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housing for all

Housing targets expected to be revised upwards as Govt considers buying up apartments

The summit comes as homelessness figures broke new records for the fifth month in a row.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 10th 2023, 3:50 PM

THE TAOISEACH AND the Minister for Housing have indicated that housing targets for new homes will most likely be revised upwards.

Speaking at a press conference held after a summit with housing stakeholders this afternoon Varadkar said the final target results for new homes in 2022 are not yet ready, but he expected the targets to be exceeded. 

The Taoiseach said he expected last year’s new homes figure to be between 26,000 and 28,000, adding that the government eventually wants to be delivering 40,000 new homes every year. 

The Housing Commission is due to advise the government shortly on whether housing targets should be increased. 

“It makes sense we will need to revise upwards,” said Varadkar, adding that targets will need to be exceeded.  

A range of ideas were discussed at the summit, including the prospect of the government buying up large numbers of apartments prior to their construction.

Varadkar said there are planning permissions for 70,000 apartment units not yet activated, stating that “advance purchasing” will be examined so as to “de-risk” the construction of some developments. 

Tax breaks for smaller landlords was also raised at the meeting today, something Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien recently told The Journal he is very much in favour of. 

There is a need to incentivise such landlords to stay in the market, said the Taoiseach, though he said he didn’t want to go into too much detail as to what might be on the table at this stage.  

He acknowledged that rents are “out of line” with other countries, stating that the government wants to do more on rental prices into the future. 

Reducing homeless figures, which have hit a record high of over 11,000, is a priority, said Varadkar, who hopes the government can “turn the tide of rising homelessness this year”. 

“Everyone in government is appraised on how important this issue is,” he said. 

“It is our responsibility to turn this around,” said Varadkar. 

The halfway point of this government’s term is a good time to “have a point of reflection”, said the Taoiseach. 

“Certainly in the years ahead, I would envisage the housing budget continuing to increase, so long as the economy is strong and public finances can support it,” he added.

Around 30 groups met at Government Buildings including representatives from housing charities, planners, surveyors, as well as landlord, vacancy and rent stakeholders.

The conference was designed to provide stakeholders with an opportunity for direct feedback to Government on the current housing situation, and to make suggestions on what additional practical actions can be taken to accelerate delivery of the Housing For All plan.

Varadkar said that a lot ideas were put forward and will be reflected on by government in the coming weeks. 

“I think it’s fair to say that there wasn’t unanimity on those ideas, so for example, some people suggested the eviction ban being extended, others pointed out that there could be negative consequences to that,” he said. 

Last month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he believed that the housing crisis was holding Ireland back and that a pandemic-style approach must be adopted to cope with it.

“Sometimes in Government we’re too willing to say that things can’t be done, because of public finances, because of state aid rules, or because of the Constitution, or because of something else, I’m not willing to accept that,” he said.

The government was slammed by Opposition TDs last week when new figured showed that homelessness had once again reached record levels.

housing conference 9 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured with Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien and economist Frances Ruane GIS GIS

There are now 11,542 people living in homeless emergency accommodation, 3,494 of whom are children.

Sinn Féin spokesperson for housing, Eoin Ó Broin, criticised today’s summit, calling it a stunt and an admission that the government’s housing policies don’t work.

“Two and a half years into the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil government and the housing crisis has never been worse. Rents, house prices and homelessness are at record highs. Social and affordable housing output is way behind schedule. The government’s housing plan is failing,” Ó Broin said.

“Now that Leo Varadkar has returned to the helm, he is desperate to give the impression that he is, after 11 years in government, going to do something to address the housing crisis that his party has created.”

“It is clear that the summit is nothing more than optics. It is also a clear admission that the government’s housing plan is failing. 

“Only a change of Government, a change of housing plan and a change of Housing Minister can start to end the decades-long housing crisis caused and perpetuated by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael,” he concluded.

With reporting from Christina Finn 

Jamie McCarron and Christina Finn
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