Ministerial Power (Repeal) (Ban Co-Living and Build to Rent) Bill 2020: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This morning we read in the newspapers of yet another co-living application. It is a proposed 14-storey development - twice the height cap in that part of the city - with 506 co-living beds in Dublin city centre. According to An Bord Pleanála and the Dublin local authorities, there have been more than 36 co-living planning applications in recent times, totalling more than 5,055 co-living bedrooms in the capital. Comparing that to the paltry number of live planning applications and permissions for affordable housing under the Government's serviced sites fund speaks volumes about our broken housing system. We can see little or no investment in affordable homes but outstretched arms to equity investors queueing up to build co-living. There is also a concerning trend of change-of-use applications from student accommodation, some of which now lies vacant, unfortunately, to co-living.

Let us be clear: co-living is a bad form of accommodation. It must not be confused with share living or co-housing, two eminently sensible concepts that should be supported and that are already permissible under our planning codes. Co-living is a greed-driven model that seeks to pack as many people as possible into as small a space as possible to maximise profits. These are nothing short of gentrified tenements with asking rents estimated at €1,300 per month for a single person. Controversial planning regulations introduced by Deputy Eoghan Murphy in 2018 allow co-living developments that provide 12 sq. m of personal living space for a single person. For the benefit of anyone who does not know what 12 sq. m is, it is the size of an average car parking space.

This concept is dreamt up by global equity investors looking to exploit the high demand for housing and apartments in our urban centres. The funds have access to unlimited investment capital and can outbid regular residential developers when buying prime city centre land. As a consequence, they are driving up the cost of that land and making standard residential development in our city centres even more unaffordable.

Why are we allowing private investors to dictate the terms of how our cities are being built? The House need not take my word for it but should listen to the views of the current Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he was in opposition. Last July, he said he wanted the Planning Acts to be amended to block further co-living developments. At the time, the future Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government compared co-living to emergency accommodation family hubs. He described co-living as "a bonkers policy" and urged Deputy Eoghan Murphy to scrap it. His boss at the time is now the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin. He described co-living as "battery cage-type accommodation". The future Taoiseach rightly asked whether we were going back to the era of tenements. Deputy Darragh O'Brien is now the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and Deputy Micheál Martin is the Taoiseach. The question is whether they have banned co-living. The answer is "No" and, instead, they have announced a review. One media report recently suggested that instead of scrapping co-living the Minister may allow it in a "modified form".

We simply do not need a review. We need the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, to keep his word and to scrap what he rightly called a "bonkers" policy. If co-living was bonkers before Covid-19, how on earth can it be justified now?

The Bill before us does three straightforward things. First, it removes co-living from planning law, bringing an end to any new co-living planning permission and developments. Second, it scraps the inferior design standards, also introduced by the former Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, for build to rent apartments. Why should renters have smaller apartments with less dual aspect and natural light, less storage, less car parking and less comfort than owners of private apartments? The straight answer is they should not. Third, and importantly, the Bill repeals the controversial power introduced by Deputy Kelly when he was Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in 2016, allowing Ministers to make profound changes to planning law without a vote of the Oireachtas, while riding roughshod over the democratically agreed planning rules of local authorities. If the Minister believes, as I do, in the need for good quality affordable accommodation in our towns and cities, then he must support this Bill. It is the time to end co-living.

I appreciate the Minister has important matters to hand such as drafting the emergency legislation on banning evictions but we are seeing a worrying trend of the Minister either not attending or not remaining even to hear the first round of contributions from the Opposition, something even the former Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, did not do on his worst of days. I would like the Minister of State to raise that concern with the Minister, not just for my benefit but for the benefit of other Opposition Members, when he next speaks to him.

I thank my colleague, an Teachta Ó Broin, for bringing forward this Bill to ban co-living developments. The Minister, Deputy O'Brien, is from my constituency and while we have no such developments in progress that does not mean they will not be here in the future. I am already dealing with them on a small scale and there is no disputing the fact that unless the Minister is stopped, we will have large scale co-living developments in places such as Balbriggan and Swords and right across north County Dublin. It is ridiculous that we have to discuss banning these co-living developments, especially in the era of Covid-19, which has exposed the dangers of overcrowded living conditions for all to see. These developments are unacceptable and they are an unbelievable waste of land.

We have the greatest housing crisis since the foundation of the State. When the State was founded, we had men such as Seán Lemass and Noël Browne, who pushed for mass State sponsored social house building programmes when in government. It is little wonder that by 1940, some 41% of the housing stock had been built by the State, benefiting a cross-section of the population with affordable rents. It is a pity the vision of that time no longer exists. Instead we have politicians so enthralled to their market solutions and neoliberal ideology that they cannot see the damage they are doing.

We should be clear about what we are discussing. Co-living is the nice name for it. We are talking about 21st century tenements. My father was born in a tenement. He spent his life as an activist and continues as an activist and trade unionist. He campaigned for the eradication of tenement housing and for the building of decent social housing. He and his generation succeeded in that aim. The slums were cleared and tenement housing was banished to being a relic of an old Ireland by the members of the Dublin Housing Action Committee. What do we have in Ireland in 2020? We have spivs and capitalists pushing 21st century tenements, just the same as they did in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Is that what this Government, including the Green Party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, call progress? It is 100 years since partition and the foundation of the 26-county State and this Government has decided to resurrect tenements. It has learned nothing except how to line its pockets.

These buildings can be painted in any bright colours, televisions can be put on the ceilings and all the mod cons can be added but that does not change the fact that 60 people living in bedrooms the size of parking spaces and sharing one kitchen is a modern day tenement. My father and mother and people like Bernard and Betty Browne and all the activists of the Dublin Housing Action Committee fought to eradicate tenements and I am damned if I will stand here and allow the Government to let them go ahead for my grandson to live in.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill. What my party colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, has proposed, is as timely as it is necessary. Our Bill on co-living is clear in its ambition, namely to ban this type of building scheme. This is a type of living arrangement that when he was in Opposition, the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, called "bonkers", as Deputy Ó Broin said. When he became Minister, he could have initiated a ban but rather, he announced a review. This neither here nor there response has emboldened those who wish to create such tenements. Since then, we have seen an increase in the number of planning applications for these type of constructions. His Government colleagues in the Green Party called it a profit-driven and inhumane model. I have no doubt that people will be keen to see how the Green Party will vote on today's Bill.

I had the misfortune of living in shared co-living type accommodation in the past. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. It is not something we should be considering. We need to get real here. We cannot return to dodgy bedsits or the tenements of the past. Working people deserve much better. We need to build local authority homes, such as the type of homes some of us grew up in. We also need to deliver real affordable homes, ones that are affordable for workers and their families. When referencing co-living, the document, Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards For New Apartments, says that shared living:

Comprises professionally managed rental accommodation, where individual rooms are rented within an overall development that includes access to shared or communal facilities and amenities.

If one was to remove the words "rental" and "rented" from the above, it becomes hard to assess whether this is referring to a living complex for young professionals or the wing of a prison. There was no need for a review. There was a need for a ban on this type of living arrangement.

These developments push up the price of land. They are expensive and one would only be provided with a private living space the size of a car park space. Yesterday, the Government moved to level 5 restrictions to cope with the spread of the Covid-19 virus. I am curious to know how this would work in a co-living space. Would the residents be confined to their cells?

Another key aspect of the Bill is our desire to ban the substandard design of build to rent properties. We were advised that a significant aspect of the build to rent sector is its ability to accelerate the delivery of new housing on a greater scale, which is welcome. However, one must ask why renters are not afforded a high quality space to live in. Why does a renter not have the additional floor space that those in other complexes are afforded? Why does the maximum of 12 apartments per floor not apply to build to rent construction? Why is the renter, who would pay high rent in an urban dwelling, only entitled to substandard living space? If this Bill is implemented, it would protect renters and put an end to the co-living fiasco proposed by the previous Minister. I urge Members of all parties and none to support Sinn Féin on this Bill.

Part of what this legislation does is to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000. It is worth asking why the planning laws were the way they were before the former Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, changed them. Why were decisions taken on a local basis? They were taken on a local basis because local planners, councillors and authorities knew the communities which they were planning for the best. They were best placed to make those decisions. That has been significantly hollowed out since then. To be honest, An Bord Pleanála is not far off submitting applications on behalf of applicants themselves at this stage. That is one issue.

The other issue is minimum sizes. Why were there minimum sizes for accommodation? There were minimum sizes because it was an agreed policy and objective that there was a certain minimum standard of living that people were expected to have. Space was a crucial component of that. These standards were there and anything below that was substandard. What is being proposed, therefore, in lots of these co-living applications would have been considered substandard accommodation that was not suitable for any citizen or person for much of the last 20 years. That is what we are looking at here. That point has been made more than 1,300 times.

They can be marketed with pictures of flat screen TVs and whatever but the reality is that these spaces that people are living in are little more than the size of a car parking space. We have to think about how much personal space matters. We are in the middle of a pandemic. We must think about somebody self-isolating in such accommodation. It is not much more than a cell.

That person is stuck in a small room. Does he or she risk going to the kitchen? We will not always be living in a pandemic, but this is a good example that conveys how severely limiting and constricting such a space is. We can talk about young professionals and so on, but if we concede on the principle that it is acceptable to confine people's living space to matchbox-sized rooms, that has a ripple effect right through the entire housing system, and before we know it, that is what is held as acceptable for anyone, or any family for that matter. That is the road the Government is going down. This is not the solution to unaffordable accommodation. We need to see an awful lot more action on affordable accommodation. There is nothing on cost rental and nothing on cost purchase. We are still waiting for the Minister's scheme.

I will make a final point on affordable housing. It is certainly an issue in Cork, and I am sure it is an issue for many local authorities. An awful lot of schemes are not viable because the Department is doing nothing about the debt attached to lands owned by local authorities. That needs action. If the Government were to deal with that, it would deliver much more real affordable housing than anything co-living will deliver.

I thank my colleague, Teachta Ó Broin, for bringing this Bill before the House. It will scrap the power Ministers have to make sweeping changes to planning law without a vote of the Oireachtas. It will also ban co-living and the substandard design of build-to-rent properties for renters.

We are told the housing Minister is conducting a review of co-living. While in opposition, the Minister labelled co-living as "bonkers". The current Taoiseach when in opposition referred to "battery cage-type accommodation". It is not often I agree with the Minister or the Taoiseach on housing policy, but these are indeed strange times. On 11 June last year, the Green Party produced a paper on co-living and co-housing, labelling the former "inhumane and profit-driven". It was wrong then and it is wrong now. The Green Party was in opposition then; it is in government now. Co-living is still wrong and needs to be rectified. The reason for co-living is not to cut the very long housing waiting lists; it is to maximise profits for developers by squeezing as many housing units as possible into small spaces. While Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael may have a cosy relationship with developers, I urge the Green Party not to be tainted by association.

In County Kildare the standard response from the council when I make a representation on behalf of a constituent requiring housing is that the council is dealing with 2007 and 2008. That is 12 and 13 years ago, respectively. That is a disgrace. Everyone else will have to find a HAP tenancy. HAP tenancies are like hen's teeth in Kildare. Bad and all as the situation is in general, for single people HAP tenancies are even worse. They cannot be found for single people. Most often one is asked to go to the charity shop and buy a tent.

Last Friday, I slept outdoors for Focus Ireland's Shine a Light sleep-out. I commend the work of Focus Ireland and Housing Action Kildare, whose members between them raised over €1,000 for Focus Ireland. My experience gave me a tiny glimpse into the life of a rough sleeper. The cold gets inside the body and it takes hours the next day coming in out of the cold to warm up. Sounds are amplified, and I am sure nobody who sleeps rough ever gets a good night's sleep. I felt safe. I was in my back yard. I ask Members to imagine what it is like trying to sleep in the constant danger of being on a public street.

The only solution is to build public housing on public land and to ensure that homes are affordable for the poor. I ask that the Bill gets the support it deserves.

I do not have very long and I will not need very long. Everything has been said. We have heard the various terms to describe co-living, if that is even the correct term. We have heard the word "bonkers". We have heard about almost battery-cage living. Members have said it straight; there is no need for a review. Co-living needs to be banned. The terms I keep hearing are "substandard" and "not fit for purpose", highlighted particularly in these pandemic times, when we all understand how important space is. I imagine people who are forced to live in this substandard accommodation do not have any difficulty with bubbles. They are involved in far more bubbles than they want. That is not something we can stand for. A ban is the only way this should be dealt with.

Deputy Ó Laoghaire spoke about the fact that local authorities are hamstrung. In Louth County Council we have a major difficulty in that for even the local authority housing we have, we have no maintenance budget. Combined with this, we are spending about €1 million a year on servicing the loans on landbanks, some of which were bought at the height of the Celtic tiger boom on instruction from the Fianna Fáil Government at the time. Louth County Council has had these landbanks on its books since. Nobody has ever crystallised the losses on them and there have been constant promises from Departments but never a solution. In fairness, I spoke to the Minister about this and I believe he will hold a meeting with Louth County Council, to include councillors, elected representatives of all sorts and the council executive. I suppose it is very difficult to arrange such a meeting in the current pandemic but we need to ensure it happens because this is what has us absolutely hamstrung.

The only solution to the problem we have is to empower local authorities to do what was for many years, namely, build houses for the public on public land. We are talking across the board of mixed developments. We are talking about local authority housing, or council houses, and also affordable cost rentals for those who can afford to pay a fair rent but not necessarily the €1,000, €1,200, €1,400 or €1,600 one could be paying in urban Dundalk at this point. If it were not for HAP and the extortionate amounts paid into that scheme, people would be completely without housing. We accept the reality, but the problem is that HAP sets the baseline, so we have a completely dysfunctional system that needs to be fixed. Affordable cost-rental accommodation, affordable mortgages and the building of council houses - those are the solutions. We do not need these bonkers battery-cage living places. This was said by people who are now in positions of power while they were in positions over here, so we need follow-through.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin for bringing forward this Bill and providing me with the opportunity to bring clarity to the issues raised. For reasons I will explain in more detail, the Government is not supporting the Bill. Before I explain, however, I wish to note with concern that Deputy Ó Broin did not avail of the services available from the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers. On the face of it, it would appear that Sinn Féin has not made any attempt to ensure the Bill is legally sound. Moreover, it is doubtful whether it has done any meaningful research on the potential longer-term-----

I did not make a sound when the Deputy's party colleagues were speaking, and they levelled accusations across the House about builders and developers, of whom I am not one. A little respect would go a long way for the Deputy's party, so I ask him not to shout people down.

Respect has to be earned.

Through the Chair, please. The Minister of State will be let speak.

I am democratically elected here, I will have Deputy Ó Broin know. I am entitled to put forward my views and the Government's views.

I am listening.

I ask the Deputy to have a little respect.

Respect is earned.

Does the Leas-Cheann Comhairle think the Deputy's behaviour is fair?

I ask Deputy Ó Broin to let the Minister of State speak.

It is doubtful whether Sinn Féin has even done any meaningful research on the potential longer term impacts of the Bill, which I am happy to put on the record as they go to the heart of our planning system.

Let us look first at what the Bill sets out to do. Specifically, it proposes to amend section 28 of the Planning and Development Act. Section 28 empowers the Minister with responsibility for housing to issue guidelines to planning authorities in respect of any of their planning functions, to which planning authorities must have regard. The subsection it is proposed to delete, section 28(1C), enables guidelines issued by the Minister under section 28 to also include specific planning policy requirements, SPPRs, with which planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála must comply. The Bill further proposes to repeal the build-to-rent and shared accommodation sections of the apartment guidelines for planning authorities, which were issued by the Minister under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act in 2018.

Let us examine the implications of seeking to delete section 28(1C) of the Planning and Development Act. This Bill would remove a legislative provision introduced to empower the Minister with responsibility for housing to ensure a consistent and integrated approach by all 31 local planning authorities, the three regional assemblies and An Bord Pleanála when implementing national planning policy in the performance of their functions. To understand the full implications of the Bill's proposal, it is important to understand why subsection (1C) was introduced in the first place. The Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2015 amended section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 by introducing a new provision, section 28(1C), whereby, as part of the planning guidelines issued under section 28, a Minister may identify SPPRs with which planning authorities or An Bord Pleanála, in the exercise of their functions, must comply.

The SPPR amendment was inserted concurrent to a 2015 review and update of apartment planning guidelines to replace 2007 apartment guidelines. The review process had been prompted by the adoption of development plans in a number of local authority areas that sought either to set higher minimum standards than those at national level, as set out in the 2007 guidelines document, or set additional new standards on matters not addressed by the 2007 guidelines. These actions, although well-intentioned, unilaterally departed from national guidance, which had been developed with expert input, and were assessed to have the effect of unnecessarily and unjustifiably increasing the cost of new apartment development, either rendering such developments unviable or adding costs ultimately borne by future occupants, whether purchasers or renters.

By 2015, each of the four Dublin local authorities had different standards for apartment development, and in the case of three of them the standards departed from national guidelines. Standards further varied around the country. Given the emerging gap between housing demand and supply, the level of variation in one city and around the country was totally counterproductive, especially given the need to encourage greater efficiency and output from a relatively small construction industry.

The 2015 apartment guidelines and subsequent updated 2018 apartment guidelines utilised the SPPR mechanism under section 28(1C) of the Planning and Development Act to ensure clarity and consistency in providing national minimum standards for apartment developments. In 2019, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, SCSI, independently assessed the impact of the 2018 apartment guidelines as contributing to reduction of between 10% and 20% in build costs in Dublin, or between €28,000 and €51,000, where applied to actual schemes.

While the viability of urban apartment development continues to be challenged, section 28(1C) has contributed to a significant increase in apartment construction in recent years. The total number of apartments completed nationally in 2015 was 673. By 2019, the figure had increased more than fourfold to 3,550. While undoubtedly several factors contributed to this, ensuring a consistent set of national planning guidelines played a significant role.

The ability to specifically use SPPRs under section 28(1C) enables important distinction to be made between general content of ministerial guidelines, where there is scope for variation in application at local authority level, as opposed to the mandatory nature of specific aspects of guidance where it may be necessary to identify requirements that must be applied consistently. This can arise, for example, with regard to design where there is need for local flexibility on a case-by-case basis. However, where it involves a national development standard, such as minimum size of apartments, there should be no variation across local authority boundaries.

This Bill would, therefore, remove a provision introduced to empower the Minister to ensure a nationally consistent approach to planning. We could revert to the position that obtained in 2015 whereby there were four different apartment standards in each of the four Dublin local authorities. Is Sinn Féin proposing that we return to that position?

As I explained, section 28(1C) was introduced to remedy that very scenario. It enables the Minister to ensure, where necessary, there can be national policies and standards for planning and development that may be applied to ensure a consistent regulatory approach across the administrative boundaries of all 31 planning authorities and at appeal or direct application stage to An Bord Pleanála. This approach is essential to provide clarity to both public and private investment and ensure progress in the construction and development of projects through the planning system. It enables the system to facilitate the delivery of outcomes with greater certainty and viability.

The second provision of the Bill seeks to repeal by deletion specific sections of the build-to-rent and shared accommodation section of the apartment guidelines which is in direct conflict with the statutory role of the Minister to amend or revoke guidelines. The Bill seeks to override the Minister and Government by assuming, on behalf of the Oireachtas through primary legislation, functions delegated by the Minister by statute under section 28 to issue, amend or revoke planning guidelines. It is noted that it is not the purpose of the primary planning legislation to ban or preclude any specific class of development. It does not do so, with the notable exception of section 37K of the planning Act that precludes planning permission for enabling the authorisation of nuclear fission power generation in Ireland, which is illustrative of the national scale and significance of the potential development and merits.

The Bill comes at a time when I am at an advanced stage of a review of shared accommodation co-living development, as provided for in the 2018 apartment planning guidelines. I am currently considering a report from my officials in this regard and there is sufficient scope for me to amend or revoke the guidance in accordance with section 28 of the Planning and Development Acts, as amended.

The Government's approach is to look at the evidence and how current policies are operating. This continues to be monitored and assessed and will inform how the Government responds over this time. It is opportune that we look at the policy in this context to consider the evidence and explore the rationale that underpins Government policy.

This is another episode of Sinn Fein's solution of having our housing challenges resolved by soundbite. It is another Bill of less than 100 words. It would facilitate uncertainty and inconsistency in our planning code, with a different standard for every local authority. No attempt was made to seek advice from the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers, nor was any meaningful research done. It is the classic Sinn Féin populist way, rushed to gain maximum attention before the departmental review has been decided.

This Bill, if passed, would increase building costs. Minimum standards have reduced costs, a view endorsed by the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland. The Bill would have the perverse effect of encouraging applications at lower standards, delivering lower quality developments at increased cost. Only Sinn Féin could achieve that. The Bill would not in any way do what it proposes to do. It would remain open for anyone to make a planning application for a co-living or build-to-rent development without any national guidelines. The contradictions seem endless. This Bill tries to undermine the Government's power to make decisions and blurs the lines between the Oireachtas and Government. It would leave any administration responding to challenges of the day with one hand tied behind its back.

Normally, proposals to amend or revoke planning guidelines are on the basis of expert advice, subject to public consultation and screened by a strategic environmental assessment. However, in the case of Sinn Féin, 100 words seem sufficient. It is another week and we have another reckless three-line Bill presented by Sinn Féin in the absence of scrutiny by this House. The Government will oppose the Bill for the reasons I have set out.

I support Deputy Ó Broin's proposals. I find it hard to believe anyone in this House could believe that co-living is the right way to develop our housing stock. Co-living is not cheap. It costs around €1,300 per month for what is, effectively, a car parking space, with 40 people sharing a kitchen. At the best of times, co-living is not suitable but at the height of a pandemic, it is completely unacceptable. These are tenements for the future. They are certainly not boutique living, as they were previously described by a Fine Gael Minister with responsibility for housing. The cost of land gets pushed up because developers use the site to wedge in bedrooms. There are developments on the old Kiely's site in Donnybrook and in Harold's Cross. Right across the city, hotels, aparthotels and student accommodation are springing up everywhere without any issues. For working families and homeless families and individuals, however, homes are not being built and those that are built are not affordable. Clearly, something is wrong when we cannot build housing that does not address the needs of the housing crisis.

We have a developer-led housing policy. We have 4,000 co-living beds in the system because developers will maximise their profits at the expense of families and individuals who are being forced to live in completely overcrowded accommodation. We need to repeal the Planning and Development Act that gives the Minister the power to introduce mandatory planning guidelines without a vote in the Oireachtas. This provision was introduced by the Labour Party in 2016 and needs to go. Sinn Féin would also repeal the mandatory planning guidelines introduced by Fine Gael not long ago. It should be noted that these are the same guidelines and regulations that have allowed developers to chance their arm to try to build 15-storey buildings in Ringsend next to one-storey and two-storey schools. Thankfully, Dublin City Council has rejected this. It is important that An Bord Pleanála does the same. We need affordable homes and public housing on public land, not co-living developments.

I represent one of the oldest parts of Dublin, the Liberties, which has one of the most historic inner-city communities. It is extolled, sung about and maybe sentimentalised but it is a great community. It is neglected and has been overlooked by successive Governments. This marginalised area watched as the Celtic Tiger passed it by and then it was one of the places hardest hit in the subsequent recession. All the while, greedy speculators were enforcing dereliction on the local community, on people's homes, roads and lanes. Then, when the building started, it was not homes for the locals that were planned but, rather, the "studentification" of the area by means of the foisting of blocks upon blocks of student accommodation on an unsuspecting host community.

It was not just student accommodation. It was also a plethora of hotels, one after another. There followed the latest trend for developers and their vulture fund backers to squeeze the biggest profit from a site: co-living. Here we are in the middle of a housing crisis, and where are the homes? Where are the houses for local people in circumstances where the housing lists are growing? All that is being built around them are co-living units, student accommodation and hotels. This change in the Liberties and other inner-city communities in Dublin and other cities has been facilitated by the planners, and by successive Ministers since the former Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, made the disgraceful decision to facilitate co-living builds throughout the State. Of course the previous Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, championed them also.

The Government has a chance to change tack before further destruction is done to the fabric of this city and the communities that live in it. The Minister of State should support this Bill or he, too, will be remembered as part of the gang who wrecked our city. He will be just as guilty of trying to hollow out the soul of the city and facilitating the selling of the commercial product which co-living now is. Living in dog boxes, with 40 bedrooms sharing one kitchen, is being suggested in the most recent scheme planned for Halston Street in Dublin's north inner city. The slum landlord who subdivided his property to have a similar number of migrant workers in a house in Crumlin last year was rightly condemned but the same standards apply. Being nicely painted and having a modern bed in it does not make the dog box any bigger. A dog box is a dog box no matter how one dresses it up. I urge the Minister of State to call a halt to this and to end the practice of co-living in this city.

This Bill is very simple and the decision to be made is all the simpler because Fianna Fáil and the Green Party both opposed co-living in no uncertain terms when in opposition. The Minister of State's Government colleagues from my area, the Minister Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Roderic O'Gorman, and the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, both vehemently opposed the co-living development at the former Brady's site in Castleknock. My belief was that the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, abstained previously and he was playing politics with this. I believe that will be proven in the next couple of days. However, I thought the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, was made of different stuff and find it disappointing that he did not turn up tonight to explain to the people of Blanchardstown and Castleknock why he would be voting down this Bill tomorrow. On 9 January he said that the decision is completely the fault of Fine Gael's housing policies and also there has been no thought put into the co-living model.

I will briefly outline the co-living development at what was formerly Brady's Castleknock Inn. It is on the site of a former house and is surrounded by semi-detached two-storey houses of the sort one would find in every single estate in suburban areas in Dublin 15. This multistorey development will be completely out of character with its surrounding environment. It will consist of 210 units and there is not one single car park space. There are two drop-off spaces, but where are the hundreds of people who are going to live here park their cars? It is going to clog up the streets of the surrounding area. The reality is that these developments will become temporary halfway houses for people seeking better accommodation. The population will be temporary and transient and will severely impact on the local community surrounding it. There are many reasons to oppose this.

It is clear that these developments would not even be considered if we had a functioning housing market. I ask that this motion be passed and that we ensure we have proper and sustainable development into the future which meets the needs of the people and not the greed of the developers.

Is mór an trua nach bhfuil aon Aire anseo chun éisteacht linn, i mo thuairim. Tá sé dochreidte nach bhfuil aon duine anseo ag éisteacht linn agus le mo chomrádaí, an Teachta Eoin Ó Broin, a chuir an PMB os ár gcomhair anseo.

The arguments Fianna Fáil and the Greens made against co-living while in opposition were valid then and are valid now. I have no argument with their assessment that co-living is both grotesque and inhumane and is, in the main, profit-driven. There has been a housing crisis in Ireland for many years, irrespective of which Government was in place. The housing crisis is a reflection of the poor housing policies that have been in place for decades and of each Government's over-reliance on the private sector to solve the housing problem.

It seems now that the new remedy for solving crisis, the response to years of failures in our broken housing system, is co-living. The reality behind this new thinking is, however, that it is an unfortunate reflection of the true state of housing in Ireland, in that there is a total lack of supply of affordable and quality housing. This is not necessarily going to change with co-living developments. Such developments have adversely affected land prices by grossly inflating them because of the perceived potential for high returns for such developments. In a study on co-living, one English academic described it as purely a new way for developers to squeeze profit from an already broken housing market. This seems to perfectly describe the current situation in Ireland. I believe that co-living will also have a negative impact on society, both on social cohesion and on the development of communities. Co-living is being touted as a solution to the housing crisis but it is just a cynical attempt to cash in on it. We do not need overpriced co-living developments to solve the housing or rental crises. The solution is to build more social and affordable housing. Government Members should support this Bill and not make lame excuses about breaking the rules and how there are constitutional reasons which prevent them from supporting this. Government Deputies in the past indicated that they would support this and have described it in the manner I have.

I must tell the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, that the contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, was one of the more disappointing ones I have heard in this House since February. We live in an age where one would hope that the ordinary to and fro and over and back of party-political jibing would perhaps be put to one side when there are greater issues at stake. There have been moments of great clarity from Government over a number of issues and in its ability to reach across the aisle and work with the Opposition. Even with the Dying with Dignity Bill, there was a suggestion from Government that it was possible to take the politics out of this and work on a committee-based structure for 12 months or so to try to advance the aims. It was not a perfect suggestion but at least it was an acknowledgement that there was some validity in what the Opposition was putting forward. Indeed, even with Labour's proposal on sick pay, the Government's response was that it would look into the idea for six months. That is certainly not ideal but it is not a rejection.

What we did not get from the Government contributions in those debates was what we got this evening from the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, which was so lacking in empathy and did not speak to any human experience whatever. It started off with a couple of political jibes. It rattled off a load of constitutional this and that and ended with a political jibe. Nowhere in it was there any mention of what type of person or living conditions does the Government feel are appropriate. If the Minister of State or the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government's position want to say: "Yes, we understand your concerns about co-living because we share them and because previous to the election we said some things which you have quoted to us this evening and you are right, we did describe them as bonkers, we did describe them as tenements. We are going to work with Opposition to ensure we can, at the very least, put a halt to any new co-living applications", that is fine.

We did not get that, however. We got a presentation from the Government that was, I feel, lacking in any real sense of dealing in a fair manner with what has been proposed in Sinn Féin's Bill.

Of course Opposition Bills are not perfect and of course they need to be amended. Fundamentally, what we are speaking about is a housing standard. Even before the pandemic, this type of living did not make much sense as a proposal to deal with the housing crisis. The Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, knows that poverty and disease are often, if not always, exacerbated by housing conditions. TB in the 1940s has been mentioned when 4,000 people died a year. It affected every family in Dublin. The word "tenement" still resonates in a very negative way and sends a shiver down the spine of many Dubliners because of the muscle memory evoked by that word and where our families came from and how we lived. We improved on it. We built public housing on public land and we moved away from this type of accommodation. Now, in my constituency and in the area from where our housing spokesperson, Senator Rebecca Moynihan, comes, co-living proposals are coming to the fore. There is one in Clare Hall for 122 co-living units. It has gone straight to An Bord Pleanála because the previous Government's strategic housing development legislation totally overrides the local authority. Applications go straight to An Bord Pleanála and that is where the decisions are made. It totally overrides the democratically constituted development plan of the city.

Any number of housing solutions have been put forward by the Opposition in the previous Oireachtas and in this Oireachtas. The Green Party has a very strong record on sustainable housing and sustainable planning. Green Party councillors have a strong record of overseeing decency in public life when it comes to constructing these development plans. My party is the same. When it comes to a proposal for co-living housing, being so defensive and having such a defensive presentation from the Government as we did really belittles what we are trying to discuss. We are trying to discuss how people can live in a sustainable way. Many things that were untouchable in the past are being mentioned, such as the nationalisation of private hospitals, a sustainable basic universal income and a ban on evictions. We were told all of these were constitutionally questionable but they were all able to happen overnight because the pandemic demanded it. The pandemic demands that we have a higher standard of housing and it demands that a proposal such as co-living, which was always a bad idea anyway, should be absolutely ruled out in the current situation. If the Government felt strongly enough about it what we would have had this evening was a strong and robust speech from the Minister of State that told us the Government would meet us half way. The Minister of State would have said that he knew and had heard that the legislation was imperfect but that he understood from the history of the city that this type of proposal is not one the Government could stand over and that it would make sure in whatever way it possibly could that it would not proceed. He would have said that the Government regretted the applications being made but would try to do its best to go beyond a situation where co-living is deemed to be acceptable. We did not get this.

When it comes to the vote on this, Government Deputies will vote the way they do, and I was once that soldier. When we walk away from the debate we will be in no way clearer as to where the compassion is in terms of the Government's housing policy. This is the real disappointment about this evening. Anybody can rattle off a speech that is spiteful and full of political point-scoring rhetoric. The people who might potentially live in this type of accommodation, and who may be forced to live in this type of accommodation, demand better from the Parliament and this political discourse.

Can we all accept across the House that co-living is not a solution? Can we accept we have a problem right here and right now whereby co-living planning applications are being submitted to An Bord Pleanála? Can we accept this is a difficulty? Can we accept we should have higher housing standards for our people? Can we say we have learned the lessons of history in terms of tenement life, TB and typhoid? I am not trying to be overly emotive. I am not trying to be unfair. These are the lessons of history. Housing policy is dictated by the mistakes that were made and that we promised would not happen again. Tenement living, which many families know about, came from a situation where the property and landlord classes ran the show. We cannot return to that situation.

I and the Labour Party appeal to the Minister of State and his Government colleagues. The Government could easily dismiss the type of legislation proposed by Deputy Ó Broin as playing politics, and it did, or it could find the good, the decency and the ethic behind what is being proposed as something worthy of support. Perhaps the Government will not support the Bill in the vote when it takes place but it could contextualise it by giving some hope to the Opposition and others in our society that this type of housing standard is not something it really wants to stand over and that will take steps to ensure it will curtail it, regulate it or ensure it does not spread any more than it already has. This is the message we want to hear from the Government. The type of speech that was given by the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, really was quite depressing and ill-befitting a debate on a type of housing model that is not worthy of our citizens. The Government should do better.

It is regrettable that the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, made his contribution and then left straight away. We now have a situation that neither Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael are present in the Chamber but it is Fine Gael that is the architect of co-living and Fianna Fáil that holds the senior Ministry. It is a pity they have left the Green Party here to defend a policy of which I am not sure it is too supportive, although its members will speak for themselves in time. It is regrettable that we do not have the Minister with responsibility for housing or the Minister of State with responsibility for planning and local government in the Chamber. Instead we have the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage and electoral reform. This is a pattern and I have seen it happen before. It needs to be called out.

The Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, made particular comments. Most of his contribution was about defending section 28 and the ministerial guidelines. I have major problems with section 28 and the ministerial guidelines. These measures were introduced by the then Minister, Deputy Kelly, and they are highly regressive and backward. Effectively what they are about is overruling democracy. They allow a Minister without any recourse to the Dáil, or any proper accountability, debate or vote, to issue planning guidelines that overrule planning standards and decisions that could be made at local authority level. It undermines local democracy and the role of the Dáil. We should not stand over it. They need to go and the Bill is correct in this regard.

In the context of the argument that apartment standards were harmonised under the guidelines introduced by the then Minister, Deputy Kelly, the industry lobbied very heavily for the introduction of those reductions in apartment standards and made the case that if they were introduced apartments would then be affordable and viable.

This year before the budget, the industry argued for a shared equity scheme, saying that if its building costs were subsidised through such a scheme, apartment building would be viable, affordable and so forth. Every year the industry states that if X, Y and Z are done for it, apartment building will be viable and affordable, and every year the Government makes changes, and we are back at square one. It has not been an effective route to address those issues.

It is ironic that the Minister is not present because he was incredibly vocal about co-living in opposition. He told his predecessor, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the then Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, that if they liked the idea of co-living so much, they should try living in it. I wonder whether the Minister wants to apply that advice to himself. He also stated that his big concern was that this type of facility would become the norm and he was correct in that analysis, and that co-living units would push up the price of normal apartments in addition to co-living box apartments and he was correct about that too. He said they were not trendy boutique hotels but boxes, and that we needed to consider amendments to the Planning and Development Act 2000 to prevent more being built, and he was correct in that.

More recently, during the summer the Minister reiterated that he was not a fan of co-living. He stated he was reviewing the issue but that it was not an immediate threat because no such projects had been built. He was wrong in that, however, because they are very much a threat and there has been an escalation in the number of planning applications submitted. He stated he thought the market would sort out the issue and that people would decide for themselves if they did not consider co-living a solution for housing, but he is completely wrong on that. The market is dictating that it is the most cost-effective way for a developer to get the maximum return from land, which is why the market is going in this direction. The Minister told us in the Chamber in July that it was his intention to return to the House in the autumn and to work in consultation with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage whenever it was established. The committee has been established and a good number of its members are present. We would like to work with the Minister on this. It is now the autumn, although it will be finished in 11 days. The Government has not requested any time in the House to discuss co-living, despite the Minister's assurances in July and August that he would do so. The only discussion of it is taking place as a result of the Bill, which has been brought forward by Deputy Ó Broin, and unfortunately neither the Minister nor the Minister of State directly involved is present for the discussion on it at this point.

When co-living was introduced by the then Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, he stated:

What we are trying to do is cater to a very small part of the market. The demand is small but there is still demand. If over the next 12 months, 1% of new builds in this country provide for co-living, it will take between 200 and 250 people.

His rationale for this, therefore, was that co-living would comprise a very small part of the market, and that is also what he said in his media performances on the issue. Now, however, more than 5,000 co-living units are in the planning process. It is creating a race to the bottom in standards and an incentive for developers to push for co-living or build-to-rent to maximise their returns. This, in turn, is increasing land costs, making the provision of standard apartments much more costly and less viable.

As other Deputies have noted, the size of co-living units, including an en suite bathroom, is just 12 sq. m, the size of a parking space. This is three times smaller than the smallest studio-type apartments, which must be a minimum of 37 sq. m for just one person. When studio apartments were brought in, we were told they would be a small portion of the market to cater for a small group of people, and now there is co-living on top of that. To put the 12 sq. m in context, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has stated prison cells need to be at least 7 sq. m. A co-living unit is not even double the minimum acceptable standard for a prison cell. That is what we are talking about here.

We have to learn from Covid and one of the lessons has to be that it is essential for everyone to have access to a minimum decent standard of living space. We know that infections spread fast in crowded conditions where people rely on communal facilities such as co-living. This is just one of the reasons this type of accommodation should be abolished now and why it was abolished in the past in this country, as Deputy O'Reilly correctly noted. She referred to the great work done by her father, Mick O'Reilly, and others involved on the Dublin housing action committee to get these types of accommodation abolished for health and other reasons in the past.

More and more people, in future years when the pandemic has finished, although there could be other pandemics, will live and work from home, and co-living is utterly unsuitable in that regard. The rents that will be charged for co-living will be unaffordable, and the reports submitted as part of the planning application process by Bartra Capital Property Group have predicted that rents will be charged at approximately €1,300 per month for effectively one room. If one thinks about how that compares with a shared room in a house, one will see how outrageously high such rents are. They will have an overall effect of increasing rents across the board in the private rented sector.

We are now seeing, particularly in Dublin, the effects of the policies of the previous Government, as more and more hotels, student accommodation, co-living and build-to-rent are being built. Co-living will not be a choice; it will become a tenure where people will be stuck for years, unable to afford other options, especially as it will undermine the supply of other types of rental accommodation. Instead of building liveable cities with high-quality amenities, public transport, public spaces, a city that is safe and high-quality accommodation in which to live, we see the commodification and the financialisaton of housing, where the aim seems to be to provide financial instruments and investments for people rather than high-quality accommodation.

We need to ban the advertising of short-term lets, which are operating without planning permission in our cities, and provide more rental accommodation; ban co-living and build-to-rent; bring in compulsory purchase orders of land to build up public land banks to reduce the cost of development land and of construction; and ensure a good supply of apartments and homes that are affordable to rent and buy.

I am sharing time.

The Bill gives the impression that someone cares about where people live. Co-living has, to date, been classed as substandard and applications have been turned down by An Bord Pleanála on more than one occasion. There is a shortfall in the provision of floor space, with an equal shortfall in respect of the kitchen and the shared space, but this could be a very costly mistake for the Government. In June 2019, An Bord Pleanála refused permission to Bartra Capital Property Group for a co-living development in Tallaght. It was turned down on the grounds that there would not be enough space. None of this was viewed in light of Covid-19, which arrived after the planning was turned down.

I have worked in construction all my life. To put co-living in context, the requirement means roughly 11'6" sq. ft, which is the length of two arms in each direction. Seven such units could fit into a three-bedroom semi-detached house. That is what the current co-living standards mean. Since I became first a councillor and now a Deputy, I have said one-bedroom apartments should never be built, because if somebody gets sick or needs to be cared for, a second bedroom at least will be needed. At a minimum cost of 13% of the value of building a one-bedroom property, a two-bedroom property can be built, but the Government is not listening to me on this.

If the Government wants to resolve the housing crisis and help people, there are other ways of doing it. There are people who are reaching retirement age or whose families are deceased and who want to downsize to nice two-bedroom apartments in good areas where it is safe. Their current homes could be used to house others when they make the move to downsize.

The Government is not allowing for any of that. It wants to herd people into boxes. That is what the Government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens wants to do. That is not the way forward. We have seen from Covid-19 that it is not the way forward. We have seen from what is happening in colleges that it is not the way forward because of the outbreaks among those living on campus. If it is not working in the real world, why would the Government try to make it work in a make-believe world?

An Bord Pleanála has turned this down on more than one occasion. Will the Government not listen to the experts and stop trying to rush through something without thinking about it and having a proper debate? Listen to those who know what they are talking about and make a future for people to allow them to plan, live and work in a safe environment. The properties that are left will be left to others in order that they can move on to something better.

The only people who will profit from this are those who have small areas of land that they consider valuable and who want to put as much stuff onto it as they can in order to get the most profit out of it. They do not care who is living there. If one bad tenant is put into one of these, there are 12 more living around him or her and the right infrastructure is not in place to control what happens. We have seen in different places where a person who engages in antisocial behaviour goes into a housing estate and how long it takes to sort matters out. How long will it take to resolve something like this if one person goes into the wrong apartment, or the wrong room because it is not an apartment?

The Government should listen and it should learn that what has been done in the past did not work. We need to build for the future and the next generation. The way to do that is by building units for people who want to retire into a safe environment and then we can open up other areas in order to meet housing need.

I am sharing time. At the outset, I wish to declare an interest in this matter.

I listened carefully to every speech, including before I came into the Chamber, because I wanted to hear what was being proposed. I thank Sinn Féin for bringing this issue to the floor of the House because we have to talk about the different varieties of housing, the different ways of accommodating people now and into the future and how to do that in a proper way.

I want to record my thanks to the Green Party Deputies for being here. It is outrageous that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not represented. The great Deputy Durkan is here, of course, flying the flag and no better man.

He is almost an independent.

He is a very special man and we all like him very much. However, it is very wrong that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have not seen fit to have senior Ministers present. I have reservations about much of what Deputies from Sinn Féin are saying, but I have terrible respect for their right to say it. I thank them for debating this matter because whatever opinion one has on what they are saying, it is good that this issue is getting an airing.

We can debate this matter and come to our own conclusions but, from my point of view and in the context of my experience, there are different time periods during a person's life. When a person is young and starting out, the type of accommodation he or she requires is not what he or she will require a couple of years after that when they get the legs under them. We all want to see everybody having their own front door, whether that is a privately owned house, a local authority house or in whatever accommodation they can afford - in a proper fashion and of the type and size they want. That is what we aspire to people having but they will not have it at the beginning of their working lives because everybody has to put up with things. Everybody has to have a place that is comfortable but that might not be 100% what they would want because it might not be their own. You work and you keep working. I say to the people in Sinn Féin that work is how a person gets what he or she wants. It does not fall out of the sky. There is no such thing, in this country or anywhere else, as a free lunch and people should always remember that. Somebody has to pay. I have plenty more to say but I will get an opportunity again.

I am glad to get the opportunity to speak. A few years ago, I think it was the second to last Government that got rid of bedsits in Dublin. That is when the housing problem became exacerbated in the city. We did not have that problem. Bedsits, as I understand it, are or were in cities. A single man or woman rented such a place to tide him or her over, as Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said, at a certain stage in their lives. When those people moved on and got into a family situation, they needed a bigger house.

It is amazing to think that the Government is considering going backwards and building apartments that are not much bigger than butter boxes. If we are to move forward, we must improve. From reading everything and listening to everyone, I think that the Minister was against this type of living space when he was in opposition but now he is in favour of it. It is hard to understand what is going on. Different things happen when people get into government and they forget what got them there in the first place.

In County Kerry, we do not have a problem with this but we have many people trying to put a roof over their own heads who are being stopped by serial objectors. I appeal to the Government to do something about these serial objectors because they have stopped many people who just wanted one thing, namely, to get planning to build a house legally for themselves and put a roof over their heads. They were not stopped by the council. Maybe the rules and regulations were tough but, in many cases, local authorities granted planning permission. However, their decisions were appealed by serial objectors, An Bord Pleanála turned them down and the people involved lost the chance of putting a roof over their heads in the places they wanted to do so. I am glad I got to say that.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin and Sinn Féin for bringing forward this motion. It brings into stark focus some of the issues relating to the housing sector. It is important that we try and deal with these issues individually and comprehensively. I will focus on two of them.

The Government and the Opposition, public representatives across the country and community representatives are all in this together. We are all in this together except, that is, the providers of student accommodation. It is not just those who provide student accommodation on a private basis - some of the universities are also not in it with everyone else.

They have turned their backs on many students across the country who have paid substantial deposits for accommodation and have been told they are not getting their money back even though they cannot utilise the accommodation because of the Covid-19 restrictions that are in place. There was an appalling example involving the University of Limerick, which had to be dragged kicking and screaming to refund the accommodation costs to its students before the summer. It eventually, begrudgingly, paid over that money.

Quite a number of private providers refused point blank to refund money to students. They were not in it together with those students. They came cap in hand to the Government for restart grants, access to the wage subsidy scheme and pandemic unemployment payment for their employees because they had a drop in income as a result of there being no student or summer rental owing to the lack of tourism during the summer. I find it immoral that the Government paid them and that they, in turn, did not pay the students.

We are in a similar situation again. I have a representation from a constituent, a young man who paid a first instalment of €3,500 for his accommodation, whose course will be provided online this semester. That private provider has pocketed the money. These private providers are not only availing of financial supports at the moment but also of tax incentives. Tax relief is being claimed by approximately 200 student accommodation providers across the country. In 2017, 246 providers claimed relief from the Revenue Commissioners. They got tax relief from the State and taxpayers across the country to build student accommodation in the first place. Some of them even had the sites handed to them. Yet, when they are asked by the Minister for Education and Skills, the Government and representatives of the people of this country to give students a break, they were not in it together with the rest of us. They quickly turned their backs on those students. There is now an onus on the Government. These providers have refused point blank, after repeated requests from Government, to refund students. They should not be eligible, under any circumstances, for Covid-19 supports. We should look at a clawback of any tax incentives that they have got when they are not prepared to stand together with the people of Ireland.

I raise the issue of the churning of housing. I represent a bizarre constituency, the most rural one in the country. We have ample vacant housing in parts of my constituency. There are housing estates with tumbleweed going through them. In other parts of my constituency, we have a serious housing supply issue and a housing crisis. If a constituent comes to me having been given notice to leave their house in Roscommon town, Ballinsaloe or Monksland in Athlone, an absolute dread comes over me and them because there is no accommodation available at any price of which they can avail. This churning of accommodation is forcing families unnecessarily into homelessness.

I find it frustrating that we have security of tenure in this country for cows in fields but not for children in homes. The Acting Chairman, Deputy Durkan, knows well that there is a measure in place within the agricultural sector that provides a tax incentive for the long-term leasing of farmland but there is no similar structure for housing. In the 1990s, the vast majority of farmland in this country was leased on an 11-month basis. The argument was made at the time that farmers could not plan for the future on an 11-month lease. The Government of the day brought in a tax allowance to incentivise farmers who were leasing land to do it on a five-year basis. Additional incentives were subsequently brought in for ten and up to 15 years. As a result of that, more than 50% of all land that is being leased in this country today is leased on a long-term basis. That provides security for the farmer who is leasing the land because they know they have it for a period of time at a certain rate and they can plan into the future. While we are prepared to put structures in place for farmers to plan the management of cattle and farmland into the future, we are refusing point-blank to do the same for children and families by guaranteeing them a home and roof over their heads.

I am not talking about bringing in an incentive for large-scale landlords. They have done very well from incentives that have been put in place - far too well, to be honest. I am talking about accidental landlords who own one, possibly two, homes. We should provide them with encouragement to enter a five, ten or 15-year lease with a family to provide some level of security for them. The reality is that some families are not going to be in a position to buy a house themselves. They will not be in a position, in the foreseeable future, to get a local authority house because, with the best will and construction programme in the world, it will take a period of time before those houses are available. The least we should be able to do is to guarantee those families a roof over their heads this year, next year and the year after that. It happens all over continental Europe. It happens for farms in Ireland so why can it not happen to provide roofs over the heads of children? We must ensure that this churning of rental property becomes a thing of the past. It is probably the biggest vehicle causing homelessness of families today.

I call on the Independent Group. Are Deputies Pringle and Connolly sharing time?

That is right. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill and commend Deputy Ó Broin for bringing it forward.

In July 2019, then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, tried to tell the Irish public that co-living was like living in a "very trendy kind of boutique hotel-type place". The Irish Examiner of Saturday, 20 July 2019, reported that one Opposition Deputy's response was that:

They should scrap co-living. If Leo Varadkar and Eoghan Murphy want this bonkers policy so much, they should co-live together.

Fast forward a year and the Fianna Fáil Deputy who uttered those words about the bonkers policy is now the Minister in charge of the Department and responsible for the decisions it makes.

Surely Deputy Darragh O’Brien, the Minister responsible for housing, local government and heritage in the Thirty-third Dáil, would and should use his power to undo this bonkers policy? Is that not why he is in politics?

In another article in the Irish Examiner in July last year, it was reported that, "Fianna Fáil housing spokesperson Darragh O'Brien insisted law changes are needed to block further co-living builds". The article quotes him as saying, “The decision by An Bord Pleanála is deeply disappointing, and the big concern now is that these types of facilities will now become the norm". The now Minister is further quoted as stating:

Co-living units will have no effect on housing, and they will push up the price of "normal" apartments in addition to co-living "box" apartments. They are not trendy boutique hotels, they are boxes, and we need to consider amendments to the 2000 Planning Act to change the regulations and stop more from being built.

Does the Minister not mean what he says, or should we just disregard anything he said when in opposition? If the Minister had such strong convictions about bonkers co-living units when in opposition, why commission a review when he has the ministerial power to put an end to them?

In 2017, the then Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, paved the way for co-living units and build to rent to become a new norm in a dysfunctional private rental market. In a Rebuilding Ireland press statement of December 2017, the then Minister stated that new guidance had been provided:

on a new form of shared and serviced rental accommodation – so called “build-to-rent and shared accommodation or co-living”, increasingly being sought by the many tech-sector and new economic enterprises drawn to the centres of our cities and towns. We believe that a new additional code for this emerging demand, could unlock major investment in rental accommodation that is being demanded by the thousands of workers coming in to our growing economy, and which, while very positive for the overall economy, is adding to the pressure in the rental market.

The Minister stated in 2017 that tech companies and businesses, not renters, young workers or voters, were asking for this option. Of course, developers and construction companies want to build twice or three times as many units in any given development to maximise their profits and, in some cases, charge €1,200 or €1,300 per month for a unit the size of a car-parking space, as was said by many Members in this debate.

The premise of co-living units is that there are shared common spaces, such as kitchen areas and living room areas, and they are aimed at a high-end, young, mobile and international workforce. While co-living was bonkers in pre-Covid times, it is certainly much more bonkers and, indeed, dangerous now. People have been asked to self-isolate and quarantine in their own homes, if they are lucky enough to have one. How does the Minister propose that this would be possible in co-living units? We have already been told that Covid will be with us for many years and co-living will just exacerbate the problem.

While companies like Node, the first company to bring co-living to Ireland, shares beautiful photos of high-end apartment living, with all of the designer appliances, the public in Irish cities and, indeed, our planning departments in city and county councils, are not necessarily convinced. Moreover, this is no longer the booming economy of pre-Covid times.

In June, Dublin City Council granted permission for a co-living development of 116 units at Mountjoy Street. Almost a third of the units are planned to be between 15 and 18 sq. m in size. Media reports in August showed that in the initial city council report from the planning officer, there were grave concerns over the usability and functionality of the bedroom spaces and it stated that in most cases, the rooms were only 3 m wide resulting in long and narrow bedrooms with a corridor covering an extensive part of the room with little usable space.

Further information was requested from the builder on the usability of the bedrooms with regard to circulation versus usable space and to clarify whether there was sufficient storage in each bedroom. Concerns were expressed around the usability and quality of the kitchen spaces and how the accommodation would be managed. However, once this information was clarified, planning permission was then granted.

Co-living and unaffordable build-to-rent units were bonkers before this global pandemic but they are certainly dangerous now. People need safe, secure, liveable, spaces with all amenities available to them and at an affordable price. How many of our Googlers, Facebookers, tech workers and others have returned to their home countries to work remotely from there during this pandemic? Will the belated review include this development? I will be supporting this Bill and urge the Minister and Government to accept it, especially now that a suite of regulations is needed.

Various quotes have been mentioned and I will start with one. Just over a year ago, on 15 October 2019, ago the following observation was made at the housing committee, "I do not support co-living at all, as it is not a solution or even a partial solution, to our housing problem." I have made the point many times that we have to make language mean something if we want to work to restore integrity to politics and want people to believe in us. Nobody ever asked us to be perfect but they asked us to say what we mean so that they know where they stand.

I have looked at the Bill. It is short and to the point. The Minister of State is in the House. As has been said, it is unfortunate that he took the approach that he did. I see the difficulty with the Bill from the Government's point of view, given that it proposes to repeal all of the relevant legislation. However, the Minister of State noted that the regulations were brought in to have nationally consistent high standards. It seems to me that is not what has happened. Broad regulation has allowed low standards to be introduced and has copper-fastened them at very high prices. Language is again being stood on its head.

Previous Governments commodified homes and the current Government has inherited this situation. The challenge now is for the Government to do something different because that is why it is in office. I and other Opposition Deputies were elected because we said we would do things differently and make our word mean something. It is time to stop commodifying homes. They are not a commodity.

We cannot take part in society if we do not have security of tenure. I do not agree with Deputy Naughten on security of tenure being ten or 15 years. People need a home for life. We need the Government to be in the middle of the market, i lár an aonaigh. We need to send a message out that a home is essential. It is the most basic thing we need before we can live a civilised life. The State needs to be in the middle of that and build public housing on public land. It is as simple as that. The Government has to grasp the nettle and we will support that. That is what we have to do, regardless of whether the Government likes it. We need public housing on public land.

I refer to Galway and the locked out of the market study. The Simon Community has done us a great service for a long time in making a pen picture of the market at a given time. On 20 August, it found that in three areas there were no properties available to rent in any category within the standard of the discretionary rent supplement and the housing assistance payment. Those areas were Galway city, Limerick city and Portlaoise. In my city, people inexplicably have been on social housing waiting lists for over 15 years and have never been offered a house. I have no idea how that could happen when land is available.

The report published by Daft confirmed that Galway has bucked all the trends and in three months, rent has increased by 10%, which is 3% per month, a figure which is out of sync with all of Connacht and Ulster. We have a housing crisis. The Government should declare that and let the solutions emerge. One of them is public housing on public land.

Galway city is developer-led. I ask the Minister of State to have a look at it. The Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, agreed with me twice on the record. We have public land and developer-led developments.

Ceannt Station is a development on public land being led by a developer. The docks is doing its own thing. Sandy Road and the university are doing something else. It is all separate. In one sense, I say fair play to those involved because the obligation is on the city council and Government to work in the common good and have a master plan. There is no master plan. It is enshrined in the city development plan that it will be facilitated, but they cannot afford to produce one. They cannot afford not to produce one because we will have an unsustainable city.

It upsets me to see the term "sustainable" in planning guidelines that allow for a co-living with a bedroom of 12 sq. m. That is not sustainable and it makes a mockery of the English language.

The Minister of State, Deputy Malcolm Noonan, and Deputy Duffy are sharing time. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, for the opportunity to speak on this issue. I fully agree with the sentiment of the Private Member's Bill on co-living and acknowledge that the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, has also publicly expressed his aversion to this type of accommodation.

Throughout the programme for Government negotiations my colleagues and I called for the abolition of co-living. This was unfortunately not included in the programme for Government. While a market does exist for models of co-living, including student and corporate units, there is a real fear that current policy will create glorified youth hostels as a means to end the housing crisis. I also repeated my conviction during the negotiations that build-to-rent strategic housing developments, SHDs, inflate rental costs. It is not a sustainable model for renters and does not benefit communities.

In some cases along the Dublin commuter belt, housing does not meet the core strategies of current national, regional and local development plans. This State should not be complicit in these housing models. However, I understand that clarity is being sought on how An Bord Pleanála is using the SHD guidelines in order that planning permissions meet current core development plan strategies. The current system only serves to create transient workforces and non-sustainable communities and lacks fair and transparent public participation. The State should only provide homes that are sustainable, equitable for society and built with future generations in mind.

The cost-rental model is a practice used internationally where the State provides public housing on public land and in doing so deflates rental costs. The Vienna model exemplifies this. I welcome the budget which has mandated approved housing bodies, AHBs, to provide such units next year, albeit a modest 400 units. This model is a generational investment to create a housing market that is equitable and sustainable.

Since becoming Minister, Deputy Darragh O’Brien has requested a report on the current co-living guidelines which he received recently. The Government is effectively in the process of evaluating the current co-living guidelines with respect to their viability.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin and Sinn Féin for bringing forward this Bill. It is important. We have had a good debate. It is useful and the Government fully recognises the sentiment and intent of the Bill, albeit that there are unintended consequences which is why the Government will not be supporting it.

Before I sum up, I will refer to a number of points that have been raised. We need a more robust means of resolving the valid issues that have been raised. A broader debate at the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage would help that. The issues of liveable cities, density and sustainable development have been raised and they certainly are at the core of what we are trying to achieve with the Town Centre First principle as well. I am fortunate, while living here, to be living in the Liberties, which I love and is a home from home for me. This is a community where people say "Hello" and is a fantastic community in which to be living in Dublin. That is the kind of community approach which we need to try to replicate.

The point was well made by Deputy Naughten on private student accommodation providers and by Deputy Connolly on the commitment to social housing. There is a strong commitment to social housing and approved housing bodies in the programme for Government. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, is very much committed to that.

I will recap finally on the provisions of the Bill, which specifically proposes to amend section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and to repeal the build-to-rent and shared accommodation sections of the apartments guidelines for planning authorities issued by the Minister under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act in 2018. The point here is that quite fundamental changes are proposed in this small Bill of only three sections that would have a significant impact on the consistent and effective operation of our planning system.

Section 28 as enacted empowers the Minister responsible for housing, local government and heritage to issue guidelines to planning authorities regarding any of their planning functions to which planning authorities must have regard. The subsection the Bill proposes to delete, section 28(1C), enables guidelines issued by the Minister under section 28 to also include specific planning policy requirements, SPPRs, with which planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála must comply. We have heard the rationale and good reasons why this subsection was introduced in the first place. These are as relevant and valid today as when they were when first enacted under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2015, which amended section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Under Section 28(1C), as part of the planning guidelines issued under section 28, a Minister may identify SPPRs, with which planning authorities or An Bord Pleanála in the exercise of their functions, must comply. The SPPR amendment was inserted concurrent to a 2015 review and update of apartment planning guidelines to replace 2007 apartment guidelines. The review process had been prompted by the adoption of development plans in a number of local authority areas that sought to either set higher minimum standards than those at national level, as set out in the 2007 guidelines document, or set additional, new standards in matters not addressed by the 2007 guidelines.

As outlined by the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke earlier, these actions, although well-meaning, unilaterally departed from the national guidance which had been developed with expert input and were assessed to have the effect of unnecessarily and unjustifiably increasing the cost of new apartment development, either rendering such developments unviable or adding to costs ultimately borne by future occupants, whether purchasers or renters. No one could reasonably advocate returning to such a situation as in 2015, where each of the four Dublin local authorities had different standards for apartment development, three of which departed from national guidance and where standards further varied across the country. The 2015 apartment guidelines and the subsequent updated 2018 apartment guidelines used the SPPR mechanism under section 28(1C) of the Planning and Development Act to ensure clarity and consistency in providing national minimum standards in apartment developments.

As to whether it has been effective, the evidence would suggest it has. In 2019, the Society of Chartered Surveyors in Ireland independently assessed the impact of the 2018 apartment guidelines as contributing to a 10% to 20% reduction in build costs in Dublin, or €28,000 to €58,000 where applied in actual schemes. While the viability of urban apartment development continues to be challenged, section 28(1C) has contributed to a significant increase in apartment construction in recent years. The total number of apartments completed nationally in 2015 was 673 but by 2019, this had increased more than fourfold to 3,550. While we must acknowledge that several factors contributed to this, ensuring a consistent set of national planning standards played a significant role.

The ability to identify specific planning policy requirements under section 28(1C) enables an important distinction to be made between the general content of ministerial guidance, where there is scope for variation in application at local authority level, as opposed to the mandatory nature of specific aspects of guidance, where it may be necessary to identify requirements that must be applied consistently. This Bill would remove a provision introduced to empower the Minister to ensure a nationally consistent approach to planning. No one would want to revert to the position that existed in 2015, having four different apartment standards in each of the four Dublin local authorities. To be fair, I do not believe the proposers of the Bill would want that either but it is nonetheless one of those unintended consequences that can and would arise if the Government did not oppose this Bill.

I remind the Minister that he is sharing time.

I believe we have completed that. Gabhaim buíochas, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

A consistent regulatory approach through the country is essential to provide clarity to both public and private investment and to progress construction and development projects through the planning system.

The Bill also seeks to repeal by deletion, specified sections on the build-to-rent and shared accommodation sections of the apartment guidelines for planning authorities and is in direct conflict with the statutory role of a Minister to amend or revoke these guidelines. The Bill seeks to override the Minister and Government by assuming on behalf of the Oireachtas, through primary legislation functions delegated to the Minister by statute under section 28, to issue, amend or revoke planning guidelines.

It is worth repeating that it is not the purpose of primary planning legislation to ban or preclude any specific class or type of development. It does not do so, with one notable exception. Section 37K of the Planning and Development Act precludes planning legislation from enabling the authorisation of nuclear fission power generation in Ireland, which is illustrative of the national scale and significance of the potential development that merits specific prohibition.

In summary, I again welcome the debate we have had. As I stated at the outset, we recognise the intent and sentiment behind the Bill but as a Government, we also must recognise there are unintended consequences to it and it is in that regard that we are opposing this Bill. We certainly will continue, however, to work with the Opposition in trying to address the issues that have been validly raised here this evening.

I apologise for my earlier interruption, as I thought the Minister was sharing.

I thank my constituency colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, for all his hard work in bringing this Bill to the House tonight. The former Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, used his power in 2018 to impose mandatory planning guidelines on local authorities regarding apartment sizes and standards. This opened up space for co-living developments.

I use the word "space" lightly. Why should a developer be allowed to build substandard accommodation and why are renters expected to accept a lower standard of accommodation? Renters deserve the same standard of living as those who are purchasing properties. As well as reducing apartments to the same size as disabled car parking spaces, co-living developments also limit the amount of sunlight one gets in one's home. They are literally daylight robbery.

Build-to-rent developments also allow for a lower ratio of car park spaces. That would be fine in an ideal world where we have first-class transport systems but years of underinvestment and bad planning has left us with a transport deficit. In my area of Dublin Mid-West there are several proposed build-to-rent developments, for example, in Lucan and Palmerstown. These developments are about cramming as many apartments as possible into the space available with the minimum amount of car parking space. BusConnects is a minimum of three years away and there is no guarantee that the existing public transport will get people to where they need to go. How exactly are these tenants meant to get to work, to college or the shops? I live in the real world and I can tell the Minister of State that lower car parking ratios are not in line with current local public transport.

It is also time to ban co-living. These are dressed-up 21st century bedsits. They are a throwback to tenement style housing that rams people into 12 sq. m closets. Co-living is bad policy. Its aim is to make developers rich on the back of the desperation of tenants. It is not a solution to the State's housing crisis. If the Minister of State really wants solutions to the housing crisis they are right in front of him. He needs to start listening to my colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, who has been giving this House a masterclass on how to solve the housing crisis for several years. The next thing he should do is support this Bill, ban co-living and build-to-rent developments, and put foundations in place to allow us build affordable homes to rent and buy.

For the record, I want it to be known that there is not a Fine Gael or a Fianna Fáil Deputy present in the Chamber for this debate. That shows their indifference to people's standard of living. I am also not surprised that they have left the Green Party to carry the can tonight. I believe that is the way it will be going forward.

I commend Deputy Ó Broin on bringing this Bill before the House and on his work in presenting a different, better and fairer vision of housing to the Irish people. Nothing exposes the difference in Sinn Féin's vision and the approach adopted by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael than the stark statistic we heard tonight that there are currently planning applications for more than 5,000 co-living units, several multiples of the corresponding figures for affordable and social dwellings.

Sinn Féin believes in the right to housing because we know that when that right is upheld our communities are better places for everyone to live in. I personally know the benefits of good housing policy. I know what it means for a poor family to be allocated a council house. I know the difference that a home can make to a family trying to rebuild their lives. A home gives a sense of security, a sense of place and a sense of peace that cannot and will never be provided in perilous temporary rented accommodation.

My experience of housing provision was not unusual in my youth but today it would appear alien to many who are languishing on housing waiting lists. There are families tonight in the same position that my family once found themselves in but instead of having the hope of securing a home, many of them are living daily with the fear that they will remain in hotel rooms or cramped rented accommodation for a long time to come. Instead of the security, the sense of place or the peace that was once offered to those who needed a home, this Government offers short-term sticking plasters at huge cost delivered by speculators who are heavily subsidised by their friends in Government with Irish taxpayers' money.

To add insult to the massive injury of its failed housing policy, Fine Gael's answer is co-living - bedrooms the size of car park spaces at a cost in excess of €1,300 per month. They are the new tenements of our time. Fianna Fáil, when pretending to be in opposition, pretended to oppose this concept. Now in government it has reverted to type, promising reviews while allowing the developers, the speculators and the vultures to run amok. Shame on any Deputy who fails to support this Bill.

We had a very large number of Private Members' debates on housing over the past number of years but this is the first time in my memory where neither the senior Minister nor the Minister of State directly responsible for the area being debated were in the Chamber. The Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, demanded that we treat him with respect. I would suggest to the first-time Deputy that if he wants Members of this House to treat him with respect he should show the House the respect it deserves and at least stay and listen to the contributions-----

-----of the other political parties that are in the Opposition.

I want to thank the Minister of State who is here because at least he had the good grace to come and listen and to defend. I would say, and I made the same point to Deputy Duffy, that at some point the review will end and the Government will have to make a decision. That is the point at which all of us will have to make decisions around what we are willing to support. On this issue, like so many others, that road is running short and all of us will be judged by what we do at the end of it.

I will respond briefly to the three central criticisms the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, made of our Bill. The first is that he argued strongly in defence of section 28(1C) to provide national planning guidelines. I have no problem with national planning guidelines but I firmly believe that if a Government is going to impose very profound changes on our planning system deliberately to prevent local authorities varying them, there should at least be a vote of the Oireachtas. It is a very simple proposition. The mandatory guidelines introduced in 2018 were a profound change and there was not a vote of this House or any other democratically elected body. My argument is not against national standards per se; it is against the absence of democracy in making those standards.

However, and again with the greatest respect to the Green Party Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, we have a system of local government. If the good people of Dublin city elect representatives who want to improve on the minimum standards of Government, should they not be empowered to do so? One in four households in Dublin city rent and the reason Dublin city had better standards is because the councillors who were elected were reflecting the needs of their voters to provide better standards.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, for example, where there was a very strong Green Party influence, exceeded the basic standards on energy efficiency and environmental protection. That was one of the problems that industry wanted to design out of the system. Should the good people of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown administrative area not have the right to elect politicians to exceed the standards? Government policy should be setting the minimum but if we believe in local democracy we should let our local elected representatives do what is in the best interests of their voters.

I thought the Minister of State made a very telling remark because he said that having higher standards, either more space in Dublin city or more environmentally responsible policies in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, would cost more. The issue therefore was not really about standards; it was about viability as argued by developers. There are many other ways of reducing some of those costs. I refer to the 15% margin that the developers require, the 9% to 12% margin that financiers require and the ever-escalating cost of land in urban centres. If we want to bring down costs let us focus on those and not compromise on living standards or environmental standards.

With respect to co-living, there is no argument to defend it. Nobody has made an argument here today to defend it. I do not believe a review is necessary. It should simply be scrapped and we await with bated breath the Minister's review.

With respect to build-to-rent, again, the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, did not address the issue. Why do we have two sets of standards in the apartment design guidelines, one for people who buy their apartments and one for renters? Is it that renters somehow do not need the same amount of daylight? Is it that they do not need the same amount of storage? Is it that they do not need the same quality and comfort? If Government policy, through its compact growth strategy, wants more people to live and to rent in apartments for longer periods of time we have to build them to the best quality of standards. Rather than the 2018 guidelines harmonising standards, they create two separate standards and the losers, in too many cases, are renters.

The really damaging aspect of co-living and build-to-rent has been highlighted by many Deputies. It is fuelling land price speculation in our urban centres and that is having an impact on the land market and affordability for everyone. If we are serious about generating genuinely affordable homes, not only should we do what many Deputies, including the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, said, which is to increase investment in the delivery of public housing on public land to meet social and affordable need, we should stop using Government policy to fuel land price speculation to deliver the wrong kinds of homes with all sorts of negative effects. That is why I believe this Bill should be supported by the House.

Question put.

In accordance with Standing Order 80(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 22 October 2020.