Wednesday 20 June 2018

Mortgage debt 'threatens to absorb everything young do in their lives' - Martin

Micheál Martin is demanding action on the housing crisis. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Micheál Martin is demanding action on the housing crisis. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Young couples are taking on debt that "threatens to absorb everything they do in their lives" because affordable homes no longer exist in Dublin, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

He has also warned that Ireland's ability to attract foreign investment will be hampered by the lack of housing unless the Government gets on top of the problem.

In a stark assessment of the crisis, Mr Martin described the 'rapid build' programme as a "disaster" and said former housing minister Simon Coveney had been an "abysmal failure" when it came to meeting targets.

Fianna Fáil wants the Government to start building affordable homes through local authorities or a new agency - even if that requires some form of State subsidy.

"I don't think houses are affordable in Dublin. I think for ordinary, average industrial wage workers or even people on €40,000 or €50,000, people who buy in Dublin now are putting themselves in very difficult scenarios in terms of debt and repayments," Mr Martin told the Irish Independent. "It threatens to absorb everything they do in their lives."

He added that up to 50pc of young workers' wages was being spent on rent which makes talk of tax cuts "a bit cosmetic".

Later this month Fianna Fáil plans to bring forward fresh proposals for dealing with the housing crisis, with a focus on affordability.

Mr Martin said deals could be done with private sector developers to keep prices at a rate that young people can afford. Asked whether this would involve a subsidy from the State, he replied: "Not necessarily, you just don't make as much money. There are some very good examples in Dublin and Clare recently, where there's a set template whereby you agree in advance that you make a certain margin."

He added: "If we have to subsidise some of the activity to make the houses affordable, it makes sense economically in the long term. We need to get the market working again."

Mr Martin said some of the price hikes were being driven by site values, which meant State lands should be used where possible.

"It is without question going to affect us, medium term, on foreign direct investment if we're not in a position to convince people that young workers can get places to live."

Mr Martin argued that the crisis was being used against Ireland when it came to competing for international jobs.

"I think it has probably militated against us winning some of the financial services from Brexit," he said.

Irish Independent

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