On a number of occasions, I have raised with the Minister and the Taoiseach the fact that my constituency of Dublin Bay North has the largest number of people on social housing waiting lists. In September, three families became homeless every day nationally. Week in, week out, I meet families with children who are sofa surfing and living in very overcrowded accommodation. A total of 35,000 people are living in such accommodation. Almost 10,000 more are homeless and living in emergency accommodation, hubs, hotels and guesthouses. There are also people sleeping in their cars or trying to do so as the weather begins to turn. What kind of hope can somebody like me give those families as we approach the Christmas period, particularly people in the offer zone, that the situation will be expedited? Has the Minister any plans to drastically improve the delivery of social housing in Dublin?
Following the recent tragic story of the couple left devastated (with one left seriously injured) after a scrambler crashed into them in Darndale Park, Deputy Broughan again raised the need for regulation, and if necessary prohibition, of use of scramblers. Deputy Broughan raised Parliamentary Questions with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross and Minister for Health, Simon Harris. Deputy Broughan requested information from Minister Harris on the number of children and adults who have been admitted to hospitals around the country due to injuries sustained with scramblers, quad bikes or other off-road mechanical vehicles. Unfortunately, this information was not yet available and the Deputy must await a report on the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018 was announced last October in budget 2018 and HBFI was expected to be functioning and giving out loans by the end of quarter 2 of 2018. It is now expected to be operational at the end of the year. One would think that there was not a housing crisis and no need for radical emergency measures, if we take nine months to bring in basic legislation.
During my speech on budget 2018, before details of the Bill emerged, I stated that Home Building Finance Ireland, HBFI, seemed “to be a very poor response to the many calls for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to establish a State developer of housing or a national housing executive” or a State development bank for housing. Based on the Bill before us, it is clear that I was correct. The €750 million fund to be made available to developers who cannot get loans or enough money elsewhere is expected to deliver around 6,000 homes. However, these are for-profit homes. Other than the usual Part V requirement of 10%, there are no stipulations that these loans are to provide affordable or social housing. We can come back to this point on Committee Stage.
We learned during statements on child homelessness last week that almost 10,000 people, including some 4,000 children, were homeless in May 2018. Members are aware that that is the tip of the iceberg because the number of hidden homeless is not recorded. I have repeatedly highlighted the situation in that regard in Dublin Bay North, the worst-affected constituency in Ireland. The suffering of homeless citizens and those on housing lists constantly shows that legislation such as that proposed by Deputy Wallace has been needed for many decades.
A number of constituents have been in contact with Deputy Broughan recently regarding their applications for mortgages under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan Scheme. These constituents have expressed their dismay that the Local Authority is charging mortgage protection insurance at far higher market rates than are available to other persons acquiring mortgages. According to the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan website: “All rates are exclusive of Mortgage Protection Insurance (MPI) which is a requirement of borrowing. Eligible borrowers are required to partake in the local authority collective MPI scheme. MPI is payable monthly, in addition to loan repayments”.
It must be said that this Fine Gael tax is grossly unfair. I am looking at figures from the statistics and economics research branch of the Revenue Commissioners which lists the percentages of homes with a valuation of over €300,000 based on returns five or six years ago. Dublin city comes in at 22%, Dún Laoghaire comes in at nearly 60%, Fingal comes in at 21%, south Dublin comes in at 19% while Wicklow and Kildare are also in the teens.
Deputy Broughan has today called for the management of Local Authorities to be much more proactive in addressing the Housing Crisis. Deputy Broughan consistently asks the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, around plans, strategies and updates on actions to address the crisis and those already underway. Often, Deputy Broughan is informed that many actions are a matter for the Local Authority.
A PQ reply no 514 of the 14th of November received by Deputy Broughan stated: “To this end, on 27 April 2017, details of some 1,700 hectares of land in local authority and Housing Agency ownership were published on the Rebuilding Ireland Housing Land Map, with the potential to deliver some 42,500 homes nationally. These sites can be viewed at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/rebuilding-ireland-land-map/. Local authorities are also required to confirm and update the data on a quarterly basis to ensure that the data held on this mapping database is fully up to date.
I disagree with the previous speaker. One need only look at my constituency in which there are two local authorities, Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council, which operate like totally different countries in many infrastructural, planning and other matters. There is a key need to have an all-Dublin approach for the good of citizens. A lot of people in my constituency, including that part of it which is in Fingal, do not care what local authority area they live in. They live in Dublin. While there is a Fingal hurling team, there is a single “Dubs” team and a single culture.
In Dáil Éireann today, Deputy Tommy Broughan has spoken in strong support of the Green Party’s Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2016 and he also stated that he supports Fianna Fáil’s Local Government Reform (Amendment) (Directly Elected Mayor of Dublin) Bill 2016 also before the Dáil this week. Deputy Broughan strongly believes that Dublin should have a directly elected Mayor and creating such a powerful post where the office holder is accountable to the people of Dublin will only bring positive changes to the management of the city.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak briefly on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016. It is welcome that the Bill is finally before us and provides for an office of the planning regulator, which was a key recommendation of the Flood-Mahon tribunal. Ordinary constituents and citizens welcome the idea of a regulator because we often have a situation in planning where some crass development is proposed which is not sustainable or is totally out of sync with its immediate district. Perhaps when people register their opposition to it they are supported by the council but when it goes to An Bord Pleanála, it overturns the decision and permission is granted. As it is now, the only recourse is to go to the High Court on a point of law. At least we will now have a regulator to whom our constituents can make a complaint. At that basic level, the idea of a regulator is welcome.