Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Ceisteanna (27)

Richard Boyd Barrett


27. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will give a commitment, in view of the housing emergency and the abundant availability of public land in the State, to initiate an emergency building programme of public and affordable housing on public land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27122/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Housing)

Is it not time to admit that Rebuilding Ireland is failing disastrously? Wexford and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils which are not controlled by the left have both passed motions to the effect that Rebuilding Ireland is failing. The reliance on the private sector has been exposed. The Minister's figures for private sector completions are not accurate. There is far less coming from that sector than the Minister had hoped. The delivery of public housing is pathetic. Last year 1,058 local authority houses were delivered and the target next year is 5,900. Only God knows if it will be met, but I would say it is unlikely. It is just not good enough. It is not working. Is it not time, therefore, to take a different approach and have an emergency programme of public and affordable housing on our own land?

Developing the State landbank for housing is a key priority. Importantly, we have large sites in Dublin, Cork and other key urban areas where housing and homelessness pressures are greatest. We now have a good picture of all local authority residential lands and authorities have well-developed plans for many of their sites. This is backed by €6 billion in Exchequer funding, and significant progress is being made in ramping up the social housing programme. At the end of 2017, there were 13,400 social housing homes in the construction programme, up substantially on the 8,500 homes in the programme just a year earlier, and this continues to grow weekly.

In addition, the local authorities in Dublin are bringing forward major sites for mixed tenure development such as the 900 homes at Kilcarbery in Clondalkin, where procurement will be finalised in the autumn, and O’Devaney Gardens, a 600 unit site in the city council area where the procurement process is moving into the competitive dialogue stage and should be finalised in early 2019. Proposals for other key sites across Dublin are also being developed.

As I indicated in my reply to earlier questions, I have commenced the statutory provisions for the new affordable purchase scheme. Early indications from key local authorities have identified lands for 4,000 affordable homes and we are working to increase this ambition to 10,000 homes from local authority lands only. To support local authorities to get their sites ready for affordable housing, I am providing, via the serviced sites fund, increased funding of €75 million for enabling infrastructure. I will be inviting applications under the fund by the end of next week.

In my area, there is nothing happening in Shanganagh. We have been demanding for about five years that public and affordable housing be built there. There has still not been a sod turned. There is also nothing happening in St. Michael's Estate, on the Oscar Traynor Road site or in Clonburris. People have been calling for public housing for years on all of these big sites but there is still nothing happening. Part of the problem is the affordable housing issue, the Minister's failure to define what that is and to guarantee that money will be made available to make affordable housing genuinely affordable.

I did not understand the Minister's earlier answer. Is the affordable housing on these schemes going to be affordable based on income or is it going to be linked to the market? If it is going to be linked to the market, it is not going to be affordable, certainly not in my area. Shanganagh cannot move forward until the council there knows that the Minister is going to provide the funds to make that genuinely affordable. If he is not going to do that, then we should just build council houses and stop messing around with all of these things that he has failed to define.

I thank the Deputy for the question. If there was a difficulty in the response Deputy Boyd Barrett heard, that was because of a difficulty in the question. It flies in the face of reality. This crisis is 15 years in the making. This Government has put together a €6 billion war chest to fix our housing sector under Rebuilding Ireland and to fix it in a way so that we do not make the mistakes made in the past.

Motions passed by councils do not build houses. Local authorities seeking funding from this Department, using their landbanks and engaging with builders is what builds houses, and that is what is happening throughout the country. Deputy Boyd Barrett does not want to see that but that is what is happening. There were 2,200 or 2,400 social housing homes built last year. That was a threefold increase on the previous year. We will build 3,800 this year between local authorities and housing bodies and roughly another 500 to 600 from the Part V commitments. That is a doubling of social housing homes being built on local authority land again this year.

I provided an additional €50 million for local authorities to bring forward their landbanks for affordable homes. We know we need affordable homes because we have acute affordability pressures, particularly in those ten local authorities that we know of in Dublin and the greater Dublin area, Cork city and Galway city. That will work with designated income criteria for accessing the affordable purchase scheme. We will also provide, roughly, depending on the site, €30,000 to €40,000 per home as a discount. The local authority will decide what the land value is, that will be a further discount that will come off the price of the house and that will make it affordable.

Nothing is happening in my area. I mentioned four other sites around Dublin where nothing is happening on public land. Do not tell me that is because I do not want to see success. I can see that nothing is happening in Shanganagh, in Cherrywood, on the Oscar Traynor Road site, in Clonburris or in St. Michael's Estate. We can go through the list.

What the Minister just said about affordability is very worrying. It is about the income level at which a person can apply for an affordable house, but it also raises the question of the point in applying for an affordable house that is not affordable. Average house prices in my area are now €600,000. Private developers are selling the 10% of so-called social housing back to the local authority and are looking for prices of up to €450,000. That is not affordable. Is affordable going to be affordable and will local authorities be guaranteed that money will be made available so that affordable housing on public land will be affordable? If that is not going to be the case, we need to build council housing on those sites.

There is not enough money. There is €1.14 billion in capital spending for social housing this year. According to the Minister's targets, that is going to deliver 5,900 houses. It is not enough. We need a minimum of 10,000 council houses a year. The budget is going to have to be doubled to get close to addressing the extent of the housing crisis and to begin to make an impact on the figure of 144,000 on the housing lists.

This is not a question of money or resources. They are in place. There is a €6 billion ring-fenced fund over the life of the Rebuilding Ireland programme. When I needed an additional €100 million last year, I was able to secure it and that went into homes and emergency accommodation. Last year, when I also went looking for €500 million for Rebuilding Ireland, I was able to secure it so that we could hit the target from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government of putting 50,000 homes into the social housing stock. That is happening. Work is happening, and the different figures we have tell us that is happening, but not every site can be developed at the same time. Some of the larger sites in Dublin, in particular, are the more difficult sites because they have many legacy issues. Those, however, have been resolved over time and we are now in a position to start work on many of those sites.

On a site like St. Michael's, a key site in the city, there is great potential for public housing that could really benefit many people on lower incomes who are locked out of the rental market or the housing market. We want to do that, but if we get it wrong when we do it for the first time at scale, then it will not happen again. We have to make sure that we get it right. I will be in O'Devaney Gardens next week as well because progress is being made on that site. We have a pipeline of works to be done. Housing will be built on these big sites, but on the social housing side of things, there are dramatic increases in house building as well as on the private side. We are now talking about affordability, which is key. This new funding is there and it will deliver it.