Paschal Donohoe urged to use empty Nama land to tackle housing crisis

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will be urged to use empty Nama land to build up to 50,000 homes in a bid to address the housing crisis during crunch budget talks with Fianna Fáil over the coming days.

Mr Donohoe will be pressed on the matter by Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary and housing spokesman Barry Cowen as it emerged yesterday that house prices are now rising by €50 a day.

With just eight days to go before budget 2018, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil talks will this week centre on welfare spend, finalising the tax band and USC cut plans, and Fianna Fáil calls last night to ringfence €100m next year to tackle the “funding crisis” in colleges and universities.

However, with the housing problem continuing to deepen, both parties will also be under pressure to agree key measures on how to tackle the linked property price, rental and homelessness crises.

The issue was brought under further scrutiny yesterday due to a Freedom of Information Act file obtained by Mr Cowen which showed 90% of sites sold to State property firm Nama are being left unused by the agency.

While 50,000 homes could be built on the sites, just 3,670 are under construction.

The issue is expected to be discussed by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil within the context of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s suggestion at last month’s Fine Gael think-in that Nama could be used to solve the housing crisis.

It is also expected to be raised alongside Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s still unpublished Rebuilding Ireland plan and suggestions the State may intervene to tax vacant homes and give greater supports to renters trying to obtain a mortgage.

Meanwhile, with just eight days to go before Budget 2018, talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are set to focus on tax band changes, USC cuts and welfare changes this week.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath told the Irish Examiner any income tax changes will not be allowed if they impact on frontline services, while his party’s education spokesperson Thomas Byrne last night called for €100m to be ring-fenced to address the “funding crisis” in colleges and universities.

Due to the fact there is just €350m officially available in Budget 2018, it remains unclear if a potential €5 pension rise and other welfare increases will be introduced.

However, it is expected the sugar tax will not be introduced until late next year due to the need to align it with similar changes in Britain and Northern Ireland.

Budget 2018: What is known:

- A long-planned sugar tax is almost certain to be introduced.However it may be delayed to later in the year as it needs to be aligned to similar measures in Britain and the North.

- The price of cigarettesand tobacco will rise againto over €11 for a packet of 20.

- The point at which someone starts paying the highest rate of income tax is set to be increased to help the ‘squeezed middle’

- USC will merge withPRSI, although it remains unclear if it will be cut as planned.

- Plans to help renters obtain mortgages and tax incentives to encourage developers to buildnew homes will be introduced.

- Moves to help nursing home residents to rentor sell their homes have been scrapped.

- A rise in the dole payment from €193 to €198 a week has been mooted, in addition to a potential €5 pension rise, which may be introduced in April or June.

- Lone parents to see some or all of the cuts imposed on them during the economic crash to be returned.

- The restoration of some or all of the bereavement grant is likely, while most of the social welfare Christmas bonus will be returned

- Hotel tax under reviewto stop price gouging.

- Tax reliefs for electric and hybrid cars may be introduced.

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