Taoiseach accuses Sinn Féin of playing a 'double game'.

Taoiseach told renters can't afford a pension when they're paying €2,000 in rent

Opposition parties raised concerns about reports that the new pension scheme is needed to pay for ‘generation rent’ who will never own a home.

HOUSING WAS BACK on the agenda during Leaders’ Questions today with Opposition parties raising concerns about reports that the new pension scheme announced yesterday is needed to pay for ‘generation rent’ who will never own a home.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said thousands of people that rent would gleam no hope from the report in the Irish Independent today. 

It reports that a confidential Cabinet memo prepared for ministers states that the new pension scheme will be “particularly important” as home-ownership rates are in decline and an increasing number of older people need enough income to meet the cost of rent during their retirement.

Murphy said thousands that are renting don’t have pensions.

“Why? Because they can’t afford one while paying exorbitant rents of around €2,000 a month and struggling with the very acute cost of living crisis,” she told the Taoiseach. 

The automatic enrolment scheme is a new savings and investment scheme for employees which will see the State and employers contribute towards employee pensions.

It is aimed at approximately 750,000 employees, aged between 23 and 60, who do not have a pension.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald also raised the confidential memo with the Taoiseach, stating that “all of this confirms for us once again, that this government are waving the white flag and telling a whole generation of people that they will never own their own”.

McDonald said young couples starting out in their careers are locked out of home ownership, as are single people on good incomes.

“What are you going to do about it,” she asked, hitting out at the Government’s Housing for All policy.

On Friday, we learned that last month saw the single biggest increase in homelessness since Covid-19 began, she added.

“There are now almost 10,000 people living in emergency funded accommodation,” McDonald told the Taoiseach.

“We have come full circle on this,” she said.

Home ownership 

She also raised the issue of rising house prices, stating that in parts of rural Ireland, these increases are more than 20%.

“The average price of a home across the State now is close to €300,000,” she said.

The Taoiseach defended housing policy, hitting out at Sinn Féín and other parties for opposing developments.

“I believe in homeownership. I’m not so sure that you do or that your party does. Because you have opposed every measure to do with affordability,” he said, adding that 29,000 people have benefited from the Help to Buy scheme. 

Micheál Martin said Sinn Féín has opposed the scheme since its inception.

On Shared Equity, the Taoiseach said Sinn Féin “play a double game”.

“You actually sneakily vote for it in the end despite all your ranting and raving about it,” he said.

“I look at your policies on affordability. I do not see any coherent policy of substance in terms of people owning their own homes in terms of your own affordable housing scheme,” he added. 

Addressing the report about the new auto enrolment pension scheme, Martin said he was somewhat “taken aback” by the commentary on auto enrolment plan.

“Surely everyone in this House agrees we should as a State and as a society deal with the poor pension provision for workers across this country. Those who own homes and also don’t own homes. The auto enrolment scheme doesn’t discriminate in terms of homeownership,” he said.

Martin said the country needs to be building between 33,000 and 35,000 houses every year, if not more. 

“I know I annoy people when I say we do need to get real in terms of delivering housing schemes much faster than we are as a country. Everybody needs to get real. There is no point coming in here every week, with people saying ‘this is a great crisis, this is terrible, government isn’t doing enough’.

“But meanwhile, we go on as business as usual on the councils across the country, and in terms of planning,” he said.

He said councils are acting as if it is “business as usual” and are objecting to housing developments.

“That’s not going to wash anymore. It is a crisis. We want to deliver, we want to deliver houses much faster than currently is the case. We need cooperation across the board to enable us to do that,” said the Taoiseach.

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