Government unlikely to deliver ANY affordable homes in Monaghan by 2025 – Carthy
The government are unlikely to deliver a single affordable house in County Monaghan between now and 2025. That’s according to Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, who questioned the Minister for Housing on the matter in the Dáil last week.
Deputy Carthy was questioning Minister Darragh O’Brien on the day it was revealed that just 8 affordable homes had been completed across the state last year.
Carthy told the Dáil that the current lack of ‘a where and when’ in the governments so-called housing strategy leaves it ‘hard to comprehend’ how any affordable homes will be delivered in Monaghan over the term of this government
During the debate with the Minister for Housing, Carthy highlighted that a family of two adults and four children would need an income of below €28,750 in order to be considered eligible for the housing waiting list while even if their income was twice that level they may still face problems in securing a mortgage.
The exchange went as follows:
Deputy Matt Carthy: “According to its most recently published strategy, the Government intends to provide 54,000 affordable home interventions, which is an interesting term, between now and 2030. How many of those affordable homes will be delivered in County Monaghan between now and 2025? Will the Minister outline his definition of “affordable” in those instances?”
Minister Darragh O’Brien: “As the Deputy stated, the Housing for All strategy delivers on a programme for Government commitment to step up housing supply and put affordability back at the heart of the housing system with an ambitious target of 300,000 homes over the next decade for social, affordable, cost-rental, private rental and private ownership housing. Measures to deliver this housing are supported by over €4 billion in funding annually, representing the highest ever level of Government investment in building social or affordable homes. Some 54,000 affordable homes will be delivered between now and 2030, to be facilitated by local authorities, approved housing bodies, the Land Development Agency and through a strategic partnership between the State and retail banks.
“Delivery of affordable housing, in accordance with the schemes set out in the Affordable Housing Act 2021, which Sinn Féin supported, and the funding being made available, will be underpinned by the preparation by local authorities of housing delivery action plans, which they are currently preparing. Local authorities will be submitting their plans, to include measures relating to social and affordable housing, to me before the end of December 2021. This will allow each local authority, including Monaghan County Council, to determine any affordability constraints in their area based on the housing need and demand assessment and to plan provision accordingly. It is the first time local authorities have had this mechanism through the housing need and demand assessment. Furthermore, a new Croí Cónaithe fund will be supporting home ownership in towns throughout the country by making serviced sites available at a reduced cost or by providing support towards the refurbishment of vacant properties where the level of vacancy or dereliction is high. A pathfinder programme, as I mentioned to colleagues earlier, will be initiated later this year to facilitate making some 2,000 sites available for homes.”
Matt Carthy: “In order for a strategy to work, and we can leave aside the debate on the wider strategy itself, it is crucially important that we know the where and the when. It is hard for me to comprehend how we could say that the local authority will provide the Minister with a plan or vision by the end of this year and that, within that context, any affordable houses will be delivered in County Monaghan by 2025 considering that there are no proposals for that right now.
“The crucial difficulty is that in order for a family of two adults and four children in County Monaghan to even be considered eligible for the housing waiting list, their income needs to be below €28,750. If a couple with four children had twice that income, even allowing for house prices in Monaghan, they would probably not secure a mortgage. Those income limits must be increased but there must also be a middle route for those who cannot get a mortgage or avail of social housing.”
Darragh O’Brien: “This is kind of a different question but it is related. I agree with the Deputy on that. We have discussed this, and the review of the social housing limits is under way. We intend to publish that shortly. On affordable homes in Monaghan in particular, early delivery of affordable housing will arise from previously approved serviced sites funding of local authority schemes where construction has commenced. In the new year the first homes scheme, which will also be in place and which will apply to Monaghan, will begin to provide affordable homes in every county across the country. Under the serviced sites fund, which is being replaced by the affordable housing fund, Monaghan County Council submitted no schemes to the Department. That is a fact, not a criticism. Accordingly, there are no schemes in the pipeline in Monaghan. That is why we are asking it to bring forward any other measures it would envisage. We have to look at where we will be focusing affordability measures. In Clones, for example, the average house price is about €96,000 and the median price across the county is €161,500. Each local authority will have to identify areas where they believe they have affordability and viability constraints. Every local authority will have access to affordability measures, particularly under the shared equity scheme that would apply to all mortgage holders across the country.”
Matt Carthy: “Therein lies part of the problem. The Minister is correct that house prices in Monaghan are lower than in other parts of the State. My fear is that local authority officials and the Department will consider that Monaghan is not a priority for affordable housing. The difficulty is that we see the pressures that are already building, even in a county like Monaghan.
“House prices in County Monaghan, according to the most recent daft.ie report, have increased by 17.5% in the last year, the average house price is now €204,000, which is way beyond the means of many people in terms of mortgage supports.
“Crucially, rents in Monaghan have increased by 13.8% over the past year and are now at just under €900. In the context of the position across the State, those might appear to be local issues that are of low priority. The problem is, however, that we know that when the prices across the State reflected this and when action was not taken, we ended up with the overall prices we have now. The solution is to start planning and to build and supply affordable houses now rather than when house prices are out of control.”
Darragh O’Brien: “I do not disagree with the Deputy on that. If we go back to social housing, our Housing for All plan will ensure that we have an average of over 10,000 new homes built across the country each year, including in Monaghan. It is important that we are tackling our social housing waiting list there.
“On the provision of affordable homes, we passed the Affordable Housing Act 2021 before the summer recess. It was supported by Sinn Féin, and we are grateful for that. The Act is the most comprehensive affordable housing legislation ever passed by the Oireachtas. If the Deputy will excuse the pun, that puts in place the building blocks to be able to provide those affordable homes across the country. The latter will take a bit of time. We do not underestimate the challenge involved, but affordable homes will be delivered in Ireland next year and some will be delivered later this year. We already have the first tenants in cost rental homes from cost rental schemes that did not exist 12 months ago.
“We are ambitious for our country. We are also ambitious in the context of ensuring that people can live in affordable homes across the 26 counties of this State. We are asking each local authority to point to areas where they believe they have affordability constraints. Monaghan County Council will submit that report to me by December.”
Housing Income Limits
During a subsequent engagement with Minister of State Peter Burke TD, Deputy Carthy said that the income thresholds for eligibility for social housing needed to be increased. He said:
“Many people are surprised to learn that income thresholds are a relatively new phenomenon.
“It was a Labour Party Minister, to its shame, that introduced them in order, I contend, to simply reduce the housing lists. Rather than build houses, mechanisms were found to cut the lists.
“Prior to that, housing lists were determined on a raft of criteria, including income. It was taken into account and allowed local authorities to recognise the realities. In many counties, mine included, the income limit for two adults and four children is €28,750. That means anybody above that has been told for the last decade that they have to rent for the rest of their lives if they cannot qualify for a mortgage.
The review has been ongoing for well over a year. It should not take that long for a review to be completed. I urge the Minister of State to tell his officials to get the finger out and get this resolved.”