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Dáil Speech on Private Members Motion – Social Housing Provision, Wednesday 24th September

I congratulate Deputies Coffey and Kelly on their elevation to their new positions and I wish them all the best. They have a difficult task ahead. As Deputy Costello mentioned the housing situation is in dire crisis. When I considered what I would say on housing I looked at the figures thrown out by Deputy O’Brien of Sinn Féin yesterday evening. He mentioned that Sinn Féin can identify €1 billion which could be spent on building 6,600 social housing units. This is part of the fantasy budget Sinn Féin goes on with.

I welcome the social housing strategy and I look forward to the report when it is published. We need an overarching strategy for all housing.

I agree that Construction 2020 has some valid points, but we need to build houses across all sectors. That is the problem at the moment. The rental market is increasing because there is a lack of housing for younger couples to purchase at the moment.

When considering the report on the social housing strategy the first thing the Minister of State should consider is the removal of Part V. This was introduced by the then Minister, Mr. Dempsey. It was voted in by most local authorities. I opposed it totally on Kildare County Council; Deputy Catherine Murphy supported it. It provided for the handing over of construction of social houses to private property developers. Since the collapse of the construction industry no social houses have been built anywhere in the country. We need to remove that stipulation and get local authorities back to building houses again, as they should have been doing all the time.

The windfall tax was imposed by the Green Party when in government. It was initiated at 80% and there have been no returns on that at all. It needs to be scrapped because we need to move land from whatever source into building houses again.

I spoke to the Minister, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, when she was Minister of State with responsibility for housing, with regard to getting local authorities to be more active in progressing the land banks they have. Local authorities usually wait for money to be allocated to them and then go through the planning process themselves. The Minister of State should encourage them to go through the planning process and have the land available for building so that when the money is allocated they can start straightaway. In my constituency, Kilcock was the only shovel-ready project available for money that was allocated previously. I encourage the Minister of State to write to local authorities to be more proactive in preparing their available land to be shovel-ready.

Under the land aggregation scheme the Housing Finance Agency purchased land from local authorities. There are 35 sites around the country in which the legal transfer has not occurred between the local authority and the Housing Finance Agency, including four in my county. Every council official looks out the window and sees a 14-acre site which the local authority in Naas has been paid for but the land transfer to the Housing Finance Agency has not legally happened. Those are land banks that are available but they are in a legal quandary meaning that social housing cannot be built. I encourage the Minister of State to be proactive with local authorities to get that moving as quickly as possible.

I wish the Minister of State the best of luck, but we have to look at this from an overall viewpoint. We do not just have a problem with social housing; there is a housing issue for all people as to whether to buy, rent or live in social housing.