Private Members' Business. - Housing Policy: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 14 June 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 521 No. 2

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The following motion was moved by Deputy Gilmore on Tuesday, 13 June 2000:

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Crawford was in possession but he is not in the House. I call Deputy Clune. The Deputy is sharing time with Deputies Cosgrave, Neville and Perry.

Ms Clune: Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  I wish to focus on the large number of people caught between owning their own home and being accepted as possible tenants for social housing. The vast majority of these people wish to own their own home and to invest their earnings in their future and that of their children, but are prevented from doing so by the prohibitive cost of housing.

Housing is a major concern for many young people and their parents. These people are concerned about their future, where they are going to live and the fact they are committed to renting accommodation for the long-term. Such people earn decent salaries, probably own their own cars, take foreign holidays each year and can afford nights out. However, the majority of them are dependent on rented accommodation and pay high rents.

Many people in my constituency rent three bedroom houses for £500, £800 or £1,000 per month, depending on the area. This commitment prevents them from obtaining their own property as they cannot afford a deposit or a mortgage on a property costing between £100,000 and £120,000, depending on the area. Many people find themselves in the ludicrous situation of paying dead money for accommodation month after month. The Government is doing nothing to help such people and there is no emphasis on support[424] ing them or enabling them to own their own homes. The Government should transfer State resources to facilitate people.

People are not asking for hand-outs or for the State to provide their housing. They are asking for support and assistance to get them started. The affordable housing scheme is not viable in my area of Cork and there is no support for such a scheme. The shared ownership scheme is a joke as house prices are often far in excess of the maximum loan allowed.

Many young people are dependent on the private rented sector and will be for the foreseeable future. I often come across three or four young people sharing rented accommodation. That is their future and they see no way of getting themselves out of that situation. There is a need for legislation concerning the private rented sector to provide basic rights for tenants as called for by the motion, which I support.

The private rented sector is growing and many people are dependent on it for housing. If renting is to involve so many people there is a need for legislation to ensure that landlords are registered. Less than 10% of them register their homes or apartments. There is also a need for security of tenure for residential tenants and to ensure that rents cannot double overnight at the whim of a landlord. Such increases can mean that those paying £300 per month are suddenly faced with rents of between £500 and £600 without any means of meeting such a payment. Given the increasing importance of the private rented sector I am pleading for legislation and reform to protect tenants and their rights.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Zoom on Michael Joe Cosgrave  The housing crisis continues because we as an elected body are not good enough. This crisis was created by national policy, or the lack of it. There has been a lack of leadership at Government level to see that money was invested in infrastructure. There has also been a failure to make decisions as to where that infrastructure should go. Local authorities have been left without guidance as to where and when water and sewerage, road or rail improvements would occur and civil servants have acted with caution and without ministerial challenge to their do nothing policy.

In the past, locally elected members of councils, when they realised the problem, made an effort to ensure an adequate supply of housing land. In return councils were abused because they took ownership of the situation. Councils also received poor professional advice to the effect that land should not be zoned as it was not serviced. However, land will never be serviced if it is not zoned.

The strategic planning guidelines have been in place for almost two years but the Government has not given a logical response outlining where and how it intends to face the challenge. The Bacon reports have done little to ease the problem and the removal of the benefits of section 23 [425] reliefs only served to push up the cost of rented accommodation.

The reduction of the tax rate from 40% to 20% on the sale of building land was scandalous. An independent owner whose farm is zoned will sell that farm no matter what the tax rate because the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development has been unable to protect basic farm incomes. If the Government has sufficient cash to sacrifice 50% of its tax take, it should have forfeited it to local authorities to give them the financial resources to enter the housing land market and to build houses at a price affordable to ordinary working people.

We must take account of labour shortages in the construction industry. Most businesses are only capable of expanding productivity by 10% to 15% while maintaining quality control. The Fingal council area had 4,000 applicants out of the 10,000 houses built in Dublin last year, so the increase might be expected to be 600. However, such an increase is not good enough to meet the demand. The majority of these houses were built on land zoned for housing in the 1993 county development plan.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I support this motion and condemn the Government's abject failure to deal with local authority housing lists. It is unfair that those untouched by the Celtic tiger who cannot buy their own homes must wait for years for a council house. The Government must act immediately to provide local authorities with resources to deal with the crisis.

It is also unfair that families have to live in over-crowded or sub-standard housing while they wait and hope in vain for local authority housing. Action must be taken as it is unfair that single parents with one or more children who wish for some independence have to wait for years for a house. This is one of the most marginalised groups in society and these people struggle to give their children a decent start in life.

It is also unfair that elderly people do not have housing and are forced to live out their days in squalid conditions. More than 800 people are on the waiting list in County Limerick. More and more people are unable to purchase homes due to mismanagement of the housing crisis in the private housing sector. The situation will get much worse, but the Government seems to have no understanding or sensitivity to those who long to have a decent home of their own. It has a duty and a responsibility to respond to the needs of those people.

The State ignores the homeless. While the work of the tribunals makes the headlines, surely the biggest scandal of all is that in every city in this country there are homeless children sleeping rough. In Dublin alone, there are 1,250 homeless children. Surely that is a scandal that deserves banner headlines.

Mr. Perry: Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  I am delighted to support this important motion. Increasing the supply of [426] affordable residential housing is imperative. The lack of affordable housing, particularly in large urban areas, is creating serious demands on employees attempting to purchase a house and on employers who are coming under increased pressure to give exorbitant pay increases to finance a potential purchase. As it becomes more expensive to purchase a house, demands on pay rates intensify. That creates a knock-on effect on costs and, in many cases, threatens the competitiveness of indigenous companies.

Emigrants returning from England and elsewhere who have acquired skills abroad that are in demand here find it difficult to resettle here due to high marginal taxation and the cost of housing. The only financial advantage in their returning home is the sterling-punt exchange rate.

Coming from Sligo, I am aware that concern has been expressed at the lack of sewerage and water facilities in the towns and villages of the county. The opening up of large tracts of land, not only in Dublin but in other cities, for rezoning for residential purposes would help to alleviate the shortage of affordable residential housing.

More land should be rezoned for residential purposes in Sligo and throughout the towns and villages of the country. The biggest incentive to encourage developers to proceed with developments is the provision of water and sewerage schemes. Tax incentives apply to parts of south Sligo. Those areas would be greatly enhanced if the Government gave a commitment to provide those facilities. At last Monday's council meeting it was stated that 50 houses could be built in a village in the country, but given that the cost of such development must be borne by the developer, a joint partnership might be—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy's time is exhausted.

Mr. Perry: Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  I am delighted to speak on this motion and I thank the Labour Party for tabling it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy O'Flynn. I understand he will share his time with Deputies Roche, Power and Conor Lenihan.

Mr. O'Flynn: Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  Ireland has a relatively small housing stock, with 334 houses per 1,000 population compared to an estimated EU average of 440 per 1,000 population. We are building houses at by far the highest rate in the EU in proportion to population – 12.4 houses per 1,000 population were built last year, which is about six times the UK rate.

House completions in 1999 reached a record 46,512 units nationally. That was the fifth year of record output. Output in Dublin topped 10,000 units last year while completions in the greater Dublin area totalled 15,228 units. The measures taken by the Government to increase housing supply are having the desired effect.

The Government, however, recognises the [427] challenges that lie ahead. Rapid economic growth, population growth and immigration have all contributed to housing demand. Even though housing output between 1994 and 1999 doubled, more than 500,000 additional houses will need to be built over the next ten years. Those must be planned for and the necessary infrastructure put in place to ensure that bottlenecks are avoided as far as possible in terms of key factors, particularly serviced land. It is necessary not only to build the houses but to do so in a planned and integrated way by providing the necessary transport infrastructure and amenities to form viable new communities or integrate new housing successfully into existing communities. The decisions about where this housing is to be built and how best to manage this process are fundamental to our future economic success and to the kind of society we wish to develop.

The national spatial strategy being drawn up by the Government will identify broad spatial development patterns for areas and set down policies on the location of residential, industrial and rural developments and tourism and heritage. The strategy will provide the basis for co-ordination and co-operation in policy formulation and particularly in decision-making on major investment in infrastructure, including public and private transportation, infrastructure and major industrial locations. This will be important for the sustainable development of housing and infrastructure required over the long-term.

A disproportionate number of people are concentrated in the Dublin area. Dublin city has tended to sprawl, making efficient and cost-effective public services, especially public transport, difficult to achieve and community identities difficult to preserve. At the same time, some towns outside the greater Dublin area have stagnated to a degree. We cannot afford to allow this unplanned and unconsidered approach continue in the future. Unless we implement an effective development strategy, unbalanced development of the Dublin area will impose a heavy cost economically and socially. The strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area published last year and updated this year provide us with the blueprint to provide the additional housing we need in a planned and balanced way.

It is interesting that the Labour Party tabled a motion that proposes to provide a solution to every problem, but it is tellingly silent on how measures should be implemented and it is devoid of even the most basic costings. The Labour Party cannot resist any idea.

Its proposal for State intervention in building land, in effect, is a proposal to nationalise all development land and pay the market value for it. Local authorities already have the power to acquire land for any of their functions by agreement or by compulsory acquisition. Where land is acquired by compulsory order, the amount paid is its market value. However, the wholesale acquisition of land in the market by local auth[428] orities will serve only to further increase the price of land. Through the Planning and Development Bill, the Government is taking action to ensure the availability of land at its existing use value for social and affordable housing. I commend the Minister on that.

The motion also conveniently ignores what is being done by the Government in a range of areas referred to, for example, the student accommodation scheme, the initiatives and funding increases to boost the voluntary housing sector and the Commission on the Private Rented Sector. Perhaps the most shameful deception the Labour Party is attempting in this motion is to create the illusion that 50,000 social housing units can be magically produced without reference to capacity considerations or the need for social integration and balance.

I wish to refer to work being carried out by the National Economic and Social Forum. I understand it is working on a report on social housing, which will be available shortly and which will make a valuable contribution to the debate on social exclusion.

The Government is committed to combating social exclusion. From a housing perspective, as part of the drive to improve local authority housing management, the housing unit was established in March 1998. The remit of the unit is to assist local authorities to develop a more effective operational approach to housing management, which includes the dissemination of best practice guidelines and the preparation of an assessment of training needs for housing practitioners and devising programmes and strategies to meet those needs.

The housing management initiatives grant scheme is designed to support innovative pilot projects in the area of local authority housing management by way of grant assistance from the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Since its inception more than 100 projects have been approved. Approximately 50% of the projects funded to date have involved tenant and staff training in estate management. Other projects included supporting research, production of tenants' handbooks and the employment of tenant liaison officers. Improving local authority estate management and providing for increased tenant participation in this way is making a difference in these estates.

We in Cork Corporation are committed to providing 1,000 new homes over the next four years as part of our housing strategy. I commend the Minister on his increased allocation to Cork Corporation and Cork County Council. I urge all local authorities to accelerate their house building programmes. I regret that many local authorities are dragging their feet in implementing these programmes. They need to accelerate their implementation in the way the local authorities in my constituency are attempting to do.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I welcome this motion and compliment the Labour Party on introducing it. I hope [429] its enthusiasm on this matter at national level will transmit to its local authority members. For the past few weeks, I have examined zoning in the Dublin area, a very controversial matter. There was a great deal of cynicism about that in the past. This is one of the most difficult and intractable problems that faces any Government. The reality is that one cannot buck the market or create houses overnight. Therefore, we should stop deluding ourselves that there are instant solutions.

I compliment the Minister on what I regard as an honest and pragmatic approach to what is an extremely difficult problem. I wish to focus on the lower end of the market because I believe the market at the higher end is capable of looking after itself. I shall address a couple of points about the multi-annual local authority housing programmes. The last speaker made the point that he was delighted the Minister had increased the level of capital allocation to local authorities and has given them an indication of a multi-annual fund. I share the difficulty which several Members on all sides have with the capacity of local authorities to deliver efficiently in the housing market. For example, the housing crisis in Wicklow is second to none in the country because Wicklow, particularly the north-east, has become an area of huge market demand. Yet I can walk around in housing estates and find houses boarded up because the management system in the local authority system is not good enough. What I find really perverse is that there is at least one or perhaps two houses which were completed last year and have not been allocated. In one case the local authority involved, my own county council, is using it as a storage space. That is virtually criminal behaviour for a local authority.

The Minister will have to operate a tight audit on the capacity of local authorities to deliver. Local authorities which are serious about this problem should front-load their building programme and respond quickly. I am aware, having looked at a number of local authorities in the past few days, that many are not up to date yet with their 1998 allocation. That is a scandal.

I wish to deal with the question of voluntary housing. Many years ago when I was a young man and was first engaged, we were looking for a house. At that time, in the early 1970s, there was a housing crisis in Dublin. I became involved in and was an enthusiastic supporter of housing co-operatives. Housing co-operatives have virtually died the death. In small towns and villages in particular and in parts of Wicklow, parts of Kildare and in other towns in the greater Dublin area the local authorities should become pro-active to help foster a co-operative spirit to try to bring on stream housing capacity that exists in those towns and villages, which is waiting to be developed. I would argue strongly the need for that.

An earlier speaker described the shared ownership scheme as a joke and the affordable housing scheme as non-viable. I regret these negative views. The shared ownership scheme has been [430] innovative. There is a problem with it in the greater Dublin area and in parts of Cork and parts of Galway where there are high house price values. I believe that is happening and the Department needs to review it. The shared ownership scheme should be more cognisant of the existing market prices and a better mechanism will have to be introduced.

There was reference to serviced land – that runs through the motion and the amendment tabled by the Government. The reality is that there is something of a cartel in the bigger cities about serviced land. My view is that the people who own land which is serviced should use it or lose it. I shall make that point later tonight on the Planning and Development Bill. I welcome the idea that 20% of land is to be allocated for low cost and affordable housing. I detect something of a schizophrenic attitude here, some of which is based on snobbery. People do not want this to happen. There is a crisis and we, as legislators, have to take the lead. Even if it offends some, we have to insist that the 20% requirement goes through. It was incorporated in the last county development plan in County Wicklow. I am pushing that requirement, as are councillors from all parties.

I wish to refer to the issue of liquidity in the second-hand market. Many young people are forced into the second-hand market because it is the only place they can buy houses in their own location. The question of stamp duty requires attention. Stamp duty was never intended to be a windfall tax for the Government. The reality is that due to escalating house prices, the stamp duty system has, effectively, become a penalty. I would prefer a more benign system for a first time buyer forced into the second-hand market. At the end of the day all the debates and all the speeches in the world will not resolve this problem. A resolution can be found. A number of mechanisms are being put in place by the Government. I urge those at local authority level in particular, Members of the House and members of parties represented here to press actively to employ those mechanisms.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Power who, I understand, is sharing time with Deputy Conor Lenihan.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  The motion before the House is welcome. It comes at a time when 1,000 new houses are being built each week. It also gives the Government an opportunity to highlight its record since taking office three years ago and to outline the policies it will pursue. Having listened to some of the Opposition speakers last night, one would think the Government sat on its hands.

Mr. Hayes:  It is a difficult issue.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  It is a very difficult issue and being in Government brings with it responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Government to tackle [431] the problem and the job of the Opposition to correct the Government and point it in the right direction. Opposition parties always see the barrel as half empty. Now that we are in the middle of a by-election the barrel is empty. I like to think my contributions here are reasonably balanced. I realise that not everything in the garden is rosy, that the Government parties do not have all the answers and that the Opposition does not have all the answers either.

The housing shortage remains a major concern for the Government. It is committed to a comprehensive housing policy which maximises housing output and supply throughout the country and actively promotes affordable housing. In Ireland more than in other countries there is a great desire to own one's home. This desire should be encouraged and assisted at every opportunity.

In his contribution last night, the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, referred to the private rented residential sector. He indicated that the commission established last year was due to report on 1 June 2000 but the chairman has sought an extension of time. That commission was asked to examine and make recommendations on many issues relating to the sector. The Government has given a commitment to act on those recommendations. This is an area where action is necessary. While I realise it is all about striking a balance between the rights of landlords and tenants, I am aware from meeting people on a regular basis that time and again landlords abuse their position. Kildare is no different from many other areas in that it has a shortage of rented housing accommodation. Those in vulnerable positions, such as single mothers who may have to leave home and find accommodation, are often prepared to accept anything. Unfortunately, landlords facilitate them and often allow single mothers or young families into accommodation unsuitable for animals. They make all kinds of promises but they are seldom honoured. The manner in which landlords abuse their position was highlighted recently on a “Prime Time” programme. When the commission reports I expect the Government will act immediately on its recommendations.

It is difficult for those on low incomes or in receipt of social welfare payments to seek rental subsidy for accommodation. There is a distinct lack of accommodation in that sector. I would like to see an increase in supply so landlords will not be allowed get away with the skullduggery taking place in many towns and villages throughout the country.

I mentioned how seriously the Government takes this issue and An Action Programme for the Millennium clearly states our intention to promote strategic development in locations outside Dublin on an economically self-sustaining basis to restrain demand in Dublin. This is important for a number of reasons. There is no one answer but a number of policies pursued by the Government will bring that about. The decen[432] tralisation programme, for which I hope my county will be chosen, is important and will have a positive impact on the areas selected. It is important that before those areas are selected we think about the quality of life of the people involved. We must try to put in place facilities to which people are accustomed. We cannot expect to have the facilities in towns which those living in cities enjoy. However, we must make decentralisation attractive if it is to work.

The previous speaker referred to the availability of land and owners sitting on zoned land. It is important that land is made available as quickly as possible. Development land is being sold for astronomical sums and new home owners are paying the price. In many cases, the prices demanded for new houses do not make sense and are placing a great strain on young couples starting their lives together. The introduction of the 20% clause by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, in the Planning and Development Bill will ease the situation enormously and increase the number of social and affordable houses. This will have a positive effect and will take the sting out of what is happening at the moment.

I thank the Labour Party for tabling this motion. We do not have all the answers – perhaps we sometimes pretend we have but we have not. I welcome the other contributions.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  As I understand it, three simple words provide the answer to the housing crisis – rezone, rezone and rezone. Unfortunately, when I look at the Opposition benches, I see some of the members of the former county council, particularly the Labour Party which—

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  The Deputy knows nothing about it.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —led by Deputy Quinn, created a new entity called the Civic Alliance which was going to clean up Dublin and planning in the county. It was a miraculous and brave group of people, bringing together—

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  We are doing our best.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —the Labour Party, the Democratic Left, the Greens and others.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  So is the Flood tribunal.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  These were the people who were ideologically opposed to rezoning of any kind and who are guilty of the huge mismatch between supply and demand in housing in Dublin city.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  The Deputy knows nothing about it.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  These are the people preaching to us about how to solve the housing crisis when their ideological opposition to rezoning on [433] all fronts in the County Dublin area has led directly to the current supply side shortage.

The Labour Party record on rezoning is not covered with glory. Despite all the moralising and preaching from across the House, I do not believe their record stands up to scrutiny. This Government's record stands up to detailed scrutiny. When the rainbow coalition had the opportunity to do something about rezoning and bringing affordable housing on stream, it ignored the problem. Its treatment of the issue of social housing was exactly the same as its attitude towards refugees and its failure to act on that issue. The failures of the last Government, led by Deputy John Bruton, are exemplified in its attitude towards the issues of housing and refugees. These problems were analysed and identified and nothing was done by the magical rainbow coalition which came into existence by some sort of democratic coup in 1994. That is the reality of the record of the people preaching across the House, preaching to our party which is getting on with the business of redressing the serious imbalances which exist.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  The Deputy is not living in the real world.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  I do not believe that people who passed section 4 motions to bring housing into commission in the 1980s were wrong to do so. However, there seems to be an attitude on the Opposition benches, and to a certain extent among the media and public commentators, that to rezone or pass a section 4 motion was wrong. It was the right thing to do. I notice that none of those crowing about the events and revelations at the Flood tribunal in Dublin Castle and who speak so eloquently against what happened in the 1980s – if anyone has accepted an inducement to make a decision, no one is standing over it here – is asking for the housing developments to be pulled down or magically converted to green space. The reality is that most of those developments were necessary and had to go ahead in the face of ideological opposition to rezoning – I notice Deputy Gilmore in the Chamber.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Why are they not building on the rezoned land?

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  There was to be no rezoning whatsoever. What would homelessness be like in this city if the Labour Party got its way on the council? There would have been no rezoning and no homes for anyone to go to.

The Government has acted swiftly to address the problem which it inherited. It immediately instigated two in-depth reports on the housing issue which made a number of radical recommendations that were acted upon. A third report by Dr. Peter Bacon is expected to be published tomorrow, containing recommendations for further measures to increase affordable housing supply. Among the significant measures intro[434] duced by this Government was the serviced land initiative which will yield over 115,000 sites as opposed to the original target of 100,000 sites. The scheme has the potential to further exceed that total by the end of this year.

According to a recent departmental survey, there is now enough serviced land in the four Dublin local authority areas to support about four years' output at 1999 levels, which were exceptional. Indications from elsewhere around the country are also positive. The supply side initiatives introduced by this Government, such as the serviced land initiative, temporary treatment facilities, sewerage projects, new residential density guidelines, more recourse to infill housing, which has lesser demand in terms of site servicing, and so on are all making a contribution to the vast increase in our housing stock. Current indications are that 55,000 units will be required per annum in the next ten years rather than the 50,000 forecast two years ago.

To secure the level of housing construction to meet future demand, it will be necessary to secure implementation by local authorities of the planning guidelines on residential density issued last September. I hope the local authorities go ahead with these. I do not agree with the dual mandate but as I look around the House, I see many people who seem to enjoy holding the dual mandate of sitting in the Dáil and on county councils.

Mr. Hayes:  Let the people have their say.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  I hope those who have the dual mandate and who have the temerity to lecture this side of the House on the housing crisis will vote for new developments which will be brought on stream in the months and years ahead.

Mr. Hayes:  Why did the Deputy oppose housing in Greenhills?

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  I hope that when there are controversial developments involving the building of houses in Tallaght and Templeogue the people will vote for those holding a mandate on a local authority.

Mr. Hayes:  Abject hypocrisy.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  All the indications I get from my constituency is that if there is controversy and the residents complain about a housing development, Deputy Hayes is the first to complain and to pander to the objectors—

Mr. Hayes:  The Deputy panders to the biggest crowd.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —and opponents of development—

Mr. Hayes:  They should have cameras there the next time.

[435]Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —by people who are trying to provide affordable houses for our young people.

Mr. Hayes:  The Deputy has opposed every council house in Tallaght.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Unfortunately, this line of argument—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy's time has concluded.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I wish to share my time with Deputies Rabbitte, Seán Ryan, McManus, D'Arcy and Boylan.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I found the last speech particularly interesting for its sheer honesty and, now that we are encouraged to speak plainly, neck. Any member of the Fianna Fáil Party who begins a speech this month with the words “Rezone, rezone, rezone” must get a medal for the thickness of his or her neck. Something very interesting will happen in this House when we vote at 8.30 p.m.

Among the many proposals tabled by the Labour Party in this motion, Members will be asked to vote on Labour's call for the establishment of publicly owned landbanks for each local authority. That is lodged in the middle of a comprehensive set of proposals dealing with, for example, State intervention in building land, price control on new housing, regulation of the housing market, the establishment of a national housing authority, strengthening the voluntary housing sector, the private rented sector, transient accommodation, local authority and social housing and reform of housing benefit and administration.

I have selected this particular element because it is the one that will sort people out very quickly. The issue the public should look at is whether people vote for landbanks. The last speaker did not mention why the land that has already been rezoned is not being released for the building of houses. The answer is that it is being hoarded for speculative profit. One can flap one's wings like Daffy Duck or Deputy Conor Lenihan, but one will not change that. Tonight Deputy Lenihan will vote for either the speculators' further profit or for those who want to put a roof over their heads.

The Labour Party's motion contains a comprehensive set of proposals. Deputies are asked unequivocally to decide which gets priority, housing rights or the freedom to speculate on a basic and scarce resource that affects almost every family in the State.

Let us get real about this. Half the cost of a housing unit at present is represented by the site cost. Controlling the cost of the site is the only real measure that will substantially increase the [436] supply of housing that our people need. Our proposal, which we will vote on at 8.30 p.m., is reasonable, moral and achievable. It should, as a minimum, be interpreted in the spirit of the Kenny report of some decades ago. Where, for example, our motion refers to compulsory purchase powers, it should be interpreted as the right to purchase at a pre-speculative level, at original designation price plus a reasonably adjudged premium.

Our present crisis, denied by the Government for so long, has been the subject of a campaign by us for over a year. We did not produce this motion for the by-election. We had the Drudy report – I pay tribute to Professor Drudy for the public service he did in chairing our commission on housing. Our crisis, which was acknowledged by Deputy Roche this evening – apparently, the ability to see a crisis is breaking out in Wicklow – was attested to in my city by over 2,500 signatories.

However, from listening to the speeches tonight, would one think the housing lists had increased nationally to over 60,000 and that many are in despair at ever having a home, in a society that constitutes the third largest market in Europe for luxury cars? That is an obscenity. A couple with a joint income of £40,000 cannot afford a home in the private housing market. The Taoiseach is reported in a newspaper this morning as acknowledging that £5 billion out of the £11 billion housing market is speculative money. The Government has been forced to acknowledge what has been a Labour Party campaign for well over a year, that we have a housing crisis. It should now go further and admit it is in the market's interest to exploit this crisis.

There is only one radical approach to the housing crisis, which is to build houses for those who need them. To do this effectively, we need to drive out the speculative capital from the hoarding of building land and not reward it, as the Government has done, by reducing capital gains tax.

I sometimes wonder what the Taoiseach and his Ministers think when they are strutting their new version of Ireland around the world, a version where the economy does so well and many in society do so badly. Do they ever speak of how more than 250,000 people are affected by the housing crisis, if one multiplies the average family size by the number on the housing lists? Do they ever get concerned at the fact that, in the wealthiest period in our history, this generation and the ones that follow will lose the right to ever have a home, that the number without shelter on the streets has doubled from 2,500 in 1996 to over 5,000 in 1999 and that the average house price in the Taoiseach's beloved Dublin has increased from £73,500 when he took office to £124,000 at present? Or does that matter? Maybe it does not.

We heard the answer from Deputy Lenihan, that the markets will sort it out. They will, indeed. He also said that Fianna Fáil is getting on with the job and is doing the business. It certainly did [437] the business for those who made speculative gains out of human need. Even the most shameless of Ministers should feel ashamed of the facts I have just read out. This is the mark of a republic with the fastest growth rate in Europe.

The Labour Party will not end its housing campaign if we do not win the vote this evening. We will campaign publicly with the support of those who share our concerns, the trade union movement, voluntary housing organisations, churches and many others, to advance the ten principles of our proposals tonight.

Those principles include the need for State intervention in building land through the establishment of public landbanks and the need to establish a national housing authority to help provide the 500,000 new dwellings estimated to be needed over the next ten years. This is practical recognition that some local authorities are not delivering even their existing targets. There is also a need for the control of new house prices through a fair price certification process and for the regulation of standards of entry into the building industry and of performance, quality, proper management and design. Local authority and social housing programmes must be front-loaded to address the current waiting list of more than 60,000 people. There must be delivery to the voluntary sector of the means for a tenfold increase in its current outturn of about 500 houses per year. We need to reform housing administration, with a clear specification of functions between local authorities and health boards. Additional staff and specialised training to deal with the distress of applicants whom the developed economy has failed must be provided. We need fair, transparent and manageable legislation for the private rented sector, that gives certainty of tenure to the tenant and guarantees a responsible compliance to the provider. We need to provide purpose built accommodation for students, transients and those with special needs. We need the restructuring of housing benefit in an integrated way, so as to take account of the accommodation needs of families in the public and private sectors.

The sad part is that we could do it all by any one of several means of funding. For example, what we spend on rent allowance could be done through borrowings. We could also invest the pension funds that we propose to invest abroad.

This evening Deputies are invited to be radical. They can vote to make the scarce resource of building land a public asset or they can leave that same land to the speculators to continue the same old disastrous story. Each Deputy has to choose where he or she stands. There are many who honestly believe it should be left to the market, but we do not. Those who oppose our proposal should reflect on how radical their latest list of inducements to those who speculate really is. I ask them to visualise two sets of Irish people. On one side are those who need housing, who are borrowing beyond their means, no longer have the choice to work at home or in the traded econ[438] omy, who drive from dawn to dusk, are anxious for their children and are prisoners of an economy that will not allow them a home. On the other side are the speculators with £5 billion of blood money on their greedy hands.

Members of the Labour Party know where they stand. If there is to be a cost to our proposals, let it be carried by those who are committed to private greed and who put it above the public good.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I missed a vote on the planning Bill this evening because I was attempting to deal with a constituent who returned with his wife and family from England last year. He returned to employment but found he could not get housing. As a result, he went into private rented accommodation. As he needed a health board subsidy to survive in that accommodation, he could not take up the employment. If he did, he would lose the subsidy.

Today, 12 months later, he was evicted from the house. The 12 month lease has expired. His wife had their third baby last week. She now has three small children, the youngest being seven days old. The housing manager of South Dublin County Council informed me that my constituent is 1035th on the waiting list. Tonight that constituent has gone to Charles Street with his wife and three children, including the seven day old baby, to register as homeless. Charles Street is the only prospect of this family being housed. That reality is being repeated throughout this city and country. That is the success of the economy about which the Minister for Finance invites us to party. The reality is that people whose parents managed to access mortgages in the past cannot dream of access to housing finance in the present economy.

We could have spent this evening describing the extent of the crisis, given its scale, and offering that type of personal history. We did not do that because Deputy Gilmore set out in comprehensive detail a strategy for the future. This derives from the Drudy report commissioned by Deputy Gilmore and the Labour Party. It has taken a long time to come through the system. This Government has failed lamentably to tackle the scale of the crisis. We were told that Bacon 1 would do it. All it did was drive the private rented sector out of the reach of ordinary people. We were then told that Bacon 2 would do it but it has achieved little. Now we are told to await Bacon 3 and that all will be well. We know it will not be right and it is a cruel and monstrous Niagara of distortion to visit on ordinary people to suggest that it will.

We could have spent tonight focusing on the peculiar nexus of Fianna Fáil, the builders, developers and the industry but that is being talked about elsewhere and there is no point in dwelling on it. It is clear, however, that this Government will not confront that lobby. Of all the proposals advanced by Deputy Gilmore, undoubtedly the [439] most significant is the intervention in building land as identified by Deputy Higgins.

I heard Deputy Roche and the Fianna Fáil backbenchers read the little scripts prepared for them by central office and speaking about how great they are. Deputy Roche is in especially triumphal mood since his magnum opus. He is poncing around as if he were a candidate for the Booker prize. Now he has discovered there is a housing crisis in Wicklow. He also said he is in favour of co-ops. I will quote from a letter we received from NABCo, one of the best established house building co-operatives. It states:

For the first time in ten years no new co-operative rental housing projects are being planned in either the Fingal or the Dublin South County areas due to the lack of designation of sites to enable planning of more new projects to be started.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy has used five minutes.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  In that event I will conclude. With regard to the psychosis that is driving the crisis, one must advert to the role of auctioneers, especially the big five. They are part of the circle of greed that is driving housing out of the reach of ordinary people. The Competition Authority should look at the cartel being operated by the big five, sometimes in league with the advertising supplements of the main newspapers, to assist the psychosis.

This is a scandal. The Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, has been talking for three years about addressing it. It is worse as a result of all the factors outlined last night by Deputy Gilmore, whether it is the extent of price rises, the number of people on waiting lists, the fact that the number of homeless has doubled and so forth. It is a scandal that will persist after tonight's debate because the Government has clearly indicated that it will not take any radical measures to address it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Rabbitte used more than six minutes. It is not a function of the Chair to do other than tell the speaker when the slot has concluded. If Members wish to divide time among nine of them—

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is the Chair being helpful or filibustering?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am trying to be helpful because time is running out for the Deputy's colleagues.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I thought I had irritated you.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Boylan has two minutes at the end and we hope he will get a little time.

[440]Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I appreciate the Chair's support in this regard. I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate on housing. Ireland is in the middle of perhaps its greatest housing crisis but even as it deepens on a monthly basis, the Government is only now recognising its existence. A Bacon 3 report is imminent. What was the effect of Bacon 1 and 2?

Since the Government took office, the average price of a new house has increased by 70%. In Dublin, the price of new and secondhand houses increased by almost £30,000 last year. The cost of private rented accommodation has increased by more than 50% and there is an increase of nearly 25,000 applicants on local authority housing lists. These figures clearly demonstrate that a majority of prospective first time buyers are excluded from the housing market because they do not have the income capacity to meet the mortgage requirements for the most modest house.

Radical solutions are required with regard to price control, housing land supply, planning, public housing, private owner occupancy, tenants' rights and the elimination of stamp duty for first time buyers of secondhand houses. The latter would improve the situation substantially for many people on modest earnings who are fortunate enough to find a modestly priced house.

The price of serviced land is the most significant factor in the cost of a house. I was involved with the Donabate housing co-op which secured serviced sites over the years for Fingal County Council and Dublin County Council. The most recent scheme was built last year and members took up occupancy on 1 January this year. The overall cost of the three bedroom semi-detached house came to £60,000. The cost of the same type of house in the same area on the open market would be £140,000. This clearly demonstrates the cost of sites and the need for local authorities to assemble publicly owned land banks capable of supplying serviced land to facilitate all forms of housing development, including private housing, affordable housing, social housing and voluntary and co-operative housing.

It is immoral that the market value of an acre of land can increase tenfold because of zoning changes, particularly as the owner does not add to the value of the land, apart perhaps from paying contributions to some councillors.

The Government has not demonstrated the will to deal with this problem. Therefore, it should either change its housing policy and deal with the reality which exists at present or else get out of office.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  At the request of the Government the All-Party Committee on the Constitution has spent a considerable length of time considering the needs of the unborn, the status of the unborn and the issue of abortion, and rightly so. It is ironic that so much attention is being paid to the rights of the unborn while the rights of the born are so sadly neglected. Some Members have [441] spoken about housing policy but it is important to remember that we are talking about people. There is a hierarchy of needs, at the top of which are the needs of children. As every politician who runs a clinic knows, more often than not it is the children of parents with a housing crisis who are brought to our clinics. The need for housing is not just about a roof over one's head, it means stability, good health and access to education. This has a ripple effect and, if this need is not met, tremendous difficulties will be created for children growing up now. The experience they have as small babies and schoolgoing children because of a housing crisis which is impacting directly on their lives will be carried with them right through into adulthood. Therefore, the impact the lack of housing has on individuals and families cannot be described sufficiently.

One of the aspects of the housing crisis which is now very noticeable is that it is impacting on elderly people. I have never before seen the kinds of problems elderly people in their eighties and nineties are now facing. This is a new feature compared to the last 25 or 30 years. Very elderly people are now living in very poor quality accommodation and do not have a chance of realising their dream of living in proper accommodation before they die.

I welcome this debate and believe the housing issue will be the yardstick by which the Government is measured and judged at election time. When the Government took office the housing need had been stabilised for the first time in years. The assessment of housing need indicates this fact. A special initiative was established to deal with the needs of the homeless. At that point homelessness had reached nothing like the level it is at now. I do not wish to detain the House for too long because other Members wish to speak and much of what was said was well put. However, whatever about buzzwords such as strategies, initiatives, multi-annual budgets and so on in the Government amendment, the experience of members of local authorities is very clear. I am astonished at how little has changed at local authority level during the term of this Government. I see no evidence of the seismic shift required at local authority level to meet what is now a serious housing crisis. This has not happened and no matter what the Government is putting forward in its amendment, that is my experience and, interestingly, it is the experience to which Deputy Roche referred.

There is a difference between allocating money and making sure that money is spent. This point needs to be addressed in terms of what the Government is saying.

Mr. D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  I thank the Labour Party for affording me the opportunity to make my point on housing. This has been a lengthy debate and I do not wish to repeat what others have said. I wish to put on the record that I tried to make my point in Wexford County Council last Tuesday. However, I was obstructed from doing so by the [442] Fianna Fáil Party and the meeting had to be adjourned.

The present position in Wexford County Council is as follows. Our main town is Wexford and the position in relation to housing in Wexford Corporation is that there are 77 applications for one-bedroom houses, 101 applications for two-bedroom houses and 111 applications for three-bedroom houses. Some 200 applications have not yet been examined. This amounts to almost 500 applications. The position in New Ross, which has a small population, is considerably worse where there are applications for 500 houses. There are applications for 160 houses in Enniscorthy. Wexford County Council currently has a list of 690 applicants and 250 applications have not yet been examined.

The housing waiting list in Wexford County Council has grown from 900 to approximately 1,500 in 18 months. I accept there may be some duplication as far as the three urban areas are concerned. However, these are the facts and this is the record of the present Government. I did not take into account the full term of the Government, just the past 18 months. Radical policies need to be introduced to change this serious situation.

In order to remedy the current acute housing shortage, the Government decided to introduce affordable houses. Let us consider what this will achieve. The interpretation of “eligible persons” is very broad and could include most of the population, depending on house prices in the area of purchase. Housing strategies are to be incorporated into the development plan, which I accept is a positive step, but the balance of economic and commercial strategies also need to be incorporated into the plan.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  I thank Deputy D'Arcy for allowing me to make a brief contribution.

Deputy Conor Lenihan uttered three words here, “rezone, rezone, rezone”. He is wrong and totally out of touch. He should have uttered the words, “policy, policy, policy”. The Minister's policy has failed and the sooner he recognises that fact the sooner we can make a fresh start. I wish to point out to Deputies that this is a national problem, a countrywide problem, not just a problem for Dublin city. There are other options to be explored. The Government is sitting on its hands repeating, “Bacon 1 and Bacon 2”. Wait for Bacon 3 when he will bring home the bacon. This is a cop-out, an excuse for doing nothing.

The Government will be judged on its failure to provide adequate and decent housing for young couples. It is a sad reflection on the Government that a young couple with a joint income of £30,000 can no longer afford a home. This is the point we have reached. There are options available to the Government. What is wrong with starter homes or affordable houses and what happened to the shared ownership concept? This has not worked and should be [443] revamped because young couples were interested in it. The 50-50 option is out so why is there not an alternative option? There are options in relation to the number of sites available. The impression is being given that no land is available. In areas around this city or outside it there are sites for sale and applications for outline planning permission. The Government maintains that services are not available but this is the chicken and egg syndrome. Services can be provided. It does not have to be a piped service. There are options in relation to sewage disposal through the Bord na Móna concept. This will be costly but why will the Government not provide a grant to young couples who are prepared to move outside the pale to build a home? It is waiting for Bacon who will not come up with that option because obviously if Bacon 1 and 2 failed, Bacon 3 will be a bigger failure. It is not good enough for the Minister of State to sit there smiling. We expect a little more from the Minister, and the young people we represent expect a great deal more. I hope the Minister will deliver on the constructive proposals in the Labour Party motion.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy): Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I have addressed the House on the issue of housing on a number of occasions since the Government took office and we have had a number of constructive and well-informed debates on housing policy. However, the Labour Party's motion did not form the basis for such a discussion on this occasion. The Labour Party still seems unable to grasp even the most basic issues involved.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Where was the Minister last night?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Its motion is testament to the out-dated and discredited philosophy of control and regulation that we have come to expect of this Labour Party.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  That is correct – control and regulation.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, last night outlined the decisive measures the Government has undertaken to address house price escalation, the problem of housing affordability and the issue of social housing provision.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  What about the waiting lists?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Government's approach has already produced noteworthy results. House completions in 1999 reached a record 46,512 units nationally, almost 40% more than in 1996, the last full year the rainbow Government was in office. We have achieved the private housing output target we set of 43,000 units in 1999, which was the target level of output set in the first Bacon report and the indications are that the upward trend in [444] new house completions is set to continue. In spite of continuing high demand, the effects of increased output are reflected in significantly moderating house price trends since house price inflation peaked in 1998. Average prices for the first quarter of 2000 in Dublin are showing reductions for both new and second-hand homes, the first time that average prices have dropped since 1995.

The House heard many calls last evening for the introduction of controls on the price of new houses and rents. The populist notion of new house price control discredits its proponents. What happens when the new house becomes a second-hand house? The Government is acting to curb speculation in housing: artificial control on the price of new houses would facilitate it.

Rent control proved disastrous for the private rented sector here, as it did in other countries in which it was imposed.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Not so.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  As the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, pointed out last evening, other EU countries are now trying to get rid of any vestiges of rent control which have sent their private rented sectors into decline. This emerged clearly from an international conference on the private rented sector arranged by Threshold last year. The single most important point is that rent controls would hinder attempts to increase the supply of rented accommodation.

The Government, instead of nationalising all the building land, has introduced provisions in Part V of the Planning and Development Bill which recognise the value of land is significantly increased by a local authority decision to zone it. The greater community, through the local authority, should be able to reap for the public good, an appropriate proportion of the gain conferred on the landowner. The simple fact is that the Labour Party proposals in this motion will neither bring land into development more quickly nor allow local authorities acquire land at a cheaper cost than can currently be achieved.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I think the Minister believes that.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Deputy Hayes also made a facile assumption in the House yesterday from a cursory examination of the numbers of new house grants paid that the numbers of first time buyers are falling.

Mr. Hayes:  That is correct.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Yes, the number of new house grants being paid is falling. This is not a result of a reduction in the numbers of first time buyers in the market, but arises from a growing trend of first time purchasers buying second-hand houses.

Mr. Hayes:  The Minister must be joking.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  My Department's survey data indi[445] cate that in 1997 first time buyers completed 43% of all purchases nationally, but in 1999, 46% of all purchases were made by first time buyers. Thanks to the Government freeing up second-hand houses for sale through reducing stamp duty, following the imposition of punitive rates for all purchasers by the previous Government, the choice of housing available to first time buyers has been greatly expanded.

Investment in the local authority and social housing programmes is more than £440 million this year, almost two and half times the £180 million the previous Government provided in the 1997 Estimates. This Government will not countenance a return to the building of large scale local authority housing schemes—

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Which the Minister built.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  —which any suggested crash programme of local authority houses over the coming four years would require. Neither does the Labour Party at local authority level, irrespective of what their spokesman may say in this House. It is my understanding that Labour Party councillors throughout the country are adopting a negative attitude to housing development.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Minister's time is up.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The words of Deputy Higgins, who spoke a short time ago, ring very hollow when compared to the action of his Labour Party colleagues on Galway Corporation, both of whom stood alone recently in opposing the decision of all the other councillors who voted to acquire a large dwelling for homeless women and children in Galway City.

The national development plan published last November provides for massively increased investment in economic infrastructure such as roads, water, sewerage and public transport which is essential to support housing development in the period to 2006 and beyond.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Public money given to speculators.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This Government, unlike the previous one, is putting the necessary investment in place to facilitate new housing output of some 400,000 houses over the period of the plan and 90,000 local authority houses.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I propose to share time with Deputies Quinn and Gilmore. I am amazed at the speech by the Minister, who is responsible for what were known as “Molloy's botháns”, which had no chimneys and the walls of which were made of cardboard. It has cost £1 billion in taxpayers money to try to restore them.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That is correct.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  That is the record of the Minister and his record this time around is even worse.

[446]Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That is a cheap shot and is totally false.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  As this debate proceeds, thousands of people are still sitting in traffic after a hard day at work. Many of these frustrated motorists now live in Kildare. En route from Dublin based jobs they are under pressure to pick up their children from the childminders where they parked them at some unearthly hour this morning. Once these people get home tonight they will be so exhausted they will just about have the energy to prepare for the next day. Tomorrow morning they will again rise early, dispatch their children to the childminder and sit in traffic for up to one and a half hours before getting to work. Those planning to take the train to work will be lucky to find standing room.

Not all these people to whom I refer want to live in Kildare. Many would have preferred to live in an area with more convenient access to their workplaces and where they would be closer to their families and friends. However, because of the absolute failure of the Government to even acknowledge that we have a housing crisis, people are being reluctantly forced to make life choices to live and bring up their families outside Dublin city where they work.

The cost of housing in Dublin has forced people to look for a home up to 50 miles from their place of work. As an offshoot of spiralling house prices in Dublin, houses in Celbridge and Maynooth have become unaffordable for working families. The result is that people with jobs and families in these towns are being squeezed out of the housing market. Most people living in these towns could not afford to buy their current houses and their children have no chance of buying a house.

If our roads network, public transport and infrastructure were adequate perhaps commuting would allow for an efficient journey to work. However, the reality is that our infrastructure is barely playing catch-up with the needs of commuters.

The Labour Party motion is about introducing a sense of reality to the housing market and about giving people greater choice about where they live. It provides for the establishment of publicly owned land banks which would ensure our future housing needs are catered for. It would put an end to hundreds of acres of land which has been rezoned for housing remaining undeveloped and to the cartel of landowners in Dublin who will not release a sufficient amount of zoned land for development and who are distorting the market to their own advantage to satisfy their greed.

The motion also does something to which the Government has been adverse since taking office. We are proposing a realistic local authority building programme which will meet demands. Our land bank would provide private sites for young couples to build their own houses and land for co-operatives and affordable housing, in addition [447] to land for houses directly built by local authorities.

Since the Government took office the number of families in County Kildare alone who are waiting for local authority houses has soared by 800. Under the Government the expectation of even securing a home is entirely bleak. There are now 2,000 families on the house waiting list in Kildare, amounting to 6,000 men, women and children. Under the programme of the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, we are building 160 houses per year. Therefore, it will take 15 years to clear the backlog in Kildare at the current rate of progress.

My weekly clinics are now frequented by young working couples who previously could afford to buy their own homes but who have been driven out of the market by the greed of speculators and landowners who are supported by the Government. They do not qualify for local authority housing, cannot afford to buy private housing and are forced into the largely unregulated private rented sector where rents are now between £650 and £800 per month. They have no security of tenure and are regularly turfed out at the whim of the landlord, similar to the case referred to by Deputy Rabbitte.

The Government has the resources and has wasted opportunities. It should take our guidance and return to people the right to a home in their own country.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Having listened to the response of the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, who has responsibility for housing I do not know whether I should be sad because a man has given his life to public office or angry because of his extraordinary complacency in delivering the official statement of the Government. It mystifies me that a person who has immense popular appeal in his constituency, served his country in many different capacities, including as Minister for Local Government, and had the courage to break with the corrupt Haughey regime of the Fianna Fáil Party can believe such arrant nonsense.

There is a housing crisis. The problem has been growing since the day the Government took office. In the wonderful Gandon splendour of the Custom House not one single housing expert could be found to advise on policy. We had to go instead to Dr. Bacon whose report, as some had predicted, exacerbated the problem. He was then asked to produce a second which did not do much more and, unlike Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty who was given only two chances, he was given a third chance. Bacon 3 is to be published tomorrow. The Minister of State did not have the courage or honesty to admit that it will be highly critical of the impact of the policies of the Government led by the most arrogant Minister for Finance this country has ever seen.

I am angry because the Government is squandering time and the ability to solve the problems which, if they are not already doing so, will wreck the marriages of young couples forced to live in [448] lousy or overcrowded accommodation and the educational prospects of children who simply cannot do their homework in overcrowded conditions and which will undoubtedly impose other stresses and strains on our social fabric. It will take years of psychiatric and psychological care and nurturing to undo the damage.

The response of Fianna Fáil has been that the market will solve everything. We cannot wait for that to happen. Market mechanisms do not always work or, if they do, they do not work quickly enough. We have not tabled a by-election special motion as some have suggested. We have tabled a measured, considered and well thought out motion based on a report which I commend to the Minister of State with responsibility for housing and which he should read in detail. He will then see that nowhere in the motion do we propose price control, as such. What he was referring to was the freezing of rents. We want the regulatory system that applies to the private commercial sector to apply to the private housing rental sector. In every shopping centre throughout the country commercial leases are regulated and controlled and prices can only be increased by reference to specific cost indicators. We are proposing no more, no less.

The repeated misrepresentation by the Government of our well thought out proposals indicates its ideological and policy bankruptcy, which is its hallmark. It is so bankrupt that it has even privatised the making of policy. We will receive Dr. Bacon's third report tomorrow and the Minister of State did not have the courage or the decency to indicate its condemnatory contents.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I thank all the Members who supported the Labour Party motion on housing last night and tonight. The response of the Government has been absolutely pathetic. The Ministers of State, Deputies Molloy and Dan Wallace, sang the same old song: “Blame the previous Government, attack the Labour Party.” They then informed us about all the things the Government will do or is thinking about doing about housing. The Government has been in office for three years. When one has been in office for three years it is too late to blame one's predecessor and to indicate what one will do. One has to stand on one's record, and the record of the Government on housing is shameful.

In the motion we propose a ten point strategy which needs to be pursued if the housing crisis is to be resolved. The Government has tabled an amendment on which we will vote in less than five minutes. It asks Dáil Éireann to do three things. It asks us to acknowledge the housing achievements of the Government, to welcome its housing strategy and support its policy on housing.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A bad joke.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  House prices in this city, rents, [449] the numbers on housing lists and the numbers who are homeless on our streets have doubled since the Government took office. It has put buying a home beyond the reach of young people on good incomes. These are the achievements that the Minister is asking Dáil Éireann to acknowledge. He is also asking us to support and welcome the Government's housing strategy and housing policy. Where is its housing strategy and housing policy? The Government has been floundering since it took office. The Minister of State informed us tonight that he has dealt with the issue several times. On each occasion he told us that house prices were going down and asked us if we had seen the figures for the previous quarter. As he continued to tell the House that house prices were going down, they were increasing.

The motion has had at least one beneficial effect. It has forced the Government to bring forward Bacon 3 and arrange a press conference for tomorrow to announce its provisions. The only reason we have Bacon 3 is that Bacon 1 and 2 have failed. The Government is much better at arranging press conferences than dealing with the issue of housing construction. I hope the more gullible and naive sections of the media which tended to buy the previous Government line on housing will not fall for whatever short-term convenient measures are announced. The housing crisis is not capable of being addressed by small [450] changes in stamp duty. What has been needed for some time is a coherent national housing strategy similar to that contained in the motion.

The House has a simple choice to make. It can either vote for the Government amendment which asks it to support a continuation of the failed housing policies of the Government or it can vote for an alternative, a comprehensive ten point strategy across the entire range of housing tenures which would deal with the legislation which has to be introduced, the management of housing, the accelerated and increased public and social housing programme which needs to be put in place and the problem of land speculation, which is at the heart of rising house prices. Sooner or later this country will have to deal with land speculation which has driven the price of houses beyond the reach of young people, corrupted the planning system and left us with towns and cities where proper community facilities and social amenities have not been provided because of sheer bad planning based on greed that is inherent in that land speculation. That is the choice the House must make. If it is in favour of the Labour Party motion it will be to the benefit of those who are at present squeezed out of the housing market and who are languishing on housing lists for God knows how much longer.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Woods, Michael. Wright, G. V.[451]

Barnes, Monica.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis.
Boylan, Andrew.
Broughan, Thomas.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Burke, Ulick.
Carey, Donal.
Clune, Deirdre.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas.
Farrelly, John.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Gregory, Tony.
Hayes, Brian.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Joe.
[452] Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerard.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.
Yates, Ivan.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin. [453] Tá–continued
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
[454] Wallace, Mary.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Barnes, Monica.
Belton, Louis.
Boylan, Andrew.
Broughan, Thomas.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Burke, Ulick.
Carey, Donal.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas.
Farrelly, John.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Gregory, Tony.
Hayes, Brian.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerard.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.
Yates, Ivan.

Question declared carried.


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