Bedsits under consideration as part of housing strategy

Bedsits may be on the way back as the Government examines a number of measures to solve the housing crisis, writes By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said he is examining the controversial measure as he defended the Government’s housing policies even as its central measures are under review or at risk of being scrapped.

Despite house prices being projected to rise by double digits this year and missing a July 1 deadline to move homeless families out of hotels, Mr Murphy said the Government is doing all it can to address the crisis.

He said several options are being considered including:

  • Scrapping the help-to-buy scheme;
  • Increasing the mortgage to rent scheme;
  • New builds;
  • A vacant property tax;
  • Forcing local authorities to use up to 700 land banks lying idle for years.

However, his admission that bedsit accommodation — which was strongly rejected under then housing minister Alan Kelly in 2015 due to claims that it would lead to sub-standard housing — is again under consideration is likely to lead to further criticism.

Asked about recent claims that he may reintroduce bedsit accommodation as a way to cool Ireland’s over-heating property market, Mr Murphy initially said the potential move is “just a suggestion”.

However, he said it is being considered among a number of other short-, medium-, and long-term housing options, provided any new units meet national housing standards which would be linked to the accommodation.

“It’s just a suggestion at the moment,” said Mr Murphy. “I think it’s important that, when I approach this review [of the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland housing policy], I don’t take anything off the table too soon until I’ve looked at it properly to see if it could be part of the solution.

“Again, this is about supply. So if we can find new sources of accommodation for people that suit their needs, that are up to the required standards, the minimum standards, and are robust, if that will work for people as a supply-side measure then yes I’m going to consider it.”

He returned to the issue in a question and answer session with Irish Council for Social Housing members, saying: “I used to live over a shop when I lived in Vienna. It’s much more common in European cities than it is in towns and cities in Ireland.

“In a lot of these towns, the space above the shop is redundant. So it’s a perfectly suitable piece of accommodation that could be used properly.”

He also rejected reports that the likely removal of the help-to-buy scheme would not be enough to bring the inflating housing market under control.

A report published yesterday by MyHome.ie said the scheme had contributed to a €24,000 surge in house prices in a three-month period.

The average asking price nationally for a three-bed semi-detached house is now €251,500, an increase of €24,000 in the last six months. The corresponding figure for Dublin was €360,000, an increase of €32,000.

The housing minister said the policy — which has been blamed for fuelling rising costs for first-time buyers since it was introduced by former housing minister Simon Coveney last year — is “only one part” of the Rebuilding Ireland policy, and stressed the focus remains on “making sure houses are being built”.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have blamed Government policies for the escalating housing crisis, criticising what they claimed were botched planning laws and tax schemes designed to help developers.

Meanwhile, Irish Council for Social Housing president Justin O’Brien said that while the focus on finding solutions is real, the Government must start prioritising the use of 700 local authority land banks stretching over 1,700 hectares which have been lying idle for years and with could be used to support tens of thousands of new homes.

This story first appeared in theIrish Examiner


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