Fianna Fail backbenchers have been accused of staging a “bizarre intervention” after they published proposed amendments to Darragh O’Brien’s housing bill.
Senator Mary Fitzpatrick called for the strengthening of their own minister’s Affordable Housing Bill through the introduction of eight amendments.
Ms Fitzpatrick and TDs Paul McAuliffe and Joe Flaherty said the legislation will address Ireland’s “dysfunctional housing system”.
The Fianna Fail members, who sit on the Oireachtas housing committee, called for the Department of Housing to require all housing authorities to publish three, five and ten-year targets for affordable homes.
Speaking from the plinth at Leinster House, Ms Fitzpatrick said they published the amendments to ensure the minister’s “hand is strengthened”.
The Affordable Housing Bill 2021 is going through the final stages of completing its pre-legislative scrutiny.
“We think the legislation really strong, that it can deliver a change in our housing system, but we think it can be strengthened,” Ms Fitzpatrick added.
“We want to expand Part V to provide for a minimum of 10% affordable homes on all sites.
“We want local authorities, the approved housing bodies and non-for profit NGOs to take a real lead in delivering affordable homes to purchase and rent.
“We all come from a local authority background and we know the frustrations being a local authority member, and being unable to get the local authority executive to deliver.
We think the legislation really strong, that it can deliver a change in our housing system, but we think it can be strengthenedMary Fitzpatrick
“We want those housing assessments completed and we want them to urgently. We want the development plans stalled until those housing assessments are completed.
“Once the legislation is enacted within six months, we want every local authority to set affordable housing targets.
“We also want to put a bit of a fire under the Public Expenditure and Housing (departments) to approve applications that come from local authorities.
“Currently the approval process goes back and forth between the department of housing and public expenditure for months and into years.
“That’s not good enough.”
The Senator denied there is a split in the party over the Bill, saying they have discussed the proposals with the housing minister.
“We want to make sure the minister’s hand is strengthened within Cabinet and within all the Government departments,” the Senator added.
“We will be pushing hard to ensure these amendments are included.”
Mr McAuliffe, a TD for Dublin North West, said: “One thing we’ve seen is that prior to this legislation, there wasn’t a legislative basis for councillors to be ambitious about development, so they will now have a council-led affordable scheme and an affordable rental scheme.
“Our real message here today is that we want local governments to be ambitious about that too.”
Sinn Fein’s Eoin O Broin accused the Fianna Fail members of failing to understand the legislation.
The party’s housing spokesman added: “It seems that they think they are in confidence and supply while they are in government and opposition at the same time.
“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a group of Government backbenchers asking a minister to amend his legislation from the plinth, normally you would do that either in committee or talking to your colleagues.
“What’s more concerning is that it’s clear that the deputies and senator neither understand the Bill, nor the minister’s intentions.
“There are at least three points in their press release that the minister has already committed to.
“He’s already committed to the shared equity loan scheme only being for new build schemes.
“He already said there will be local price caps.
“I think that was quite a bizarre intervention by the members of the committee by the members of the committee and it troubles me that they don’t seem to understand the legislation or the minister’s proposals.”