Simon Coveney seeks ‘game-changer’ plans to tackle housing crisis

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has said future development plans must be a “game-changer” if the housing and homelessness crisis is to be solved.

He said he will be making a “significant” announcement after Cabinet meets today on the initial steps that will be taken to tackle the housing crisis.

Speaking at a Dublin City Council meeting last night, Mr Coveney said he would be “direct and blunt” with local authorities across the country in a bid to solve the deepening homeless and housing problem. He said he was willing to listen to all suggestions.

He said Ireland is now building half the number of homes it has to each year. “As I have said many times recently: We need 25,000 units per annum at a minimum, but in reality we need more like 30,000-35,000 in order to make up for the lack of building over the past decade.”

Mr Coveney said the Government would be rolling out a number of emergency measures to help tackle the issue, including the expansion of Housing Assistance Payment to about 19 local authorities and the establishment of a housing delivery unit within his own department.

However, Mr Coveney said local authorities also bear some responsibility and told the councillors he encouraged them to act “with a sense of urgency”.

“As you finalise your development plan later this year, I would suggest that you ask yourselves a fundamental question: Is this plan going to be a game-changer in terms of unleashing private sector construction in our capital city?

“We must bear in mind that we rely on the private sector to build seven or eight out of every 10 new homes into the future. It is vital that the private sector gets going in a serious way this year and next.”

Mr Coveney is expected to bring a series of sweeping housing sector reforms to Cabinet this morning after coming under increasing pressure from the opposition to develop solid plans to tackle the crisis.

Speaking at the council meeting last night, he said: “I will publish a comprehensive action plan for housing within this Government’s first 100 days.

“I’m working with all the relevant ministers and key stakeholders on this, which will build on what the Government has already done and will draw on the work of the special Oireachtas committee on housing and homelessness,” he said.

“As the biggest local authority in the State, Dublin City Council has a huge role to play in Ireland’s housing recovery and in delivering housing for those most in need.”

It comes as the committee established to examine the housing and homeless problem is also expected to publish its report this week.

Setting up a deposit saving scheme for first-time buyers, enshrining the right to a home in the Constitution, and reviewing Central Bank deposit rules are among the issues the Oireachtas committee has examined.

Sinn Féin is to use private member’s time in the Dáil tonight to table legislation to introduce rent certainty.

Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman, called on all parties to support the bill, which, he said, would provide greater protection for both tenants and landlords against volatility in the rental market as it will link any rent increases or decreases to the consumer price index.

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