I am delighted to support this Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2017 and I warmly commend our colleagues in People Before Profit and Solidarity on bringing it before the House. This afternoon at Leaders’ Questions, I listened in disbelief as the Taoiseach kept spinning about 80 citizens being housed each day. We all know that this mainly refers to citizens and families entering HAP and so-called family hubs and that the delivery of social and affordable housing continues to be non-existent or a trickle.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute briefly today on the motion tabled by my Independents 4 Change colleague, Deputy Mick Wallace, calling for a commission of investigation into the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland portfolio, known as Project Eagle. Deputy Mick Wallace and his team have done sterling work in bringing the grave concerns about the sale of Project Eagle to the attention of the House and the wider public. They must be commended on highlighting an issue of such enormous national importance. They have continued to raise it when, as we have seen today, the Government and the main Opposition party clearly have no appetite for an open and transparent discussion.
Deputy Broughan has made a submission to the Dáil Committee on Housing and Homelessness before the deadline of 5pm tomorrow. As an elected representative for Dublin Bay North, Deputy Broughan has been receiving large volumes of correspondence from families being accommodated temporarily (and unsuitably) in local hotels and guest houses. Dublin Bay North also comprises areas with the highest numbers on social housing waiting lists in the Dublin region. Deputy Broughan put forward some possible solutions to the current Housing and Homeless crisis which requires a multi-faceted, cross-party effort to make any real progress this year.
Yesterday’s Budget 2016 unveiled plans for NAMA to deliver 20,000 residential units by the end of 2020 and today, in Dáil Éireann, Deputy Broughan challenges the Government on why this is not the entire solution to Ireland’s housing emergency. Over 90,000 people are on social housing waiting lists nationwide and growing numbers are accessing emergency homeless services due to spiralling rents and mortgage arrears. As part of a €4.5 billion package, Ministers Noonan and Howlin, yesterday announced that we are returning to the old, failed system of developer-led residential construction.
Deputy Broughan has today received figures from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government that appear to indicate that there were less than 300 vacant Local Authority dwellings in 2013. Following on from liaising with the Irish Housing Network, which have recently reclaimed the unused Bolton Street Hostel and a detailed reported released by Dublin City Council (DCC) on the demographics of their 21,592 strong housing list, Deputy Broughan requested information from Minister Kelly on vacant housing stock, in both Local Authorities and NAMA stock.
It is regrettable that the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Barrett, has refused to permit a question requiring the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, to explain to the Dáil the information available to the Economic Management Council (EMC) regarding write-downs of state assets since 2011.