Ó Caoláin confronts Minister on housing crisis
Counties such as Monaghan do not usually spring to mind when the housing crisis is mentioned - the focus is usually on the massive need in Dublin.
But the situation in Monaghan, where the numbers in need of local authority housing is small compared to Dublin and could be catered for quickly and efficiently, shows how the government has completely failed to address the crisis.
This crisis-level housing shortage in County Monaghan was outlined in trenchant terms by Sinn Féin Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to the Minister of State for Housing Bobby Molloy at the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment and Local Government this week.
The Sinn Féin TD pointed out the huge disparity between the promised local authority housing provision for County Monaghan and the actual delivery. He highlighted the fact that in 1997 there were 40 new house `starts' approved for Monaghan County Council, yet 21 of the 40 are not scheduled for completion until April 2000. There have been no completions of any of the entire programme of 38 accommodation units for 1998 undertaken by the County Council - every one of these scheduled for completion this year. The programmes for 1999 and 2000 are also backed up.
Ó Caoláin questioned if the Monaghan situation was similar to that applying in other local authority areas. ``There is a serious backlog in delivery of the Department's intent,'' he said. ``We had not a single local authority housing start in the Monaghan Urban Area in 1999. We are looking at a very negative picture, minister. There is a housing crisis and it demands immediate address.''
Ó Caoláin proposed that those tendering for local authority house-building projects should include confirmation of an available and adequate insurance bond at the time of tendering in order to eliminate serious delays, now regularly experienced, in the current processing procedures.
The Sinn Féin TD highlighted the fact that housing speculation is growing and is a significant block to people accessing affordable homes. He asked the minister to accept that there needs to be action by the government to curb speculation. He said:
``In our pre-Budget submission, we in Sinn Féin argued for an increase in Capital Gains Tax on speculative owners of multiple dwellings. Such a tax could be introduced on a phased basis over two years at 40% in April 2001, and 60% in April 2002. I would like to hear the minister's view.
``I would also like to hear his view on the idea of statutory Rent Control in private rented accommodation. We have a disgraceful situation in terms of substandard accommodation and high rents. The local authorities have not been given the resources to implement existing legislation regarding accommodation standards in the private rented sector.''
The minister is due to return to the Committee to respond to the Sinn Féin TD's points and those of other members.