Tag Archives: Housing

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varakar in the Dáil today

Just now.

In the Dáil…

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy repeatedly asked the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if it’s true that Dublin City Council only built 21 social housing units last year.

Mr Varadkar appeared to confirm the figure when he said that a breakdown of social housing figures is available, he has seen the figures, and “I imagine that that is correct”.

But his answer came after some time.

Ms Murphy is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and recalled a recent meeting of the committee involving  the Housing Department’s Secretary General John McCarthy whom, she said, stated “quite categorically” that the figures for council housing are extremely clear in terms of the breakdown/categorisation of these properties.

She said Mr McCarthy said the department publishes “quarterly updates in this regard” and he “refuted allegations of spin when it comes to the presentation of the figures”.

Ms Murphy said:

“In 2018, the social housing output figures, under local authority build, the number is listed as 2,022 but the minister has bundled all of those categories and has consistently refused to give a breakdown of local authority build by individual category.

“However, at the Public Accounts Committee meeting last week, the secretary general [Mr McCarthy] in response to questions I posed, finally gave us a breakdown of the figures for 2018.

“Those figures: 768 for turn-key units, 200 regeneration properties and that leaves a total of a 1,054 actual newly built local authority houses for 2018.

Why then the continued blurring of numbers by Minister Murphy?

Ms Murphy said that a few weeks ago Minister Murphy, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Gavin Jennings “grilled” the minister for a breakdown of the social housing output but his questions went unanswered while the minister said the figures would be available the following week.

But, Ms Murphy said, these figures still haven’t been made public, outside of being made available to the Public Accounts Committee; they’re not on the department’s website; and they’re not in the department’s press releases.

The Social Democrats co-leader then asked if the reason for the “reluctance” to give a clear breakdown of the output is that some councils are performing “very poorly”?

Ms Murphy then said:

“For example, it has been said that Dublin City Council, who are at the epicentre of this crisis, only built 21 houses last year or could it be red tape? We need to know?”

“So, Taoiseach, can we get some straight answers to the following questions please?

“Can you confirm that the new builds by local authorities, given to the Public Accounts Committee, by the Secretary General last week, are accurate?

Is it correct that Dublin City Council only built 21 units in 2018 themselves?

“And what’s the actual breakdown by local authority of the 1,054 new builds in 2018?”

In his response, the Taoiseach said people receiving homes don’t ever raise the categorisation of social housing.

He added:

What matters as a fact is that last year 9,000 – more than any in ten years – 9,000 families moved into social housing with secure tenancies and we shouldn’t obsess ourselves about whether it’s done through an affordable housing body or local authority, or trust or Part 5, Part 8 or Part 26. That’s not what matters.”

Ms Murphy said knowing the breakdown does matter.

She said knowing the breakdown allows people to know what’s cost effective and value for money.

“We need to get those breakdowns so that information can be evaluated. This is public information, it’s public money. Why are you so reluctant to give the figures in a way that breaks it down and you can make those comparisons?

Is it true that Dublin City Council built 21 houses last year? The performance of our local authorities matters because they’re going to be the ones that are going to deliver, if we’re actually going to deliver the kind of numbers that are needed, to actually get a grip on this crisis.

“You cannot keep on answering questions in the way you did. The breakdown matters.”

Mr Varadkar said:

Deputy, I’m advised by the minister of state behind me that those figures are available and I’ve seen breakdown so I imagine that that is correct and they are available.

“But I think you’ve got it wrong here. The truth is, after years of running into problems, years of delays, when we didn’t have the money to do it, after years and years of trouble, we’re now delivering on social housing, increasing the housing stock by 9,000 last year.

“We’ll increase it by even more this year. And what you’re trying to do, is you don’t want people to know that. So you’re trying to make that housing provided by affordable housing body like Peter McVerry Trust or the Iveagh Trust doesn’t exist.”

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

From top: Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised a report by Louise Byrne on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Rebuilding Ireland’s Home Loan Scheme this morning.

Ms Byrne reported that, according to documents she obtained under Freedom Of Information, the Department of Housing – in a briefing note dated January 31, 2019, to its press office – said further approvals are not currently being issued for these particular loans.

Specifically, the note said the department “has been advised that no further approvals should issue for now”.

These loans allow first-time buyers to borrow up to 90 per cent of a property’s value from their local authority.

Those wishing to secure one of these loans have to show they’ve been turned down for mortgage approval by two banks.

Gross earnings cannot exceed €50,000 for a single person or €75,000 for a couple.

In light of Ms Byrne’s report, Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea was told in December 2018 by the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy that “he was progressing reforms to ensure the loan can work for more people and more quickly”.

Mr Martin said:

I don’t know what planet the minister is on? But the question I would ask Taoiseach is: Why wasn’t the scheme extended? Why hasn’t it been extended? Why was there no public announcement to the effect, in other words, if you tell your press office, surely deserve the public deserve to know?

“And why wasn’t the Dáil told: upfront and in an honest way?

“Why this kind of continuing lack of respect for the House? In terms of being open, upfront and honest in terms of what is going on? In terms of schemes of this kind?

“People are still applying but nobody has been approved, nobody has been told that no further approvals will issue except your press office according to a Freedom of Information on RTÉ this morning?”

“Why can’t the Minister and the Government just be honest with the people in terms of these issues? And could the Taoiseach bring clarity to this? When will this scheme be extended and to what degree will the scheme be extended?”

“The original limit was €200million; 1,000 houses were to be, allegedly by the minister, accommodated. We’ve had about 1,550, if not more, applications accepted. So will those people, who’ve been approved, will they be in a position to draw down their loans?”

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil 575 people have secured loans under the scheme to date while a further 1,000 applications have been approved but the money has yet to be withdrawn in respect of those.

He said the scheme was initially limited at €200m and that figure has been allocated.

He added:

“But as loans are not drawn down and loans do expire after six months, if they’re not drawn down, more finance does become available.

What we have to consider now is two things: is to whether we should increase the cap above €200m, and that’s currently under consideration of Government, and we also have to consult with the Central Bank as well because this is a mortgage, it is a loan, it’s a loan being offered to people being turned down by banks, building societies and it is a loan at a reduced interest rate.”

In response, Mr Martin asked Mr Varadkar when he discovered that the Department of Housing had to do these two things.

He said:

“Cause the minister said back, last year, that we’re not going to wait for the fund to run out, before we build up a second fund to allow a continuation of the scheme with whatever changes we might deem necessary. The minister said there was going to be no issue here.”

Mr Martin added:

It’s low-income people again being let down. Hopes raised and then dashed with fanfare by the Government in terms of raising the hope. The dashing of the hope is done silently, quietly. Why wasn’t this, what you just said to the House, said by the minister in parliamentary replies?”

“…Why all the secrecy? And the silence around it. Why can’t you guys just be up front with people?

Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin – after Mr Martin accused him of prancing about the place – “while you’re prancing about the place and wagging the finger and telling us off, we’re actually doing things, doing things in the real world that help people”.

He said the Government has helped 10,000 people buy their first home.

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Yikes.

In fairness.

Earlier: Modern Living

Previously: “I’m Aware Of The Fact We’re Above 10,0000”


Results from a poll commissioned by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (click to enlarge)

Today is International Human Rights Day.

To mark the day, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has released the findings of a poll of 1,200 people in Ireland.

The Amárach Research poll found, among other things:

“82% of people generally, and 89% of 18-24-year olds believe that housing should be considered as a human right. 63% of people generally, and 78% of 18-24-year olds believe that a right to housing should be entered into Ireland’s Constitution.”

Read the poll’s results in full here

From top: Building site, Dublin; Architect Mel Reynolds

Mel Reynolds writes:

In April, Minister Damian English suggested that 7,000 social homes were built last year. Subsequent official statements and reports clarified this figure down to 780 local authority builds.

Detailed analysis of the quarterly Rebuilding Ireland Construction Status Report 2017 confirms that just 394 local authority homes were built. The balance of 386 were ‘turnkey’ new homes purchased from private sector developments.

Eleven councils built none.

Readers will recall Madeira Oaks in Wexford, a passive scheme featured in issue 15 of Passive House Plus.

Eight new homes purchased by Wexford County Council in 2017 are recorded by the Department of Housing as council builds.

In eighteen months local authorities built 613 homes, plus a further 415 by approved housing bodies (AHBs). One thousand, two hundred and fifty six ‘turnkey’ private sector homes were purchased in the same period. Official figures conceal very low levels of local authority building.

What resources are available?

Finance and industry capacity need to be assessed, but land availability is critical.

Minister Eoghan Murphy has suggested enhanced land ‘compulsory purchase’ powers for councils and a new agency to manage and buy more land. Are these needed?

The state controls or owns more than one quarter of all zoned residential development land nationwide, enough land to accommodate 114,000 dwellings.

In Dublin City three out of every four vacant residential zoned sites is either owned by Dublin City Council or by a Nama debtor, enough to accommodate 71,000 dwellings.

Details of 700 sites and 1,700 hectares (ha) owned by councils and the Housing Agency were published in the Rebuilding Ireland Land Availability Survey last year. However, this is only a small part of the state-owned land.

Based on seven council returns, the extent of land owned by councils is 8,844 hectares (21,854 acres), five times greater.

In Fingal and South Dublin, the amount of council-owned land declared in Rebuilding Ireland is 132 hectares. The actual figure, including roads and parkland, is 6,761 hectares.

These two councils own 67.6 sq km, a land-bank bigger than San Marino, a small European country.

Even if a fraction of this land is suitable for future development, there is capacity to rezone to residential use for decades.

The proposed development in Cherrywood in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown is 360 hectares, half the size of Phoenix Park, and will accommodate eight thousand dwellings, a town centre and 350,000 sqm of commercial space.

Fingal and South Dublin own the equivalent of nineteen Cherrywood’s, yet built 83 homes between them last year. South Dublin County Council built none.

The National Economic & Social Council (NESC) has confirmed that public land has a central role in the supply of affordable housing and recommended that rather than selling, state land-banks should be actively managed and used to drive the provision of affordable housing.

What needs to be done (and when)?

Last year 17,900 households experienced rental distress and signed up for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). This is to increase in 2018 and up to €950m on various supported rental programmes will be spent this year. At current rates of increase more than €5bn will be spent on state rent assistance by 2021.

Two years ago, an all-party Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness recommended an annual target of 10,000 social homes for the next ten years. An additional 5,000 affordable homes are needed per annum.

These are not, and will not, be provided by the public sector. At least 35% of a typical sales price in County Dublin is land value and developer’s profit. Private sector building is sluggish, concentrated mainly in Dublin and aimed at the top 20% of earners.

So-called state LIHAF (local infrastructure housing activation fund) funding is aimed at large developments, providing infrastructure funding for privately-owned land banks in the expectation that a future sales discount will be applied.

No legal agreements or projected sales prices have been published by developers in receipt of funding to date. Remaining LIHAF funding should be exclusively aimed at unlocking public land and its development potential.

Does it matter that homes are purchased rather than built by the state? Some officials consider that there is no difference – a home is a home.

But it is much cheaper and quicker to build a local authority home; the state is in total control of the process, from planning to completion.

The average ‘all-in’ cost of a two-bedroom local authority home is less than €200,000.

According to the CSO, average new Dublin house prices range from €389,343 (South Dublin) to €649,295 (Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown).

Co-ops, in partnership with councils, can build affordable homes for sale for similar prices.

Only one such scheme of just 37 co-op homes is planned in partnership with Dublin City Council.

At least two local authority social and affordable homes can be built for the price of one purchased from the private sector in Dublin.

Two houses for the price of one (Mel Reynolds, Passive House Plus)

Members and supporters of the group Dublin Tenants Association holding a picket outside the headquarters of Ires REIT on Grand Canal Dock, Dublin in July 2017

In May 2017.

Fiona Reddan, in The Irish Times, reported that two-bed apartments in The Maple apartment complex in Sandyford, owned by Ires REIT, were set to be rented out for €2,750, setting a new rental price record in the area in the process.

Members and supporters of Dublin Tenants Association subsequently protested outside the offices of Ires REIT.

On Saturday, Craig Farrell, in The Irish Sun, reported that, due to a legal loophole, tenants of The Maple apartments were facing rental price hikes of up between 20 and 26 per cent – despite the apartments being situated in a Rent Pressure Zone where rent can only be increased by four per cent per year.

Last Friday, several tenants protested outside the Ires REIT offices after getting letters from Ires REIT about the pending rental increase.

Last night, Ms Reddan, of The Irish Times, reported Ires REIT has abandoned it’s plans to increase rent by 20 to 26 per cent and, instead, will increase the cost by four per cent.

Ms Reddan reported:

“The Maple was launched last summer, setting new rent highs for the area, coming on the market at €1,925 for a one-bed and €2,570 for a two-bed apartment. Some tenants of the development, which is at full occupancy, were told that their rents would rise to as much as €2,800 following the proposed rent hike, which was due to kick in on January 1st 2019.

“However, following a demonstration outside the offices of the landlord by affected tenants, and engagement with the property company, Ires will now apply a lower rate of rent increase, of 4 per cent, at the development.”

There you go now.

State’s biggest private landlord shelves 25% rent rise in Dublin (Fiona Reddan, The Irish Times)

Previously: IRES My Case

REIT It And Weep

This afternoon.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweets a video of himself speaking about what he says the Government is doing to tackle the housing crisis.

In the video, Mr Varadkar pretty much repeats what he told the Dáil on Wednesday – including  the line that there will be 20,000 new homes built this year.

Meanwhile…

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil on September 18 that about 30,000 or 35,000 homes are needed.

Via Namawinelake

Previously: “I Could Speak For Hours”

In Cork.

This afternoon.

President Michael D Higgins responds to journalists asking him about the homeless crisis.

Earlier: Ship Happens

Thanks John

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised the housing crisis and asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if he could explain “the absence of delivery [of housing] across the board” and if he accepted Ireland was in an “emergency”.

Mr Varadkar said he’s already on record as saying there’s an emergency and said he knows people across Ireland are frustrated with the pace of delivery of houses and that he’s frustrated, too.

He said he could “speak for hours” about all the things the Government is doing to fix the crisis but he said he’d mentioned the five main strands of the Government’s response to the crisis.

He said Ireland will undergo the “biggest social housing programme in decades in Ireland” with “over 100,000” social houses to be provided over the next ten years  and “8,000 this year alone”.

He said the Government is also “accelerating the supply of homes for people to buy” with 20,000 new houses and apartments to be built in Ireland this year and 25,000 next year.

Mr Varadkar also mentioned how the Government brought in rent caps in urban areas to “put a stop to the spiralling double digit rent increases”.

And he said “rough sleeping” is down by 40 per cent and “that didn’t happen by accident”.

He said: “It happened because we worked with NGOs and charities to get people off the streets.”

And, finally, he spoke about the recent launch of the Land Development Agency.

Further to this…

Dáil proceedings can be watched live here

Earlier: Rising Slowly

This morning.

Government news service Merrion Street tweetz:

The Minister for Housing and Minister for Health are launching the National Implementation Plan for Housing First at St. Agatha’s Court in Dublin this morning.

There you go now.

Earlier: Anne Marie McNally: Out Of Reach