Based on some of the criticisms that have been voiced during the week, I want to talk for a moment on what motivates us in politics. I can only talk personally about that. There is the kind of thing we hear when the public says we are all in it for the money, or the lifestyle, whatever that is. Today has been a useful occasion for me, in advance of this speech, to reflect on what motivates me in politics. Obviously, a number of those motivations are constituency-based, or they are probably all constituency-based, and some have a policy focus. I have always had a particular interest in special needs and special needs education. On transport, I was one of the first to, and continue to, push for a metro for my constituency because of the kind of developments that are taking place. I would also like to see a model similar to the north inner city strategy, which was introduced by the last Government, for the disadvantaged parts of my constituency. However, as the Minister will know because we shared this when we were on the Front Bench together, there is one objective, more than anything, that motivates me every day as a politician, and it is that age cohort who have so many burdens in their lives - the burdens of climate action, the unexpected burden of Covid and the burden of not being able to afford either a place to live or to rent. Nothing drives me more, and I know the Minister shares that objective and that ambition, than to address the plight of that generation in our country. I will never stop fighting to ensure that the rights, the expectations and the ambitions we had when we were their age, that many of us managed to realise, are ambitions they get to realise.
They have a finite time in which to realise them. This is the generation forced to live at home. Many of them were forced to return to live at home because they could not afford rent or because the rent was eating into their capacity to save for a mortgage. They are always at the front of my mind. Radical proposals are needed to ensure they can fulfil their potential and realise their dreams in terms of having a place of their own.
No one in this House has a monopoly on ideas and no one has a monopoly on motivation. We are all driven to do the best thing for this generation. That also applies to the thousands in my local authority area and constituency who are on the housing lists, and I will mention the social housing aspect shortly. I am as driven as the Minister is, and as anybody else is in this House, to come up with solutions to this issue.
I want to say a word about the Minister. He has come under some criticism in the last week or so, much of it unfair. Fianna Fáil has not been in office since 2011 and, in fact, when we left office, we were the last Government to have had an affordable housing scheme. The last two Governments did not build an affordable house at all in the space of nine or ten years. In the space of six or seven months, the Minister has gone about his task with incredible energy and dynamism. He does not always get it right and he would be the first to admit it, and he would be the first to take stuff on the chin and take ideas on the chin, and accept that this or that thing could be tweaked. However, he has ensured that the Covid time is a time he has used to put in place, if the House will pardon the pun, the building blocks that are necessary for when the economy, please God, opens up, and when we can drive housing delivery and home delivery for our young people. I will always defend him publicly. As a former, now deceased, Fine Gael Taoiseach said on the passing of a former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach: “He did more than his critics ever did.” I would stand over that, and I would say to the Minister that he knows that too.
I want to say a word too about Fianna Fáil, my party, which came in for much criticism this week. We built this city. We can look at any of the iconic landmarks around us, and we are sitting in one, the Convention Centre Dublin, or look at Terminal 2. We can see the Aviva Stadium, we can see Croke Park behind us, we are adjacent to Dublin Docklands, we are down the road from the International Financial Services Centre, and we are only a stone's throw from Temple Bar and from the Grangegorman redevelopment company and all the incredible work it has done. We are about half a mile from the Port Tunnel. Every iconic development in this town was built or initiated when Fianna Fáil was in government. We did more than our critics have ever done. That is not to mention the green and red Luas lines and the motorway system that serves Dublin so well. I ask the critics: what have you done and what have you built? To the public, I ask who they would put their store in. Is it in those who have a record of delivering, and of delivering iconic developments?
How do they propose to activate the 10,000 or 15,000 planning permissions that are sitting there? How does Deputy Eoin Ó Broin propose to activate them? What are his proposals for them? I am not going to talk about the shared equity scheme today because it is only a tiny part of this strategy, and I know the Minister has taken on board the criticisms.
I wish to speak on the Land Development Agency itself. The Minister has made himself incredibly available to colleagues. We have been teasing this out and squeezing the pips out of all the different pieces of it. The Minister is listening. I hope he will recognise that the Bill as presented will not be the same as what it will be when it is eventually signed by the President. First, the LDA has an investment of €1.25 billion by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. It is a huge investment and a great deal of confidence behind it. I took the initiative and had a long conversation with the very accessible CEO of the LDA. He gave myself and a colleague 40 or 50 minutes and answered all our questions. I recommend Opposition politicians to engage in that.
However, I have queries. I will go through some of the issues. We took the example of a site that is not a million miles from me. There is one query, and the Minister has heard this, with regard to having to go to the Minister about each site in respect of what proportion of it will be affordable. In darker times, that is a power that could be abused. I ask the Minister to examine this and consider if it is the best manner in which to proceed. We asked questions of the CEO about the levels of affordability and defining affordability. I have issues with the median value in a particular area. That must be teased out on Committee Stage.
This is a radical affordable rents model. Ireland has never had this previously. I came away from the meeting with great enthusiasm about that aspect. People who earn up to €42,000 per annum can qualify for social housing. However, the stereotypical bank official, nurse, garda, teacher, technician or plumber earns between €45,000 and €80,000 per annum. These people do not qualify for social housing and they are getting squeezed because they do not have sufficient space to save for a mortgage. This is pitched at them. We looked at one particular site and that income bracket. This is for people who, as a couple, previously were always able to afford a home between them, and that home only took a third of their net income. What we are talking about here in terms of affordable rental is one third of a couple's income. If one were to rent privately in Dundrum, for example, the rent would be €2,500. In this affordable model a couple could rent, and hope to rent, for €1,250 to €1,300. A single person could rent a one-bedroom apartment for €1,000 to €1,050. That leaves them space for saving to buy a home at some stage in the future. Critically, however, it affords them space to live, spend and enjoy life. It is 30% of the net income. When did we ever think of that? We have lost sight of it, so that is a very exciting element of this.
The Minister will have heard about the market value part, so I will not go into it in detail. I understand why he had to introduce it in the Bill and that it is all connected with state aid, but it has opened the door for others to say the Land Development Agency is going to buy land from State bodies at market value. The Minister and I know that if the Land Development Agency buys a plot of State land and says 90% of it will be for affordable housing and 10% will be for social housing, that land has little or no market value aside from a nominal value. Affordable land value has no market value. There is no sale value in that land. That is being deliberately ignored by the Opposition. Again, I believe the public would be very excited about that.
With regard to state aid, let us get a little cheeky with the European Union. What we have seen in the past year is billions upon billions of euro in state aid. Other European countries contravene state aid obligations. On the market value aspect, I am satisfied it is just being manipulated and used. I am satisfied the Minister will push, and it will arise on Committee Stage, to get as close to 90% as possible in terms of affordable and obviously the 10%, at least, that is already there for social housing. It is important. The market value part needs to be addressed. I think the Minister has done it, but it has been exploited.
Why do we need an LDA? Local authorities do not own all the State land in the country. That is obvious. They also sometimes do not own the adjoining land and so forth, so an agency to manage that is vital. My question is: what is the delivery vehicle? How do we propose to get these housing units and homes onto the ground? What is the delivery mechanism? I know this is part of a group of Bills, including the affordable housing Bill. However, I will discuss that when it comes before the House. I listened to some of the contributions this morning regarding the composition of the board. I ask the Minister to take on board some of the positive suggestions in that regard. I am not referring to just the previous speakers in this session. Deputy Hourigan had particularly positive suggestions in this regard. I urge the Minister to take that on board as it helps to build public confidence. Its composition will be critical in reassuring the public, and I will be watching that aspect closely.
When we were talking about the project with the CEO, the vehicle he envisaged for the particular plot he was discussing is the strategic housing development, SHD, model. The Minister knows I opposed the programme for Government on the basis of strategic housing developments and other things. I still oppose them. They do not do what they said they would do. They do not provide fast-track planning. From 10% to 15% of them get judicially reviewed, and only people and communities with money can afford a judicial review. Those who cannot afford judicial review cannot seek it. Most of all, however, the units are all build-to-rent. None is build-to-own. There is no hope of anybody owning one of them. They also bypass local area plans and county development plans. They override densities and heights. While that can be positive in some cases, the fact the SHD process lacks any real democratic input is what is most alarming.
Citywest is an area in my constituency. A local area plan, LAP, was designed in 2012. It envisaged residential development in that area. It provided for libraries, schools and the like. South Dublin County Council now ticks boxes and says those amenities have been provided. However, the LAP never envisaged the densities that are now being sought under the SHD process. The last one applied for was for 15 storeys. These developers provide for the amenities that are necessary for their particular developments, and they might argue they pay development levies for the others. However, what we have in Citywest is a hopelessly underprovisioned amenity, cultural, sporting and artistic horizon because the LAP and the county development plans were not redone. The SHDs came in and drove a coach and four through the local community's rights and expectations.
I have mentioned the market value. Section 83 has been clarified. The Minister clarified that if local authorities own land, they will develop that land and the LDA will not be doing a smash-and-grab on it. Did the Minister give consideration to the LDA taking a role in regenerating old Dublin, in places such as Capel Street, the quays and Camden Street? We saw what Covid-19 did. It shut down Airbnb lettings and we saw, in summary, that Dublin is a tourist-dominated city. Nobody is living in the city. It is empty. I believe there is a role for the LDA here, even though the buildings are privately owned. For a landlord or owner of one of these Georgian buildings with three or four storeys the issue is the investment and cash necessary to bring it up to some type of habitable standard. While some extraordinary work has been done on Georgian buildings in Dublin, it takes a great deal of money. I read in the newspaper recently about two houses that were taken together. The people were able to get through the conservation issues and created three incredible apartments. They are extremely expensive. However, I believe the LDA could have a role with regard to old Dublin.
I have another concern. It is not about the move to the cost rental and affordable model.
I welcome that. The Bill envisages mass cost rental. The cost of rental will be the median market rent. In my constituency the median market rent will be quite expensive and much more expensive than what the CEO of the LDA was talking about. Again, we need some clarification on that.
I also raised with the Minister previously the issue of the LDA purchasing semi-State owned land that is on the semi-State body's books where a value is reflected on the balance sheet. Why would the LDA get involved in that at all? Why not just let the private sector develop that and condition in the 10% social and a certain amount of affordable units? Why would the LDA get involved in master plans for that?
For me, and fundamentally in a positive way, the Land Development Agency represents the State entering the housing market, which I welcome. We are looking at a State-provided housing model versus a market-driven housing model. Something in the back of my head says that this has to be a positive, and if it works, it must result in an outcome where private house prices are driven down. It is not the only thing we need to look at. Deputy Hourigan referred to amenities and that people with experience of designing and building communities are represented on the board to ensure that what happened with the strategic housing development process does not happen with LDA master plan developments.
I broadly welcome the Bill. I believe it can be more radical and I want it to be more radical. The Bill's weakness lies in the market value language, but the Minister has covered that and explained it. It is just being exploited. We must never lose sight of the young people who want to own an affordable home in Dublin. This has different applications throughout the State but I am referring to the aspiration to own one's own home in Dublin. Consider the couple or the single person who rents one of these affordable apartments with a long tenure of 12, 14 or 15 years under the LDA plans, which is terrific. What happens when they want to buy a home? What do they do if they have a child and the apartment is no longer big enough? Ultimately, the only way to really drive down the price of housing land is to drive down the price through a cap on the price of land.
A housing referendum is mentioned in the programme for Government. That referendum must be a referendum on the capping of the price of development land. That referendum must finally recognise that it is the State which confers the value on development land. Windfall taxes will make absolutely no difference to the price of development land. It is about the recognition that it is an action of the State on behalf of the citizens only that confers significantly more value on land that has an agricultural price of €100,000 per acre. We need to put a cap on that. A referendum based on the Kenny report, which is coming up to 50 years old, should be the referendum we have on housing to finally drive down the cost of housing land, and ultimately drive down the cost of housing to benefit those for whom we all aspire to be able to realise the ambitions we had to own our own homes and to raise our families in them.