Government's rebuilding Ireland strategy ‘has failed’

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

The Government’s Rebuilding Ireland strategy, aimed at easing the housing crisis, has failed and requires a doubling of funds for social and affordable homes.

That was the message from Sinn Féin yesterday as the party warned that a motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy remained on the cards.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin, however, had a cautious welcome for the proposed new housing agency, which is expected to free up State and private land banks for home building.

Sinn Féin said the Rebuilding Ireland programme had failed to deliver promises during its two years.

Instead, there has been a 50% rise in homelessness, with the figure hitting 9,846.

And despite Government promises of eventually helping to deliver 25,000 new homes a year, just over half that number was completed in 2017, and 3,500 so far this year.

However, in recent days, the Government has considered new measures, including the creation of a housing agency to compulsory purchase private and public lands.

The National Regeneration and Development Agency will lead the redevelopment of neglected sites in cities.

Rising rent rates for students will also be capped, Cabinet agreed this week, following increases of 15% or more in recent months, which fall outside controls of rent pressure zones.

Mr Ó Broin said the new agency could have an impact but details are awaited. He questioned the move on student rents with a test case decision due this week from the Residential Tenancies Board.

Not a single affordable home was built this year, said Mr Ó Broin, and a promised vacant homes strategy is yet to be published.

Sinn Féin, meanwhile, wants the social and affordable housing budget doubled to over €2bn.

Mr Ó Broin confirmed that his party is keeping open the option of tabling a Dáil motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy when the Dáil returns September.

Fianna Fáil also criticised the student rent caps yesterday, calling for a quick implementation so landlords or block owners do not take advantage of the Dáil summer recess to hike up rents.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne, whose party had initiated legislation to cap student rents, questioned the “hey presto” style of the Government announcement, which was “giving the market” too much time to respond.

“We were told there were legal difficulties with this and now it has changed,” he said.

However, Mr Murphy’s office yesterday strongly defended the Government’s housing strategy.

More than 18,000 new homes were made available for use in 2017, a statement said, including vacant properties brought back into use and new builds.

There were planning permissions for 24,531 new homes in the 12 months up to March 2018, it added.

Furthermore, the Government had increased the delivery of new-build social houses to 664 in 2016 and 2,297 in 2017.

The number is expected to rise to 4,409 this year, said the minister’s office.


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