Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (44, 67)

Cian O'Callaghan


44. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide funding and support to Dublin City Council to build social and affordable homes on a site (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38186/20]

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Richard Boyd Barrett


67. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide the necessary funds and other assistance to develop the Oscar Traynor Road site for social and affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38400/20]

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Oral answers (17 contributions) (Question to Housing)

In a follow up to the priority question tabled by Deputy Ó Broin, I ask the Minister if the Government will provide funding and supports to Dublin City Council to build social and affordable homes on the lands at Oscar Traynor Road.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 67 together.

We took this question earlier and it could not be linked because Deputy Ó Broin's was a priority question but we actually did that. The 253 social homes were fully funded by the Department and €8.6 million or €8.7 million in the serviced sites fund was available to go towards the affordable housing. It is a significant site. There are many other significant sites across the country and other sites have been delivered much quicker. With regard to the history of the Oscar Traynor Road sit, there have been missed opportunities in the past. I am meeting with the management of Dublin City Council tomorrow. I have engaged with councillors there. The Lord Mayor has written to me. I have engaged with the Fianna Fáil group, my own colleagues who have been in contact and others, as I should do. I want to do this in an organised way. I asked for the report from the city council. It has responded with a concise report but it has asked for a little time to consult its members on this and to work through revised proposals. Should they be realistic I have to assess whatever proposals come forward.

On the provision of social and affordable homes on the site, we will not be found wanting in that regard. I will look at any realistic alternative proposal that comes forward but as I mentioned to other colleagues earlier, I do not want this to go on for months. We do not have that luxury. I would say to councillors across the country that our local authorities also have a responsibility to deliver homes. People sometimes want the perfect scheme that fits their own political ideology. Sometimes compromise will be required to deliver homes that people urgently need. I am open to working with people. I am not looking at Deputy Boyd Barrett when I say that. I know he is getting a little paranoid this evening but I am not. I am simply saying that we need to focus on what needs to be done, which is delivering homes, both public and private, for our people on our own land. I will look at any realistic proposal that comes forward and I will help.

I thank the Minister for his response and his comments. I agree with his previous comments that there needs to be consensus on this issue. A non-adversarial approach is the way to proceed. There needs to be quick delivery. That is a strong view in the local community. Beyond that we need housing delivered on this site and on others. There is full agreement on that. The Minister has said a number of times that he will look at realistic proposals. I want to tease that out with him. What is his view of what are realistic proposals?

It is what it is.

Proposals to develop this in the best interests of the local community so there is a decent amount of affordable homes that can be purchased and rented, as well as the social housing element, will require, for example, approval from central government and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to draw down significant funding from the European Investment Bank. Is the Minister open to that? Does he consider that to be a realistic approach?

Who wants an unrealistic proposal? That is nonsense talk, and the reference to ideology is nonsense talk. The Minister has his ideology and the ideology of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party has dominated housing policy forever. The result is that sites in public ownership, which should long since have had public housing built on them, have sat empty because over those years they insisted, in one shape or another, on involving private capital and that delayed everything. I have a proposal for the lands at Oscar Traynor Road. Build public housing on the land now and lift the income thresholds so that people from different income backgrounds can get on the list to get housing. Why do we not try that? We do not try it because the Minister's ideology does not want it.

We have binned the non-adversarial approach and now someone asks me for unrealistic proposals. We may have just heard one but, having said that, I am interested in results and building homes. That is what we are about. I am not sure how many homes the Deputy or his ideology has built in this State. It is probably none. What we are about is delivering homes for people and for families. I know that is something that is of interest to the Deputy.

To answer Deputy O'Callaghan's question, which he put in a constructive way, I will look at realistic proposals. I will not close the door on anything. It may turn out that it is Deputy Boyd Barrett's proposal to raise the social housing limits. It may be people with €500,000 salaries or whatever or maybe we just pull the money out of the sky and build whatever we want but we have to be realistic about it. I will fund the public housing on it. We have done that already. The 253 units I referred to are funded under the Department. I want to see good, affordable housing for purchase and rent but, to be fair, I want to give the local authority some space to assess what it will come back to me on.

I have said I am open to working with them on it. I will meet the local authority at 10 a.m. tomorrow and intend to see how we can move it forward. I do not mean to be disrespectful to Deputy Boyd Barrett. I respect him. I know we are all interested in this and there is some frustration that homes are not being delivered more quickly. This Government will change that, and I would like to be able to work with colleagues to do it.

There is agreement in this House about wanting delivery of homes. Most of us want the same thing. The proposals that were voted down by councillors, including from the Minister's party, would have resulted in about half the site almost certainly going to an institutional investor and some of those homes effectively being rented back to the State under HAP. We know that there is planning permission for 40,000 homes, mainly from the strategic housing development process. These are mainly apartments and are largely going to institutional investors for build-to-rent purposes. We have no shortage in the context of that model and it would have been a mistake to have public land use that model too. When will we have a definitive view from the Minister about what proposals can go forward, particularly in view of the urgency of the matter?

What we have been doing is not realistic. It has not delivered, so that is not real. The lists are long and we should look at the cost. With HAP or RAS, in my area the rent is €2,000 a month to a private landlord. That is €580,000 over 25 years for social housing and the State does not even own it. If the State does a leasing deal of €28,000 per annum, that is €600,000 over 25 years and it does not own anything at the end of it. If the State purchases a turnkey property, the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service report from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform states that it will cost €80,000 more than the local authority building it itself. Why do we not just get local authorities to build properties themselves? It is cheaper, we will own the properties at the end and it can be done more quickly because one does not have to involve all sorts of other players and thereby complicate and delay matters, as has happened. We either do not get it or it costs us a fortune and we own nothing at the end. Why do we not just build it ourselves?

I do not know if the Deputies are aware of the history of the site. It has been in council ownership since around 2007. It is 2020 now. When one says to just let the local authorities build it, it is 13 years later and they have not done so.

The Government does not fund them.

Deputy Ó Broin's party was chair of the housing strategic policy committee in Dublin City Council-----

It does not control the purse strings. The Government controls the purse strings.

-----up until the local elections last year so he can ask Daithí Doolan and his friends there who he controls about why they did not vote for certain housing developments across the city. To get back to the Deputy's point, the Government is interested in letting local authorities build. We raised the discretionary cap to €6 million to allow local authorities to do that. That proposal did not come from anyone here.

One application as a result of that big change-----

The non-adversarial nature that is professed by the Deputies opposite has already broken down in advance of me receiving any proposal whatsoever regarding the Oscar Traynor Road development. What this Government will do in the budget that the Opposition voted against is use the single largest housing budget in the State's history, with €3.3 billion for housing and 12,750 new social, public homes to be delivered next year. The Opposition opposed it. We will carry on with the job of delivering homes for people and the Deputies opposite can carry on debating.

Fund the Oscar Traynor Road development. That is what the Minister could do.