Such is the extent of the crisis that politicians can no longer ignore it. Housing is something people can see this government is not doing well on, it's an issue that will change how people vote in the next election. The unity of opposition and the call for a housing budget is evidence that the country is ripe for election.
The following is a shortened version of the housing debate held in the Dáil on the 25th which could prove very relevant if FG opt for a 'Balanced Budget' over investing in housing, as doing so may bring an end to the 'Confidence and Supply' agreement. The full debate can be sourced at oireachtas.ie
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Fine Gael have been in office for seven years and during that time homelessness has increased to unprecedented levels, house prices and rents have spiralled out of control, and tens of thousands of households are unable to access secure and affordable homes;
Deputy Eoghan Murphy has been Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government for 15 months, and on his watch, homelessness has increased by 25 per cent, child homelessness has increased by 34 per cent, pensioner homelessness has increased by 40 per cent, rents have increased by 7 per cent and house prices by 6 per cent, delivery of social housing remains glacial, not a single affordable home has been delivered by any central Government scheme, private sector output in the main is overpriced and unaffordable, and vacant housing stock remains higher than the norm in other comparable countries;
Behind every statistic is somebody’s brother, sister, mother or father. Every one of the more than 10,000 homeless people, including the 4,000 children who will sleep tonight in emergency accommodation, is being failed by Deputy Eoghan Murphy and his housing plan.
The reasons for this are very clear. The Government continues to underinvest in social and affordable housing. It continues to rely on the private sector to meet social and affordable housing need. That approach failed when last tried by Fianna Fáil in government, and it is failing now.
What about people who are not eligible for social housing? Rents are up 22% since 2016 and house prices are up 18% in the same period. Tens of thousands of working families are simply unable to rent or buy, yet not a single affordable home has been delivered by the Government this year or last year and probably will not be delivered next year either.
The Minister and his colleagues will say in their defence that the numbers of planning permissions and house completions are up. That is correct. However, overpriced student accommodation at €1,000 per month and unaffordable family homes from €320,000 upwards will not solve the crisis.
The Minister also claims that the Opposition has no policy alternatives and that we are devoid of solutions. Again, this is simply not true. We have produced fully costed budgets and a raft of policy proposals and Bills that the Minister has chosen to ignore.
Unfortunately, time after time Fianna Fáil had lined up with Fine Gael to block these proposals.
What Fianna Fáil has proposed instead is more tax breaks for developers. It clearly has not learned from its mistakes in the past. It will be the same tonight.
It is time that party stopped speaking out of both sides of its mouth on housing. It cannot criticise the Government's housing plan and its failing Minister on one day and then support the Government's housing budgets and the same failing Minister the next. It is time for Deputy Micheál Martin, who is absent, to put up or shut up.
If Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will not listen to the Opposition they will have to listen to the people. Across the country frustration with the housing crisis is turning into anger.
Rebuilding Ireland has failed. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has failed and it is time for both to go. I commend this motion to the House.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald
We are in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis in this State. We face a housing emergency.
Homelessness and the housing crisis is not now a niche concern or a concern simply for one sector of Irish society or for any one class. It affects the entirety of our society. Families who in years gone by would never have been considered vulnerable now live in fear that a hike in their rent might push them into homelessness. People, including couples in their 20s and 30s, unlike their parents before them have no real prospect of ever being able to afford their own home.
The crisis we face has one root cause: a lack of homes. Despite this fact, we have a Government that continues to abdicate its responsibility and refuses to build homes in sufficient numbers to house our citizens.
We can house those in need of homes who cannot afford a home from their own means. Doing so would reduce homelessness and the number of families and citizens in need of rent supplement and the housing assistance payment, HAP. It would also increase the number of rental properties available and reduce rent inflation and, in turn, rents. Reducing rents increases the ability of people to save to buy their own homes. More people with the means to buy their own homes means more homes being built. It is simple economics, which this Government refuses to grasp because it would rather safeguard the profits of landlords than deliver for ordinary citizens.
Nobody expects the Minister to perform miracles. It is important to say that. In the midst of a crisis what people do expect and deserve is vision and leadership. They also expect accountability, which is what tonight's motion is about.
We need a radical change of direction and a radical change of policy. Dismissing those who highlight the extent of the housing crisis and the Government's failure is not the answer. Normalising homelessness, as the Government has done, is not the answer and doing nothing and sitting on one's hands, as Fianna Fáil is doing, is not the answer.
We bring this motion, not as a stunt or as a personalised action but because now is the moment to draw a line in the sand and to say "Enough is enough". Now is the time for all of us, on behalf of the people we represent, to demand a new approach and to demand policies that work.
Deputy Eoghan Murphy
I am the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and I am responsible for fixing this crisis piece by piece and it is complex. Not everything has worked out like we hoped it would, such as the repair and lease scheme for example, but other initiatives have worked out better such as our fast track planning process. Progress will not always be linear and we will face setbacks.
I know that people are hurting but if we ignore the progress that has been made for political gain or to try and feed some public outrage for our own political benefit then we risk making the mistakes of the past. We risk throwing out the good and replacing it with the failed policies that did not work before such as building giant social housing estates that only served to divide communities rather than unite and support them. I will not be responsible for that. I will not be responsible for damning another generation by making populist, short-term decisions.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe
I entirely reject the motion of no confidence that has been placed in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and instead express my full confidence in him. All that has been on display this evening is the repugnant attitude of Sinn Féin that would have it think that it is the only party that cares about homeless people, people who are worried about how they will make their next rent payment and people who are worried about their future and if they will have a roof over their head. No party in Dáil Éireann has a monopoly on compassion. No party in Dáil Éireann has a right to claim that it is the only party that understands the needs of those who are most vulnerable.
Of course the Minister and all of us on the Government benches acknowledge that more needs to be done and of course we hear the cries of those who worry about their future. However, the way we will respond to that is the same way that this Government responded to the economic crisis.
Deputy Simon Harris
The lack of housing supply is clearly the deepest scar left in our society from a dark and painful economic recession. It is real, difficult and upsetting and fixing it is a priority for the whole of the Government and the whole of this country. However, one thing is for sure, and that is that the Minister did not cause the housing crisis, despite personalised, nasty attacks from some on the Opposition benches who endeavour to imply just that. The truth is that the housing crisis stems from failed policies of greed and mismanagement throughout Celtic tiger Ireland. We must now rebuild our entire housing sector while not repeating the mistakes of the past and the devastation that those mistakes created for so many.
The Minister cares about his responsibilities. He takes them seriously. It is a pity Sinn Féin does not take its responsibilities in the House seriously. As I said, the Minister did not cause this crisis but there is nobody better fixed to solve it. He will work day and night to ease and solve it and we will stand shoulder to shoulder supporting him and opposing Sinn Féin's ridiculous stunt.
Deputy Richard Bruton
I will say brutally honestly that the solution to this problem will take five years. We said that at the outset.
The truth is the failure of our housing strategy was caused by the debt-fuelled model that is not sustainable. It has to be rebuilt from scratch as the Minister is doing.
Deputy Darragh O'Brien
The one thing on which we can all agree is that Ireland is in the middle of a fundamental housing crisis. Homelessness is scarring our towns and cities. Tenants are struggling to make ends meet and keep roofs over their heads. Young couples see the dream of home ownership slip further and further away. The crisis touches every family in the State in one way or another. The question today is not about the scale of the crisis or the impact it is having across the country. Fianna Fáil fully appreciates and understands its scale and depth. We see it in our constituencies every day of the week but the question today is a different one. The question being asked is, at its heart, a simple one. Should Dáil Éireann bring down the Government?
Deputy Mick Barry
Deputy Darragh O'Brien
Thanks Mick. No surprise there. Ultimately, my party and I believe it would be a deeply irresponsible action to collapse the Government weeks before the budget in the middle of delicate Brexit negotiations.
In negotiations where the future of our island is at stake, any satisfaction and media headlines drawn from a dramatic vote would soon be replaced by uncertainty and instability. Our long-term future would be jeopardised for the sake of short-term party gain. All the while not a single additional house would be built while political parties played political games. We should instead take a more difficult but responsible path. That means providing stability during fragile Brexit negotiations and using the upcoming budget to put housing front and centre.
The key question, therefore, is what can be done. First and foremost, housing must be placed at the heart of the next budget. People are extremely angry and frustrated, as was demonstrated by the recent marches. They should not be condemned for protesting, as they have been by some, including the Taoiseach. We need to realise that people want solutions, which are available to us. We can quantify the problem. Therefore, we can fix it.
In the private sector, a rolling affordable housing scheme should be used to build tens of thousands of homes for families and young couples to own their first home. We want funding set aside in this year's budget to establish such a scheme and to build on it year on year. A new special savings incentive account, SSIA, type of savings scheme for first-time buyers to help them save a deposit for a house should also be implemented.
Fianna Fáil is committed to responsible politics. Now is not the time for bringing down the Government and causing a general election. I think all Deputies know that deep down.
Deputy Pat Casey
The statistics on housing and homelessness are grim and they are stated so many times that, sometimes, I think that people are fatigued about the numbers. Behind every statistic is a homeless person, a family in a hotel room, or a trauma that will cause scars that will take years to heal.
We need to call out the deeply cynical and negative politics around our housing crisis. By that I mean the political drama of this confidence motion which exists for one purpose only, namely, to exploit the real hurt to families caused by the lack of housing for the benefit of political parties who want to gain votes by feeding the politics of anger, despair, and continual crisis.
We only have to look at the ongoing destruction of democratic politics in the United Kingdom and the United States to see how the politics of crisis and fear are frustrating what is the purpose of mature representative politics. The speeches and the drama in this debate are all about who gets the political blame and who garners votes from an angry electorate. The politics of housing that are on display in this debate are an example of what is wrong with politics and only contribute to increasing disillusionment with politicians and the political system. That is not to say that the political system is working - far from it - but this debate will not build a single home, provide a single policy idea, nor offer hope to people who deserve it. This debate is a failed tactic, a cynical ploy and represents everything I despise about politics.
The purpose of mature democratic politics is to provide solutions to our problems. These solutions will involve trial and error, inevitably they will involve compromise on deeply held principles, and often they will involve radical abandonment of sacred cows.
Our housing crisis is solvable. I agree that it will not be fixed overnight, but I disagree strongly that this Government is getting to grips with it. Personalised confidence motions and Trump-style outrage with slick tweets designed to feed the news cycles where the most colourful language is guaranteed coverage are not solving our systemic problems in housing.
The keyboard warriors who hammer out hate towards so many of us will never build the policies that will solve our political problems. It is time for all of us who care about our society to call out the politics of witch hunts, blame games and eternal crisis.
Our State with all its power and resources can provide housing for all our people. There are many worthy ideas from all sides of this House that merit debate and implementation. Policy solutions are why I am here. Let us get back to the people's work.
Deputy Shane Cassells
On the issue of social homes, or in good old plain English, county council estates, shortly after my election to my local authority, almost 20 years ago, with the Minister of State, Deputy English, we both saw the extensive construction of council homes in our town, Navan, and in many sections of Meath. I mean real construction of estates with several hundred homes being constructed. I disagree with what the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, said about his philosophy and these estates because they were planned properly by the then Minister, Noel Dempsey ensuring funding was provided to build community centres in the heart of these council estates which today house many services, new swimming pools, schools, roads and infrastructure. It was a comprehensive package whereby there was a philosophy that drove our house building programme. It was not just building homes, which did happen, but building communities. Somewhere along the way that philosophy has been lost at national and local level.
Last Thursday at the Committee of Public Accounts we heard some revealing and shocking statistics from the chief executive officer of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, Brendan McDonagh, who said in a housing report that it had offered 7,000 social homes to local authorities yet only 2,700 were availed of, meaning some 60% were not taken up. That is shocking. When further probed on this Mr. McDonagh revealed that it was the Housing Agency that acted as the conduit, saying the councils were not taking up homes because they did not want what he termed an over-concentration of social homes in one area.
I can only speak for my county, but when we have more than 4,000 people on a waiting list, it is simply not good enough to hear that coming back from local authorities. It is not on that 4,300 homes could just be let pass.
Deputy Alan Kelly
The Labour Party will not be supporting the Minister tonight; rather, we will be supporting the motion for ideological reasons. We believe there is need for a change in ideology in how the housing crisis is being dealt with by the Minister. It is nothing personal.
My party has different proposals to make on a model of delivery of affordable housing over five years. It has been fully costed and would deliver 80,000 units. We would create a national housing development bank, with regional housing executives. It would be given extensive powers, money, land and expertise, as well as resources from the Housing Agency, Home Building Finance Ireland and NAMA. We have outlined our proposals in great detail. It would also create a differentiation between delivery and policy, the part with which I am very familiar. It is something that needs to happen. The figure of €16 billion that we have proposed, or €3.2 billion a year, is what is ultimately necessary to address the scale of the issues with which we are dealing. I urge the Minister to think about it.
I will address a number of other issues. We have to change the legislation on evictions. The process by which people are evicted from their houses by a landlord or a receiver needs to change. It could be done with a small number of items of legislation which should be brought forward as a priority.
I also believe powers to enable restructured local authorities to use compulsory purchase orders, CPOs, to purchase lands are necessary. This could be done wholesale or in a limited way to facilitate local authorities that have infrastructure and the capacity to build more houses but which are not in a position to quickly acquire lands.
We all talk about Airbnb, but it is not about that because people could call it something else the following week. We need to deal with the issue in the way it is being dealt with in Barcelona and differently in Berlin and other jurisdictions. We will have to deal with the issue because it is creating downward pressures and resulting in a lack of capacity in urban areas, in particular, which will only elevate the crisis. The return for owners from short-term letting are not going to change but increase.
Deputy Mick Barry
Whatever this House decides tonight, many people in this country have already passed judgment on the Minister and his policies. He need only look at the level of public support for the Take Back the City initiative to understand the level of public alienation from the Minister, the Government and its policies on this issue.
It is little over a year since the Minister was appointed to his post. Since his appointment, in my city, Cork, and the wider south-west region, the number of homeless people in emergency accommodation has increased by 37%. The number of homeless children has increased by a stunning 55%. I would say that I am amazed, but I am not. The Minister criticised large social housing estates. I would prefer to live in a large social housing estate than in bed and breakfast accommodation, and so would many other people.
On the Minister's watch, house prices have increased by over 6% and rent rates nationally have increased by 12.6%. Some 500,000 young adults live at home with their parents, unable to buy or rent. They are the locked-out generation. Of course, there is good news for some. Only yesterday, Goodbody Stockbrokers forecast that Ireland's largest corporate landlord, Ires REIT, will harvest €39.5 million this year in rental income.
Ires REIT doubled its profits for the first six months of this year, compared with the same period last year, and Goodbody's forecast that its rental income would increase by a further 14% next year. I could go on and give similar examples about housing assistance payment, HAP, landlords and developer profits if I had the time. The wealthy few benefit on the Minister's watch at the expense of the many.
We need a different policy. We need public homes to be built on public land. There is enough public land in the control of NAMA and the local authorities which is already zoned residential to build 114,000 homes. We need housing for people, not for profit.
The Minister's failure could hardly be more complete. It is time for him to step aside, and those toxic, neo-liberal housing policies must go as well.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett
This is not about the Minister or the Taoiseach. It is not personal. It is about the failure of the Government to break from a disastrously failing policy that is wreaking havoc on the lives of tens of thousands of our citizens. It is personal for those people. Our feelings and our political differences are irrelevant compared with the hardship and suffering those people are experiencing.
The list of suffering, hardship and anxiety just goes on.
That is not an accident. It is the result of a policy the Minister has pursued. The policy has lead us to a situation where we now have 144,000 families on housing lists or transfer lists, when there were 96,000 on that list when Fianna Fáil was last in power - and that was bad - in 2011.
The number of families in homeless accommodation has trebled in the seven years that Fine Gael has been in power. We have 70,000 people in serious mortgage arrears who face the prospect of their homes being repossessed. Students and young workers are paying extortionate rents to profiteering vulture funds and landlords. A whole generation of young people have no prospect of ever owing their own homes or even having secure or affordable roofs over their head. If a government cannot deliver the most elementary thing - a secure roof over the heads of its citizens - it does not deserve to be in office.
Do we have alternatives? We have repeated the alternatives ad nauseam for the last seven years. Build council houses and affordable houses on public land. Stop evictions into homelessness. Use NAMA and its vast resources and land assets to provide public and affordable housing. Introduce rent control so that there can be no profiteering renting. Insert the right to housing into the Constitution as a basic human right. The Government has resisted those things because successive Ministers have pandered to the vulture funds and to the corporate landlords.
A headline from last weekend concerning one of the biggest residential developments planned in this State read: "U.S. investment firm poised to sell Cherrywood land". It goes on to say that US investment firm, Hines, which acquired a 412 acre site in Cherrywood in south Dublin four years ago for €240 million is preparing to sell off large residential plots from that portfolio capable of delivering 2,500 homes. It is flipping land, and it is making a fortune. The Government has let it happen.
The company is walking away with profits of hundreds of millions of euro, and not a sod has been turned, or a single house of any description delivered, never mind affordable or social housing. That is what is going on. A small number of people, facilitated by the Government, are profiting from the human misery being experienced by hundreds of thousands of our citizens. That is not acceptable.
Deputy Mick Wallace
Two weeks ago, Mr. Niall Cussen, from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, said at the Dublin economics workshop that the State will not be building social housing at scale because it has failed in the past. The Minister has not said that in the House. I do not know what people are saying to each other, but there is a serious lack of honesty in how this crisis is being dealt with. I do not believe anyone is trying to pretend that this problem is easy to fix. It is not.
As I have repeatedly stated, however, the Minister is listening to the wrong people. He is listening to those with a vested interest in things remaining the way they are. Whatever pressure he is under from officials in the Department or from people with a lot more money than most, I do not for the life of me understand why he has not looked at a different avenue.
I pointed out to the Taoiseach today that the Government's Land Development Agency and NAMA's financing of developers and funds is presenting housing at a cost of €100,000 more per unit than would be the case if the Government were providing it. The Minister has no faith in local authorities, but why has he not got the wherewithal to fix what is wrong? Why does he not address the fact that we are always going to have a major issue with affordability until Government actually deals with it? We introduced a tax of 25% to be imposed on landbanking, but I do not believe the Government has an appetite for it. The Government has to change the way it looks at this, particularly as it owes as much to the people of Ireland.
Deputy Catherine Connolly
I have been here for just over two and a half years, and I have listened to three successive Ministers. Deputy Kelly was holding the fort when I arrived in the Dáil and was followed into the job by Deputy Coveney and, now, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. All three have one thing in common; they relied utterly on the market to provide. The Minister has tinkered with that market and made matters much worse.
I am appalled that the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, would talk about social housing or big projects as "failed". That is not my experience. I am proud to be the product of a local authority estate. Leaving aside my own personal feelings, I am absolutely appalled that the Minister would make such a comment to justify his appalling policy of relying on a market that looks on a home as a commodity, something for profit.
There are solutions. Recognise housing as a basic human right; a right to dignity, a right to a home. Enshrine it in our Constitution. Use public land to build public housing. Have the State play a fundamental role in the market. Give the market a role, but balance that. Stop insulting people and he should stop the insults to Sinn Féin. Whatever the Minister's personal view of that party, there is a serious emergency and we require a serious solution that he is not giving us.
Deputy Joan Collins
We can call what is happening a crisis or an emergency; I call it an absolute scandal. Regardless of how we look at the figures and at what is or is not happening, it is obvious that the situation is simply scandalous. There are 180,000 houses vacant nationwide. Speculators are sitting on development land. Local authorities and State companies are holding 70% of all zoned land, which would be sufficient for building more than 110,000 dwellings overall and 70,000 in Dublin city alone. Young workers are spending up to 70% of their incomes on rent. Accommodation for students is completely unaffordable. More than 3,000 children are in emergency accommodation, a figure that is rising year on year, month on month and week on week. I can have no confidence in the Minister. He has failed to grasp the nettle and radically change policy.
Let us be clear, however. The Minister did not create this crisis. He inherited it from his predecessor, Deputy Coveney, who inherited it from Deputy Kelly, who inherited it from Fianna Fáil. The problem in this area has obtained for the past 20 or 30 years. The policy of abandoning local authority housing, adopted by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour when in government, lies at the root of the problem. Local authorities dominated by the same parties must share the blame. They were happy to offload what they viewed as a burden. There is a solution; public housing on public land and a mix of local authority housing and cost-rental units with affordable rents and security of tenure. Until such a policy is adopted, financed and implemented, this scandal will continue to obtain.
Deputy Clare Daly
The housing crisis is now of catastrophic proportions. I have been a public representative for 20 years and I have never had to present people with the responses and the lack of hope we are obliged to present them with now. Council staff are utterly demoralised. The Taoiseach indicated this morning that the Minister is delivering houses. What sort of houses is he delivering? More houses are being delivered in this city for €700,000 than for €300,000. Whatever chance two hospital consultants might have of getting together to buy one of those houses, people on the average industrial wage certainly cannot do so.
Revenue tells us that 8% of people have incomes that would allow them to buy an average semi-detached home in Dublin on the basis of current lending criteria. For whom is the Minister building these houses? Where is the affordability? Is it the affordability for vulture funds of selling or renting them back to people at extortionate levels? The situation is absolutely critical. The Minister has commodified the right to shelter and I have no confidence in any member of the Government.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan
The painfully slow and feeble steps taken by the Minister and his predecessor have done absolutely nothing to alleviate the suffering in my own constituency over the past two years. He is still putting families with children into cramped hotel rooms nearly 18 months after Deputy Coveney promised us faithfully that he would end this practice.
The Minister is still putting them into hotel rooms despite the damaging impact on children's' development, nutrition and well-being, matters about which we know from so many studies. He has forced families into hubs. There was supposed to be a six-week turnaround. That has not happened. He refuses to adopt any of the suggestions from this side of the House, including declaring a housing emergency, freezing rents, having a real affordable housing scheme and doing something drastic about the situation in Dublin in particular. The Minister has failed and he should go. I am of the view that those in Fine Gael and their predecessors, namely, their counterparts in Fianna Fáil who embarked on this disastrous housing policy, should be banished from Government for at least a generation.
Deputy Michael Collins
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the motion regarding confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. I have pleaded with the Minister time and time again and informed him that immediate action is needed to tackle the housing problem. The majority of those who are becoming homeless are from the private rental sector. We are all too aware that rents are rising to unsustainable levels. It has nearly come to the point where renting is more expensive than making monthly mortgage repayments.
During negotiations on the programme for Government, we spoke about a rural resettlement scheme. Depopulation is a worrying trend in rural communities. Eight businesses have been closed in the past three weeks in my constituency. Communities do not stand still. They either develop or decline. As the housing crisis in our towns and cities worsens, there was never a better time to actively promote the concept of rural resettlement. This scheme has been rolled out in County Clare. When can we see it applied to west Cork?
This is not my first time asking this question. A plan needs to be put in place to source and build affordable housing in rural communities to enable urban-based families to move to rural areas through a rural resettlement scheme. Rural resettlement needs to be explored and promoted. It is time this Government listened and took real action.
Deputy Mattie McGrath
The Minister is the sixth person in the position in the past eight or nine years. We have had announcement after announcement but nothing happens.
The Minister was in Clonmel, County Tipperary, last Thursday where he turned the sod for 26 units in Glenconnor. The same sod had been turned by the previous Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, two years ago. How many times must the sod be turned? He should get out and do the job and let people have houses.
There is way too much spinning for anybody to bear. More than 3,000 people are on the housing list in Tipperary and thousands more are trying to get onto it but the houses are not there. The Government must allow ordinary small builders to get out there and force the banks to give them cash. It is blocking community banking being offered in post offices. Small builders who would do the work cannot get cash. They are not rip-off merchants or big developers.
Ordinary people who have houses or sites and want to build their own houses are regulated out of all proportion. We have regulation and red tape but no tangible supports for people to allow them to do the simple things we need to do.
Deputy Danny Healy-Rae
Unfortunately, the Government blames the local authorities and wrongly so. A total of €62.5 million was promised in 2015 to Kerry, not by the Minister but by his predecessor, in what was practically the same Government. The Government did not say how long it would take for all of the money to come but I can guarantee that not much of it has come yet. The Department is slowing down local authorities with too many hurdles. In Kerry, ten rural cottages are to be built between 2016 and 2021.
Demountable homes are all over Kerry for single farmers who finish up in a house that is not good enough to live in but we cannot get any more of them. The Taoiseach did not know what I was speaking about when I mentioned demountable homes.
The Government will not allow the local authority to zone enough land, and what is happening is that one piece of land is developed and that developer has the monopoly to charge what he or she likes for the houses built on it. There should be competition. Zoning does not really matter. The planning authority can decide how many houses will be granted but it is wrong to grant them all on one side of a town and to allow one developer to have a monopoly.
With regard to the tenant purchase scheme, which was parked for a number of years, many people who have paid rent for their houses for 30 or 40 years are not allowed to buy them just because they are on a pension. That is very unfair after they have paid rent for 30 or 40 years. They have the savings but they are not being allowed to buy the houses because they are on social welfare and someone has to be working to qualify for the tenant purchase scheme.
There is no need in the world for repossessions. During negotiations on a programme for Government, and at other times, I asked that local authorities be allowed to purchase these houses and rent them back to people for fair rent.
Perhaps they would get on their feet and have enough to buy out the houses.
Project Ireland 2040 states planning in rural areas will be granted if it will not detract from urban centres. That is very unfair and hurtful to people in rural Ireland.
Deputy Eamon Ryan
I will share time with Deputies Catherine Murphy, Fitzmaurice and Healy.
We support the motion because our solutions to the housing crisis are better than the Minister's solutions. It is as simple as that. We want a site value tax to bring development back into the core, the Minister is following an old-fashioned sprawl development model. We want better building regulations, the Minister has been lowering apartment standards. We want a cost rental model to bring the price of rental properties down, the Minister is just pouring billions into the housing assistance payment every year, which is a subsidy to developers. We want tight vacant and derelict site charges, the Minister wants to give back the city and not take it back. We want Part V to be strengthened, the Minister wants to sell State land to private developers. We fundamentally disagree politically and that is what this vote is about.
We do not trust the Minister's numbers. Today, the Taoiseach said the numbers do not lie. I will give one example. Part V figures show the number of houses built supposedly jumped from 37 in 2016 to 522 in 2017 but of those, 55 were second-hand homes in Dublin City Council's area that were never built but bought off the market. Another 148 were long-term leases under Part V which were not actually built. We do not trust the Minister's figures and we do not like the solutions he proposes. He stands for the status quo and we want change.
Deputy Catherine Murphy
I listened to the Minister on "Morning Ireland" today when he dismissed legitimate criticism as a stunt and repeatedly claimed he was making progress.
I believe the numbers do not lie but I do not accept the Minister's numbers. The numbers tell the real and harrowing story of four families a day becoming homeless. The Minister speaks about needing to solve the housing crisis and his predecessors all said that it takes time. We have been listening to this for years.
This problem stretches way back but something that has made it much worse, and I remember the night it was introduced, is the housing assistance payment legislation. It was an attempt to outsource responsibility and reduce housing waiting lists by removing people from them. The €900 million we spend annually subsidising landlords and homelessness services is projected to increase to €1.7 billion by 2022. This is not a sustainable solution.
I listened to the Minister's numbers. We disputed in the Chamber the use of the number of ESB connections to compile housing completion figures. It is now accepted that these are not reliable.
Deputy Seamus Healy
Housing is a fundamental human right and it should be enshrined in our Constitution. Families need a stable and secure long-term housing position to live, grow and develop. A Fianna Fáil - Progressive Democrats Government handed over the public house building programme to the private market, and that failed policy has been continued by successive governments, including the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government and this Government of Fine Gael supported by the Independent Alliance, despite its absolute failure. It has failed miserably and it has been a disaster for families.
Would Deputies believe that the Minister has claimed that the Government's policies are working? This is not only an example of reality denial but is an insult to the victims of this so-called success, the homeless. The Minister should go, and he should take this Government with him.
Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice
This is not personal, but the reality is there is chaos in every aspect of housing currently. In fairness, no Minister can click his or her fingers and build houses overnight. Sadly, the figures that have come out over the past two years have been lies and damned lies. I have a problem with the people who gave the Minister those figures because they have felt no repercussions for those false figures relating to house builds, especially social houses. Anyone who checked those numbers knows there are major discrepancies. Figures and words were twisted, including those relating to turnkey properties. There are words like "brownfield" and "greenfield", but at the end of the day it is about what has been built and how many families have gone into those houses.
We can speak of affordable housing, social housing, low-cost renting and people trying to buy council houses or get a loan from councils. Unfortunately, the process has been a shambles from beginning to end. The Minister has advisers, so where are they in all of this? The person at the top must call the shots and no one should keep getting a salary if there is no result.
These people gave the Minister those figures and statistics, which have basically embarrassed him through the years. The captain of the ship must replace some staff if they are not pulling their weight.
Unfortunately, these people are getting the same wages regardless of whether houses are built. Throughout this country and especially in the cities, people are crying out for houses. As I said, the houses will not come overnight, but unless the Minister changes the system inside, the cover-ups and false statistics, he will be in real trouble.
Deputy Jonathan O'Brien
The Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, said that no one on these benches had a monopoly on compassion or empathy, and I agree completely. No one on these benches believes we have that monopoly. The Government does not have a monopoly on solutions either, however, and there are solutions being suggested right across the Chamber. The Government seems to think it has a monopoly on solutions, which is half of the problem.
We need to stop people entering into homelessness as well as having policies and building programmes to take people out of homelessness. One of the reasons people are becoming homeless, according to the evidence I see in my office, is people renting privately, especially those in the HAP scheme, receiving eviction notices.
These notices are served on the basis that major refurbishment is to be carried out or there is a plan to sell the property within three months of it being vacated. The reality, from my experience in Cork city, is that the majority of cases involve landlords using these loopholes to evict tenants. They have no intention of selling the property or having family members moving in, for example. They have no intention of carrying out major refurbishment and are using such schemes to get around the so-called rent controls. They are hiking rents to astronomical levels and people are being turfed out on the street as a result. If the Minister is serious about addressing the reasons people are entering homelessness, he should tackle these loopholes that are used by landlords to evict people and make them homeless.
Deputy Maurice Quinlivan
"Ireland's housing market is clearly not functioning at present." That is a quote from IBEC, and it, along with other organisations, has a major concern that this is affecting our ability to attract foreign direct investment.
Not only has this Government's housing plan failed, it has made the problem worse. The housing crisis is not an emergency that fell out of the sky and the current position arose from choices. The Fine Gael Party has been a part of the Government for seven years. Fianna Fáil made choices to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of many. The choices in question include a failure to build council and affordable houses, the consent for mortgages to be sold to vulture funds, the refusal to put in place a rent freeze, and the continued belief that the plan is working. There has been a sheer disregard for people in homelessness.
Since the Minister took office, homelessness in Limerick has risen from 278 people to 307, while rent prices have increased by over 21% in one year and 71% in the past five years. If Fine Gael, or Fianna Fáil for that matter, really wanted to help the thousands of citizens who remain homeless, they would prioritise these people over tax cuts in next month's budget. Neither of the parties will do that. It is same choice they made last year, and money comes first while people come second.
Deputy Martin Kenny
Earlier today, I heard the Minister say houses are being built, cranes are up, people are working and building is happening. Building of a certain type of housing is happening, namely, housing for the very wealthy. There is no housing for the people who cannot afford that. There are blocks of accommodation for students with rents of €1,000 a month, which they cannot afford. That is the kind of housing that is being built. It is not the type of housing that we need to provide homes and shelter for ordinary working people who go out every day and try to get on in life.
A motions of no confidence in a Minister is a long-established process used in this House and every parliament in the world. It is a means of highlighting an issue and holding a Minister to account, not a stunt. It has been used by the Minister's party and every other party in this Chamber for years. To call it a stunt is a disgrace.
The private market, the way the Minister wants to go, will only provide for social need in the most extreme circumstances. It does not normally provide for social need, as I have seen in my area recently. This problem affects rural and urban areas. The Minister has failed to such an extent that it is time for him to face up to reality and step aside.
Deputy Brian Stanley
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. In the past, housing was seen as a basic social need. Between 1932 and 1950, between one third and half of all housing built was social housing. In the bleak 1930s, more than 38,000 houses were built. In the hungry 1950s, 52,000 houses were built. In the 1970s, when the economy was not exactly booming because of the oil crisis and everything else, nearly 62,000 social houses were built. All that building occurred in the context of a smaller population and less money being available to the State. We do not have a programme in place to get house built quickly. The process is moving at a snail's pace.
Sinn Féin has put forward alternatives, such as doubling capital investment, introducing a rent freeze, increasing the availability of affordable housing and providing tax relief for renters. Those are the types of measures that are needed and the Minister has not implemented them.
Deputy Dessie Ellis
The Minister cannot use the excuse of being in the job for 18 months or ask us to give him a chance. The Government has had its chance for years and it has failed. The Minister is the continuation of this failure and neglect. Under his watch, the homeless and housing crisis has worsened. He has failed to meet his own targets and commitments. He has failed to deliver affordable and social housing. He has stood over massive rent increases and unsustainable house prices.
How can he justify 100,000 people being on the housing waiting lists, 10,000 people being homeless and 4,000 homeless children living in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation?
The number of families becoming homeless has increased by 24% since July 2017. One in three of those in emergency accommodation is a child. This homeless crisis is creating a lost generation. Children are being traumatised daily. This is one of the hidden costs of homelessness and the housing crisis. The human cost of the Minister's failures has been enormous.
The Minister revealed his hand when he said he was opposed to the building of social housing. I come from social housing on a large-scale housing estate, as do some members of the Minister's party. The vast majority of people were born in social housing. The Minister should cop on and realise the only answer is to build more social and affordable housing.
Deputy Charles Flanagan
I am pleased to express full confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy.
As always with Sinn Féin, the rhetoric of their spokespersons at national level is contradicted by the actions of their foot soldiers at local level where they have a history of opposing housing proposals.
I represent County Laois and can speak with some authority about the consequences of poorly thought out housing policies. During the Celtic tiger years, thousands of houses were built all over Laois, including on flood plains and at the edges of villages. Fields of houses appeared everywhere and the county did not have the infrastructure to cope. Deputy Stanley knows this better than anyone.
When the economy went over the cliff, thanks to Fianna Fáil, my county was littered with ghost estates. We are still playing catch-up with school places, hospital beds and other vital services.
The housing problem demands a constructive approach and engagement from everybody in this House, from all sides. It does not need cynical political opportunism of the type we are seeing from Sinn Féin. I reject the cynical motion.
Deputy Regina Doherty
The empty vessels of Sinn Féin have spent months attacking the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. They have personalised their housing attack on the Minister and consistently threatened the stunt we are witnessing tonight in the motion of no confidence. They rolled out this old chestnut every time there was a slow news week. Tonight we see the hypocrisy of Sinn Féin in action.
We know that Sinn Féin has no plan here because it had no plan when it was in government in the North of Ireland. Those in Sinn Féin continually namecheck and get incorrect - which is not unusual for Sinn Féin - the numbers on the actual housing waiting list in the Republic. I say this only to show the sheer hypocrisy of the people to my left. The population of the Republic of Ireland is 4.8 million. Yes, we have 80,000 people on our housing list and that is too high.
Yes, we have 10,000 people who are homeless and it is too high. However, in Northern Ireland there are 49,500 people on the waiting list for a population of 1.8 million.
There are 11,889 men women and children homeless in the North where Sinn Féin ran from power.
Sinn Féin has no policy except hypocrisy. They call for houses to be built as though they had magic beans. Their magic beans did not work in Northern Ireland and their hypocrisy and policy of spin will not work down here, lads and ladies.
Deputy Michael Ring
I will try not to upset them on this side of the House because I know they are very sensitive and they do not like to be criticised. I stand here tonight as someone who came from a social house. I came from a place called Fr. Angelus Park and am very proud of it. I was the first child born in it. There were 40 houses in that estate, out of which came the finest quality of people.
I came here tonight to support the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. They tell us that he does not support social housing. Yes, he does and he has.
Deputy Dessie Ellis
He said here earlier that he does not support large scale social housing. He said that.
Deputy Michael Ring
Dessie, we will have no bullying now from you.
Sinn Féin has an answer for everything but no solutions. They collapsed their Government in Northern Ireland. They would not go into government in the South. The will not represent the people who want them to represent them in the House of Commons regarding Brexit. What are they elected for at all? They do not want to take part in any conversation. They do not want to take part in government.
There are many people hurting tonight, and a lot of people homeless. This motion that Sinn Féin put down to get rid of a good man who is doing the best job possible when its only answer was to walk out of Government in the North, it walked out of Government in the South and it will not represent us in the House of Commons where we need them most in relation to Brexit. If it does not have a solution, Sinn Féin may keep their mouths shut because protest will not build one house in this country.
I concur with my colleagues on these benches about the efforts being made to resolve this huge crisis. At least we are rising to address this challenge unlike the people over there. Sometimes I wonder whether it is this Parliament or that in Westminster from which it abstains because its contribution to both is equally useless. In this State's history, it has never built a home, it has only pulled them apart. That is all it has ever done on homes in this State.
I welcome that Sinn Féin is taking the parliamentary avenue in trying to take out an opponent but this is a political stunt. It will do nothing to help the people who we are supposed to be helping, those who are seeking homes and those who are in emergency accommodation.
They turned away from Government in 2016 because obviously the housing crisis was not as important as its own political interests at that time. It is the same in Northern Ireland. The figures there are shocking. They have shamelessly turned their backs on those people too.
We have heard many statistics tonight. There is one stands out most - Sinn Féin's 14% rating with RedC. It is the one statistic that Deputy Mary Lou McDonald obsesses about. After only a few short months, she is a huge disappointment. Panic is starting to set in and the response to that panic is this shameless motion.
The pressures of Government obviously would not suit Sinn Féin if this is the way that they respond to the pressure of an abysmal poll rating.
Deputy Seán Crowe
There has been a lot of talk about this being personal. For me, the housing crisis is personal. I know people who are sleeping in cars, who are living in sheds. I have come across people I know who are sleeping in doorways. I know people who committed suicide when they lost their home. Three days ago, I received a letter from a woman who said she was going to commit suicide. The Minister received the same letter, as did the people in Pieta House. Therefore, for me, it is personal. It is personal, I do want solutions and we have put solutions forward. Only a fool would suggest that the Minister's measures are working. I can go through the statistics, and everyone has done that tonight. The figures are there. We have a broken system. We are not delivering for people. We are not delivering for those on housing lists or for those who are in rental accommodation who have their rents go up; it is not sustainable.
People who would almost have been guaranteed to be able to afford a home, the likes of gardaí, nurses and teachers, cannot afford a home. Who are we building the homes for? Are they for landlords, for vulture funds? The system is not working, and that is what we are saying. There are solutions but the Minister is not delivering them.
Today, I received a letter from a councillor in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, not my area. He said that the Minister is blaming the councils but he says that the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council put forward a proposal for 540 new social and affordable housing units on a site in Shanganagh Castle, the old prison site. It is eight months since that local authority applied to the Department for one stage of approval.
Eight months on, that approval has not been granted even though it is the biggest council-led housing scheme in the State and is being backed by 40 councillors. There is a problem in this regard. The Minister is not delivering on this. He was talking about hubs. We have hubs in our area. The problem is that people are going into the hubs and hotels, but they are not moving out of them.
Deputy Martin Ferris
As we sit comfortably in this building, 145 of my constituents - 109 adults and 36 children - are sleeping in hostels and bed and breakfasts. Sixteen families are in emergency accommodation because they cannot find homes, and another 13 families cannot find rental accommodation because they are in transition properties. A total of 3,687 people have applied for social housing in County Kerry and a further 1,000 people are on the transfer list. A total of 517 new social housing applications were made between January and June of this year. By the end of this year, there could be more than 4,000 applicants on Kerry County Council's housing list. These figures do not include the rental accommodation scheme or leasing schemes. The Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, attacked us across the floor. He is aware of the housing list in County Kerry. He is aware of the circumstances in the county. He has tried to tell this Chamber in this debate that the Government is dealing with the problem.
The Deputy is turning his back on the people who are most in need. Five houses were built in County Kerry at a time when there are 4,000 people on the housing list. The Government has failed the ordinary people of this country, including the 4,000 people on the housing list in County Kerry.
The Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, is attacking us for doing the right thing. I would much prefer to be standing here in opposition attacking the Minister and holding him to account because that is what must be done. The Government has to be held to account. Fianna Fáil is propping it up and is continuing to prop it up. Fianna Fáil is a disgrace, but it is no different from what it ever was.
Deputy David Cullinane
The stock response from the Minister and all of the Fine Gael speakers has been to ask those of us on this side of the House how we can dare hold them to account for their failures.
How dare we speak for children who are stuck in homeless accommodation, for families who cannot afford to buy a home and for families who are stuck paying high rents? The Minister may not like it, but Sinn Féin is the main Opposition party. Our job is to hold him to account because Fianna Fáil certainly will not do it.
The housing crisis did not happen by accident. We have high rents because the Minister failed to intervene in the market. People cannot get social houses because the Government is not building enough social houses. People cannot get affordable homes and cannot afford to buy homes in Dublin or elsewhere because the Government is not building affordable homes. The Minister needs to take responsibility rather than blaming Sinn Féin or engaging in name-calling.
We were accused of personalising the debate. Then we were accused of being hypocrites, performing stunts, playing political games and being cynical. In fact, the people on the Government side of the House are cynical. They are playing political games. The Minister said we have no solutions. The social housing document produced by Deputy Eoin Ó Broin is a solution. We have produced policies on reforming the private rented sector, reviewing the tenant purchase scheme, creating a vacant homes strategy, and assessing the true level of homelessness.
Deputy Pearse Doherty
This crisis did not happen by accident. It was not caused by Mother Nature. It is a direct consequence of policy decisions that have been taken by the Government in recent years. It is very simple. If a Government decides not to invest in social and affordable housing and if it does not meet demand, it will have a housing crisis.
We have heard about the social impact and the long-term impact it will have on those children. The social contract is broken because these people have done nothing wrong. Their parents have done nothing wrong. They have tried to better themselves. They have tried to do the best for their children, as any parent would do. They have tried to protect their children from the ravages the world can throw at them.
The Government and its Fianna Fáil partners have let them down time and again by deciding budget after budget not to prioritise investment in social and affordable housing. Instead, it has given tax breaks to banks.
It has given tax cuts to the elite and the highest earners in society. That is what has happened. We have given the Government policy after policy. We have proposed that investment in social and affordable housing be doubled. We ask the Government to implement the Focus Ireland amendment. Why would anyone in Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael not support an amendment that would stop landlords who have benefited from State tax breaks evicting families and children and sending them into homelessness? That is what they have done. That is why I have no confidence in the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. That is why my party has no confidence in him. It is why the people have no confidence in him. He should do the right thing and resign. Fianna Fáil Deputies should not sit on their hands on this one. They should stand up and be counted on this issue.
An Ceann Comhairle
That concludes our debate on the confidence motion.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 49; Níl, 59; Staon, 29.
- Adams, Gerry.
- Barry, Mick.
- Boyd Barrett, Richard.
- Brady, John.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Buckley, Pat.
- Burton, Joan.
- Collins, Joan.
- Collins, Michael.
- Connolly, Catherine.
- Coppinger, Ruth.
- Crowe, Seán.
- Cullinane, David.
- Daly, Clare.
- Doherty, Pearse.
- Ellis, Dessie.
- Ferris, Martin.
- Fitzmaurice, Michael.
- Funchion, Kathleen.
- Healy-Rae, Danny.
- Healy, Seamus.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kelly, Alan.
- Kenny, Gino.
- Kenny, Martin.
- Martin, Catherine.
- McDonald, Mary Lou.
- McGrath, Mattie.
- Mitchell, Denise.
- Munster, Imelda.
- Murphy, Catherine.
- Murphy, Paul.
- Nolan, Carol.
- O'Brien, Jonathan.
- O'Reilly, Louise.
- O'Sullivan, Jan.
- Ó Broin, Eoin.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- Pringle, Thomas.
- Quinlivan, Maurice.
- Ryan, Brendan.
- Ryan, Eamon.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Smith, Bríd.
- Stanley, Brian.
- Tóibín, Peadar.
- Wallace, Mick.
- Bailey, Maria.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Breen, Pat.
- Brophy, Colm.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Peter.
- Byrne, Catherine.
- Canney, Seán.
- Cannon, Ciarán.
- Carey, Joe.
- Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
- Coveney, Simon.
- Creed, Michael.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Daly, Jim.
- Deasy, John.
- Deering, Pat.
- Doherty, Regina.
- Donohoe, Paschal.
- Doyle, Andrew.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- English, Damien.
- Farrell, Alan.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Fitzpatrick, Peter.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Grealish, Noel.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Halligan, John.
- Harris, Simon.
- Heydon, Martin.
- Humphreys, Heather.
- Kehoe, Paul.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Kyne, Seán.
- Lowry, Michael.
- Madigan, Josepha.
- McEntee, Helen.
- McGrath, Finian.
- McHugh, Joe.
- McLoughlin, Tony.
- Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
- Moran, Kevin Boxer.
- Murphy, Dara.
- Murphy, Eoghan.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Naughton, Hildegarde.
- Neville, Tom.
- Noonan, Michael.
- O'Connell, Kate.
- O'Donovan, Patrick.
- O'Dowd, Fergus.
- Phelan, John Paul.
- Ring, Michael.
- Rock, Noel.
- Ross, Shane.
- Stanton, David.
- Varadkar, Leo.
- Zappone, Katherine.
- Aylward, Bobby.
- Brassil, John.
- Breathnach, Declan.
- Browne, James.
- Butler, Mary.
- Cahill, Jackie.
- Calleary, Dara.
- Cassells, Shane.
- Chambers, Jack.
- Collins, Niall.
- Donnelly, Stephen S.
- Dooley, Timmy.
- Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
- Harty, Michael.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Lahart, John.
- Lawless, James.
- MacSharry, Marc.
- McConalogue, Charlie.
- Moynihan, Aindrias.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
- Murphy, Eugene.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
- O'Callaghan, Jim.
- O'Dea, Willie.
- O'Loughlin, Fiona.
- Scanlon, Eamon.
- Smith, Brendan.
Art featured is by Sean O'Rourke and is on display in The Lab gallery until the 4th of November. (Any political opinions expressed are no reflection of the artists personal opinions).