I want to give my full support to my colleague, Senator Grace O'Sullivan, and the Bill as I feel it is dealing directly with the housing crisis that our country is facing, something about which the Minister is passionate.
I know the Minister is aware that, in 2016, some 20 families were evicted from their homes every month, including 40 children, which is shocking. These children have been left without a home and security, which must have had a detrimental impact on their lives. We owe it to the most vulnerable in our society, to whom Deputy Kelleher referred, to do our best to find solutions to improve these circumstances. This Bill is a step in the right direction.
As it stands, Ireland’s approach to housing provision to date has been disconnected. Home ownership, the private rented sector, social housing and homelessness have all been approached in isolation when, in fact, they are all interconnected. There are unused buildings and land in prime areas, yet there are homeless people sleeping on the streets. It just does not make sense.
Accessing unused buildings could be part of the solution to the housing crisis. The Bill suggests making the registration of derelict sites more transparent. This will make registration publicly accessible in order for the public to be aware of the process of registering derelict buildings.
We need incentives to get unused land back and I feel the suggestion in this Bill to raise the levy to 5% will do this. It will help to discourage people from holding onto unused sites, which is doing very little to help our country and the housing crisis. The levy increase, therefore, should be strongly considered. It is important to note that this levy will only apply in areas where need for housing already exists, so there will be no tax imposed on empty sites in rural parts of Ireland.
It is extremely important that we get these sites back into circulation in order to create more stable and safer housing for our citizens. This is an issue that needs immediate attention and I urge the Minister and all Senators to support the Bill.