Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Deputy Séamus Healy questions An Taoiseach regarding local authority housing and housing adaptation grants.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
This year the Government has cut the capital allocation for local authority and voluntary housing by over €106 million. This is in the context of huge reductions already, from €1.5 billion in 2008 to €585 million in 2013. Recent figures for waiting lists for local authority housing have reached the shocking number of approximately 100,000 or, to be precise, 98,318. The level of social housing building in Ireland is at zero. Local authority housing has been decimated. The local authorities’ budget for house building has been reduced from €367 million in 2010 to a paltry €65 million in 2013. Capital funding for voluntary and co-operative housing this year has been cut by €15 million, from €70 million to €55 million, a reduction of 21%. The public house building programme is almost non-existent and because of this, the numbers on housing waiting lists have increased hugely, from 56,000 in 2008 to 98,000 – the most recent figure – an increase of 40,000 families languishing on housing waiting lists. The Government has abandoned the social housing building programme. This is another reason the Labour Party is at 6% in the polls. It had a proud record in providing local authority housing, but it has done a U-turn on this issue also. What is happening is that house building has been privatised and developers and landlords are being paid, instead of putting the money into building houses. They are being paid through schemes such as the rent supplement scheme and the paying of mortgages over and over again through the rental accommodation scheme and the long-term leasing scheme. In view of the huge numbers languishing on local authority house waiting lists, will the Taoiseach agree that a major public house building programme should be commenced by the Government? Such a programme would provide a major stimulus for the economy, create thousands of jobs, provide badly needed homes for families on waiting lists, reduce social welfare expenditure and save money. Will the Government immediately commence a major house building programme for the 100,000 families languishing on housing waiting lists?

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
I thank the Deputy for his comments and questions. Clearly, there is an increase in the number of applicants for adequate and proper housing, many of whom are on local authority lists. NAMA has offered 4,000 houses, of which, I think, 2,000 have been taken up by local authorities.

Sandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
A couple of hundred only.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Significant numbers of families are living in very small apartments, which is causing frustration and concern for many. I met the Construction Industry Federation the other day and I am aware that there are quite a number of good contractors and developers who have never been in NAMA and are not in the league of those deemed to be rogue builders or cowboys. The people concerned want to see a construction centre that has integrity, can be trusted and will measure up. This is an issue the Government will look at, but I am not going to confirm what moneys, if any, can be made available in the capital budget for it.
On the live register, there are at least 80,000 people who were involved in the construction sector in one way or another and there is clearly scope for a programme. For example, in the regeneration projects in Limerick and other locations there is a significant amount of public housing being built. I expect the response from local authorities to be improved in terms of the offers made by NAMA. As part of the budget, the Government will consider what is the best thing to do in respect of the increasing pressure from families seeking on public housing lists.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
It is obvious to everybody that the Government is refusing to fund a significant local authority and voluntary house building programme. However, will it at least spare the disabled, the ill and the elderly from cuts and give them some quality of life in their remaining years? This year the Government has cut the funding for housing adaption grants for persons with disabilities and ill and elderly people by €15 million, or 36%.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Can we have a question, please?

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
We now have a situation where we have ill and disabled persons who must crawl up the stairs and cannot have a shower or a bath, not because they have been refused a housing adaption grant, but because they cannot even be considered because the funding has been cut by the Government and the money has run out. Does the Government have any compassion for the people concerned?
Will the Government show some common decency and restore the €15 million that was cut from the scheme so these people can have reasonable living conditions in the later years of their lives? Will the Taoiseach at least spare the disabled, the ill and the elderly from these cuts?

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
Hear, hear.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Compassion and common decency are not exclusive to members of the Opposition.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I hope everybody in the House has compassion and common decency.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
This is why we listened to the sad saga of the women who were in the Magdalen laundries.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I did not ask about the Magdalen laundries. I asked about housing adaptation grants.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Please listen to the reply.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
This is why we are acting in respect of the people evacuated from their firetrap houses in Priory Hall. It is why the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy O’Sullivan, and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government met NAMA last week to discuss—–

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Every Deputy knows what I said is true. They deal with it every day of the week.

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
Deputy Healy is dead right.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Deputy Healy asked his question and I ask him to listen to the answer.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The Taoiseach is not answering the question.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
I am making the point to Deputy Healy in direct response to his comment that compassion and common decency are exclusive to people on that side of the House.

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
He never said that.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I said everybody in the House should have common decency. That is why I am asking the question.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
I ask Deputy Healy to stay quiet, please.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
It is why the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy O’Sullivan, and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government met NAMA last week—–
Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
It is a pity they did not meet the Priory Hall residents a couple of years ago.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
—–to discuss the question of speeding up transfers from NAMA for social housing.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Will the Taoiseach restore the cuts made to the housing adaptation grant? He will not.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
It is why the programme of voluntary housing and building takes into account many of the people Deputy Healy mentioned.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Are ill and elderly people going to have to—–

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
I ask Deputy Healy to stay quiet.

John Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
He is just trying to get an answer.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
It is why, in consideration of whatever limited capital is available for this area, priority will be given to the elderly and the disabled in the forthcoming budget.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Ill and elderly people cannot get a stairlift.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
The Minister of State with responsibility for housing has already made this point very clearly. I cannot deal with the specifics of what will be allocated, but within these constraints the Minister of State with responsibility for housing has already referred to the priorities that will be dealt with.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
It is shameful.


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