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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Vol. 1021 No. 6

Affordable Housing: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

notes that:

— house prices continue to spiral out of control;

— a growing section of people are locked out of home ownership;

— the latest Central Statistics Office Residential Property Price Index shows house prices increased by 15 per cent State-wide in the last year;

— the largest increases were in the border region at 27 per cent;

— the median price of a home across the State was €282,000;

— in Malahide the median price was €497,000;

— the highest median price was in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown at €600,000;

— Government policies, including the Help to Buy (HTB) and the 'First Home' Affordable Purchase Shared Equity schemes, have and will continue to inflate house prices;

— the Government delivered zero affordable purchase homes in 2020 or 2021;

— the Government has provided funding for just 550 affordable purchase homes through its Affordable Housing Fund in 2022;

— the Government's affordable home targets agreed last month with local authorities are not based on objective need; and

— in some schemes, such as O'Devaney Gardens, the full price of so-called affordable homes will be over €400,000; and

calls on the Government to:

— dramatically increase direct capital investment in the delivery by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies of genuinely affordable homes to purchase;

— urgently revise the affordable purchase home targets agreed with local authorities to deliver on average at least 4,000 affordable purchase homes a year from 2022 to 2026;

— allow all local authorities to access the Affordable Housing Fund;

— scrap the HTB scheme and the 'First Home' Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme which push up prices, and divert the funding into the delivery of genuinely affordable homes; and

— ensure that all affordable purchase homes are sold at prices that working people can afford.

What has Fianna Fáil got against homeownership? Every time that party has been in government in recent times, house prices have risen and homeownership has fallen dramatically. On the previous occasion the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, was in Cabinet, at the tail end of that period, when the current Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, was a new backbencher, not only did house prices rise to their highest point in the history of the State, but homeownership fell at a more dramatic pace than ever before or since. Now Fianna Fáil is back in government and in charge of housing and we are back to the bad old days.

According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, in a month or two we will hit and pass the Celtic tiger peak for house prices. Again, thanks to Fianna Fáil, homeownership is a distant reality for far too many people. The reason for that, of course, is the policies the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has introduced. I will consider some of them before I speak to the motion.

One of his first acts as Minister with responsibility for housing was to expand the highly controversial so-called help-to-buy scheme. Some 60% of the people who benefited from that scheme did not need it. They had deposits and mortgages, according to an independent Oireachtas report, and large numbers of organisations and independent economists stated that the scheme would push up house prices Next we had the shared equity loan scheme. It has been mired in controversy for almost two years now because of strong opposition from the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, and the Central Bank. Even the International Monetary Fund, IMF, last week criticised the potential risk of the scheme. What will it do? It will again push up house prices.

Not being satisfied with all of that, the Minister today introduced what has to be the craziest housing scheme I have heard from any Government in recent years. He is going to give large private developers subsidies of up to €120,000 in Dublin and up to €144,000 outside Dublin, with no reduction in price for the purchaser and no affordability dividend. It is a chronic waste of taxpayers' money. At best, it will lock in unaffordable excessive prices for apartments or, at worst, drive them even further upwards.

These are the reasons the latest CSO figures show house prices rising by 15% across the State and by 27% in Border areas. The median house price across the State is €282,000 but in the Minister's constituency the median price for a new house is almost €500,000. That is what you get when Fianna Fáil is in government.

I am sure the Minister will claim that his affordable housing fund, funding for local authorities to deliver genuinely affordable homes, is another measure to tackle the problems Sinn Féin is raising tonight. However, as the figures he gave me in response to a parliamentary question last week, which we published this week, show, that stands in stark contrast to the hundreds of millions Fianna Fáil gives to large developers. On average, we will get 1,500 units a year through that fund, although it will be two or three years before we get there. The annual targets for affordable purchase homes through the scheme are appallingly low, with only 400 such homes in Dublin city, fewer than 200 in the Minister's constituency, 30 to 45 a year in the commuter belt and as few as 15 in some cities. Is it any wonder that people cannot put an affordable roof over their heads?

There is a better way, however. The motion tabled by Sinn Féin, building on the costed alternative proposals in our alternative budget, shows how it can be done. The Government needs to stop giving huge gifts to large developers and speculators and invest all of that money in the direct delivery of large volumes of genuinely affordable homes to purchase through local authorities, approved housing bodies, co-operatives such as Ó Cualann and community housing trusts.

We estimate that at least 4,000 genuinely affordable purchase homes, built on public land, are needed each year. As the Minister knows, our innovative leasehold proposal would ensure not only that the homes are genuinely affordable but that, in addition, we would build up, year on year, a growing number of privately owned and privately tradeable but permanently affordable homes, not just for the first purchaser but for every purchaser into the future.

We also think the Minister should scrap all the crazy schemes that he claims assist people in buying homes, when, in fact, there are no entry level criteria, people get access to public money who do not need it and this drives up the price of public housing. All of that money could be used to deliver the 4,000 genuinely affordable homes a year for which we are calling.

Every single local authority should be able to apply for the scheme. The affordability test through the housing needs demand assessment was badly designed and the Minister has made some concessions in that regard. The key point is that the one thing the Government can control is the amount of its investment on State land to develop genuinely affordable homes. The Government is not doing that and it is not in the Minister's plan. Until he reverses that, the affordable housing crisis is going to get worse. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.

We are once again in this Chamber debating affordable housing and the desperate need to deliver it. Cork City Council has been beating its targets in this regard for years. In fact, it exceeds them in many years. Right now, the council has been given a target of delivering 278 affordable houses and those homes are in the pipeline to be delivered. The problem is that the targets are too small and not ambitious enough. My colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, has set out a target of 4,000 homes a year, which would equate to a target of 400 a year for Cork City Council, or 10% of the social housing stock in the city. This would turn out at a total of 1,600 homes. The difference between the Minister's plan for 278 homes a year and our plan for 1,600 reflects the fundamental difference between us in that the Government is not ambitious enough and does not understand what needs to be delivered.

The Minister's figures are just a drop in the ocean. My fear is that the Government is so out of touch and so misled in its priorities that the housing crisis will continue to get worse. In my maiden speech in Cork City Council in 2009, I said that we had a housing crisis. Thirteen years later, the crisis is worse now than it ever was. That has happened under the watch of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Instead of falsely accusing Sinn Féin of objecting to housing provision, which he does at virtually every opportunity he gets, the Minister would be better off looking at why a person appointed to An Bord Pleanála continued to vote for housing developments even after the Minister appointed a senior counsel to investigate serious allegations relating to conflicts of interest at the board. Why do certain people in high positions, who are friends with Ministers and who earn more than the Taoiseach, feel they are above the law and above the Government?

The problem is that the priorities are all wrong. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael prioritise speculators and developers, whereas Sinn Féin prioritises ordinary people and the delivery of affordable housing. My colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, is bringing forward solutions. It is all about finding solutions but, when it comes down to it, the Government is all about politics and looking after the big people, the rich people and the developers. That is the fundamental difference between us and it is why we have brought forward this motion. Deputy Ó Broin's proposals will make a real different to ordinary people's lives.

People my age, when they look to the future, feel they have no chance of ever achieving homeownership. As my colleagues have said, this is happening under the Government's watch. The common theme among my friends and co-workers I have had in the past is that they work day in and day out and nothing gets easier. They feel they are completely locked out of homeownership. We are seeing now that the increase in the cost of living is squeezing people more and more in terms of their ability to rent or buy a home. At this time of the evening, people my age are going home after a long, hard day's work, commuting long distances after what probably was a tough working day. What are they going home to? They are going home to overcrowded, cramped living situations or to their parents' box room. They are trying to scrimp and save as much as they can in order to be able, at some point, to own their own home.

What is the Minister saying to people like that in Galway city and county? He is saying he will deliver 30 affordable homes in the city each year and 45 in the county. That is nothing for the people who are waiting for a home and who have been trying, year in and year out, to save the money to be able to get a mortgage. It does nothing for them. Something I have seen time after time from the Government parties and their spokespeople and elected representatives in Galway is that they tell us a brilliant development is coming on board to deliver affordable housing in Galway city. Week after week, people there contact me to ask when that provision will be delivered in order that they can have a chance to own their own home. Only this week, I found out that the promised housing will not be available until 2024. That is two years away. For people who cannot afford their rent and those who have had to move back in with their parents or grandparents, this is simply not good enough.

We know what is needed. We know there must be more supply. However, when we do see supply coming onboard in Galway, what we see is build-to-rent provision that is completely unaffordable for people who are working day in and day out. We need 4,000 homes a year to be delivered, as my colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, said, and we need them at affordable prices.

Tacaím leis an moladh ón Teachta Ó Broin. Is léir nach bhfuil na spriocanna atá ag an Roinn dóthanach go leor agus ní chuireann siad os ár gcomhair go leor tithe inacmhainne. Tá an ghéarchéim tithíochta ag éirí níos measa ar go slite, go mór mór le roinnt míonna anuas.

As previous speakers have noted, when we talk to young people, as I do in my constituency in Cork, their attitude is one of asking what they are supposed to do and what chance have they got. They are working, some of them in well-paid jobs, but it is just not possible to afford a home. They cannot afford to rent or buy and they definitely cannot afford to do both. Homeownership is absolutely out of reach and many of them do not qualify for social housing. More and more, their future seems uncertain and insecure. It seems impossible to plan for family, work or anything like that because they do not have any confidence in having a secure home. They feel their future is being taken away from them. That is the attitude I encounter in the people I talk to in my constituency.

In many respects, things are getting worse. House prices have increased by 30% since 2016 and rents by 44%. Cork city has the third highest rents in the State, averaging at more than €1,300 and rising. Many people would say that is not too bad, given some of the rents one sees in the city, of €1,400, €1,500 and much higher, for relatively modest homes. The Government has not shown adequate ambition to make housing affordable. It is failing ordinary workers and families in Cork and across the State. The targets it has set out are not anywhere near what is needed in terms of affordable housing. There is provision for 76 affordable homes a year in the city and 38 in the county. The county council covers a population of approximately 440,000. Are we expecting it to do the miracle of the loaves and fishes with 38 houses? It simply will not be anywhere near enough to meet the needs of the number of people being knocked off the housing list, not qualifying for it or not being able to get an affordable mortgage. It will go nowhere near far enough and those young people will continue to fear for their future.

Not a single affordable house will be provided over the next four years in counties Monaghan and Cavan, which I represent. That is not speculation or a guess on my part. It is the target number of affordable houses the Government has set for my constituency. Some might say that at least there finally is a housing target the Government will meet. In fact, it is a scandalous statement of reality. The Minister's response or justification, in essence, will be that house prices are not expensive enough in those counties to warrant being considered for inclusion under the affordable housing scheme. This is despite the fact that house prices in the Border region increased by almost 25% last year and 17% the year before. How high do prices have to get before affordable housing will be provided?

The truth is that homeownership is already beyond the reach of most young workers and families and, at the same time, rents are completely out of control. I want the Government either to accept that it is incapable of recognising the scale of the challenge or to admit it is not serious about meeting it. It is one or the other. We cannot say we are serious about homeownership and delivering houses, as the Minister does in this House from time to time, while a couple with four children earning €27,000 cannot get on the social housing list in my county, cannot pay the rent and will never be in a position to buy their own home while the Government provides no affordable housing option to them.

It is time to get real. Either we accept that Deputy Ó Broin's policies are there and ready to be implemented and will make a difference or we carry on as before with one false promise and one false dawn after another. The truth is now evident: this Government and the parties that make up the Government simply do not have the capacity to address the housing needs of our people.

Last month my colleague, an Teachta Ó Broin, and I met officials from the housing department at Kildare County Council. They were diplomatic in their answers, but it is clear they are working with one hand tied behind their back. Finance decisions from the Department are taking too long. Approved housing bodies are hamstrung. While many people may be critical of Kildare County Council, I know from first-hand experience that they are seriously understaffed and under-resourced. It takes up to three months to get a reply to a basic representation sent to Kildare County Council. Every reply to a query about housing states that there are 6,600 people on the council's housing list. The wait is ten to 12 years. People must find their own housing assistance payment, HAP, properties. You would need the miracle of the loaves and the fish, as Deputy Ó Laoghaire said, to consider HAP tenancies a solution. Today there are just 28 rental properties available in the whole of County Kildare, just one of which is within the HAP limits. There are only three properties available to rent for under €1,000 a month.

It is clear the Government's private market approach is not working and many people are suffering because of it. I have a list of 13 families, nine couples and 11 single people whose landlords have given them notice to quit because they are selling the properties. The current rules do not allow the council to buy property with tenants in situ. I have dealt with couples in emergency accommodation who are being accommodated separately. The nuclear family used to be held in high regard; it does not seem that way any more. I have been helping a mother who is raising four children alone since her husband left. This week she had to explain to four young children that the sign the landlord has put up outside her home means they will have to move. She faces emergency accommodation, if the council can actually find any, and the difficulty of getting kids to school in another town while trying to hold down her part-time job.

All these people are victims of poor Government policy. The present Government's policies are too investor- and developer-orientated. My colleague, an Teachta Ó Broin, when he is Minister with responsibility for housing, will change that. We have seen from the recent affordable housing targets that this Government lacks the will and ambition to address the housing crisis it has created, and it has created it. The Government proposes to build just 45 affordable houses in Kildare per year over the next five years. That is barely a drop in the ocean of what is needed. The Government is out of touch and out of time.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion. What Sinn Féin is putting forward is very important. It is part of our strategy to tackle the housing crisis by significantly increasing the number and delivery of affordable homes to buy. It is important we have that big element of home purchase in our housing programmes. That would make a massive difference to people throughout the country, especially in Laois-Offaly, where the housing crisis is having a devastating effect on the lives of too many people. We have thousands of people trapped in private rental accommodation, where rents are out of control. In Laois a three-bedroom house starts at €1,058 per month; in Offaly, €1,040. The common asking rent for a house is now between €1,200 and €1,400 a month. It is sky-high. It is too high. Many workers and families have incomes that are too high for the council's social housing waiting list but too low to get mortgage approval from a bank. Workers on low and middle incomes are locked out of homeownership, and that is the problem. They earn too much for the council and social housing lists, yet they are trapped paying sky-high rents, which are higher than what a mortgage on a comparable property would cost. I have dealt with cases where people are paying rent of €1,200 or €1,300 per month. If they could get a mortgage to buy a house of the same size, they would be paying €800 a month. It is crazy stuff. In Laois-Offaly a couple earning more than - wait for it - €504 a week are over the income threshold for council and social housing, while a couple with two children are over the limit if they earn just €528. What are they supposed to do?

I raised this with the Minister and he sent a reply to me two weeks ago. I keep getting the same reply, which is that Department officials are looking at the matter. The Government needs to sort it out. We need to do more to help these workers. We need to deliver affordable homes for purchase. Figures provided to Deputy Ó Broin in recent weeks, which I have in front of me, reveal that the Government target under the affordable housing fund scheme from 2022 to 2026 for all of Laois is an average of nine houses per year, 38 in total, with none, not one single house, for Offaly. That is totally unacceptable. Sinn Féin calls on the Government to revise the affordable home targets agreed with local authorities and to deliver an average of at least 4,000 affordable purchase homes a year throughout the State over the next four years. More importantly, we need to deliver affordable homes that can be sold at prices that work and that people can afford. The housing crisis is devastating the lives of workers and families across the country, and the Government and every one of us must do more to ensure people can buy genuinely affordable homes.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:

"notes that:

— as recognised in the Government's Housing for All - a New Housing Plan for Ireland (Housing for All) strategy, there is a housing crisis in Ireland affecting ordinary working people who aspire to the security of home ownership, which demands a response from the Government on an unprecedented scale;

— Ireland is experiencing an acute gap between housing supply and demand, exacerbated by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and global supply-chain disruption, which requires both short and longer-term State interventions to address it;

— increased supply in the coming years is the fundamental solution to Ireland's housing problems, along with a targeted range of measures to increase access to affordable homes for those that need this support; and

— it is the ambition of the Government that everybody should have access to sustainable, good quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price, with the Housing for All strategy launched last year setting out plans to achieve this;

welcomes:

— the development and implementation of the Housing for All strategy, and the commitment to massively expand the role of the State and to spend unprecedented sums of Exchequer multi-annual funding commitments to achieve the Government's aims;

— the ambitious targets in the Housing for All strategy of over 300,000 new homes by 2030, including 36,000 for affordable purchase homes and 18,000 Cost Rental homes to provide competitive rents and long-term security of tenure for middle income earners, recognising that delivery will ramp up over time with increases in industry capacity and the effects of Government interventions;

— the successive record levels of State investment in housing under Budget 2021 and Budget 2022, comprised of capital investment of over €4 billion and including funding of €676 million specifically focused on affordability measures this year;

— the enactment of the Affordable Housing Act 2021, the most comprehensive housing affordability legislation in the history of this State, which was passed overwhelmingly by this House and provided the basis for two new affordable purchase schemes and a national Cost Rental scheme;

— the use, for the first time, of a Housing Need and Demand Assessment, which was developed in co-operation with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and which supports the identification of the level of housing need for affordability constrained households on a local authority basis;

— the setting of distinct affordable housing delivery targets for local authorities, the Approved Housing Body (AHB) sector, the Land Development Agency (LDA) and the 'First Home' Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme, which sees the numbers of affordable purchase and Cost Rental homes in the period to 2026 set at almost 29,000; this includes a target of 9,000 homes for local authorities, 8,000 for the 'First Home' Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme, almost 4,000 for AHBs, and almost 8,000 for the LDA;

— the confirmation that measures introduced by the Housing for All strategy are helping to increase housing supply, with 5,669 new homes added to the national stock in Q1 of this year, the most in any first quarter since this official statistic began back in 2011, and 22,219 new homes completed in the last four quarters;

— the clear increase in construction activity visible in the 34,846 new homes commenced in the 12 months to March 2022, the highest rolling 12-month total since comparable data was first published;

— the positive independent forecasts from the ESRI and the Central Bank, despite foreseen disruptions to construction, of housing completions for 2022 and 2023 meeting and potentially exceeding the targets in the Housing for All strategy;

— the passage of the Land Development Agency Act 2021, establishing a powerful new body with a remit to take a strong role in delivering affordable housing for rent and purchase;

— the delivery this year, for the first time in well over a decade, of affordable homes made available for purchase by local authorities, with the first such homes being made available in Cork City, Fingal and South Dublin at significantly discounted prices ranging from approximately €218,000 to €285,000, with more new homes to follow across the country later in the year;

— the planned launch in the coming months of the national 'First Home' Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme in the private market, which will help around 8,000 first-time buyers to purchase new homes in the lower half of the price distribution over the years to 2026;

— the Government's reform and expansion of the Local Authority Home Loan, with a budget of €250 million in 2022 alone, to improve affordability for lower and middle-income earners through lower fixed interest rate long-term loans, and broadening of the eligibility criteria to support higher numbers of single applicants struggling to purchase in Dublin, Cork and Galway; and

— the fact that over 32,700 first-time buyers' households have been supported into home ownership by the Help to Buy scheme since 2017; and

fully supports:

— the Government's continuing work under the Housing for All strategy in partnership with local authorities, the LDA, AHBs, and private industry which over the course of the plan will deliver an average of 4,000 affordable purchase and 2,000 Cost Rental homes per year;

— the use of the multi-annual Affordable Housing Fund to support local authorities in delivering new homes for affordable purchase and Cost Rental, with 1,731 new homes approved for funding so far, and further applications from local authorities currently under assessment;

— the new affordable purchase schemes via local authorities and 'First Home' Affordable Purchase Shared Equity, which will support households with affordability challenges to achieve home ownership;

— the further expansion of the Cost Rental sector in Ireland, which has already seen the first homes tenanted at rates of 40 per cent below market through the work of local authorities, the LDA, and AHBs; and

— the LDA's ambitious plans to deliver affordable homes, with construction to begin this year on over 800 new homes in Cork City and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, planning applications recently lodged for over 2,300 more homes on other State lands, and proposals under the Home Building Partnership (Project Tosaigh) to deliver 5,000 new homes by 2026 through engagement with private developers to unlock land with full planning permission that is not being developed due to financing and other constraints."

I thank the Deputy opposite for tabling the motion to give us an opportunity to have a debate on homeownership and affordable housing and to interrogate some of the things Members have said. I welcome that opportunity. One thing that is and should be recognised is that there is absolutely a difficulty with affordability. The whole thrust of Housing for All is to tackle that. I will expand on that shortly. There is and has been a fundamental difficulty with supply, and we cannot ignore that. We cannot ignore the past two years or, indeed, the past ten years of undersupply. That is why it is crucial the Government brought forward the Housing for All plan, which is the first plan any government has brought forward that is funded on a multi-annual basis to the tune of €4 billion to deliver more new-build social homes than ever before, 90,000 between now and 2030 and 9,000 alone this year, with 54,000 affordable homes, 29,000 of them between now and 2026. I will deal with the matters raised in Sinn Féin's motion and some of the statements Members have made. We are delivering cost rental for the first time ever, and we need private homes too. We need 300,000 new homes between now and 2030 to address the undersupply of housing. We passed the Affordable Housing Act. I welcomed the support of most Deputies, with the exception of, I think, about eight at that stage, because I assumed from the fact Members opposite supported the Bill that they supported the thrust of the legislation.

Let us deal with the analysis that has been made based on a response to a parliamentary question. There has been a deliberate misrepresentation of the affordable housing targets that have been set. The affordable housing targets that have been referred to relate to local authority-delivered affordable homes and number 7,550 in total across the 31 local authorities between now and 2026. What it states in the response to an Teachta Ó Broin, a fact to which he did not refer earlier, is that, in addition to that targeted local authority delivery, affordable purchase and cost rental homes will also be made available by approved housing bodies - they deliver real homes too, as I think Members opposite will be aware - and by the Land Development Agency, LDA, in these local authority areas as part of the overall affordable housing delivery commitment under Housing for All. In addition to that will be the affordable homes delivered under the First Home shared equity scheme, which we will launch and which will be available to people from 1 July of this year. Each member of the Sinn Féin Party has decided to look at just part, one aspect, of that delivery. That does not include Part V delivery either, I might add, and Members opposite know that too, but it does not suit their narrative. That is okay.

We need to get back to a bit of reality and back to some truth and be honest with people. Yes, there is an issue with affordability. I am acutely aware of that.

I believe in homeownership and I believe in giving people a start so that they can own their own homes.

When I look at the Sinn Féin "plan" - I use that word loosely - which is a 16-page document, eight pages of which are nice pictures of cups of coffee, I look through what Sinn Féin has looked for.

This is Sinn Féin's policies. Sinn Féin states it will deliver "the largest public housing building programme in the history of the State." We are actually doing it. How Deputy Ó Broin was saying Sinn Féin will do it is by bringing total capital spend to €2.8 billion per year. We are putting in €4 billion per year, €1.2 billion more than Sinn Féin.

Not true, just not true.

Now let us talk about affordability. The Affordable Housing Act 2021 is in place. We have published the affordable purchase regulations. It is open. There will be people in affordable purchase homes this year. Deputy Ó Broin has neglected to mention Project Tosaigh and the delivery through the LDA. We will have hundreds of affordable purchase homes this year and hundreds more cost rental.

What is the Sinn Féin affordable purchase scheme? People need to know this. Eligibility for affordable housing would be set at a gross income of €55,000 for a single person and €85,000 for a couple. People like the garda and the nurse who are earning €44,000 per year, on the median of their grades, will not be eligible for affordable housing through Sinn Féin's housing plan. Deputy Ó Broin wrote this, or maybe he did not. This is Deputy Ó Broin's policy.

Two years out of date.

They will not be eligible.

Two years out of date.

We will not do this again, will we, a Cheann Comhairle? Deputy Ó Broin, as he behaved last week, is consistently interrupting.

The Minister asked me a question.

Sinn Féin's plan is there as well. It does not address any capacity issues. We must be realistic in what can be delivered. It is important one is open, honest and realistic with people. What we have detailed for each local authority, and agreed with each of them, is their direct delivery and that does not include LDA delivery, Part 5 delivery and first home shared equity delivery.

There are no targets.

What have we targeted? The real target, not the targets that have come out of the mouths of Sinn Féin, that we have set between this and then is 29,000 affordable homes between now and 2026. This is happening already. How do we do that? We need to increase supply and, to respond to Deputy Gould, it is a problem when people continually object to housing. That is just a reality.

That is not true.

Let us see what is really happening out there. Let us look at the figures with regards to increased housing supply. In the first quarter of this year, there were 5,669 new homes completed. There were 34,846 commencement notices received in the 12 months to February this year. It was the single biggest number of commencement notices in a 12-month period since figures were collated in 2011, and it was the same with quarter 1.

What we need to do is to make sure there are homes for people to purchase. How are we doing that? We are doing it through the affordable housing fund, which, by the way, is open to every local authority. There are 18 local authorities in the plan right now. We addressed it last week as well where we have other schemes coming in from other local authorities. What have I done with the affordable housing fund? We have raised the subvention to €100,000 to address affordability issues in the areas in which they are most acute, particularly in the cities but not exclusively so. That has been done already. Some 1,731 new homes have been approved under the affordable housing fund already. One does not turn this around overnight. The Housing for All plan was launched last September and is taking root already. People deserve honesty. They deserve a real plan that will work and that is taking effect rather than them coming here and quoting figures that are one quarter of what Deputy Ó Broin knows anyway, because he deliberately left out the other part of the answer within the parliamentary question. That might suit a narrative, and that is fine. In fairness, people will look through that.

Let us look at what homeownership means to Sinn Féin. I have been clear that I believe in homeownership and I believe people should get a start, but Sinn Féin's affordable housing would apparently deliver leasehold homes. One would not own the home at the end of it and Sinn Féin would restrict who can buy that home and whom one can sell it to. What it is conditional homeownership. We need to make sure that across the board the measures taken by the Government activate supply. That is the reason the Croí Cónaithe cities fund was launched today. Believe it or not, there are thousands of planning permissions, particularly in the cities, where we need compact urban growth. We need to develop within the cities the brownfield sites that Sinn Féin says it wants to develop. One needs a plan to do so and we are brave enough to put that forward and deliver it.

Brilliant, having given developers a second bailout.

Deputy Carthy was not here last week for the debate on rent-----

I was watching.

-----but the Deputy is carrying on as his colleagues did last week by continually interrupting me.

If the Minister speaks nonsense, he will be challenged on it.

I respect this Chamber and always have. Deputy Carthy may not, and that is fine. What I would say to Deputy Carthy is that his own party's spokesperson, in an article recently, talked about negotiating with developers and flipping developments, but Deputy Ó Broin will put in place a strict price control. Then Deputy Ó Broin will move people out of commercial construction with some type of magic wand that he will have, and tell them not to build those hospitals and schools and instead to build these homes. One does not do it that way. One has got to build.

It is called planning law.

One has got to build capacity. That is why the Housing for All plan has already brought back the capacity of the construction sector to pre-pandemic levels and will create at least 29,000 new jobs. Some 9,000 new apprenticeships, in the 12 months to date, have already been filled in that space. That is how one does it. One must be open and honest with people. One must realise, by the way, that it is not just a question of saying to people not to build that and instead to come over and build our 40,000 homes. We tried to get some answers out of Deputy Ó Broin previously when he said Sinn Féin would deliver 40,000 homes this year. How long will that take Sinn Féin? Where will they be built? Who will build them? How will Sinn Féin pay for them? The difference is that the Government's plan is published, it is detailed with action points and it is backed with real money - €1.2 billion more than Sinn Féin's - because I believe in homeownership and in public housing. The difference between the Government and Sinn Féin is we are delivering it and Sinn Féin just likes to talk about it.

The SDLP did as well.

Deputy Tully is sharing with Deputies Martin Browne, Seán Crowe and Clarke.

There is a section of the population who just cannot afford to buy a home in Ireland today. This cohort, often called the squeezed middle, would say they pay for everything and are entitled to nothing, but house prices continue to spiral upwards. The CSO residential property price index report for February 2022 shows that house prices across the State have risen by 13.5% and the median new-build house price for first-time buyers is now €335,000. That is not affordable for most people. The Minister's response is a five-year total target for local authority affordable housing delivery of 5,555 houses. It is dreadfully unambitious. An entire generation is locked out of homeownership and the Government is only funding local authorities to build 7,550 affordable houses between now and 2026.

Worse still is that the Government seems to think that there is no housing crisis in many parts of the country. In my constituency, for example, not one of these 7,550 affordable houses is to be delivered in either Cavan or Monaghan, and yet the Daft.ie house price report of 2022 shows an 18.2% year-on-year average house price increase in Cavan from quarter 1 of last year to quarter 2 of 2022 and a 15.87% year-on-year increase in Monaghan for the same period. People simply cannot afford to get on the housing ladder.

People who lost their home to relationship breakdown or mortgage repossession face an uncertain future in the private rental sector. Increasingly, the alternative option of renting is not possible for many people. The latest report from the Residential Tenancies Board indicates that rent increases for new tenancies grew by 9% State-wide in the last three months of 2021. Once again, if I refer to my constituency counties of Cavan and Monaghan, rents increased by 6.6% and 15.5%, respectively, over the same period.

The Government is not doing enough. The affordable purchase targets are embarrassingly low. Only 18 counties are included in the targets. The rest, like Cavan and Monaghan, will have zero delivery of local authority affordable housing. We need an average of at least 4,000 genuinely affordable houses for working people each year and we need them built by each local authority. I ask the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, to do something to help the many people who cannot afford to buy a house. They cannot afford to rent. They are not eligible for HAP or the rental accommodation scheme, RAS. They are not eligible for any rent supplement. They are forced to live with their parents. In this day and age, it is disgraceful.

The number of people who are either locked out of homeownership or even locked out of rental accommodation is genuinely staggering. Leaving the statistics aside for the moment, all Deputies know from the calls they get to their offices that there is a fundamental problem with the availability of accommodation. No family type is immune to this, be it families with young children, single parents with limited means or single people. We have heard sad and horrific stories from them all and have tried to assist them in a housing market that is out of their reach whether it is to rent or to purchase. It is awful to see people in this situation and it is appalling to know that the options to help them are extremely limited.

It is common sense to devise a plan that tackles the housing crisis from every angle, whether from a rental point of view or from a purchasing perspective. However, this Government does not think so. That is apparent from the affordable housing targets up to 2026. The Minister has the cheek to talk about narratives and the truth. He has failed, just like other Deputies on that side of the House who have been Ministers with responsibility for housing. According to the Daft.ie latest house price report, the average listing price in Tipperary increased year on year by 14.3%. These price hikes contribute to local authority housing lists which are creaking at the seams. At the same time, families are in hostels or sleeping on floors or sofas in the homes of friends or family members. Outrageously, Tipperary does not even feature in the Government's unambitious affordable housing targets up to 2026. This is at a time when the local authority is not only unable to provide accommodation for those on the lengthy housing list but is also struggling, and sometimes is unable, to provide emergency accommodation for those in need.

Thousands of euro are being spent weekly on getting emergency accommodation in bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels instead of providing councils with the capacity that I call for. The Government prefers this than to allow local authorities such as Tipperary County Council to access the affordable housing fund. We are calling for all local authorities to be allowed to access the affordable housing fund and to stop this practice of exclusion that destroys lives and severely affects families. The unambitious affordable purchase home targets must be revised to deliver an average of at least 4,000 affordablepurchase houses per year from 2022 to 2026. The Government must also stop contributing to the rising housing costs by scrapping the help-to-buy scheme and shared equity loan schemes, which push up prices, and divert the funding into the delivery of genuinely affordable houses. The chief priority is that the Government must learn that giving massive handouts to big developers to deliver overpriced houses never works because struggling home buyers and the taxpayer will always be the big losers in that situation.

I stood here almost two years ago speaking on a Sinn Féin motion on the need to respect the demands of Irish people and to do something, anything, to mend the utterly broken system that is the Irish housing market. Housing was one of the biggest issues in the 2020 general election and the new Government made a great deal of noise about the delivery of affordable housing. Two years later, we are asking where the promised housing is. The Government's affordable housing targets lack ambition, as many contributors have said. The poor delivery is not the fault of councils or councillors, but of a Government that could not deliver an affordable and workable affordable housing scheme.

As the Minister knows, affordable is not affordable in many areas. We need at least 4,000 affordable homes per year, not the 7,000 every five years in the current plan. South Dublin County Council, which is my area, will only see approximately 230 affordable homes per year. Schemes in Killinarden, Clonburris and Rathcoole had over 3,000 expressions of interest. In just one estate, 297 couples wanted to be considered for 16 houses. The demand is there, but we are not meeting it. Affordable housing would serve to normalise the housing market, take people out of the rental market and bring house prices down for everyone. Many just cannot afford to buy or to rent, so what are they to do? There is no way that the majority of young people in my area could afford to buy a home. If one is paying obscene rents and the cost of living is rising, average incomes are not enough. If one is lucky enough to get a deposit together, one then has to get in ahead of the investment firms that can outbid anybody with their unlimited funds.

Two years into the Government's term, we need a massive house building programme on public lands and a scheme that delivers affordable housing to people who need it. Handouts to big developers who deliver overpriced homes will do nothing for struggling home buyers or hard-pressed taxpayers. We need a change from the Minister.

The extent of the Minister's affordable housing plans in Longford-Westmeath has been laid bare. They are soul-destroying for anybody who needs a local authority-delivered home. Yesterday was the first time I have ever seen a reply to a parliamentary question discussed in such detail in a local shop, and the commentary was absolutely damning. Not one affordable home for Longford was included in that response to Deputy Ó Broin - zero. Last September, I read into the record the local media coverage of affordable housing when the director of services "expressed his fears as written correspondence received by his department returned not very encouraging insights as to where Longford fits into the Government's plan". It is now crystal clear where Longford fits; it is in black and white. It fits nowhere for local authority-delivered affordable homes. What has been done to right this inherent wrong? Has the Minister received the housing needs and demand analysis from Longford County Council, as discussed recently in the housing committee? What engagement has there been to ensure that County Longford is not excluded? What was the true purpose of that much-lauded backbencher letter to the Minister's Department?

From 2022 to 2026, the so-called affordable housing target to be delivered by the local authority for Westmeath is 76, an average of 15 houses annually. I have had more constituents with notices to quit in a day in my Westmeath offices. What my constituents in Longford-Westmeath need is a dramatic increase in direct capital investment in local authority, genuinely affordable homes to buy. The CSO price index shows an 11% increase in Longford and a 9.2% increase in Westmeath in the median price of a home. Despite the Minister's rhetoric about believing in homeownership, rhetoric does not build properties. Investment does, and investment in local authorities will meet the need for affordable housing.

We appear to have ever-changing and contradictory interpretations of what the word "lease" means from the Government. After all, the Taoiseach told us that leasing the national maternity hospital is the equivalent of owning.

I agree with Deputy Clarke's assessment and analysis. Unfortunately, it is an all-too-common description that she has outlined to the House. I do not always find myself in full agreement with every sentence of every Sinn Féin motion or Bill that is presented to the House. We have our differences, and that is the cut and thrust of politics and is to be expected. However, I find myself agreeing with every sentence in the motion before us. I do so without any hesitation.

In any progressive society and successful economy worth the name the aspiration to one day own one's own home should be within the reach of most, if not all, working people. I know the Minister agrees with that sentiment and that ambition. However, we have been saying for a considerable number of years that nowhere is the social contract more broken than in respect of housing supply. When we talk about housing supply, we know the trick is to get the diversity of that supply right. That means a mix of public homes, affordable homes and private homes built to last through the life cycle in a community and reflecting the rich diversity in every community. Regrettably, the approach taken by the last Government and continued by this one, with some small changes, is all wrong. Whether it relates to public housing, cost rental or the building of affordable homes, the excessive reliance on private developers to deliver the stock we need is the Achilles heel of this Government's housing project.

As the motion notes, both Housing for All and the Government's proposals for affordable housing more generally lack ambition with regard to the provision of the required amount of housing annually. I agree with that assessment. This is even more stark when one looks at the specific proposals for the provision of affordable purchase homes and cost rental.

At the time of the launch of Housing for All, commentators such as the ESRI suggested that up to 50,000 homes a year may need to be delivered on an annual basis to meet the requirements of our growing population. Since then, as the Minister has said, the challenge has become even deeper with the crisis in Ukraine and the responsibilities the State has in welcoming refugees fleeing their war-torn country.

The State needs to have greater ambition with respect to the provision of housing and how much is required every year. This is even more so with respect to the delivery of affordable housing and all it entails. Up to 2030 there will be 18,000 cost rental units. This is an average of only 2,000 apartments and homes that will be delivered through this stream each year. The commitment to 10,000 social homes a year is simply not enough given the demands that we face. We all know this. As I stated earlier in my contribution, the Government continues to rely excessively on the private sector for the delivery of housing generally and the supply of affordable housing more specifically. We believe the State should provide a minimum of 20,000 homes a year. This requires a much more direct and hands-on role in the housing system than the Minister is prepared to take.

I am very concerned by the Government's repeated focus on the incentivisation of investors in the private sector, especially in the build-to-rent sector. This will simply not deliver sustainable communities or secure housing. This is back in focus in light of recent reports that the Minister is considering providing incentives of more than €100,000 to developers to build apartments. We have to stop doling out cash to incentivise development rather than recognising that to resolve the housing crisis what is required is direct State delivery at a much higher level and a more intensive rate. In addition, we must give local authorities the funding they need to build homes. Data show that expenditure has decreased by 53% from last year. We need answers as to why the State is not properly funding direct build projects and instead is proposing yet another set of grants for developers. The delivery of homes rather than profits must be the priority. We are at odds with the Minister over how best it should be done.

The motion is about the affordability of homes. The question of what constitutes affordability is another question that divides the House. The Government needs to put a clear definition of affordability on a statutory footing. My colleague Senator Moynihan has been saying this for a long time. This definition should approach affordability from the perspective of an ordinary person seeking a roof over their heads rather than simply a market discount. The motion rightly points to affordability at O'Devaney Gardens where the full price is considered to be €400,000. This is four times the salary of a Deputy. I say this for context and illustrative purposes. Affordability must be defined by the income of one individual rather than predicated on the idea that everyone buying a home is doing so in a traditional family unit, if I can describe it as such, or a couple. Family and household formation, as we all know, is very diverse these days. It comes in many forms and this is as it should be. More than 400,000 people in Ireland live alone. Single people should not be locked out of the market simply because of their family status and how they decide to live their lives.

Housing for All still does not deliver enough State-led social and affordable housing. The Labour Party wants this increased to 20,000 homes per year to address existing need and unmet demand. We believe, as we said last October in the costed proposals of our alternative budget, we should build a further 2,000 social homes in 2022 in addition to the targeted 10,000 under all delivery streams funded for next year under the national development plan. The Government also proposes a further 2,100 affordable homes this year.

We believe a fund should be established to provide increased levels of affordable housing over five years, starting with €5 billion from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and €500 million of annual seed capital. This would make good social and economic sense. It would make economic sense from an investment point of view for the taxpayer over the longer term. It would make our economy more successful. I say this because when we speak to the American Chamber of Commerce, IBEC and other employer bodies, they tell us that from a competitiveness perspective they are no longer concerned about issues such as labour costs and other issues they have routinely raised with politicians over the years. What they are speaking about now in terms of our competitiveness challenge is the lack of affordable homes for the skilled workers on whom our economic success and competitiveness in terms of foreign direct investment will depend. This is a massive challenge. Even if we have Government Members whose the ideology is that there is no function for the State - they believe it should be decided by the market and only the market should provide homes, with some additional units provided by local authorities - if they are interested in the development of the economy they should say we really need to crack this for our future economic success. It needs to be looked at through an economic lens also.

Many colleagues have mentioned the experience in their constituencies of the provision and supply of affordable and private homes to buy. House prices in my constituency of Louth rose by 8% in the first few months of 2022. This is on top of the 12% rise we saw a year ago. The average price of a home in my county is €257,000. This is more than 100% above the lowest point in the previous recession, which is in recent memory as we all know. We are still living with the consequences of it and the dysfunctionality of the housing market and the housing supply system more generally. When we look at these figures, it is much more pronounced in my home area of Drogheda given the proximity to Dublin. The averages in Louth do not tell the entire story.

Yesterday we had a shocking story in the Irish Independent. The figures speak for themselves. Only a tiny number of affordable purchase homes will be built between now and 2026 under the Government's targets. In Louth only 45 homes will be built on average every year. It is one of the fastest growing parts of the country. As we know, many people are leaving the capital to live in areas such as Drogheda, Laytown and Bettystown, which are within half an hour or three quarters of an hour by public transport or car to the city centre. This is a derisory level of investment given the scale of the challenge.

The Minister will especially understand this point. He should take the advice of senior officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Central Bank and scrap the ridiculous help-to-buy scheme. It is a subsidy for developers. That is all it is. It is driving house prices up. It is a deadweight investment. It is bad public policy. The money allocated to it from the shared equity scheme should be diverted directly to those who would build the affordable homes we need.

I thank an Teachta Ó Broin for the motion. The Social Democrats will support it. It gives us an opportunity to discuss these issues on affordability and housing. I want to respond to a couple of things the Minister said. He spoke about the need for supply and the problem with people objecting to housing. It is worth noting that the people who voted to dezone land earmarked specifically for 100 social housing homes in South Dublin County Council were not, as far as I know, Green Party councillors or from People Before Profit, the Social Democrats, Independents, Sinn Féin or the Labour Party. The people who did it were Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors. They voted to dezone the land in the middle of a housing emergency. If the decision is not reversed it will deprive us of 100 social homes that are badly needed in south Dublin. If the Minister is serious in his comments on this, he really should call on these councillors to reconsider their position. He should show some leadership on it.

We saw at the launch of Housing for All, and we heard again in the Chamber today, Ministers commenting on their belief in home ownership. They can say that all they want but the reality is that under the Government, home ownership is in freefall. It has been collapsing since Fine Gael took office in 2011. The Parliamentary Budget Office, which is independent, recently concluded that home ownership among adults of prime working age between 25 to 54 in Ireland has collapsed. We know from analysis done by Mel Reynolds and Lorcan Sirr that the number of new homes available for individuals to buy last year fell to its lowest level in several years to fewer than 6,000. There were only 5,698 new homes available for individuals to buy throughout Ireland.

Why is this happening? It is because more and more investment funds are buying up homes and more and more build to rent is dominating. Analysis by Dublin City Council shows that 82% of planning permissions sought or obtained in 2020 were for build to rent. That is what is happening under this Government.

The previous speaker said the Government was considering giving a grant of €100,000 to developers. Unfortunately, there is no evidence this is under consideration. The Government has published the details of this and it is not €100,000. It is up €120,000 per apartment. This is effectively a gift of public money to developers. What is it with this Government gifting public money and resources to private interests? Why is it so keen on doing this? Why will it not use that money to create better public services and directly build more affordable and cost rental homes? For €120,000, it could buy the sites for these apartments at probably about €30,000 and then build them out as affordable or cost rental at much more affordable rates using low interest loans from the Housing Finance Agency that are much more cost effective than private finance. Why is the Government not doing that? It is not even €120,000 that is the cap on this. The document published by the Government says that while it has a ceiling of €120,000, it may be exceeded by no more than 20% in certain cases so the real cap could be €144,000 per developer. Should we be surprised when developers come back and say building costs have increased and end up looking for more?

The key issue in terms of this gifting of public money to developers is the question of who asked for it. Who asked for it? It was not the ESRI or any independent commentators. I am quite sure that when we get the detail, we will find that the people who asked for this are developers and their lobbyists. The Government document on this and how it defines the viability gap reads like something straight out of what the developers and their lobbyists talk about. In fact, the viability gap was not an issue several years ago but is something that has been exploited quite considerably by developers and their lobbyists. I want to quote from a paper by Dr. Richard Waldron. He interviewed policymakers, planners, politicians and lobbyists for the development industry. He said that "a complicit State has further liberalised the planning system, introducing an array of policies that are ever more facilitative of development interests". He goes on to discuss the viability cap. What is this viability gap? How is it defined? We are not told how it is defined by the Government in what it has published. It has not told us whether it includes a profit margin of at least 15% for developers, because that is how they define their viability gap. Is the Government going to come clean and tell us whether its subsidy of €120,000, which may go up to €144,000, per apartment will include a profit margin of at least 15% profit for developers, because that is how they define viability? These are resources that could and should be put directly into affordable purchase homes and cost rental built on a not-for-profit basis rather than this developer-led way.

I will quote once more from Dr. Waldron because it is important. A lobbyist featured in his research spoke about how they have inputted into the planning process. The lobbyist said they gave all the headings, the first draft was written, the lobbyist reviewed it, described what they wanted in terms of the level of tax relief, a policy was agreed and the law was written up. That is what developers are telling researchers in terms of their influence on planning, tax and other aspects of housing policy.

Incredibly, no affordability is built into this. I do not think we should be giving a subsidy to developers at all, but if we do, surely there should be some sort of affordability criterion. There is none. The homes are going to be sold at market value but we are not told how the market value will be set exactly. Regarding build to rent schemes and investment funds, which are pushing up the price of apartments, will market values be set against them, because they are impossible values for most people to be able to afford?

Incredibly, given this level of public money going to developers and the significant climate crisis, there is no sign of any carbon budgets, limits or ceilings in terms of these developments. I do not need to tell the Minister of State that we are out of time in terms of the climate crisis and that nothing is more urgent than what we do to address it, yet his Government is giving public subsidies to developers to build these houses with no affordability measures built in, no discount off full market prices and no measures to ensure carbon ceilings or limits in terms of the embodied carbon aspect of these developments. That makes no sense to people who care about the environment and people struggling to afford to buy a home.

Will the Government withdraw these outrageous proposals to gift public money to developers through these subsidies and instead use this money to buy up dormant planning permissions and sites and build genuinely affordable homes to rent or buy? We know that works. We know it has been done well in other countries so why can it not be done here?

I thank Sinn Féin for bringing forward this motion. The housing crisis is a failure of the market, the State, this Government and previous Governments. We see that failure everywhere when it comes to dealing with the housing crisis. Often when we have debates about the housing crisis, the Government likes to say that those of us in opposition and the left are approaching this from a very ideological viewpoint, that this is why we are giving out about money being given to developers and that the Government is the pragmatist. Certainly People Before Profit is ideological. We do not hide that. Our ideology is in our name; we put people before profit. We take a socialist approach to the housing crisis, which means people's right to a home should come before the right of developers, bankers and landlords to profit. The Government likes to deny it has an ideology when its own ideology is very clearly a major part of the problem because, against all the evidence of all the actions it has tried, the Government is committed that the way to solve the housing crisis is to incentivise private developers to build homes. It is the idea that if private developers are incentivised enough, eventually somehow it will work and the housing crisis will be resolved. Of course, that ideology has the very happy coincidence of also serving the material interests of the developers in this country, who were the ones receiving the public money. The points around bridging the construction viability gap and doling out huge amounts of public money to developers really underline that point.

The Government already had the help-to-buy scheme, which was fundamentally a help-to-profit scheme for developers. It was about funnelling money through the hands of first-time buyers into the hands of developers and increasing property prices to incentivise the developers to keep building. Looking at the origin of the help-to-buy scheme, that was explicit in terms of the lobbying from the Construction Industry Federation. However, the Government is now bypassing the middle man. It is not even bothering to put money momentarily into the hands of the first-time buyer before it goes to the developer.

The Government is just going to give the money directly to the developers. It is going to give developers €120,000 per apartment to bridge the construction viability gap. The point was well made by Deputy O'Callaghan that it will also include profit for the developer. To add insult to injury, we can forget about the €120,000 cap when it comes to regional cities because the Government will go up to €144,000. The handout will not be used to lower the price of the apartments. It will not come with any conditions. It is merely a massive handout to the already very wealthy. This is nothing new for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. When many of the same developers crashed the economy and ended up in NAMA, they got salaries of close to €200,000 a year to continue to operate. These are the corporate welfare cheats who cheat us all. Instead of throwing more public money at them, we should use public money for direct, State-led construction of genuinely affordable and social housing, providing quality employment, apprenticeships for workers and so on.

Another example of this approach, incentivising developers and using lots of public money to do so, is the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF. We have seen €200 million of public money spent through LIHAF building roads and infrastructure for private developers to help them to profit. Originally the promise was that 40% of homes built on LIHAF-funded land would have to be affordable but very quickly the Government backed away from that and said there would be some unstated "haircut" for profits on these sites. In Cherrywood we have seen massive amounts of funding spent but we have heard nothing about what level of affordable housing will be provided and how genuinely affordable it will be.

This gets to the core of the problem with the Government's approach to and plan for affordable housing. It is like Humpty Dumpty, who said "When I use a word... it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less". The Government uses the word "affordable" and just says that this is affordable housing, even though by any ordinary person's standards, it is simply not affordable. The idea is that €450,000 is an affordable price for a house in Dublin. The Government cannot just say it, slap the label "affordable" on it and then, all of a sudden, people will be able to afford it; they still cannot afford it, no matter what the Government calls it. The whole problem, again, comes back to the ideology of the market. How does the Government determine affordability? Affordability is simply a percentage of market value. Affordability means a knockdown, a 10% or 20% reduction from the market value but when the market value is so completely out of control, with homes that are completely unattainable for ordinary middle-income earners, then a small reduction still leaves them absolutely unaffordable. Affordability should be defined in the language of ordinary people and refer to something that ordinary workers could actually afford. We should stop pinning affordability to the market and instead connect it to average incomes. No workers should have to pay more than 25% of their income for a roof over their heads.

I would also make the point that where we have affordable housing and the State is investing public money to develop affordable housing, which we support, we must make sure those homes do not end up in the hands of vulture funds or corporate landlords further down the line. We know that there are corporate investors looking to profit from the State's spending on housing. This is why we argue that all affordable housing purchase schemes must include strong clauses to ensure the units can only be sold back to the local authority so that they remain affordable through generations. In effect, this is another model of public housing provision.

In terms of the numbers of affordable units being built, the figures are pitiful with less than 50 affordable homes in some of the key commuter towns around Dublin, and only eight per year in Carlow and Laois. It is window dressing from the Government; it is fiddling while Rome burns. Dr. Rory Hearne has described the figures as "pathetic" and he is completely correct. It seems that only 16 homes have been built under the current local authority affordable purchase scheme. Over 300 families have applied for those 16 homes, with the gap between the crisis and the Government's actions summed up in these figures.

Fundamentally, what it all comes down to is the continued reliance on the market and catering to developers' needs rather than the needs of the people. The Minister's plan is failing and will continue to fail because it does not address the core issues behind the crisis, namely the over-reliance on the market to deliver a basic necessity as well as the acceptance of further commodification of what is an essential need. The Government's housing policy is built on a fundamental, ideological fallacy that if we incentivise developers, financiers and builders enough, they will eventually deliver what people need. The Dáil has changed laws to encourage corporate landlords into the system. We have abandoned any attempt to control or limit evictions. The Government has eulogised private property rights over the right to housing. The Construction Industry Federation, CIF, seems to have the ear of every housing Minister, with the Minister on speed dial, taking the federation's proposals and putting them into law. The Government has changed the law, the building regulations and the apartment specifications. It has even decided to fund and grant access to finance based on whatever these vested interests want. Whatever they want, the Government bends over backwards for them in the hope that ultimately, they will deliver. We have the utterly farcical situation whereby the corporate lobbyists, in the form of the CIF, have been put in charge of keeping a register to ensure proper standards in the building industry. So enmeshed is our housing and urban planning policy with the needs of those vested interests that the Government seems to get confused.

It was once said that what is good for General Motors is good for the USA. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael seem to believe that what is good for the CIF, corporate landlords and developers is good for ordinary people in Ireland but the truth is that it is not. The truth is that they have diametrically opposed class interests. They benefit when the prices rise and ordinary people suffer. Every failed target, every jump in homeless figures, every eviction and every hike in rents proves that what is good for the vested interests is most definitely not good for ordinary people in this country.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very important motion this evening. It is important to reflect on what is happening right now. We have people in every constituency, including in my own constituency of Galway East, who cannot find a house to rent and people who want to buy a house but cannot find one to buy. We also have a situation whereby the social housing waiting list is growing and there is so much pressure. The housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme is not working as it should. People who have houses to rent are not willing to participate in the HAP scheme any more because there are too many risks involved. We must look at all of this and determine how we are going to push forward and build ourselves out of this crisis. That is what we must focus on.

On the affordable housing scheme, the numbers announced yesterday are very disappointing. A total of 75 houses for Galway county is not a huge amount in the second largest county, geographically, in the country. If one looks at the multiplying factors across all counties, the scheme has been started, it has been called an affordable scheme but it is going to take a hell of a long time to get to a stage where it is effective and working.

I will now repeat things I have said previously in this House in relation to opportunities that we have. Why not make existing derelict houses in our towns and villages affordable for people to go in, build, occupy and live in? The Minister for Finance is in disagreement with me on extending the help-to-buy scheme to these properties. It is fine if he does not want to do that, but the Government needs to take strong, effective action to make these properties available so that people can go in, do them up and turn them into liveable spaces in our towns and villages.

It is very important that we tackle that rather than saying we cannot do this or that. There are 44,000 of these houses in the Northern and Western Regional Assembly area. A survey has been done by the regional assembly so the figures are there. Really and truly, what we need to do is take action on that.

The other thing the Government announced was a €50 million fund to improve the wastewater needs in rural towns and villages in Ireland, which is a scheme under which the local authorities can apply for funding. There are so many of our towns and villages that do not have any wastewater treatment plant. They are locked out of the planning system and the construction system because they cannot apply for planning permission on the basis that they will not be granted it and, even if they were granted it, that would be appealed to An Bord Pleanála on the basis that any type of development would be premature.

There are towns around Galway, such as Abbeyknockmoy, Corofin and Craughwell, to mention three, where, right now, we could be building houses if we had a municipal treatment plant. Sites are available for affordable houses and we could get on with it. They are within easy distance for connection for work to Galway city or Athlone, which is just off the motorway, but we are not doing that. Some €50 million is a pathetic amount of money to put into that. If that is what it is for, it probably needs to be ten times that sum if we are to tackle this problem. What we are doing in Galway might shock the Minister of State as a member of the Green Party. We are now talking about putting in clusters of houses where we will allow people to build five houses in a cluster and put five individual septic tanks into towns and villages. I do not think that is environmentally sustainable. That is what we are doing because we are not getting the money to have municipal treatment plants in these towns.

We need to take it for what it is. We need to make sure that this problem is sorted out, once and for all. We have so much opportunity but we seem to get caught up in talking about schemes and how we are going to develop them. I know the local authorities, including Galway County Council, are working hard to deliver housing and they are delivering some housing, but they need a hell of a lot more support, resources, management, funding and infrastructure to do it.

A poll published the other day by Ireland Thinks in association with the Sunday Independent asked people which of the following issues should be the most important priorities to deal with. There was a long list of answers, but leading the way by far as the most popular two responses were the cost of living and housing. Instead of really getting to grips with them, the Government is wasting energy pursuing a climate change agenda at a rate of knots, with little regard for the costs, to appease a party that is now languishing at 3% in the opinion polls. There is no significant demand for the Government’s climate policies at this emergency pace, but there is significant demand for the housing issue to be sorted out, although it seems only at a snail’s pace.

To be fair, not all the problems associated with housing can be blamed on the Government but the Government must ensure that it is controlling the controllables. We in this House are legislators. We make rules and regulations which govern people’s behaviour in Ireland, so I do not expect the Government to be able to solve problems with global supply chains, for example, but I do expect the Government to ensure that the conditions are suitable in Ireland to allow a thriving building sector and stimulate the construction of housing. All of the rules and regulations governing the sector are choices made by Governments. The consequences of these choices have been stark for people looking to get a house of their own. Over the last ten years, successive Governments have consistently placed barriers in the way of houses being built and these barriers have all contributed to the current problematic housing situation. Barriers have been placed in the way of builders who want to build the houses, and in the way of people who want to buy the houses.

I am getting fed up pointing out that the problem of housing being unaffordable will not be improved unless something is done to enable the average builder to build a house with less State-imposed cost barriers in the way. These State-imposed cost barriers include State bodies like An Bord Pleanála and the Office of the Planning Regulator advising on minimum density being imputed into county development plans that do not exist in law, more often than not resulting in judicial review being taken when minimum densities are stipulated as part of a grant of planning. Minimum densities are often the reason developments do not go ahead, with unnecessarily onerous and costly conditions to be met before permission is given for developments and also the dezoning of lands serving to reduce the number of houses being built.

The social contract is broken for people in their 20s and 30s and now often for many in their 40s too. Those working as gardaí, nurses, teachers or any of those jobs traditionally regarded as good, steady Government jobs cannot afford to buy a home. Over the last ten to 15 years, Government Departments have also made it more difficult for certain employees to be considered permanent, again harming their chances of qualifying for a mortgage. I know of a couple in their mid to late 20s in County Wexford who have a combined gross income of approximately €85,000 per year and have combined savings of almost three times the required deposit, yet cannot qualify for a mortgage due to the nature of their employment contracts. Both of these people have displayed an ability to manage money, are debt-free, work hard, are well-educated and, to all intents and purposes, are a safe bet from a mortgage point of view. However, Government-imposed rules mean those two people cannot get on the housing ladder. Living with parents is the best possible scenario for thousands of people in situations like this and, for many, it means extortionate rents or homelessness. We need to examine where the social contract fell apart and start repairing it.

Forcing a building contractor to build a certain amount of affordable homes in a development will not solve those problems. A first-time buyer has enough on his or her plate without the local county council competing with him or her to buy a house, thus driving up the price in the process. If the Government is really committed to ensuring affordable houses are built, then it is time it looked at its tax take on new homes. The Government could take less than the current 13% VAT rate. It could follow in the steps of our neighbours in Britain and the North – if it is serious about providing affordable homes, that is - and reduce the tax take to zero. There is no reason it cannot do so. Affordability is what a potential buyer can afford to pay for a house. Given the constraints imposed by the Central Bank’s mortgage lending rules, reducing vat to zero is the only measure that will put a new home in reach of the couple in Wexford earning €85,000.

Deputies Michael Collins, Richard O'Donoghue, Mattie McGrath and Carol Nolan are sharing time. I call Deputy Collins.

I am back again this week, repeating the same thing over and over here in the Dáil. Last week, I spoke about a family in Clonakilty whose rent had gone up 25%, as did their neighbours’. I spoke about the man who was sleeping in his car in west Cork. I spoke about the number of constituents who are constantly calling into my clinics, trying to find houses and trying to make a home for themselves. We have the young married couples, both with fairly good jobs, who cannot get a mortgage. There is something wrong. They cannot find a house to buy, even if they could get a mortgage.

We need to look outside the box. I know of people who live in log cabins and are happy to do so for a few years, but they are scared that the planning authority will come knocking on the door some day and kick them out. Why not look at the idea of people living in containers? I have actually seen quite a nice set-up in many places but, again, they are afraid of the planning authority coming knocking on the door, which has happened in some cases in west Cork and they have had to pull them down. Beautiful living accommodation, with two containers, one on top of the other, is gone and the person is out on the street, basically.

Again, I want to bring up the issue of planning permission in west Cork, which is such a difficulty for many young people. I do not know what percentage I have been told about in my office but a huge number of people are coming to me looking for planning. These are genuine applicants, young people trying to get off the ground, and they have been refused for the silliest reasons that could ever be known. Some people have just got a site from their mom or dad and that is the one break they get. Then, their opportunity is to go out there and build that dream home for themselves, but they cannot. That is broken for them and they are back into the social housing system again, looking for a house from the State. That is not what they want; they want to go out on their own.

Many houses in small towns and villages in rural Ireland are lying in ruins with no slates or roofs. This is an area that needs to be looked at. Rural Ireland can create major solutions to many of the problems that are out there in housing today but it has never been looked at. It is a sad reflection. Post offices and various important resources in towns and villages are closing because of that.

Sewage treatment is a major issue down in west Cork. Many sewerage systems have never been done in places such as in Castletownshend and Goleen. I could name quite a few.

I only have eight seconds left and I wanted to talk about the county development plan. I will not have time to do so now but it is scandalous the way many places are being cut off in areas that needed zoning.

I recently met the Minister of State in Kilmallock and welcomed him to County Limerick. In the region of 1,400 affordable houses will be delivered by the State this year. Some 1,000 of those will be in Dublin and 256 homes will be built in the other four cities. The delivery target for Limerick local authority is for 264 local authority houses to be built between now and 2026. A total of 53 of those were built this year in Limerick. I am working with a village in County Limerick which has planning for 70 houses some of which are pre-sold. What is the problem?

The problem is that I can deliver 70 houses in County Limerick but there is no water. They are waiting for another 12 months for water to come to Croom in County Limerick. I can deliver 70 houses. The local authority can deliver 56 houses. I am only talking about one town in County Limerick. This goes back to infrastructure which I have said to the Minister of State many times and to many Governments. What does infrastructure mean for County Limerick and all the other counties? It means we can get more houses built, be more sustainable, have businesses that are sustainable and have people return home to where their families are.

It has been the failure of this Government and previous Governments that there is no infrastructure in County Limerick and throughout Ireland. I would like the Minister of State's attention and ask that Deputy Bruton wait his turn. I ask people to look at County Limerick. People want to build houses. The local authority and the Government cannot supply them and people want to build houses on their own land. Planning permission is stopping them from building.

If they are allowed to build, they are charged per square foot for building a house on their own lands and supplying their own water and sewerage systems. Although they do not come from the Government the Government takes approximately €7,000 in fees from them for local footpaths and lighting of which there is none. These people are building in rural Ireland. They are not asking the State to build a house. They are saying they will build their own house. On top of that here is 23% VAT on inflated costs. That means that the Government's VAT intake on materials in houses in Ireland is up by 80%. There is 13.5% VAT on building costs as well. I apologise to the Minister of State with regard to the interruption.

I compliment the movers of the motion here tonight. I know the Minister of State is new and I cannot blame him for all the ills but we are punishing farmers and other people. We saw Glanbia on the border of Kilkenny and its petition to An Taisce. The single biggest polluters in this country are local authorities right from Mizen Head up in Donegal down to west Cork. They are the biggest polluters everywhere. I could name 25 villages in Tipperary waiting for sewerage infrastructure. They are belching raw sewage into streams and rivers. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, comes out, goes above the plant and takes the samples. It is a disgrace and the Government is then penalising people.

People want to build houses on their own land but cannot get planning without umpteen conditions attached. Deputy Verona Murphy is right about the Office of the Planning Regulator. We never had it before and we managed fine without it. Why do we need it to interfere in densities and whatever else in the middle of a housing crisis when people want to build houses? Cut the taxes and the VAT. The Government takes somewhere near 45% back from people who are trying to build.

There has been an explosion in costs. Most small builders now will not give a quote for a house because they cannot afford it. The merry-go-round goes on and houses are not being delivered, full stop. My offices are inundated with people being given notice to quit and landlords taking back houses to sell them. It is unbelievable that only five or six properties are available in the whole of County Tipperary. It is a nightmare for people.

I was talking to a priest today about a family that is living in a room. A child this morning in a village in County Tipperary had to eat his cornflakes from a bowl at the side of his bed. There have no cooking facilities. All they have is a fridge. We need to change the way we do things. Instead of that, the Government is totally out of touch and piles on more, talks to the Construction Industry Federation and gives it grants to build houses in Dublin. It is not working. We need radical change. We need a sea change and we must get it. I do not see any possibility with the crazy amount of red tape and bureaucracy.

This young generation of Irish people is being failed by Government. They are being failed by the lack of affordable housing and constant barriers to planning permission when they try to build houses on their own land and are impeded. It is very unfair. It is a no-win situation for young people in particular. We need to see change. My point today is really to draw the Minister of State's attention to the fact that we have approved housing bodies, AHBs. I have raised issues with regard to these approved housing bodies. During an oral Priority Question to the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, recently, he revealed that Government had invested €500 million in the AHB sector last year alone.

I also know from another parliamentary reply that currently there are 495 approved housing bodies listed in the Department's register. Questions need to be asked. If there are 495 approved housing bodies and we still have a housing emergency that is getting progressively worse, it is high time questions are asked. We have to do this in order to move forward. I wonder whether it is becoming like the bloated NGO sector. Some 30,000 NGOs are funded to the tune of €5.2 billion and there is considerable duplication. Taxpayers' money is thrown around like confetti. It is not good enough and needs to be called out.

Where is the value for money? I understand that a new strengthened regulatory regime for the approved housing bodies has been put in place and that the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority, AHBRA, will seek to encourage and facilitate better governance, administration and management, including corporate governance and financial management of this sector. Will the Minister of State clarify when he expects the AHBRA to produce its first report? Something is very wrong here. It is very serious. I am not convinced that we need more approved housing bodies to remedy the problems that exist. It is clearly not working.

Only a handful of individual houses are delivered when we need huge schemes delivered. The housing body, Respond, received €245 million from 2016 to 2021 and it is unable to replace the windows and doors in a small estate with 26 houses and apartments. The windows and doors are 20 years old or more. There is much talk about energy efficiency yet we are seeing people being failed. Respond has not replaced them. Where is all this money going? Can we please put the money where our mouths are in terms of Government policy and energy efficiency? What is going on here? Can the approved housing body, Respond, not be called out to replace these windows and doors in Chesterfield Close estate in Birr in County Offaly?

A Chathaoirligh, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this very important issue. I strongly support Sinn Féin’s motion and I thank it for bringing forward the issue of affordable housing today. Last week I spoke of the many people in this country who have been unable to secure rent and one would be right to wonder why so many have come to depend so heavily on the rental sector. The main reason that a growing section of people has been forced into renting is that it has been completely locked out of home ownership.

One now has a situation in this country where most people no longer have the option to buy but struggle to find and afford rent. I have come across more people stuck in the middle of this impossible dilemma than I care to count. There is a general feeling of hopelessness among my constituents and throughout the entire country because things only seem to be getting worse and sadly they are not wrong.

House prices are spiralling out of control and the market is showing no signs of slowing. In my constituency of Donegal the average house price jumped by €5,000 in the first three months of this year and in the three months previous to that it had risen by an average of €6,000. This represents a year-on-year increase of €25,000 in total.

The continued rise in prices has occurred across the entire housing market and has even occurred among older houses that would require considerable work, despite the continually increasing cost of construction and renovation these days. At the end of the fourth quarter last year there were 269 properties for sale in Donegal, which was a decrease of 10.3% over the quarter. There is no doubt that demand has far outstripped supply, especially in Letterkenny, as Letterkenny Institute of Technology, LYIT, attains technological university status.

There is also a demand for supply in areas affected by mica. One estate agent in Milford said that "the ongoing situation with defective blocks has hampered market activity for the more recently constructed properties, as continued uncertainty plagues the redress scheme".

I raised this issue with the Taoiseach earlier. I was very disappointed with his response. These families are faced with agonising uncertainty day after day. They were promised that legislation would be published at the start of this year. It is now May, but we have seen no movement on this aspect. It was also promised that the legislation would be published at Easter. That did not happen either. Moreover, we are now being told that the legislation will not undergo pre-legislative scrutiny. This is totally unacceptable. It is essential that important legislation like this is scrutinised properly. The Government cannot use the line of wanting to get legislation through quickly as an excuse not to engage in pre-legislative scrutiny. This Bill should have been prioritised. Mica has been an issue for a long time. Pre-legislative scrutiny should have been completed before the new year, with the aim of publishing the legislation at the start of 2022. There is no reason why this could not have been done, except for the lack of Government will.

Every month the legislation is delayed is another month of uncertainty for those families affected by mica and for the housing market in Donegal. Having to endure the mica crisis is bad enough, but having to endure the housing crisis on top of that is devastating for these families. I hope the Government remembers this as it continues to delay the legislation and decides to exclude important voices from the scrutiny process relating to it. I say that because members of a Mica Action Group would see through the legislation straight away and recognise if there were any problems with it. Perhaps that is the reason the legislation is not going for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government tried to hoodwink the Mica Action Group in December when it made an announcement at 8 a.m. Within an hour, people from the group had torn that proposal apart and determined what was involved in it. I am afraid that is what is going to happen with this legislation as well.

I also support the call to scrap the help-to-buy scheme, as well as the first home affordable purchase shared equity scheme. It has been shown that these schemes serve only to push up prices and divert funding from delivering affordable homes. We should, instead, be significantly increasing our direct investment in the provision of genuinely affordable homes through local authorities and approved housing bodies. This would be a real and effective measure to tackle the housing situation. It seems, however, that the Government has no real interest in tackling this matter. The Minister has not fulfilled his promise to deliver affordable homes. This Government’s housing policies not only do nothing to help struggling people, but have actually further contributed to the housing crisis through schemes such as these, which have just created further inflation.

We have seen proof of this in the continued rise in prices and the stock of homes for sale falling to a historic low of just 11,300. The shortage of housing stock for sale or rental is most acute in the rural areas. Analysis has shown that house prices are now seven times average incomes. The Central Bank and the ESRI estimate that the mortgage lending rules have actually stopped house prices rising by an additional 10% to 25% over existing levels. This is not sustainable and we cannot continue in this way. Our citizens are asking for help and it is our job to do all in our power to help them. I urge the Government to consider the proposals in this motion. Its amendment to the motion is not good enough and is most certainly not ambitious enough. The Housing for All strategy is watery at best. Relying on this strategy to address the issues arising is not good enough and will never do anybody any good. To emphasise this point, in the amendment, the Minister quotes the Covid-19 pandemic as being one of the big problems with housing supply. He is probably disappointed that he is not in the Department of Health, because then he could blame the cyberattack as well. It has also been something of great benefit in explaining delays.

It is time we moved away from the failed housing policies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and high time the members of this Government started listening to their constituents and to people on the ground who have been consistently saying that what the Government is doing is not working. It is time for a change. Implementing the proposals in this motion would be a positive step toward delivering that change. This is what is needed now.

I am grateful to have an opportunity to speak in this debate. I know time is limited. To be honest, when I see members of Sinn Féin come into this House criticising the Government for not delivering affordable homes to buy, I take a very deep breath. They come as a wolves in sheep's clothing. The reality is that they oppose five important measures from the Government that will together deliver 50,000 homes at affordable prices to first-time buyers in the next five years. These measures include: the help-to-buy scheme, which will deliver at least 32,000 houses, because that is what it has delivered in the past four years; the first home affordable purchase shared equity scheme, which will deliver 8,000 homes to people at affordable prices; support for first-time buyers in our cities to access multi-unit properties, which are expensive for first-time buyers - this will deliver 5,000 homes, as I saw announced by the Minister today; and the Land Development Agency, through its Project Tosaigh and activities on State lands, will deliver a further 8,000 homes.

Sinn Féin opposes all these measures, which account for the 50,000 homes we will deliver in the years to come at affordable prices. Sinn Féin's view is extremely narrow. It insists on a narrow ideological approach that will not have any private homes on public lands. It is a narrow approach that will condemn people to not being able to gain access to homes at affordable prices. It is a housing apartheid policy that Dublin does not need. We need integrated communities, which the Government's policy seeks to pursue, and I commend the Government on creating a framework that is capable of delivering. We have seen 35,000 housing starts in the past 12 months. It is a significant step forward.

There can, however, be no room for complacency. I worry about installing fixed-price contracts because of rising costs. We must address this aspect. I also worry about the vigour with which the Land Development Agency is bringing forward sites that can drive down site values. I urge the Minister of State to continue to deliver as quickly as possible in these two areas.

I wish to record my support for the help-to-buy scheme and my total dismay at the idea of abolishing it. This is what is being put forward by the Opposition. The help-to-buy scheme does exactly what it says on the tin: it helps people to buy their first homes. It has been a welcome financial contribution for many families, some 32,000 people to be exact. Almost €600 million has been paid out under the scheme to help people to buy their first homes. In Dublin alone last year, the help-to-buy scheme helped 1,127 people. The figures prove it is helping people. The very notion of abolishing a scheme that has provided 32,000 people and young couples with financial assistance towards buying their own homes is just mad. Yet that is what Sinn Féin is suggesting, namely, getting rid of a support scheme for first-time buyers. It is a prime example of opposition for opposition's sake. If anything, we should be expanding the help-to-buy scheme and not abolishing it.

Regarding affordable housing targets, the Government aims to provide 28,000 affordable homes by the end of 2026. This will be done through multiple channels and not just through the affordable housing funds. This year, affordable and social housing delivery will be achieved through the allocation of €4 billion in capital and current investment. In the next three years, €20 billion of State investment will be poured into housing. In eight years' time, under the Housing for All policy, there will be 90,000 extra social homes, 36,000 new affordable purchase homes and 18,000 new cost-rental homes. This is the difference between the Government and the Opposition. The Government's targets are real and its plans costed. The strategy is multi-annual, multibillion, already in motion and already helping people. It is rooted in reality and backed up by financial packages. The proposals we hear again and again from the Opposition, however, are pie in the sky and based on fairy-tale economics.

Regarding the point raised by Deputy Cian O'Callaghan concerning carbon budgets, all developments are now covered by building regulations and energy standards. We had two contributions that said we are giving too much to developers, while others said we are not giving enough. The LIHAF scheme is important in frontloading infrastructure. Deputy Verona Murphy made disgraceful comments regarding wasting energy pursuing a climate agenda. This is a reminder that this issue is about our common home as well.

In closing, I acknowledge the current highly-visible reality of price inflation. New housing supply in Ireland, like much of the EU, has been impacted by periods of reduced construction activity in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and global supply chain issues.

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated inflationary pressures with rising energy and material costs impacting many sectors, including construction. Ireland is not a unique case but we are working to overcome these issues. Supply is a key issue and supply is increasing. Notwithstanding the challenges, the Central Bank's recent estimates of completions this year and next are in line with Housing for All targets. This trend will only accelerate in coming years. Positive figures for new homes completed and commenced, which were all higher than they have been for many years, indicate Housing for All is working. Over the past four quarters, 22,219 homes were delivered, 5,569 in the first quarter of this year, while 34,846 new homes were commenced in the 12 months to March 2022.

In the meantime, policies are being implemented to assist those for whom affordability and home ownership are particularly challenging. As we have said before, the Government believes that in home ownership we must use all tools at our disposal. The Affordable Housing Act passed overwhelmingly by this House last year laid foundations for a range of affordable housing schemes which like cost rental and the local authority affordable purchase scheme are now either already in operation or, like the first home scheme, very close to launch. With regard to recent reports which under-represented our affordable housing targets in referring singularly to local authority-led affordable housing, I want to reconfirm that this Government aims through the multiple channels it has activated to provide more than 28,000 affordable homes by the end of 2026.

Looking at the full picture, affordable housing will be provided through a combination of more than 7,500 homes provided directly across at least 18 local authority areas where affordable housing has been clearly determined. I stress that these targets are intended as a baseline for delivery that is led and arranged by local authorities. It will be further provided through 8,000 homes under the first home affordable purchase shared equity scheme which will be available nationwide in the period 2022 to 2026; 7,800 affordable purchase and cost-rental homes through the Land Development Agency delivered on State lands via Project Tosaigh. Some 1,500 affordable homes under Part V arrangements are targeted for delivery by local authorities. Some 4,000 cost-rental homes to rent are to be provided by approved housing bodies using the cost rental equity loan facility.

The local authority home loan and the help to buy scheme will also continue to help improve affordability for lower and middle income earners, allowing them to access home ownership in a way that otherwise they could not. This year, funding of €676 million has been made available specifically on affordability measures. A guaranteed €20 billion in State investment in housing will be made available to the end of 2025. The new national first home scheme to assist affordable purchases in the lower end of the price distribution of the private market is an example of a short-term, limited intervention. It is carefully designed to mitigate inflationary risk while helping people to achieve the stability of home ownership over the next four years. With the State's €200 million investment doubled by strategic partnership with mortgage lenders, first home is scheduled to be launched shortly.

I must re-emphasise our strong commitment to the State in action through public channels. Locally affordable housing delivery is also being placed on a more strategic footing. Local authorities with a strong and identified affordable housing need were asked to prepare affordable housing delivery action plans. In doing so, they take into account the intended provision of affordable housing by the Land Development Agency and approved housing bodies and assess the level of affordable demand in their area and arrange provision accordingly. Their plans are currently being finalised and it is expected that they will be ready for publication in the coming months. The targets for each local authority are aligned with the level of need arising in those areas as determined by the housing need and demand assessment tool which was developed in co-operation with the ESRI. Where local authorities such as Waterford, for example, have identified a demand and can secure delivery of a high number of affordable homes in their area, that affordable housing fund supported delivery is welcome. For those local authorities without affordability targets, we are aware that localised affordability challenges can exist in key towns. Where this occurs, funding can be made available if needed to address those localised challenges.

I am very happy to see that local authority delivery this year for the first time in well over a decade. The first such homes are being advertised and sold in Cork city, Fingal and south Dublin at significantly discounted prices with more new homes to follow across the country later this year. A pipeline of delivery is being developed by local authorities with nine further schemes expected to go on-site in 2022. Local authorities are also implementing the State's offering of long-term, low-cost mortgage credit with the home loans being designed to be particularly accessible for single people and those eligible for fresh start principles.

Overall, I am not discounting the very real challenges that ordinary people are facing. The outlook is more positive than might be presenting. The Housing for All strategy is working. Supply is increasing and, in particular, affordable schemes are being implemented to assist ordinary people into home ownership. In its amendment to the motion, the Government reflects these realities and I hope makes clear its commitment to the core principle that everybody should have access to good quality housing to purchase or rent. We have progressed much already and there is a long way to go. We are moving in the right direction.

I see around the county of Kerry from Tousist to Tarbert to Tureencahill and over to Ceann Trá the results, the problems and the fallout of current and previous Government policy over the past ten years. I see queues of 30 to 40 people seeking to rent a home. It is practically impossible to rent. Homelessness is on the increase. Vacant homes are not being turned around fast enough. Compulsory purchase orders to get housing back into use are practically non-existent. People are waiting on the housing list for 15 years. The decision to outsource social housing to the market ten years ago in tandem, I believe, with the abolition of the town councils of Tralee, Listowel and Killarney, was a disaster. I also see the lack of sewage treatment plants and wastewater treatment. In places like Glenbeigh, Castlegregory, Abbeydorney and Fenit people cannot build two houses together because of the lack of any water system.

At the other end, people cannot afford to purchase houses. It is hardly surprising when figures from the CSO tell us that house prices in the south-west region rose 15.4%. In 2020, house prices in Kerry increased more than in any other county. The daft.ie report paints a similar picture, with prices in Kerry up 7.5% for a one-bedroom apartment, 14.2% for a two-bedroom terraced house and 18.1% for a three-bed semi-detached house. As a result, in 2021 house prices in Kenmare and Dingle were up 10%, in Tralee they were up 15% and in Killarney they were up by a staggering 18.5%.

Government responses are overly reliant on a subsidy to developers, increasing inflation even before the current inflation crisis. The shared equity scheme should be abandoned. I know people who went into the last one and after 20 years they still only own half their home. A builder recently presented me with a folder of price increases from builders' providers with near monthly increases across the board from providers. In housing both finance and purchase, increasingly provided by private capital looking for a return, price increases are built into Government policy. Ordinary people are struggling, especially those who availed of the personal insolvency practitioners, PIPs, and who sold their homes in negative equity. They cannot avail of the fresh start scheme, which is only open to those who have availed of statutory insolvency schemes. Workers and families need proper solutions and I encourage everyone to support the motion.

House prices are out of control and have been for some time now. The price of homes keeps going up while the available income for many families keeps going down due to inflation. Large numbers of people are being locked out of home ownership and the efforts of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to address this have been woeful. On a daily basis my constituency office in Limerick receives calls of desperation from people who have been locked out of home ownership. These are people who struggle to save a deposit. They are not fortunate enough to avail of a cash injection from their parents. They are trying to buy their own home and the lack of support from the Government for them is galling. Is it any wonder that average-income families or new couples struggle to get into the housing market? In Limerick the average price of a house purchase has risen by 8.2% year-on-year. For young families, a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Limerick will cost on average 10.3% more than it did this time last year, with the average price of such units starting at €212,000. In some of the most sought-after suburbs, the price of a three-bedroom terraced house is almost a quarter of a million euro. Average-income families are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand they are locked out of purchasing their own home while on the other they earn too much to avail of council-supplied housing or support through the HAP scheme. Social housing income thresholds have not been changed since 2011. This is something that should be rectified. The income cut-off levels need to be increased to reflect inflation.

All the while, house prices go up. According to daft.ie we now have seven consecutive quarters of house prices increasing. Coupled with that we see the number of new homes available at its lowest level since January 2017. Prices are going up while supply is decreasing. This is happening on the watch of the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien. It is happening because Government policy such as help to buy and shared equity inflate house prices. This should come as no shock to anybody. It has been forewarned that this would be the outcome. It is recognised that there is a lack of local authority affordable housing yet the Minister seems to pick his delivery targets out of thin air. Using Limerick as an example, the local authority affordable housing delivery targets for 2022 to 2026 stand at 264 units or 52 per year.

There are more than 2,200 people on the housing list in Limerick, with a further 344 awaiting a transfer. The Minister's unambitious targets will have next to no impact on these housing figures. People are now desperate across Limerick. Generations of families are living in the same homes because the rent is too high and the purchasing of a social house is out of reach. The Minister, therefore, has to step up to the plate with solutions. We need to revise the affordable purchase home targets because they are insufficient. Local authorities must be allowed to access an affordable housing fund. Income thresholds for social housing support must be dramatically increased, and the failed shared equity loan and help-to-buy schemes need to be dumped.

I would like to put on the record my response to a number of factually incorrect claims that the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, made in his contribution earlier. As always, it is a pity that he has not remained until the end of the debate. However, as usual we are more than happy that the Minister of State is present.

First, the Minister criticised the figures upon which this motion is based. He said in the response to the parliamentary question that there is also a reference to the possible delivery of affordable purchase homes by the LDA and Part V arrangements. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of counties listed in the parliamentary question will not have any LDA homes because the agency is precluded from being active in those areas. In those local authority areas where the LDA is active, very few affordable purchase homes will be delivered until 2024 or 2025. Even at that, we do not know whether they will be affordable. Therefore, to say there is an as yet unquantified number of affordable purchase homes related to the LDA is simply incorrect.

The Minister well knows that the changes to Part V of the Planning and Development Act apply only to land purchased this year and, therefore, if the land is purchased this year, it is unlikely there will be a planning application until next year, which means the homes will not be delivered for two to three years thereafter. Again, no affordable purchase homes are likely to be delivered during the lifetime of this Government via the changes to Part V.

It is also important to remember that a significant number of homes listed in the reply to the parliamentary question will not be affordable at all. Those at O'Devaney Gardens, Oscar Traynor Road and Donabate are good examples in that the all-in cost of an affordable home, or the full price that a hard-working family will have to pay, will be in excess of €400,000, taking into account the initial purchase price and the shared equity loan repayment. This is hardly what the Minister and I, if we were being honest with each other, would call affordable.

The suggestion that the shared equity loan scheme delivers affordable housing is absolutely ludicrous because the product can in fact be used to buy properties with a value up to €400,000 to €500,000. Those are not affordable homes, and the Minister knows that only too well.

He also criticised what he said was Sinn Féin's threadbare housing policy. Of course, he does this all the time. He waved a summary document I had sent him number some years ago that was based not only on extensive policy proposition documents but also on draft circulars and alternative, fully costed budgets for various years. Again, it is very disingenuous of him to do that.

He repeated the claim that the Government is investing €4 billion in public housing this year; it is not true. In this regard, we should look at the budget book the Minister for Finance announced in this Chamber last October. The total direct capital investment by the State, local authorities and AHBs is just under €1.5 billion, only €100 million more than the year before. Our proposal is to double direct capital investment by the State up to approximately €3 billion for the direct delivery of social and genuinely affordable homes. The Minister is correct that the numbers of completions and commencements are higher, we discussed this last week, but completions are up only to meet this year's target, namely 24,000 homes. It is nowhere close to the 40,000 homes we need. Of the 24,000 that will be delivered, how many will be genuinely affordable? How many will even be for sale on the open market? Far, far too few.

It is the same with commencements because an increasing number of apartment developments will take two to three years to complete and, therefore, the Government could well be out of office before any of the expected changes occur.

Probably the most disingenuous thing the Minister did was criticise Sinn Féin's affordable housing proposal. Once again, he misrepresented it. Let me repeat: we have a very specific and innovative proposal for affordable purchase that would ensure not only that a property is affordable to its first purchaser but also to every subsequent purchaser. It is very simple. You buy the house and it is yours to do what you want with, but you will not have been sold the public land. You can use the land for free indefinitely, as can your children and grandchildren, so long as it is not rented out to the private rental sector. When you sell it, you must sell it to another affordable-home purchaser. The price is index-linked for inflation and accounts for home improvements. This way, we would build up tens of thousands of privately owned and privately tradeable, but permanently affordable, homes. This is an eminently sensible idea.

The problem is that the Government simply does not understand the depth of the crisis. It is not investing enough, and the targets in the Minister's reply to the parliamentary question demonstrate that clearly, which is why I stand over this motion. I stand over the call to double capital investment to deliver 20,000 public homes per year, and particularly 4,000 genuinely affordable homes for working families year on year from now until 2026. Anything short of that is not acceptable, and that is why we will not support the Government's amendment.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 80(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Wednesday, 11 May 2022.

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