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan. As I sat listening to the debate, I realised the Ministers with responsibility for housing are the Ministers we see most in this House. As stated by Senator Fitzpatrick, that is an acknowledgement that the Government recognises that at every door we go to, housing is an issue. We are determined to fix this problem. The Green Party stepped up to the plate and entered into government on the key issues of housing and climate change because we want to make a difference in people's lives.

On Housing for All, it is sometimes difficult for people to get their heads around a plan. It is great to have a Twitter line to go out, but this plan sets out 213 concrete steps and that can sometimes be difficult to articulate. There is a different housing need in almost every household canvassed. This plan looks at all of the housing needs and it provides a comprehensive way forward for tackling each need. The plan is comprehensive. It includes targets for all types of housing and, critically, it is funded. It contains a raft of innovative policy measures from the ending of the SHD process to the introduction of a tax on land, tackling Airbnbs, a town centre first type approach under Croí Cónaithe and a centre of excellence for innovation. It is important that a plan has incentives and disincentives, or a carrot and stick approach. This plan has both because that is what is required to get the policy outcomes we need.

The plan recognises that this is not just about building houses. I use the word "just" because while building houses is critical, at the heart of any plan must also be the development of sustainable communities. The plan recognises that housing must be in the right place, with the right services, for a community to flourish. Several amendments were made to other Bills that came before this House on that issue. I too encourage the Minister to insert the wording around sustainable communities in this Bill. The plan is underpinned by two major legislative innovations which came before this House prior to the summer recess, that is, the Affordable Housing Act 2021, which we discussed at length, and the Land Development Agency Act 2021, both of which work hand-in-hand. The actions are clear and timelined and there is a responsible party tasked with oversight of their implementation.

This plan recognises the scale of the crisis and has within it the means of solution. However, as mentioned, having a plan is in some ways the easy part. There have been other plans. This plan will only be a success if all arms of government are behind it and if every local authority and semi-State body in the areas of transport, energy, water and communications, approved housing bodies and co-operatives, not-for-profit agencies and, importantly, every community in Ireland, plays its part in achieving housing for all. This is a national crisis, ongoing now for a decade or more. It is not solely a matter for the Government, but Government is showing by way of this plan that it is playing its part. It will, however, be up to every county and city councillor to play their part. There is no government when it comes to county or city councils. There is an obligation on Government but so too there is an obligation on the Opposition. I take on board Senator Moynihan's point that it is the place of Opposition to hold Government to account, but in this particular instance it is also the place of councillors from Opposition parties to play their part in voting through housing proposals that come before their councils.

It is not only about voting through housing proposals and having enough houses but also having them in the right places for the people who are most vulnerable. That means providing housing for Travellers, building social housing, adopting a Housing First approach to homelessness and ending emergency accommodation. Crucially, it will be up to members of the public in every area to understand that if somebody is homeless in their area, it reflects on all of us. It is up to all of us to ensure we play our part. I was pleased to note that a survey in The Irish Times found that the majority of people agree with that view and are in favour of having social housing in their areas. City and county councillors need to take that on board. It is the view of the majority. It is not just about listening to the loud voices we sometimes hear.

I will speak about some of the issues that are important to the Green Party. Some of the measures we are passionate about are included in this plan. As I have said many times, the Green Party has long championed the Vienna model of cost-rental housing. This approach was placed on a statutory footing here for the first time under the Affordable Housing Act and the Land Development Agency Act and there are now national targets in place for it. The State plans to build 2,000 cost-rental units every year during the lifetime of this plan. That may not be as much as I would like but there will be a review midway through the lifetime of the plan. I believe the Minister will see that this proof of concept has been successful and we will see an increase in the number of cost-rental units. Cost rental is not only about the people who live in this housing. If we build at scale, the cost-rental model can calm the market overall.

Cost-rental housing has been incredibly popular so far, which gives reason to hope we may come to see it as a very successful proof of concept. On the Enniskerry Road cost-rental homes were recently completed by the Respond and Tuath approved housing bodies in conjunction with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The council invited members of the public to apply to rent two-bedroom apartments at prices that are 40% lower than average rents in the area. Within the first 24 hours, it received 500 applications. Couples with an annual combined income of €82,000 or less and single people with an annual income of €53,000 or less can avail of cost-rental homes at rents averaging €1,155 for a two-bed apartment. The model is extremely popular and we would like to see it expanded.

I am a member of the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community. It is important to mention that 50% of Travellers die before their 39th birthday. That is a shocking statistic. This country has failed Travellers and it has been called out on this issue for decades. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance expressed shock at the amount of money for Traveller accommodation returned over many years unspent by local authorities, including my local authority, Galway City Council. Last year was the first time the council drew down all the money for Traveller accommodation. We need to see more than that. There needs to be a stepping-up of ambition. We do not even know how many Traveller families there are. It has been recommended that people have the option of including their ethnicity on applications for social housing in order that we can see the true scale of what we are dealing with. The degree of racism against Travellers is probably under-reported.

One of the big successes in this plan and the reason many NGOs have come on board with it is the emphasis on the Housing First approach to ending homelessness. More than 8,000 people are in emergency accommodation, 2,000 of whom are children. This plan aims to end all of that by 2030. I believe we can do it. I also believe the Government truly wants to do that and that it prioritises housing.

We have engaged extensively with the Minister of State and the other Ministers in the Department on the detail of the issues involved. Unfortunately, a number of concerns we flagged when dealing with the legislation before the House prior to the summer recess still remain with regard to the Housing for All plan. I acknowledge there are positive components in the plan. I note the investment in the Housing First approach. That could be increased further. We know that approach has worked in other countries. I suggest it should be bolstered by an increase in the number of tenancy sustainment officers, of which there are ten currently. These officers play an important role in helping people, particularly vulnerable persons, to stay in housing. That is an important element in ensuring those who face the most difficulties are able to access housing and sustain it.

The core concern we had, namely, the reliance on, trust in and hope that the market will deliver and respond, remains with respect to Housing for All. The plan leads with the goal of home ownership, which should be a goal of course, but many of its measures around home ownership have been identified as inflating prices and contributing to the core problem, which is the property market. Rather than constraining the property market, we are simply helping people to get into it or to navigate it. That is the problem. Senator Moynihan put it very eloquently. The fact is the market and investment companies have a different set of priorities. Their priorities are the maximising of profit and return. That is their key concern and focus and that is what they will do. It is up to us not to appeal to them or play their game but to ask that they fit within our laws, which supersede them because they are the laws of the State based on the representation of the people.

The right balance and the strength we need to show are still not fully there. It is evident in the issues relating to the shared equity scheme. I do not need to rehash that. Even the Central Bank commented on it. We have been warned time and again that the scheme will have a potential inflationary impact. There are also questions about local authority loans. The rent pressure zone protections are in place but they are linked to the harmonised index of consumer prices. It comes back to the question of affordability, which we discussed at length when we dealt with the legislation. Affordability in the classic sense does not begin with the cost factor but with what people can afford as a starting point. We need to do better in that regard. I am concerned about that. There will be a review and we will consider it but we have seen rental prices increase.

In terms of rental protections, I am concerned that the private rental market will play such a key role. While we have a cost-rental model, the concern we highlighted is that the model of cost rental the State has chosen to introduce includes private actors who will make an equity return. We are adding an unnecessary cost to the costs of the cost-rental model. We are adding returns for shareholders into the rental prices. That is a concern as is the fact that the cost of financing is included in the cost. We know about private financing. There is a whole section in the plan on the private financing that investment companies get. This is different from the financing the State can draw on at European level. Ultimately, an additional cost that could have been avoided is being imposed on renters.

I welcome the move away from the leasing model but we are getting mixed signals on that. We have been told we are moving away from leasing by local authorities, a practice I have opposed for a long time, and giving them the capacity to build directly and so forth, which is welcome. However, we are still giving an exemption to investment funds that buy up properties when they lease to local authorities. We are creating a situation where local authorities that may wish to buy for direct build housing are competing with investment funds that may want to lease housing back to the local authorities.

We are still creating a situation in which local authorities that might want to directly buy or build are competing with investment funds that may want to rent or lease back to them. We are creating an unnecessary distortion and an unnecessary property market speculative competition around something as basic as social housing provision, especially at a point when a huge amount of housing has to be provided in a short period. Many local authorities might not be in position not to take that kind of leasing arrangement, which is a concern.

I have highlighted that there is still a core gap. I will highlight one or two of the specific issues which have not been touched on as much today. I am sure we will be teasing out all of these issues over the period ahead. There is a small part in the plan on disability, but it is not really placed and given the focus it needs. There are more than 5,000 people with a disability on the housing list, many of them for five to ten years and a huge cohort of people with a disability who are considered housed, but are not appropriately housed in the manner of their choice. While there was a general decrease in housing lists from 9% last year, there was only a 4.9% decrease for those with a disability.

While there is a certain allocation of special funding for special housing, I was disappointed by Part M or universal design and that kind of bigger picture. If we are building a whole new set of standards or facilitating or funding others to build, let us raise the standards widely. The Minister will be aware I have put forward legislation on public procurement. One of the requirements I have is that where we are looking at major capital expenditure, and much of the provision in this plan will require significant capital procurement, we should be looking at 50% quality criteria, at least. I put this legislation forward in the last Government and have again put it forward in this Government. When we look at mica, pyrite and all of those issues, the importance of quality criteria, raising the standards and aiming high in building is so clear.

My final concern is about the urban development zones and the judicial review. Let us be clear on planning. More than half of the strategic housing developments which were given planning permission were not built. We need to knock on the head the idea that somehow objections or criticisms are delaying housing, which we were told was the problem local authorities had the last time. They got their fast track planning permission and then sat on those properties. Let us not have that happen again or have the urban development zones be misused, as the strategic development zones were, for a pile of empty commercial office blocks, when what we need is housing for communities in the inner cities.

I thank the Minister for coming in to take this issue. The crucial question around Housing for All and the document the Government has published is not the reaction in these Houses, it is the reaction on the ground. Since it has been published, I get asked to explain the scheme, how it will work, whether one will be able to qualify for an affordable home in one's position and how the shared equity scheme operates. It is essential that we start to roll those out. The big difference now is that local authorities have the resources and the power to be able to deliver. We need to start to draw up league tables around local authorities' performances. No matter what local authority one is in, one will be able to compare the performance of one's local authority on building social and affordable houses within the area. It should be accessible to the councillors throughout the country in order that they can hold to account the chief executives and those members of staff who are charged with delivering the plan.

The crucial aspect of this will be in a couple of years' time. It is not the ideology, it is the number of people who have keys to homes in their hand and are turning those keys into their houses. That will be the crucial test. I agree with Senator Pauline O'Reilly's point on how it is also about building communities. This has to be around a whole-of-government approach and that is why, as a domestic issue, this Government has made clear it will tackle the housing issue. The big difference between those of us in government and some in opposition is we want to solve the problem. There are those in opposition who want this plan to fail and would much rather this plan would fail in order that they can trot out the same lines they have been trotting out, without any offer of any new plan.

One of the challenges in Housing for All is the estimate that we will need approximately another 17,500 staff operating in the construction sector. Some of those will be coming through the apprenticeship model, which SOLAS oversees. We will see Irish workers coming home. I have some concern there may be distorting impacts on other aspects of the labour market if we have a big rush into construction. It is an area we need to continue to watch and we need to look at visa requirements for specialist international workers, to ensure it is as easy as possible for builders who need to employ international workers with specialisations to come into this country.

The key issue about An Bord Pleanála is the decision-making process is taking too long. What most builders will tell one is it is not whether they get approval, it is the fact it takes far too long. We need to move to a situation whereby the board is giving quick decisions in order that developments can be allowed to move on.

The final area is the question of Irish Water, which is the bigger area. We have talked about this. Irish Water is not fit for purpose. It needs additional resourcing. We are moving towards a single utility, but until we address many of the water and wastewater challenges, we will continue to have some of the problems we see in home building throughout the country. We have to be radical in our approach.

My party has a long and proud tradition of house and home building. Part of the reason we chose to go into government is that we wanted to solve the housing crisis. Unlike Sinn Féin and some of the others, we make no apologies for supporting somebody's aspiration to home ownership. We think somebody who works hard should be allowed to aspire to own his or her own home. There are those who hold a different political view, but the position of Fianna Fáil and this Government is that if one wants to own one's own home, one should and should be supported by the State in doing so. Sinn Féin keeps going on about this anti-developer line. Who are developers? Developers are small builders in all of our communities who are employing bricklayers, electricians, plumbers and plasterers. If that means I am pro-developer by supporting my local builder, plumber or plasterer, then so I am, because, if we do not support them, we will not get the necessary houses built.

If we want to look at Sinn Féin's record, let us look at its record in the North where there is a Sinn Féin housing minister and where, only yesterday, the figures were that 3,596 children are homeless. That is a 48% increase since January 2019. I am tired of Sinn Féin, which has no solutions, coming in here and trotting out the same old line and wanting this Government's policy to fail. However, where it is in charge of housing policy in the North, it is very clear it has failed.

I am delighted to be able to speak on and welcome the Housing for All policy. I have to pick up on one point from the start of the debate. There was a mention of a lost decade in housing. I do not want to go over a history lesson on the decade previous to that, for two reasons, in that it is a long time ago and we are in government together now, but if the Minister responds, can he acknowledge the work the former Ministers, Eoghan Murphy and Deputy Coveney, did in reaching the targets they set themselves at a very difficult time? It is important to acknowledge that, but I recognise the drive and the passion the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has in delivering this plan. That is key.

I would like to talk about many aspects of this, but I will only address two matters in the short time available. One is a suggestion and the other is a worry. I refer to vacant homes. We must do something to support people who have owned vacant homes for a long time to do them up and to sell them. Possibly, we should give an incentive to sell such houses to first-time buyers, a little bit like we do with the help-to-buy scheme. There are more than 30 vacant homes along the main street in Clonmel. They have been vacant for a long time. Nothing is being done about that situation. It is the same in a very small village in north Tipperary, Templetuohy, which has 14 vacant homes. That is in a tiny village and those homes have been like that for a long time. We could undertake simple initiatives. I spoke to people who own these buildings and they want to do them up. They are waiting, however, for an incentive from the Government to do it. They are asking me if there is anything that can be done to help them and if there is anything that they can get to help them to start doing up those properties. That is a priority.

The worry I have, and I have spoken about this before and the Minister will be aware of it, concerns Irish Water. This matter was also raised by Senator Malcolm Byrne. Many developments across the country have been approved for planning permission, subject to having a connection to Irish Water. Approximately 2,000 houses in Midleton have been waiting for years for a connection to Irish Water. The company will not connect them until 2026. That is going to happen in every rural county over the next year. We must tackle this problem. I disagree with Senator Malcolm Byrne in respect of needing to provide more funding for Irish Water. I question some of the spending now being undertaken by the company and its uses. Irish Water must be reined in concerning how it is spending its money. A serious issue exists with water connections and water supply in respect of meeting the demands that we have set ourselves in the Housing for All strategy. We must focus on this aspect a great deal more.

I thank the Minister for being here. This is an important topic that we are all committed to in the context of delivery. Following on from what Senator Ahearn said, and paying tribute to the two previous Ministers with responsibility in this area, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, and former Deputy Eoghan Murphy, 85,000 private homes and 24,000 social homes were delivered. The Opposition spokespeople referred to there having been no delivery and targets not being met. That is not the case and it is important to put those figures on record.

Turning to the future, the Minister was in Limerick recently at the launch of the land development plan. Most of the eight areas concerned are on my doorstep. I represented those areas as a councillor for 17 years. I also live close by. This is a fantastic plan. I fully support it. I worry about one thing, though, and this question was posed on the day of the launch. It will be four or five years before we see a brick laid on the site. That is my one fear. I welcome the fact that local authorities have been given extra funding for the refurbishment of vacant homes. Some council properties have been lying vacant for a long time and we end up with many such sites in urban areas. We must look at this aspect.

While there is an emphasis in this plan in that regard, we must also look at more stringent ways of delivering faster in this respect. I state that because some properties I have seen have been vacant for a long time and they are still not renovated. I do not know if there is some kind of glitch in communications between the council and the Department, but this is an aspect that should be looked at in greater detail. I welcome the plan and specifically the emphasis on affordable homes. That is something many people are striving to work towards. Some 2,100 homes had delivered so far under the auspices of the help-to-buy scheme. It would be great if we could increase that figure. It is a good scheme and it has helped many people who cannot afford to buy their own home.

I welcome the opportunity to make a statement on the Housing for All strategy. I thank the Minister for being present and for his Ministers of State filling in as well. I thank them all for the momentous work done on this document. I refer to putting together the policies that have made it the great document it is. It well deserves the praise it is getting. Everybody agrees that the housing situation is simply not where it needs to be. It was stated in the past that Fianna Fáil was a party closely linked with housing. Some would also say that we are close to developers. Unashamedly, I say that we are close to developers. That is the case for one very good reason. It is because we seem to realise what is necessary in this country in respect of the provision of homes. We are able to recognise what is needed to pull policy together and to make things happen when it comes to homeownership and the provision of homes. That is exactly what this plan is about.

Having said that, the major and most pertinent issue for me, and I am not going to speak at length about this today, when it comes to housing is mica. It would be remiss of me not to mention this issue given that these are an important few days in the development of this scheme. The next 24 to 48 hours will be important for the Department and for the working group that was set up. I commend all those who have worked on that group so far. I emphasise strongly that we have an opportunity to try to address the concerns of many genuine people who have been left in an awful situation. I ask that these people be given the provisions as others across the country were given in the past.

The increase in the costs of building houses should also be recognised. I refer to tendering costs, etc., in this regard. They have increased by approximately 40% to 50% in the past nine months alone. Any review of the mica redress scheme must be cognisant of that. In addition, it must recognise that people need guarantees. People who partake of such a scheme, after it is reviewed, must have assurances that they will be able to get insurance for their houses in future and that they will be able to draw down mortgages. Therefore, certain mechanisms and guarantees must be included as part of this review. I ask the Minister to relay this message to his officials and ensure that it forms part of the review. Many other areas and aspects remain to be addressed. We may get another opportunity to discuss this matter further with the Minister and his officials before the scheme is finalised.

Like many colleagues, I fully support the Housing for All strategy. Also like many others, however, I have some fears. As has been said, every council in the country is cognisant of difficulties with Irish Water. It is an issue in towns and villages everywhere. I fear that this is the one area that will cause difficulties for the Housing for All strategy down the road, if it is not tackled now. Like Senator Ahearn, I also question some of the spending by Irish Water. It is one of the organisations in the State that is not approachable. It is also somewhat undemocratic. Those who represent people in local areas do not get the access to that organisation that public representatives are able to avail of in the context of other public bodies. The result is that Irish Water does not have the same accountability. It is impossible to question some of the actions the company is taking in respect of scheme upgrades in towns and villages. This is causing great difficulty. Overall, however, I welcome this Housing for All strategy. I am behind it fully and I look forward to its implementation.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan. I compliment him and his colleagues, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, and the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, for all their work on this Housing for All policy. Before I go any further, I will comment on Senator Fitzpatrick’s contribution. I think she talked about a "lost decade". I entered the other House in 2011. When we were talking about housing then, it was in the context of developers having gone bust, ghost estates, negative equity and, of course, the overarching matter of the International Monetary Fund overlords being in the country. The result was that we had to do many things before we were able to get to building houses in those years.

By 2040, an additional 1 million people are expected to live in this country. That might seem a long way away today but it will come very first. The demand for housing will be with us throughout that period. We talk about the potential benefits of remote working, how it could be a game changer and how it could allow those who work in offices not to be tied to an office. Thousands upon thousands of people do not work in offices. Some work in the trades or are drivers or self-employed. Others run small businesses or work in retail across the country. Remote working will take pressure off some of our cities, such as Dublin, and that is good for people in those areas as it may make more accommodation available for them. That is important.

We need to supply all types of housing. I do not subscribe to the view that either the private market alone or the public sector alone should provide housing; we need all types of housing. We need private, public and affordable housing and we need sheltered housing for the elderly and housing provided by approved housing bodies. Each home built is a plus. Each home will allow a family to leave their parents' house, to move out of rented accommodation or to move from a smaller house or apartment to another house, freeing up that smaller unit for somebody else.

When I initially looked at the Housing for All policy, I went to the sections on the supply of housing. That is the most crucial issue. Supply is key and you start with zoned land. I was a councillor when the Celtic tiger was at its height and directors of service valiantly tried to stop the excessive rezoning in town plans and so on in Galway. We have gone from that extreme, where we may have been zoning too much, to a situation in which local authorities decide, based on national policy, that the need for a given number of houses translates to a given number of hectares zoned. They may give a little bit of leeway but that is it. That does not take account of the fact that, in some cases, the land that is zoned, even though it might be very central, might just be farmed by a family or owned by an elderly bachelor, meaning that it is not available to the market. The situation is the same in respect of serviced land. If there is serviced land that does not come on the market, that investment is foregone, certainly in the short term. The concept of "use it or lose it" is important in that regard.

Planning permission has been talked about but, on the serviced lands issue, I will comment on wastewater. Over successive governments, there has been a good deal of positive developments in respect of wastewater treatment plants in my own area. I refer to the plants at Clifden, Oughterard, Claregalway, Milltown, Headford and Clonbur. Work is also starting in An Spidéal and there is a compulsory purchase order under way in Roundstone. There are positive developments but there are other areas, such as Carna and Cill Chiaráin, in which there is a demand for housing, including social housing, but where there are no wastewater treatment plants. Land is relatively cheap in these areas when compared with areas closer to Galway city and that presents an opportunity. Assisting Irish Water, which has done a lot of work on pollution issues targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency, is important. Additional investment is needed in that regard.

There are mixed views on judicial reviews in the planning process but I believe they have been an impediment. Believe it or believe it not, there are votes to be got by objecting to housing. That is what I see. I see it all over the place. There are people objecting to social housing, to private housing and to student accommodation. I have never objected to anything in my life. I want to put that on the record. I hope to continue in that vein but that is what is happening up and down our country. There are people who genuinely object because there may not be enough amenities in a town, for example. In many cases, these issues are valid.

I welcome the initiative in respect of affordable housing. It is not good for families or for society that due to financial pressure and the cost of housing, people have been excluded from owning their own homes. That is absolutely positive and I welcome that initiative.

Overall, as a member of a Government party, I hope this policy will work for people across our country, in our cities, in our county towns and in areas in rural Ireland. We should not forget the importance of being able to build in your own local community, subject to all the different regulations relating to housing need and the treatment of effluent. Those regulations are important but people should have the right to live in rural areas. That will be an important component in solving the housing crisis.

The Minister of State is very welcome. A lot has been said in the Chamber this afternoon, simultaneously in the Dáil Chamber and in the media about the Housing for All plan but, as the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, said here earlier, we have had the discussion; it is now about delivery. As Senator Malcolm Byrne said, the reaction from outside of the Houses from the main stakeholders has been very positive. Senator Boyhan was right when he commented earlier and talked about the Government owning this plan. He was 100% right because it is a big statement on the major issue of our day. The plan aims to address the issue in a range of different ways. The Minister, when speaking in the Chamber earlier, said that it was all about getting all hands on deck. That really is his mantra. That is the very essence of this. We need all hands on deck from the private sector to the public sector, including our local authorities that obviously will be a key component, as well as the small and medium-sized builders. I agree with Senator Malcolm Byrne on that point as well. We need to be encouraging small and medium-sized builders back into the development of housing in our communities. We need the large developers as well. At the boom time, we were seeing 80,000 units built per annum. This must all be done with the goal of increasing capacity. There are many different layers to that. The fact that so many people can now see a role for themselves in this process is very positive. We need to see the property market functioning properly again in order that we can address the issues before us.

The statistics the Minister laid out in his speech are very impressive. He talked about 300,000 new homes by the end of 2030, including 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable purchase homes and 18,000 cost-rental units. However, statistics can sometimes go over people's heads. They see these huge numbers and they do not mean something tangible but this week, I saw on the ground in my own constituency what Housing for All really means. The Minister came down and met with me in the county town of Navan on Monday. We were examining a project that is benefiting from both urban regeneration funding and, it is to be hoped, funding through Housing for All. I am talking about a whole area of the town that was suffering from massive dereliction, going back to when properties were bought up by speculators that then went bust leaving properties standing idle for years. Through funding from the urban regeneration and development fund, URDF, the council has now acquired these lands and has set out a draft master plan for the area. There is €8 million in URDF funding. The plan will see the total regeneration of a derelict area in the heart of Navan. That goes to the essence of what we are doing. We are regenerating a town centre and coupling that with good housing and good apartments in the middle of that town centre. That goes to the very essence of what is good about this plan.

On the flip side and on a smaller thing, the Minister announced €1 million at the weekend for just five age-friendly dwellings in Oldcastle, County Meath, again to be built on derelict land, so this is having an impact on the ground. People can be sceptical of big plans or when they hear the phrase "Housing for All" but it is important to put on the record that tangible things like this are happening. The URDF funding, in conjunction with Housing for All, is going to make a big difference.

Another thing that is going to make a big difference is the forward funding which will now be forthcoming from the Department. The essential element required for this process is land. I have said it for years in these debates. When people are talking about housing development, we must note that, if you do not have the basic essential element, land, you cannot build anything. The situation in respect of land banks in a number of councils across the country is not very good. It is very bleak. During the boom times, many councils got themselves into a hell of a lot of trouble. We had to create a bad bank just to bail out councils as a result of some of the deals they did under the land aggregation scheme. I am glad to see the forward funding being put in place for councils by the Department. It is a big advancement. In Meath, we have seen €6 million in forward funding to allow for the early payment of site costs and to get strategic housing projects through the design, planning and procurement stages. The council can get ahead and actually start to build what is required. That is also a key component. I really welcome that advancement.

I wish the Minister and the team in the Custom House well. This is a very good plan. This is a game changer in terms of young people being able to look to the State and being able to see a plan that is going to deliver and make the attainable goal of owning their own home a reality.

I welcome the opportunity to address the Housing for All plan. I am a member of the joint Oireachtas committee and have valued having an input into this plan and the journey that the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, in particular, has travelled along with us over the past year in the work that we have done on that.

I, too, take offence at Senator Fitzpatrick's reference to a lost decade. It is a disingenuous comment that is completely unnecessary. Maybe a history lesson is required. Fine Gael has held the Ministry for housing since 2016. From then until now we have outstripped any Opposition ambitions when it has come to the building of social housing, and that was done under a Fine Gael Minister.

The Land Development Agency is the backbone of many of the provisions and plans here. There is a fantastic chart on page 87 of Housing for All that lays out the list of State lands planned to be transferred to the Land Development Agency. Most of the newly acquired agency land appears in my home constituency of Dublin South-Central and it is fantastic. Again, that was an initiative that began under the former Minister, Eoghan Murphy.

There is no doubt all parties came into coalition with a determination to build on the excellent foundations that were laid down in Rebuilding Ireland and to enhance them. Thanks to the co-operation of our three parties, the ideas and the commitment and determination, we have a fantastic, well-resourced and well-thought out plan that covers the provision of housing in a variety of ways, including for renters and for first-time buyers and for right sizing properties in terms of older people who would perhaps like to trade down and move but do not want to leave their communities. There is a plan to start exploring what we can do in communities to ensure we have elder-friendly provisions.

There are to be 2,000 cost-rental properties per year, the first of which was launched by the former Minister, Eoghan Murphy, in my home constituency, in the former St. Michael's estate, and hopefully we will see that soon. Some 20% of all new homes are going to be social and affordable housing, so that first-time buyers get that opportunity. The shared equity scheme, as much as it is criticised, is a fantastic initiative. I bought my first home on the back of the shared ownership scheme a long time ago, just off James Street. It gave people who would never have had an opportunity to get a mortgage at the values of properties at the time an opportunity get on the property ladder and I value that scheme coming back in. The right sizing provision is really necessary.

We need to hold local authorities to account, ensuring that they know how to implement the affordable housing provisions and to access that, and to work with whoever wants to work with them in their areas, ensuring that this provision is met and that we keep driving affordable housing. It is right to support and promote home ownership as the ultimate goal. At the end of our careers, we will have pensions and reduced income. It would be nice at that point for a huge cohort to have home ownership and security of tenure. Having indefinite duration tenancies, looking at variations of that, which are constitutionally permissible, and examining and exploring that is very good. All of that is within the Housing for All.

The remote working provisions being promoted by the Tánaiste's Department bring back the possibility of living in our towns and villages, so the Town Centres First is a really good provision in that regard.

One of the legacies of the previous building boom in the noughties is that we have many defective apartments. We have complexes which have fire problems. Yesterday I received a frightening statistic regarding Dublin South-Central and that was that there are 10,000 known apartments in that area, which are likely to be affected by the fire defects. That is something the Minister's Department needs to drive forward. We really need fairness here. Institutional landlords, who have to rectify defects, can write that off against tax, but individuals cannot. We need fairness and justice for homeowners who are affected through no fault of their own. We have heard about mica and pyrite and the campaigns there are extremely good and worthy. However, there is another campaign and the working group's terms of reference are too narrow and we need action on it urgently.

I would like to make a couple of legitimate points on housing based on my experience of what is happening in Dundalk, County Louth. On one hand we have all these ambitions plans to hit all these targets of housing that we need to build every year, which is great, while on the other hand we have a Planning Regulator who is giving advice to local authorities and council executives saying they should dezone land. This is dezoning residential land where any developer can put a planning application in tomorrow. It is dezoning that land from strategic 1 to strategic 2, which means nothing will be built on those lands for the next five years. As a Government, we are saying we want to built a certain number of houses every year, and I have no doubt we will do that. However, at the same time, and I am not saying the Planning Regulator is another arm of Government, we have another unit within the bureaucracy of this country that is instigating ideas and providing advice to local authorities that is detrimental to the targets that we want to set by building houses. How can we, in a county like Louth, say that we want to build a certain number of houses while at the same time county development plans have dezoned any legitimate land? I do not know how that gets resolved. It is a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but parts of the 2018 national planning framework, which was designed before Covid-19, need to be re-examined in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and how much the world has changed since then. I cannot square the circle where we want to build a certain number of houses and yet we have a Planning Regulator telling local authorities to dezone land. I am not saying it is happening everywhere - I hope it is not - but this is my experience of my own home town and what is happening there.

I have said before, and I think Senator Byrne mentioned it earlier, that we have to be able to hold local authorities to account. There can be no excuse for a local authority not leading the way in the building of houses. There can be no excuse for a local authority, such as Louth County Council, punching well above its targets and doing very well while another local authority of a similar size is not living up to what is required of it, and I am talking about those outside the big cities. Chief executives should be held accountable to, and appear before, the Oireachtas committee a couple of times a year to answer. Why is Louth County Council doing really well at this compared to Leitrim County Council or another local authority? The chief executives, whether we like it or not, are answerable to no one. We need to make sure they are answerable to the Oireachtas when it comes to house building, in particular, because otherwise it will be case of local authorities saying in a couple of years' time that they tried their best while the Government will have set all these really important targets that we want to hit but that will not be hit. We need to make sure we are policing that in the local authorities and chief executives are accountable to the Oireachtas for many things but they definitely should be accountable to the Oireachtas housing committee for housing.

My final point on local authorities, and this is to add a positive point, I was really pleased to read about the CPO programme to allow local authorities to acquire vacant properties in the Minister's speech. We in Louth have already been doing this since 2015 because we had a really good director of services for housing and a really good chief executive, who are still there but in different positions. They were able to CPO 130 vacant houses in the town of Dundalk and turn them into social housing with people living in them. Some 130 houses is more than a housing estate.

What the council is doing removes vacant and derelict houses that could be causing problems with antisocial behaviour. A dilapidated house may have damp and all sorts of stuff coming into it. There was one local authority house in which the person in question had no resource whatsoever because he or she would not know who owned it or its history. It gets worse and worse. It becomes more expensive for the State to come in to try to do up a property. However, Louth County Council has been a forerunner in doing what I describe. It has been doing so on its own initiative. If the Government is to launch a CPO programme, it should go to a local authority that knows how to do it. Such a local authority is Louth County Council because it was doing this five or six years ago, before it was even a strategy of the Government. I have seen the benefits. A counsellor can go along to the council and point out a vacant home that is causing issues in an area. Within 12 to 15 months, there will be a family of three or four living in it. It is absolutely superb. It should be a flagship priority of the Government to use the CPO process to put vacant houses back into the housing stock. I would love to see an energetic programme of this kind implemented across every local authority area in the country.

Gabhaim buíochas leis na Seanadóirí go léir. I have taken note of their comments. We are deeply grateful to all the officials in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage who did such incredible work on this. There has been a high level of dedication to Housing for All, led by the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien. The Department has a Fianna Fáil Minister and two Minister of States from Fine Gael and the Green Party. They are united in this common cause. It is not just about the Ministers; it is also about the partners, the NGOs, approved housing bodies and the local authorities, in addition to the Opposition parties, which have contributed in this House and the Dáil. It needs to be acknowledged that we have all contributed. We should have collective ownership of the initiative over the coming years rather than dividing on it. It is important that we try to work collaboratively to achieve the objectives in Housing for All.

I have a couple of comments. Irish Water has been mentioned several times. I ticked a box every time it was mentioned. I hope that once we move towards a single public utility, the associated issues can be resolved. That will certainly help with our ambition in this regard.

The performance of local authorities was mentioned. Bringing the chief executive officers of local authorities before a committee is certainly worth considering. There are targets set for each county in respect of social housing and delivery. That is to be noted also.

On vacant homes, those on the heritage side inputted quite a lot into the town centres first policy, which the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, will be introducing shortly. There is great potential in this regard. It was debated last night here and in the Dáil. I have sat through quite a lot of the debate as a whole. It is quite interesting to see the turnaround from a decade ago in that talk about town centres has now become mainstream. Let us try to deliver on that.

Disability was also mentioned. There are some very good examples of initiatives in this regard across the country, one of which is in my county, Kilkenny. It concerns independent co-housing in Callan. There is a genuine opportunity associated with integrated housing and life-cycle housing. It is important that we deliver on that.

A point was made on the development of sustainable communities. It is not just about delivering units; it is also about delivering sustainable communities. That entails mobility and transport, access to public transport and creating vibrant town centres.

The point was made that this is a radical, realistic and costed plan. It is. We are very determined to deliver on it. Points were made about renters and security of tenure, which will also be addressed.

I thank all the Senators present. It is fantastic to be back in this House to address them. I appreciated the level of debate this afternoon.

Our central goal in Housing for All, as set out in the programme for Government, is that everyone in the State should have access to a home to purchase or to rent at an affordable price, built to a high standard and at the right place, and offering a high quality of life. Everyone should have access to sustainable good-quality housing that is located close to services that are essential for healthy and happy living. Housing for All achieves this. Every player, be it a State body or otherwise, has a part to play in solving the housing problem. Any long-term solution needs to have the entire system pulling in the same direction to a common goal, namely, more and better houses and apartments at affordable prices to buy or to rent. There is no quick fix, as stated by the Minister, as anyone with a genuine interest in housing knows. Right now, there are not enough houses to buy or rent in the private sector. We need to build more social housing. Housing has become increasingly unaffordable for the squeezed middle. Too many people are experiencing homelessness or are unable to access appropriate housing. The cost of building houses is too high. Too much vacant stock remains unused. Our housing stock needs to be more environmentally friendly.

Tackling the housing problem is not an overnight process. The solutions to the problems are not all to be found within the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. There are many problems to be solved. Our job is to increase the capacity in both the private and public construction sectors and to create the environment needed to enable the sector to get back to building houses on scale. We are aware that we must provide many more homes for our growing population over the next decade at prices and rents that people can afford. We will spend unprecedented amounts of Exchequer money to provide social and affordable housing, introduce new incentives to encourage homebuilding in suitable locations, introduce taxes to galvanise the greater use of zoned land and vacant properties, and release State-owned land for residential construction.

We must also ensure that housing stock is fully utilised. That is why Housing for All introduces incentives and measures to bring vacant and derelict properties back into residential use. This policy has the potential to rejuvenate our villages, towns and cities and breathe new life into once-loved buildings. These and other measures will support the ambition of the forthcoming climate action plan.

We need to consider the most vulnerable. Preventing homelessness, protecting tenants and supporting social inclusion are all critical to the success of Housing for All. We will continue to support vulnerable households. We will increase the levels of new housing stock. It fills me with immense pride to be involved in a plan that will work towards the eradication of homelessness. Signing up to the Lisbon Declaration signals our commitment in this regard. This plan supports our commitment to end homelessness by 2030. Housing for All is not just about delivering the necessary homes for private, social and affordable housing; it is also about setting out a pathway to economic, societal and environmental sustainability in the delivery of housing. Our measures relating to the construction sector, including on costs, will help to make the delivery of housing more economically sustainable in the longer term. This plan will ensure that we achieve a more sustainable housing system, with a planning system that is fit for purpose and that will create long-term, vibrant communities with the necessary supporting infrastructure.

The implementation of this plan is now of the utmost importance. Oversight will be provided by the Cabinet committee on housing. Actions will be continually monitored and updated annually to account for the latest analysis, performance against our targets and any new or corrective actions that may be necessary to stay on track in meeting our targets. By working together to implement this plan, the Government will make every effort to accelerate the delivery of housing for all and work towards a long-term sustainable housing system for this and future generations.

While preparing Housing for All over the past 12 months, the Government has taken up the fight to address the housing crisis head-on. It has already introduced some ambitious actions, and that ambition is evident for all to see in Housing for All. This year saw the largest housing budget on record. The Government passed the first-ever comprehensive affordable housing Act and reformed the Land Development Agency's remit, while placing it on a statutory footing. Both steps are aimed at increasing affordability.

The help-to-buy incentive was extended. Ireland's first-ever cost rental homes were opened. To assist older people and people with a disability, we have increased funding for housing adaptation grants for older people and people with a disability. We have also increased funding under the disabled person's grant and the improvement works in lieu of local authority housing scheme.

For renters, the Government extended the rent pressure zones and limited rent increases to general inflation. It also limited deposits and extended protections for student renters. Co-living has been banned and five separate legislative measures have strengthened tenant protections. We also legislated to protect traditional family homes from bulk purchases.

To combat vacancy, we brought over 3,600 vacant social homes back into use, streamlined the buy and renew scheme and extended the repair and lease scheme, the grant now being €60,000. To stimulate more housing, we invested in an Irish Water stimulus package and slashing red tape associated with developing new social housing by increasing the single-stage approval process figure to €6 million. The regeneration of our cities and towns has been underlined by an additional investment of €1.3 billion under the urban regeneration and development fund.

It is clear from the action taken by the Government over the past year that all are intent on and committed to fixing our housing system. Housing for All takes that commitment a step further and on a pathway to a sustainable housing system by clearly setting out how we plan to address the serious short-, medium- and long-term challenges ahead.

Housing for All takes that commitment a step further on the pathway to a sustainable housing system by clearly setting out how we plan to address the serious short, medium and long-term challenges ahead. Ireland needs a long-term plan that addresses the fundamentals of our housing system. The Government has a key role to play in enabling the delivery of housing, ensuring that best use is made of existing stock and delivering strong sustainable communities. Through Housing for All there is an unprecedented level of collaboration across government and with key stakeholders backed up by historic levels of funding. Working with and enabling the private sector to deliver on housing is also central to the plan.

The national planning framework outlines the need for an average of 33,000 additional homes to be constructed per annum until 2030. These homes need to be affordable, built in the right place to the right standard and in support of climate action. They need to satisfy demand for housing across four tenures, namely, affordable, social, private rental and private ownership. They need to be advanced through the planning process and to be built within the context of specific development targets for five cities and major towns and the complementary objectives of the town centres first policy and rural housing. The four pathways in Housing for All contain a comprehensive suite of actions to achieve housing policy objectives. Housing for All has the largest housing budget in the history of the State to support these pathways, with an excess of €20 billion in funding through the Exchequer, the Land Development Agency and the Housing Finance Agency over the next five years.

This plan will work. I am sure the 213 actions are the right ones to solve the crisis. I have every confidence in the team throughout the entirety of government and beyond tasked with implementing them. The investment the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has explained, along with all of the measures discussed here and in the document, will broaden home ownership to a wider circle of citizens while eradicating homelessness and addressing social housing needs. It will improve the lives of all families and the long-term health of our communities. Housing for All will give the squeezed middle a real chance to buy their homes. It will help those struggling to make ends meet. It will help to breathe fresh life into our towns, villages, rural communities and cities. Most importantly, it will get the country back to building homes. It will take perseverance, focus, determination and resolve but Housing for All will meet the housing needs of a generation. Housing for All will work.

Sitting suspended at 5.03 p.m. and resumed at 5.15 p.m.