Monday 20 November 2017

FF demands 'radical' action on homeless and housing

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Fianna Fáil has increased the already growing pressure on Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy by pushing for "radical and different action" to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.

Mr Murphy has called a special housing summit of politicians and officials concerned with housing following revelations of three deaths of homeless people in the past week.

But Fianna Fáil has upped the ante on the minister by demanding a VAT reduction and building levy cuts for builders, as well as cheaper financing to speed up building.

"We are facing an unprecedented social and economic crisis due to housing and homelessness. Conventional remedies being tried so far are not working and we need new and radical measures," Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen told the Irish Independent.

Mr Cowen said the party would make its proposals as part of the pre-Budget consultation with Fine Gael.

He stopped short of saying acceptance would be the price of his party backing the first Budget due to be delivered by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe on October 10 - but no Budget can get through without Fianna Fáil support.

Mr Cowen said he is advocating cutting the current rate of builders' VAT from 13.5pc to the 9pc preferential rate already given to the tourism sector.

He wants this reduction to run for three years initially and be accompanied by big reductions in building levies, with also some stimulus to get better lending terms for developers.

The Fianna Fáil spokesman rejected criticisms that this would risk a return to the excessive boom in building 15 years ago and another property bubble.

"The deaths last week have put a sharper focus on the issues we are facing. This is something which urgently must be addressed as conventional methods are not yielding results," Mr Cowen said.

Mr Cowen's concerns were echoed by Social Justice Ireland director Fr Seán Healy, who said the Government's emphasis on private sector building will not deliver the required numbers.

He said half of the 91,600 people waiting to be housed nationally were in families and that 1,330 of these were children.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheál Mac Donncha, said he was disappointed the housing minister is not accepting an invitation to attend a meeting of Dublin City Council to discuss the crisis. He said the council had a direct role in housing.

Irish Independent

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