Thursday, 27 June 2019

Ceisteanna (2)

Maurice Quinlivan


2. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if IDA Ireland considers the shortage of housing in a given area when consulting with multinational firms looking for a location to open or expand here; her views on whether recent announcements of multinational jobs in Dublin in particular will put further pressure on an already overstretched housing market; her position and plans in relation to the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27412/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Business)

I start by joining in the congratulations to Deputy Kelleher and we wish him all of the best in his trip to Europe and I hope he does a good job out there. He will be missed from the committee.

I ask the Minister whether the IDA considers if there is a shortage of housing in a given area when it is consulting multinational firms and looking for locations in which to open or expand here. There have been numerous major job announcements, particularly for the Dublin area recently, which are of course all very welcome. Many people are asking where these people are going to live considering that there is not an affordable house to be had anywhere in the capital.

I am taking this question. I thank Deputy Quinlivan for raising this issue.

Global competition for foreign direct investment, FDI, is as intense as ever. We compete against many other countries and big cities from all over the world when it comes to securing new job-rich FDI from overseas. That is why the IDA’s main priority in its efforts is first of all win the projects, and to ensure that Ireland is selected by the firm in question.

Once that is achieved, which is a big achievement, the agency does everything it can to encourage companies to locate or expand into regional locations. This is consistent with both the IDA’s current policy, which has targeted an ambitious increase in regional investment by the end of 2019, and the Government’s wider approach of strengthening enterprise all over Ireland. This joint focus on the regions is yielding significant results, as was evident again from the IDA’s mid-year jobs and investment figures for 2019, with 50% of jobs now located outside of Dublin.

The Government also wants our principal cities to remain highly attractive to multinational firms. Dublin, in particular, with its international profile and track record as a home to many successful overseas companies, will continue to be a favoured destination for many investors, as evidenced again by recent job announcements. That is very much a positive that we have a strong capital city to generate investment in the country as a whole. It is also the case that our cities and regions are competing against the rest of the world, rather than against one another, for investment projects.

As regards the housing market, and in particular in increasing supply, that is well documented. It is important to make clear that these difficulties are not attributable to multinational firms and the jobs they have created, whether in Dublin or elsewhere. The root causes of our housing market difficulties are much more complicated than that, as the Deputy is aware.

The Government’s focus has been on addressing those housing problems and delivering fair and sustainable solutions over the short, medium and long term. That is why we are implementing the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan which includes financing measures, new construction and rental sector improvements. As of the first quarter of 2019, there have been almost 19,000 new houses completed, an increase of 25% compared to the same time last year. Dwellings in the Dublin and mid-east region account for over 60% of these completed properties. This is a welcome development given that demand for housing is at its highest in this part of the country.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Overseas firms operating in Ireland are aware of the housing challenges we are facing. But they understand too how much of a priority this is for Government and what has been done to increase supply. It is important to remember as well that many of the countries Ireland competes against for FDI have difficulties of their own when it comes to residential housing. That does not diminish our own housing challenges, which we remain determined to address, but it does serve as a reminder that these are problems that many others are also wrestling with.

I am not suggesting for a minute to the Minister of State that the IDA is causing or contributing to the housing crisis but there is a problem around housing. Unfortunately the Government has completely failed to stabilise the housing market or to build enough social and affordable housing to meet the needs of the people. That is the problem I am raising. It is a sad state of affairs that due to the shambolic housing policy of the Government we have to be concerned about not having enough dwellings to house new workers and their families for the jobs that are being created here. I understand that we are competing with the rest of the world for jobs and as I stated in my initial contribution I welcome every single job that is approved, whether that is for Dublin or for the regions. I am not objecting whatsoever to the FDI job announcements as they provide excellent opportunities for people here but there is a concern that there will be no places for people to work.

In addition, many of these FDI jobs are very well paid, which again is great news. This means, however, that these workers can outbid other low paid workers for the few houses that are available to rent, putting further pressures on low income families. It is crazy that the Government has allowed this to escalate to such a point. What interactions have the Minister's Department had with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government about this specific issue? Have business and the IDA concerns about the lack of housing for workers? Is there any incentive in that regard?

I thank Deputy Quinlivan.

The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and I travel on trade missions around the globe and this is not a problem that is just confined to Ireland. I was in Seattle last year, which is the home of Amazon and Microsoft, and I met the mayor there. The big problem there is shortage of housing for companies as well. This is a problem that is being addressed all over the place.

We have seen how successful we were in that area with the action plan for jobs. Rebuilding Ireland will be successful as well. Planning permissions were granted last year for nearly 29,000 new homes up to the end of the first quarter of 2019. That is up 21% from the previous year. In Dublin alone nearly 9,000 homes were granted planning permission. This is an increase again on the previous year. It is happening. Houses are being built.

The IDA has an important role when a company comes to Ireland in first of all ensuring that it comes. These companies bring their own estates people to look at where they want to locate first and in what regions they want to build. They select where they eventually want to go. They take all of that into account, namely, the housing and services in the area, the schools, universities and all of that. In recent times, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, announced 800 jobs in LinkedIn last week and jobs with Facebook, amounting to a couple of thousand jobs, and all of these considerations are taken into account. The companies know they can get houses for their employees.

I thank the Minister of State for his response but we need much more work to be done in this area.

Is the Minister of State considering offering IDA client companies better incentives to locate in rural or Gaeltacht areas, for example. This would bring much needed employment in those areas and reduce also the pressure on the housing market in urban areas. We appreciate and have stated already that it is the decision of a client company at the end of the day as to where it wants to locate. It would be much better to have a fairer spread of FDI investment. Has the Minister held any discussions about this with the IDA and have business representative groups expressed concern to him about the shortage of housing for workers?

There are no incentives for locating in Dublin.

The one thing that attracts many FDI investor-companies into Ireland and into the regions - as a Limerick person the Deputy has seen good investment in recent times in the Limerick region and city - is quality of life. Quality of life is very important for many companies in the whole area of wellness for their employees living in an environment where they can produce more and be more competitive. The regions are doing well. I ask the Deputy to look at how well the medical technologies and the pharma sectors are doing in Limerick currently. Companies tend to follow other companies and clusters seem to grow all of the time. As I have already said in my answer, nearly 50% of new jobs last year were outside of Dublin. The same thing can be said about Enterprise Ireland jobs, which is higher again at 60% plus. There is a lot happening around all of the regions where jobs growth has been significant in the last number of years. We are happy with that. That is why Future Jobs Ireland 2019 and the regional action plans will contribute to ensure that we can promote jobs in the regions and we are doing that.