Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Neglect of housing part of wider assault on rural and coastal communities - Ferris

2 November, 2006


Sinn Féin's Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD, speaking today on a bill put forward by Sinn Féin to reverse changes in Part V of the Planning and Development Act said that while there was a perception that housing waiting lists was an urban problem, the housing crisis was damaging to rural communities as well. He went on to say that 'Housing is another example where rural communities are left knocking on the door of the Dublin political establishment' and pointed out that waiting lists have been spiralling in his own home county.

The Kerry North TD said: "The media would have us believe that the phenomenon of housing wait lists is one peculiar to urban areas, to the major towns and cities. But in some ways, although the figures might be smaller, in rural areas the damage inflicted by waiting lists and people being forced out of their communities in search of housing are even more damaging. The numbers might be smaller, but so are the communities themselves.

"Agricultural and fishing communities have been under sustained attack by the policies of this Government. Over the summer, the Government abolished the sugar beet industry in this state. Today, they announced the destruction of the drift-net salmon fishing industry. Rural and coastal communities, long abandoned by this Government in its fanatical determination to ensure all investment is based around Dublin and its suburbs, now find their existing industries under attack.

"Housing is another example where rural communities are left knocking on the door of the Dublin political establishment. Despite the growth that has taken place in house-building in the past number of years, rural communities are a section of society that has not reaped the benefits. Poverty and exclusion, unemployment and inadequate income are suffered by those both in rural and urban areas but they tend to manifest themselves differently in rural communities. These results arise from different social factors such as depopulation, poor transport and limited access to other essential services and facilities.

"One of the key issues in rural communities is that the increasing cost of housing very often leaves people 'priced out' of the housing market. This state of affairs means people are forced to move to the nearest town which further depopulates the rural area. They are forced out to make room for the holiday homes and the getaway cottages of the business class and the very developers profiting from the loophole introduced in Part V.

"People from rural communities have a right to live in rural areas and they have a right to demand that Government policy supports sustainable development. Many people brought up in a rural community want to remain in a place where they feel secure in the knowledge that they 'belong' in that community, which is built upon strong family connections. More importantly it is only by people living in those communities that they can be kept sustainable. For too long people living in the countryside have been neglected when it comes to housing. Because of inept government policy there is little opportunity for people to access housing in rural areas.

"In my own county, Kerry, the numbers on Council waiting lists jumped spectacularly between 2002 and 2005. Those waiting for housing with Kerry County Council went from 512 in 2002 to 883 in 2005, a 72% increase in 3 years, and the second largest percentage rise in the state. Astonishingly Tralee Town Council's waiting list saw the state's largest percentage rise, with 512 waiting in 2002 to 948 waiting in 2005. That's an astonishing 85% increase in those awaiting council accommodation in Tralee. Listowel Town also had an increase of 22%, with 108 waiting in 2002 to 132 waiting in 2005. Out of 1,657 new house completions in Kerry between January and July 2006, 1,526 were private

house completions. In other words only 131 social or affordable houses were built in Kerry during that period.

"Addressing the inadequacies of rural housing policy by amending the Part V to insist that 20% of new developments, regardless of whether they are in an urban or rural setting, will go some way to providing social and affordable housing for people in rural areas. In the past the Government has not being willing to admit that there are local authority waiting lists in rural areas. More often than not, the right to have a home in your own community is extinguished because of the Government's willingness to toe the line of the movers and shakers, the fundraisers and donors, in the construction industry.

"Let us be very, very clear about this. There should be absolutely no buy-out clause for developers. Providing 20% is still not the complete answer to solving the housing problem. There will be people who say that we need more than 20% and Sinn Fein supports that wholeheartedly. It will not address the lack of investment in rural communities, nor the unceasing attacks on existing agricultural and fishing communities, but it would be a valuable step in the right direction.

"In 2000, Fianna Fáil's Eddie Wade told the House referring to Part V that, "This provision is the best way to guarantee housing for all who need it. As the Celtic tiger passes over Ireland, there is no excuse for hard-working citizens to be denied a new home in which to live." Well, the Celtic Tiger didn't pass over every part of Ireland and it certainly never passed over my constituency, and thousands of hard-working citizens are denied their homes by this Government.

"We have an opportunity to do something to address this in the House tonight and I call on all TDs to support this bill."

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