Wednesday 21 August 2019

Murphy gaffe as co-living is compared to 'trendy hotel'

‘Fixated’: Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
‘Fixated’: Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after comparing controversial co-living to a "very trendy boutique hotel".

Mr Murphy's latest defence of co-living, accommodation with shared kitchen and living spaces, sparked a torrent of criticism yesterday.

He later admitted his analogy "wasn't a good one".

The Fine Gael minister, who previously suggested that young people would find co-living "exciting", had earlier rejected a suggestion on 'Newstalk Breakfast' that they were like prison.

"No, not at all like a prison, I mean if you've been in one of these places it's not at all, it's more like a very trendy, kind of, boutique hotel-type place, right," he said.

He said that co-living spaces were something he had seen in other cities "where you have your own private room, en-suite, but you also then have shared community spaces, a gym, a movie room, a games room, potentially, a kitchen, a living room".

But the remarks sparked a backlash from the Opposition and some within Fine Gael privately.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien accused Mr Murphy of being "fixated" on co-living. "I've met no one who is excited about the prospect of sitting in a living room fighting about what to watch on television," Mr O'Brien said.

Sinn Féin's housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin accused Mr Murphy of "not living in the real world" and described co-living as akin to "gentrified tenements" that he would ban.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett said Mr Murphy's comments were "appalling".

Mr Murphy issued a statement yesterday afternoon in response to the criticism, in which he backtracked on the "very trendy boutique hotel" remark. But he continued to defend the concept of co- living, insisting it was not a response to homeless families in crisis.

"My analogy in response wasn't a good one. But co- living elicits outrage in some because they wrongly assume it's what we propose as a response to families in crisis. It is not," he said.

"Our response to the housing crisis is to build over 20,000 new homes - houses and apartments - this year. None of them co-living spaces. Our response next year is to build even more new homes.

"Homes are the answer for the vast, vast majority. Co- Living is targeted at approximately 1pc of renters."

There was anger privately within Fine Gael over Mr Murphy's original comments.

One TD spoke of the potential damage to its electoral prospects. "You'll be able to fit our parliamentary party in one of these 'trendy boutique hotel rooms' if Murphy keeps this up," the deputy said.

Irish Independent

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