A war of words has opened up between the Government and local councils as to whom is to blame for the delay in the building of social houses.
Local authorities have strongly rejected criticisms leveled at them by Taoiseach Enda Kenny over the delay in building social and affordable homes.
Yesterday, amid criticisms of the Government’s new housing plan, Mr Kenny said: “It is about time county councils got back into the business of providing houses. They have been given the money, the opportunities and the incentives to open sites that are currently off limits, and they must get on with the job.”
Asked later to clarify his Dáil remarks, Mr Kenny said the reality is “they’ve lost the skill” to help the people they represent.
“Obviously local authorities many years ago were building many more houses than they have in the past few years. They’ve lost the skill, if you like to put it that way, of building sufficient houses for their people,” he said during a visit to Dublin’s inner city.
But last night, leading figures from local authorities hit back at Mr Kenny saying it is the Government’s failure to properly fund local authorities which has led to the crisis.
“Central government tend to treat local authorities all too often as independent republics. What it needs to do is equip local authorities with the necessary resources to carry out Government policy,” said Tom MacSharry, spokesman for the Local Authority Members Association (LAMA).
Paul Reid, county manager of Fingal County Council, rejected the criticisms that enough is not being done in the context of his local authority.
“It is widely recognised that Fingal is delivering against the Government’s plan. In Fingal, I would strongly reject that we haven’t mobilised well. We were due to deliver about 1,300 houses and we will deliver closer to 2,000 homes,” he told the Irish Examiner.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney insisted that top-ups for first-time buyers will only apply to purchase newly built homes and not existing homes.
Mr Coveney confirmed the “package” for first-time buyers would “not fuel” the existing property market.
However, buyers will not get sums to buy secondhand homes, he said. News of the payment, which will be backdated to this week, has sparked widespread interest.
The amount is yet to be decided, after reports it may be as much as €10,000.
Mr Coveney said: “Whatever we do, it will be on new houses to ensure that we are encouraging a dramatic increase in supply of new houses for first-time buyers. It’s not a grant. Anything we do can’t simply fuel the existing property market. We need to increase the stock of new houses that we have.
“There’s no point in giving first-time buyers the capacity to spend more on second- hand houses and not have any increase in those numbers. That will simply drive up the price of a house which is bad news for everybody,” he added.
Mr Coveney also said he expects new homes will be delivered in Dublin for a sale price of about €260,000, once the impact of his housing plan takes effect. This is compared to the current €330,000 price tag to build a semi-detached home in Dublin including a profit for developers of 11%.
In the Dáil, Mr Kenny faced questions from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams who said: “The Taoiseach commended the Committee on Housing and Homelessness, it is the most commended committee in the Dáil. The Taoiseach did not take on board some of its major findings and recommendations.”
In response, Mr Kenny said: “Not all of them were accepted, but they were commented upon favourably.”
Meanwhile, the National Competitive Council (NCC) warned that some previously favourable global economic conditions are beginning to turn against the country’s economy with Brexit exacerbating the risk to Ireland.
The Government last night rejected a Fianna Fáil bill to give council tenants the right to buy the houses they are living in at just 60% of their actual costs.
Mr Coveney said increasing social houses will be addressed in his housing strategy plan published this week.
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