Housing is “the number one crisis” facing people in Ireland, particularly the young, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
“It’s something that worries me a lot," said Mr Martin. "This generation is the most disadvantaged in terms of accessing housing.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to supply houses at affordable levels to young people in this country.”
The Taoiseach was speaking from Cork following the public outcry over cuckoo funds bulk-buying family homes and pushing first-time buyers out of the market.
These foreign investment funds even outbid affordable housing bodies on over 400 homes in the past four weeks at up to €80,000 per unit, therevealed.
These cuckoo funds are also availing of major tax breaks and then trapping the State in expensive, long-term leases to provide social housing.
Mr Martin said that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is working out ways to cut the tax breaks and incentives for such activity to these funds but the details have not yet been finalised.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is also working to tackle this problem from a planning perspective, he said.
“We want to look after first-time buyers as best as we possibly can. We want people to buy houses at affordable levels,” said Mr Martin.
But supply remains a critical issue with the Covid crisis halting much construction already this year.
“It is a huge challenge and we need to get to about 33,000 [homes] per annum to provide for the demand that’s out there.
“This year, we had targeted 25,000, we hope to hit that, despite Covid.”
Despite loud criticisms this week of the housing minister, Mr O’Brien has “hit the ground running”, said Mr Martin, introducing multiple new schemes which will benefit both home buyers and State tenants.
“Anything we can do in terms of housing we’re going to do because it’s the number one crisis facing people,” said Mr Martin.
Investment funds first came into the country when building activity was very low but the “situation has moved on” and the biggest player in the housing market is now the State, he said.
The State will provide 12,750 social houses this year, 9,500 of which Mr Martin hopes will be new builds.
“We will provide, this year, 12,750 social houses, 9,500 we want to build. Some of those targets have been hit by Covid but we hope we can pick it up,” he said.
“Last year, there were 20,000-odd houses built, 8,000 of this were social houses, so the private sector is not as strong in Ireland as it once was."