I thank Dr. Murphy and Dr. Hearne for a great report and for highlighting a number of key issues facing us with this housing emergency. I have a few questions on different areas that the report touches on. I agree with them that ultimately we need to build social housing. If we do not do that, everything else will not work and is not sustainable in the long term. What annual output do we need to clear the waiting lists and deal with the current emergency? Our view is that we need a minimum of 20,000 council houses a year for the next five years. In so far as there may be a problem in ramping up output in year one - it could certainly be done by year two - what is the witnesses' view of compulsory acquisition and leasing of vacant properties as a way of ramping up output of social housing to the degree we need?
Do the witnesses believe we should stop using the term "social housing"? In my opinion social housing has become a slippery term which can embrace everything including HAP, which they rightly criticise, voluntary housing, the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and council houses. Would they agree with the contention that a negligible proportion of the 110,000 social housing units that Rebuilding Ireland claimed it would deliver were actual council houses? Should those of us who want to see increased output of public housing stop using the term "social housing" and be specific by saying "council housing" or "public housing"?
What do the witnesses have to say about affordable housing?
Connected to that is the issue of Part V and the reduction of the allocation to 10% rather than the 20%, which was made up of 10% social housing and 10% affordable housing, that we had in the past. What are the witnesses' views on that and how it connects to the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF? We have estimated that the development at Cherrywood, which at 8,000 units is going to be one of the biggest developments in the State, could solve the entire Dún Laoghaire housing crisis, in my opinion. It will not, however, because we are only going to get 800 social housing units and we may only get as little as 1% affordable housing from the LIHAF funding for the €15 million we have put in. Have the witnesses any comment on that?
Do the witnesses think that the social mix argument that is being used by the Government essentially to privatise, part-privatise or to have public private partnerships on public land, which is what the Government proposes, is just an ideological argument to justify privatisation? Is the stigmatisation of social housing implicit in this? The implication is that if one has lots of public housing together, there will be anti-social problems. Do the witnesses believe this is stigmatisation? I do. I believe it is also an excuse rather than pointing to the lack of services and infrastructure that were often associated with big public housing developments in the past.
With regard to HAP, Dr. Hearne is absolutely right to point out the issues around security of tenure, but I will agree with Deputy O'Dowd in one respect: the one and only positive aspect of HAP is that it has a differential rent that allows a person to work. The problem is the lack of security of tenure. I am unsure if it was mentioned in the report but as well as the aspects of insecurity of tenure with HAP, it is even less secure than the previous rental accommodation scheme, RAS. With RAS the local authority had an obligation to rehouse people if the private landlord pulled out, but people do not even have that option with HAP. The suggestion that it is social housing in any shape or form is nonsense because a person is thrown back out to the wolves if the landlord pulls out. This week I had dealings with a woman who was for the third time being thrown out of a HAP tenancy. I will, by the way, credit the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. I rang him up and asked if he could help this lady because they would not give her the homeless HAP. She had had the homeless HAP but then was not homeless, so they would not give her the homeless HAP rate to get new accommodation when she was being evicted. In fairness, after a phone call, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, dealt with it. It should not, however, have come to that. It is crazy.
I will now turn to the eligibility thresholds. This relates to the stigma and social mix aspects. Do the witnesses think that rather than stigmatising groups we should raise the eligibility thresholds for social housing in order that it is not seen as something just for the very poorest of people? In many other jurisdictions it is the case that social housing is a much more widespread option for people to get housing, regardless of social background.
The witnesses referred to the right to housing and constitutional issues. The Dáil will face a Bill today put forward by People Before Profit on precisely this issue. Many housing NGOs have called for this measure over the years. Will the witnesses assist us in the debate that will happen today? I hope I am wrong but I suspect the Government will say it will not make any difference at all as a means of justifying voting down the Bill, even though for years the Government has been saying that the lack of such a guarantee was an obstacle to introducing some of the more radical measures we might take to deal with housing. Perhaps the witnesses will elaborate a little more specifically on how inserting a constitutional right to housing and re-shifting the balance between private property rights and the common good in respect of housing would be beneficial in dealing with the housing crisis, stopping evictions, getting hold of landbanks, etc.