Sinn Féin policies moot as they are only running 40 candidates, FF TD insists

Fianna Fáil says it will concentrate on empowering the local authorities to build houses as the main thrust of its plan to combat the homelessness crisis.

Sinn Féin policies moot as they are only running 40 candidates, FF TD insists

Even if Sinn Féin gets 40 TDs elected it won’t be getting into Government, rendering its policies moot, a Fianna Fáil TD has said.

The party has said it will concentrate on empowering the local authorities to build houses as the main thrust of its plan to combat the homelessness crisis.

Speaking at the launch of Fianna Fáil's housing policy in Dublin, housing spokesperson Darragh O’Brien said that enabling homeownership would be key to Fianna Fáil’s €2.1bn package.

Regarding Sinn Féin’s plans to initiate the “largest ever campaign of public housing construction” as part of its own policy, Mr O’Brien said “we have a Sinn Féin party running approximately 40 candidates - if all of them were elected they wouldn’t be in Government”.

“(Sinn Féin housing spokesman) Eoin Ó Broin has the luxury, and he knows himself, to really say what he wants without having the responsibility to deliver,” Mr O’Brien said.

We’re serious about delivering.

Regarding the fact that Mr Ó Broin has written a book on housing policy, Mr O’Brien said that he has “read it”. “While he’s been writing books I’ve been writing legislation,” he said.

He outlined his “fully costed” plan for housing designed to concentrate on maximising home-ownership. The marquee side of that policy will be a 33% SSIA-style savings scheme for first time buyers capped at €10,000, a facet that had been well-flagged in advance, in order to enable people to save a deposit for a house.

Mr O’Brien said that policy would be stretched over a sustained period of time to a maximum of five years. “I believe it will be of real benefit to those who want to own their own home,” he said.

We will retain and expand the Help to Buy scheme, and we will build 50,000 affordable homes for purchase at a price of below €250,000.

He added that planning laws will be changed in order to prevent so-called cuckoo funds, such as investment trusts, from buying up home developments, while 50,000 new social housing properties will be built over five years, a figure shy of the 60,000 planned by both Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.

In terms of his party’s concentration on the local authorities, Mr O’Brien said Fianna Fáil will “slash red tape” by raising those councils’ spending caps for housing development to €6m, a policy he said had been agreed with Fine Gael over the past two budgets only to be “reneged upon” by the governing party.

In terms of land hoarding, his plan is to double the vacant site levy to 14%, while a €600 rent tax credit for all private renters and a lifetime deposit scheme, which would follow the tenant, would be introduced.

Homeless funding would be increased to €250m per annum - a roughly €80m increase on current levels, he said, while repossessed properties and buy to let units would be purchased from a “new specific rolling acquisition fund” in order to maintain security of tenure for people renting in distressed homes.

“What people want is action on housing,” Mr O’Brien said, adding that the Government has consistently missed its targets on homelessness.

He declined to either put a timeline on ending homelessness, or to state what an acceptable level of homelessness would be after 18 months in Government.

Likewise, there was no sign of documented detail regarding his party’s housing policy, with a similar issue affecting the launch of Fianna Fáil’s health policy on Monday.

On both occasions officials had promised that those policies would be published immediately after the briefings - that has yet to be delivered upon.

“We are a party that has built homes in the past, and people know our track record,” he said, adding that Fine Gael’s plans in recent years have been mired “in cost benefit analyses”.

He also said that Fianna Fáil would ban co-living residences, which he declared to be “battery hen-style living… something that should not be foisted upon people as a sustainable form of living”.

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