Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
There is a very significant housing crisis in this country and the figures are truly horrendous. A total of 90,000 families languish on local authority housing waiting lists throughout the country. A total of 73,000 families are on rent supplement, in many cases, condemned to live in poor, substandard, damp and insecure accommodation.
For example, in Tipperary, 3,100 people are on the local authority housing waiting list and not a single local authority house will be built in 2015. No council, including Tipperary, has been given a capital allocation for housing this year as yet. This means that the council will be lucky to build any houses in 2016 – or at the very most, it will be at the end of 2016 before they are built.
This huge housing crisis is a result of the policies pursued by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and by this Government slashing the local authority house building programme and privatising housing. The 2020 social housing strategy is a continuation of that privatisation. At the end of that period, we will find that three quarters of the social housing will be provided by private rented accommodation, with only 5,800 new local authority builds per year. Some 40 years ago, in 1975, we were building 8,794 local authority houses. We need to repeat those figures; we need to build at least 10,000 local authority houses for people on the housing waiting list. There is no doubt that the privatisation of public housing has been an absolute disaster. No less a person than Uachtarán na hÉireann has drawn our attention to the issue. He has stated that we have to accept once and for all that people who need housing and cannot provide that from their own means should not be abandoned to the market place and the principle should be accepted that their housing should be as good as any other housing. He stated that one of the most basic deprivations a human being can suffer or fear, is that of being homeless. He further stated that it is about democracy, that one cannot leave the provision of housing to a residual feature of the market place. We have done that and homelessness is the consequence. He also stated that we have to accept that we need a great, huge increase in public rental accommodation.
The Irish Council for Social Housing said something similar when it stated that the over-reliance on the private market to meet social housing demand is unsustainable and ultimately unpredictable. Barnardos states that it is seriously concerned about the scale of the housing crisis now facing many low-income families, particularly those reliant on social welfare.
Many children experience their childhood in overcrowded, unsuitable and insecure accommodation, which affects their social, emotional and educational development. We need an emergency public house building programme, with an absolute minimum of 10,000 local authority builds every year. This programme would be self-financing and would make common sense. It would put construction workers back to work and ensure additional PAYE income for the State. It would also ensure a saving to the State in social welfare payments and it would provide additional rental income for the State. It would also support the local economy, as it would put money in people’s pockets which would ensure a huge boost for local shops and businesses in danger of closing.
What we have heard from the Minister and the Government this evening is not the real world. A total of 90,000 families are on local authority house waiting lists, which is a huge figure. These thousands of families are condemned to live in insecure, poor and substandard accommodation. This must stop.