“That Dáil Éireann:
— the most recently published homeless figures stand at a record 10,397, with 6,524 adults and 3,873 children classified as homeless;
— the number of homeless families has increased by 354 per cent since September 2014, and more than one in three people in emergency accommodation is a child;
— these figures do not account for the thousands of people living with housing uncertainty, living back with parents, staying with friends or with no security of tenure;
— the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness has been published for almost three years and for the third year in a row the Government will fail to meet 2811 the targets set out in the plan;
— with a stated target of 121,000 homes built by the end of 2021, given current failures to meet annual targets, Rebuilding Ireland has completely failed and will not achieve its stated objectives;
— the latest Daft.ie report on the private rental sector showed just 3,500 rental properties available nationally;
— the average cost of renting a property in Dublin now exceeds €2,000 a month, the 32nd quarter in a row there has been an increase;
— average rents nationally are 8 per cent higher than the same period last year;
— as a result of the consistent failings of this Government and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, there is an entire generation of people locked out of affordable and secure housing options; and
— the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has been in his position for two years and has completely failed to address the housing and homelessness emergency, and the consistent growth in the homelessness figures coupled with the failure to meet the Rebuilding Ireland targets underlines that fact;
has no confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy T.D., and calls for him to be removed from office; and
calls on the Government to:
— urgently introduce an affordable housing scheme;
— immediately expand the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme;
— implement an immediate nationwide rent freeze; and
— accept that the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is not fit for purpose and commit to urgently implementing a new housing plan tackling security of tenure and affordability for all.”
When Rebuilding Ireland was published in 2016, it had several aims, the first of which was to address the homelessness crisis. At the time, the number of homeless people was 6,107, including 2,206 children. According to the belatedly announced figures for October, 10,514 people were classified as homeless, comprising 6,688 adults and 3,826 children in emergency accommodation. The disgraceful figures do not take account of the many thousands of so-called hidden homeless, that is, those who have returned home to live with their parents or who sleep on a friend's couch. We come across such people all the time. Two or three families under the one roof is not unusual. The stress and tension it causes is obvious to those who constantly deal with the issue. According to Fine Gael, the great silver bullet to solve the problem is Rebuilding Ireland, a document so mired in spin and ambiguous language that one would need a translator to find the numbers. In 2016, the then Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, promised to fix the homelessness and housing emergency in one fell swoop.
He said he would stake his career on it. The then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, said the goals were ambitious but achievable. Not only has this Government not eradicated homelessness, the situation has become far worse.
The second stated aim of Rebuilding Ireland was to improve the rental sector. As we stand here, we are currently in the 32nd quarter in a row where rents have risen. The average rent in Dublin is now 100% higher than in 2010, and in one part of Dublin it is 125% higher. Those figures have not been plucked out of thin air; they are all from the daft.ie quarter 3 report.
Another aim of Rebuilding Ireland was to address housing waiting lists. In excess of 100,000 individuals and families were on the list when Rebuilding Ireland was published. According to it, HAP and RAS will deliver 58,560 housing solutions over the period 2018 to 2021. We keep pointing out that they are not new houses. The question that must be asked is what exactly is being rebuilt. Across all local authorities the target for 2019 is to build 6,545 houses and acquire 1,325 leases, but the big number is HAP. To reach the target, 17,360 units are needed. The HAP element of the plan is expected to cost €423 million in 2019, with a further €80 million allocated in 2020, bringing the total spend on HAP to 2022 to over €500 million. The more this approach is pursued, the more difficult it is to row back on it. HAP does not provide a secure form of housing, nor is it cost efficient. HAP is the single biggest transfer of public funds to private landlords in the history of the State and has been used to effectively confuse the numbers in terms of units being delivered.
The Committee of Public Accounts, of which I am a member, did extensive work to try to decode the Rebuilding Ireland spin. In the committee's sixth report, published in July, the housing waiting list totalled 114,858 which, of course, includes those in receipt of HAP. That figure includes individuals and families and represents an actual figure of in the region of 330,000 people in need of housing or on waiting lists. Let us be clear. HAP is not units being delivered; rather, people and families are being put at the mercy of the private market and left to fend for themselves. It is a means of massaging the social housing waiting list numbers and the delivery of housing units.
During the hearings of the Committee of Public Accounts on housing, an official from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said: "HAP tends to provide for shorter leases". The dread of a notice to quit is something that renters in general experience, but is an extra complication for those in receipt of HAP because it is more difficult to find accommodation within the specified price range. I have raised the issue on Leaders' Questions and in a recent Topical Issue debate about the administration of HAP which is causing long delays and making it even more difficult to secure accommodation.
The Minister apparently does not recall the Social Democrats ever tabling questions, amendments or proposed legislation, or attending the housing committee. That is funny because a simple fact check would reveal that he is wrong on all counts. The reality is that we have tabled hundreds of questions, have repeatedly used Leaders' Questions and Topical Issue debates to raise issues and brought forward a piece of proposed legislation on rents that the Minister welcomed. Why let the facts get in the way of spin?
In this era of fake news, I urge those in the media who have a responsibility to report impartially to do just that. Let the facts speak for themselves. Some have trotted out Government spin verbatim, and they need to look at themselves. Whenever the general election happens, I can confidently predict that housing will be a central issue. People have already made up their minds that the approach to housing is not working and must change. We are days away from yet another cold weather initiative being announced. This year, more people than ever will be in need. We can count the rows of tents in our parks and along the canal banks. We can understand the level of need. This initiative is not a solution.
The Government's business as usual approach and dismissive attitude that the problem will not be solved overnight has sought to normalise children missing developmental milestones because they are stuck in unsuitable homeless accommodation. This approach has sought to normalise two or three generations living under one roof and, ultimately, a society without empathy or compassion. That is not who we are. Irish people have an inherent sense of decency and are appalled at the trauma we are inflicting on those who find themselves unable to keep up with the property and rental markets that make no room for those on average or below average incomes.
When cuckoo funds buy large blocks of houses or apartments we are told that will provide housing. What kind of communities are we building? They are transient and such housing is only available to those who can afford it. Our use of public land is dictated by the Minister's Department. One only has to look at the O'Devaney Gardens and Oscar Traynor sites to see the approach. They should have been a major opportunity to deliver affordable housing for sale or rent, but the Minister's approach is to have private developers who want to make a healthy profit build units, which works against delivering affordability.
We need to focus on a State-based approach to the project management of sites under public ownership to ensure the maximum use is delivered effectively and in an affordable way for sale and rent. The underlying philosophy of Rebuilding Ireland is that the market is the solution, but the people I come across do not talk to me about getting on the property ladder. Rather, they talk to me about wanting a home. I hear parents asking where their children are going to live. I hear from their adult children who are embarrassed to still be dependent on their parents. I hear from a generation of renters who are working hard but paying large rents, which means they cannot save money for a house they can call home. I hear from people who have received eviction notices who crave the security of a home. I cannot tell the Minister how often I have had people in my office in tears saying the same words, "I never thought homelessness was something that happens to people like us".
The narrative has to change and affordability has to be central to housing delivery. That requires a vision, a vision that I do not believe the Minister or the Government has. The Government has spent years saying no money is available and things take time. This completely ignores the fact that as far back as 2012 the European Investment Bank told us funding was available for housing. Myriad other options were put forward, but all were rejected because they ran contrary to the Government's determination to rely on the private market to deliver solutions to the problems it created. It has not and it will not. The longer the Government fails to realise that, the worse the emergency becomes.
Rents are running significantly above the monthly cost of a mortgage, yet an entire generation is locked out of accessing mortgages because they cannot afford to save a deposit while paying rent. The solutions are there. The Minister appears to have memory difficulties. It is to be hoped that by now his memory will have been jogged enough to recall the many pieces of proposed legislation tabled by the Opposition on these issues. Perhaps he might also remember our call two years ago for a national rent freeze, something the Fine Gael by-election candidate in Dublin Mid-West said she supported as she mounted a campaign about how her party and director of elections were failing renters and to provide affordable homes for purchase.
I am glad that over the past three or four weeks during the by-election campaign Fianna Fáil has finally woken up to the scale of the housing crisis. Its words have been laudable over the past number of weeks. Deputy Micheál Martin has repeatedly used Leaders' Questions to decry the state of affairs and excoriate the Minister for failing in his job.
The two new Fianna Fáil Deputies in the House this evening will no doubt have lambasted the Minister and his track record while on the election stump in recent weeks. Yet, it would appear now that those words are really all hot air and Fianna Fáil will continue to do what it has done since the outset of this silent partner arrangement. Brexit has been used as an excuse to dumb down many pressing domestic issues, including the housing and homelessness emergency. Not one of those Deputies, however, wants to talk about how this housing and homelessness emergency will make Brexit, and the fallout from Brexit, even worse for Ireland and the individuals stuck in this situation.
How will companies look at this country, where their employees cannot afford to live and are considering the prospects of relocation? We are already hearing of people moving because they cannot afford to live here. Those are people with good jobs and a good education. The Expat City Ranking 2019 report, published today, unfortunately ranks Dublin last of some 82 cities. Some 86% of people surveyed stated that they found it difficult to get housing and 88% responded that they did not find housing in Dublin affordable.
The Government, and its silent partners in Fianna Fáil, want to pretend that this motion is reckless and that a general election so close to Christmas is ill advised and a political game-playing stunt. It seems, however, that nobody on those benches cares to recall a no confidence motion that the Fianna Fáil Party tabled in respect of the former Deputy and Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, when the heat became too much for that party to bear back in 2017. That motion did not require a general election and neither does this one. The Government knows that, the Fianna Fáil Party knows that and most observers know that as well. The Government, however, will spin, obfuscate and attack. We make no apology for tabling this motion and we will not be silenced by the use of the age-old trope of attack as the best line of defence.
We are using this opportunity, one of the few we get on Private Members' business, to do what is morally and politically right. I refer to acknowledging that the Minister has utterly failed in his job and that we have no confidence in his ability to solve this housing and homelessness emergency. For that reason, regardless of any election timing arguments, we have no option but to state that we have no confidence in the Minister. We are not only seeking to have this motion passed, we are asking the Minister to resign. Our society can no longer afford him or Fine Gael.