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'Focus on a plan not criticising me': Murphy in war of words with councils over housing record

In south Dublin this evening, councillors voted to pause a major housing development until Murphy was contacted over the number of affordable homes.

MINISTER FOR HOUSING Eoghan Murphy has issued a statement this evening, telling local councils to focus “on putting a plan” together to build new homes, rather than “criticising [him] for demanding that they do more”.

His comments come on a day when South Dublin County Council passed a motion calling for the minister to engage with the council to ensure that affordable houses are made available on a large new development where 30% has been earmarked for social housing.

The government has come under increasing fire for the worsening homelessness crisis, and the performance of Murphy since he took the job over 15 months ago.

The number of people homeless, for example, has risen 25% during the first 13 months of Murphy’s tenure, to a record 9,891 people in July

Murphy warned a handful of councils last week that he would step in and use emergency powers if they fail to make progress on the housing crisis.

The minister told reporters at the Fine Gael party think-in in Galway that he has written to “two or three” local authorities that he feels are not taking sufficient action.

He also hit out at unnamed local authorities for their “unacceptable excuses” over their social housing delivery, suggesting he could use these emergency powers to get them to build more homes.

‘Urgent need’

Councillors in south Dublin voted this evening for an amendment to the proposed housing development at the Grange/Kilcarberry, which would see the building of 975 homes by a private consortium on public land in Clondalkin. This will see the project delayed until October at the earliest.

Sinn Féin group leader in the council Cathal King said: “294 of the homes will be social and paid for by the Department of Housing. The remaining 681 will be sold on the open market by the private developer.

Unfortunately the proposal does not provide any affordable housing for working families… Right across South Dublin there is an urgent need for affordable homes for households earning between €45,000 and €75,000. This means homes for sale at prices between €170,000 and €260,000. This can only be achieved if thee development is publicly funded either via exchequer funding or a loan facility.

BKD Planners' rendering of the development in Clondalkin Source: SDCC

Similarly, in a letter to Minister Eoghan Murphy, the chief executive of Fingal County Councillor said it was “surprising” that “a decision to further remove the already limited ability [for councils] to control and make decisions on projects was proposed”.

Paul Reid said that further devolution of powers to councils would be more beneficial in terms of project process and the delivery of homes.

Reid also told the Minister that Fingal had exceeded its target within the Rebuilding Ireland programme by 62% up to 2017, and is on target to providing the required 1,637 social homes this year.

A statement from Fingal County Council concluded: “Reid concluded his letter by stating Fingal County Council is conscious that more needs to be done and that the Minister will continue to receive the fullest support from himself and the council’s Housing Department.”

Murphy’s riposte

HOUSING 671_90522617 Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

In his statement this evening, Murphy said it’s “great to see” councils defending their own record and people recognising their work.

His letter to councils last week, he said, “wasn’t about that” but “about the fact that we have an unacceptable level of families in hotels and some councils are still not doing enough about that.

“The relevant councils should be focusing on putting a plan together, not criticising me for demanding that they do more,” he said.

I understand the strong reaction, because what I’m proposing is unprecedented. But that’s just how serious the crisis is.

Sinn Féin will launch its well-flagged vote of no confidence in Minister Murphy tomorrow morning, but face losing the vote with Fianna Fáil not to set to support the motion.

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Sean Murray

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