Housing Minister defends new 'affordable' housing developments

Housing Minister defends new 'affordable' housing developments

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has been forced to defend new "affordable" housing developments after it emerged the majority of their prices are above the Government's own affordable housing salary price range.

Mr Murphy rejected opposition claims the new units for sale or rent at O Devaney Gardens in Dublin and at a site at Enniskerry in Wicklow are out of reach for most people.

At the first Oireachtas housing committee meeting of the new Dáil term, Mr Murphy was repeatedly asked by Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin about the cost of the facilities.

After confirming their average prices will be €310,000 at O Devaney Gardens and rent bills of €1,200 a month in Enniskerry, Mr O Broin said the reality is the State and Central Bank's own affordable housing limits are lower than these figures.

"On a rent of €1,200 you would need an income of €3-4,000 a month. So this is not affordable under your rules. Likewise, for a €310,000 price.

"The big fear we have is that Enniskerry Road and O Devaney Gardens prices are way off the Richter scale. For people who need affordable housing, nothing is coming down the road for them," he said.

Mr Murphy responded by saying the "average industrial wage is around €40,000" and that two people buying a property who earn this amount of money "can get enough together for €300,000".

During the same meeting, Fianna Fáil housing spokesperson Darragh O'Brien urged Mr Murphy to take action against "institutional investors" and "cuckoo funds" which are buying sites to raise rents.

Mr Murphy defended their ongoing use, saying the number of firms doing this is "tiny", but confirmed he will consider examining the matter in more detail.

Mr Murphy had earlier been urged by Independent senator Colette Kelleher to take emergency action to address the housing crisis, warning him that "huge" damage is being done to children.

Simply putting in checks on emergency accommodation is akin to appointing regulators for "work-houses" she said and accused the Government of failing to act.

Before the committee began, Mr Murphy told the Dáil he can do nothing to stop vulture funds from swooping on renters and evicting them from their homes amid warnings the existing laws are "riddled with loopholes".

During a morning Dáil debate as Solidarity-People Before Profit staged a "tent protest" outside a vulture fund's office yards away from Leinster House.

Mr Murphy said he understood the concerns facing individuals involved and that he felt "very sorry for those people" who are in the grip of the situation.

However, despite repeated calls for action, he stuck to his view that he is "precluded from intervening" in individual cases and that the existing laws are backed by the Dáil not just himself.

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