Simon Coveney to bring housing reforms to Cabinet

Housing Minister Simon Coveney is set to bring a series of sweeping housing sector reforms to cabinet this week as opposition pressure mounts on Government to finally act to tackle the growing nationwide crisis.

The Fine Gael minister said yesterday he is determined to address “the number one priority for Government” while failing to rule out supporting a referendum to allow for the constitutional right to a home.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics before a planned Sinn Féin Dáil debate on rent certainty this week and the expected publication of the cross-party housing committee’s report on the crisis, Mr Coveney defended his party’s inability to resolve the emergency to date.

While failing to give any specific details on how the issue can be addressed, he said Government “will intervene” in the market to protect those in need, seek to ensure unused land banks are built on and to increase rent supplement in the coming weeks.

Mr Coveney said he will bring a draft plan to cabinet tomorrow on how to overcome the crisis, and insisted it remains the “number one priority for Government”.

However, neither Mr Coveney, a spokesperson for the minister or a spokesperson for Government would provide any information on the proposed plan last night — which is due to emerge as the opposition spotlight falls on the fact the housing crisis has yet to be addressed.

“You’ll see a big initiative from the Government this week, which will be our first big decision around housing and will work to get sites moving more quickly than they’ve actually been moving,” Mr Coveney told the programme yesterday.

“And you will see the Government launching the details of its full housing initiative by the end of July

“So you’ll see a clear commitment because this is the number one priority for government, to deal with a broken housing market which is causing real distress for families,” he said.

Asked about the housing emergency in general terms, the minister said the solution “is more than the State simply building” — a situation he described as “crude” — adding “we will intervene but in a way that actually complements and manages the markets as opposed to setting the market forces aside and requiring the State to do everything”.

He said he agreed with opposition calls for public-private partnerships to speed up construction, noting “there’s enough planning permission for 27,000 houses in Dublin but only 4,000 are in construction”, and that an unspecified rent supplement increase will be announced “in the next few weeks”.

However, when asked for exact details of what is in the Government’s housing plan, he declined to provide specific answers.

Mr Coveney also did not take the opportunity to rule out supporting a referendum calling for the constitutional right to a home which is expected to be one of the key recommendations of the cross-party housing committee’s report this week.

Asked about it last night, a the minister’s spokesperson said: “He’ll consider and look at whatever the Oireachtas housing committee bring forward.”


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