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'Fianna Fáil made mistakes during the boom, but not building enough homes wasn’t one of them'

Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien writes about why affordable housing is key to this year’s Budget and a priority for his party.

Darragh O'Brien

WHEN MY PARENTS got married, a family with one income could afford to buy a decent place and raise a family in Dublin. An ordinary working family did not have a lot but could have the safety of owning the roof over their heads.

Over the years the basic aspiration of owning your own home has moved out of the reach of ordinary working people. 

Even worse many families have fallen through the gap and gotten stuck in homelessness. Ireland is in the grips of an escalating emergency in housing. I am a father and the reality of children being homeless in our country sickens me. The State is stripping away the dignity of future generations by failing to provide them with a suitable home.

ideological difference

Housing affordability and the desperate lack of public housing supply is made worse by public policy that is fueling major housing instability. There is no doubt that this growing and far-reaching crisis is built on a bedrock of ideological indifference on the part of the Fine Gael party. Social inequality is on the rise and once united communities are being torn apart.

Dublin is clearly at the epicentre of the crisis. Last year, 3,691 people were recorded as homeless in the capital alone. A damning figure in itself, and yet it doesn’t even account for the 1,637 adults and 1,477 children that were supported by the Dublin Simon Community during the same period.

In 2017, the government spent €60 million on accommodating homeless families in hotels. A cramped hotel room is a world away from the healthy environment that every parent longs for to nurture their child.

All the while, more and more average income renters in the private market are being forced to spend the bulk of their wages on rent. Home ownership is a dream slipping away from a whole generation.

The national average rent is now almost €1,100 per month. In most parts of the country renting continues to be more expensive than buying a home and the bottom line is that the lack of supply in the market looks likely to persist without meaningful government intervention. 

Proud of party’s record

Fianna Fáil made mistakes during the boom, but not building enough homes wasn’t one of them. I’m proud of my party’s record in housing.

The last Fianna Fáil government built five times as many council homes annually than the last two Fine Gael governments. We need that kind of ambition again to address homelessness, help renters and provide affordable homes.

A crisis on this scale can only be solved with determined action and that is why Fianna Fáil has been unrelenting in our fight to secure an Affordable Housing Scheme for working people in Budget 2019. We are committed to providing genuinely affordable homes to ordinary income workers. 

We believe that social housing funding must be ramped up and Re-Building Ireland targets increased to get to grips with the homelessness crisis.

Local Authorities discretion to build without protracted departmental scrutiny and delays should be expanded. Tax measures put in place to ease rental accommodation shortages and the cost rental model rolled out more rapidly.

With real commitment we can restore the dream of owning your own home and give proper security to all our people.

Darragh O’Brien is Dublin Fingal TD and Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government. 

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Darragh O'Brien

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