The Minister and I are former Dublin City Council members. He might recall that when I led the Rainbow Civic Alliance on the council, we abolished bedsits for our senior citizens and prescribed a basic one-bedroom apartment. The Minister now seems to be rushing back to an even tinier concept of living with this co-living plan, which I think appeared in Rebuilding Ireland. What consultations took place on that? Where did this demand come from? Is it not simply Fine Gael kowtowing to developers?
This week, our constituency was rocked by a two dastardly gun murders in broad daylight. I sought to adjourn order to stop the Dáil to immediately debate the serious need for urgent intervention from An Garda Síochána, Dublin City Council and the Government. Instead, I was granted a Topical Issue Debate and, on the floor of the Dáil, on Tuesday, myself and Minister of State in the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, discussed the need for greatly enhanced community supports and additional resources for the Gardaí to combat this rise in gangland crime in the North of Dublin.
The Dáil returned this week following the Easter break. On Tuesday, I continued my meetings with the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers (OPLA) as we work on progressing a Private Members’ Bill. On Wednesday morning, I attended a briefing in Buswells by the Housing Alliance, which is a collaboration of six of the biggest Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in Ireland comprising Clúid Housing, Circle Voluntary Housing Association, Co-operative Housing Ireland, Oaklee Housing, Respond and Tuath Housing. The Alliance is calling for more social and affordable homes and for AHB’s to be permitted to provide affordable mortgages for young families.
I have listened to the Minister’s response but I still do not see why it would not be sensible to take the extra step and allow for some kind of verification process. The Minister has indicated how sending misinformation to the RTB can be a criminal offence and outlined the requirement for works to be documented. However, there is still no provision for verification. Many of us met when the heads of the Bill were published and in the run-up to its passage. We have been talking about some of these issues for decades, even since the aftermath of the 2004 Act.
Having listened to the Minister, I think he has a wonderful imagination. When he thinks of a future career, perhaps it could be as a screenwriter or a novelist because he seems to be imagining a world that we simply cannot see and which absolutely does not exist: a world where the landlord class is facilitating the housing of our people. The reality is that every weekend – I am sure it is the same for the Ceann Comhairle – Deputies meet many distressed families who have been made homeless simply by landlords who wanted to gouge the highest possible rent out of people. That is the reality and the Minister knows it is the reality. If he does not, then he has a wonderful imagination and could have a different career than administering a housing Department. The rents have led to this desperate crisis.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring forward on behalf of my Independent colleagues our motion on homelessness, which was placed on the clár of the Dáil in December. Every day Deputies are contacted by upset constituents who are at the end of their tethers. These people are trying to look for housing assistance payment, HAP, properties, having been given notices to quit because of sale or refurbishment of the properties in which they are living, they are living in substandard accommodation or they are sleeping in their cars or in tents. There are mothers who are desperately upset with regard to how their children are reacting to the uncertainty relating to homeless accommodation. There are also those who are trying to get deposits together for mortgages and individuals who require urgent housing adaptations. The list is endless. What these people experience is exhausting for them. The Minister knows this as well as I do.
Deputy Broughan has, again, today, condemned Fine Gael for its snail pace action on addressing the housing and homeless crisis and criticised the constant spin from Minister Eoghan Murphy and his Department. During the debate on the Motion on Homelessness today, brought forward by Deputy Broughan and other members of the Technical Group, Independents4Change, opposition deputies called for the declaration of a housing emergency, for a referendum on the right to housing and other measures.
I am delighted to have a brief opportunity to speak about this important Bill. It is long overdue. It is probably about 30 or 35 years overdue and it certainly does not go remotely far enough to vindicate tenants’ rights and create a fair rental market in this country but even the small steps in this Bill are welcome as an attempt to begin to remedy the worst deficiencies in tenancy law and to face up to the horrendous circumstances of many tenants.
At the end of November 2018, according to the official statistics by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, there were 3,811 homeless children in emergency accommodation managed by local authorities across the country. The Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, has admitted that some people were removed from the homeless figures and it has also been previously confirmed that these figures also did not include families in Direct Provision centres and in the domestic violence refuges.
Deputy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, when he expects the proposed register of landlords to be initiated and available for public inspection; given the continuing rise in rents and contribution of the rental sector to the Housing and Homeless crisis. Dublin rents increased by 9% in the period from July to September 2018 and have surpassed the heights of the Celtic Tiger Boom era.