Wednesday 23 October 2019

Google's willingness to help 'is proof of housing failure' - Opposition

Offer: Google boss Sundar Pichai visited Dublin this week and said his company would be willing to help out with the housing crisis. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Offer: Google boss Sundar Pichai visited Dublin this week and said his company would be willing to help out with the housing crisis. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Opposition politicians have seized on Google's willingness to help provide housing in a bid to ease the accommodation shortage as evidence of the Government's failure to solve the crisis.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour all heaped criticism on Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy's efforts after Google boss Sundar Pichai said the tech giant would consider subsidising general housing in Dublin.

They also wanted to know more about any proposals and to be sure an intervention by Google wouldn't squeeze first-time buyers out of the market or lead to price inflation.

Mr Murphy's department, meanwhile, said it was "more than willing" to discuss proposals with any company that wished to provide housing, but cautioned that without land and planning permission it could be two years before any home was completed.

Google is donating $1bn (€910m) for community housing in San Francisco to help non-tech workers get accommodation amid spiralling property prices fuelled by the high salaries of IT staff.

Mr Pichai said the company - which employs 8,000 people in Ireland - would be willing to subsidise housing here.

"It's something we would think about doing over time," he told the Irish Independent.

"It makes sense for us as a company to do it and it's also the right thing to do."

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien said of the proposed Google intervention: "It's really clear what it says, that the housing policy is failing and that the supply is not even close to reaching demand."

Mr O'Brien raised concern that a major intervention by Google could contribute to squeezing first-time buyers out of the market if it bought homes in a similar way to so-called 'cuckoo funds'. He said: "We'll have to assess what they're planning to do."

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin also raised concern that if Google bought up homes that had already been built, it would "simply add to the pressure on our housing system and could actually result in driving up prices".

"If they're talking about investing commercially in new builds, we'd have to wait to see the details of that," he added.

He said the willingness of a multinational to get involved was "a clear indication of Government failure".

Labour's Jan O'Sullivan said: "Google's offer is another symptom of the Government's complete failure to address the housing crisis.

"We are in a sorry state if we have to depend on a multinational company to provide homes for our people."

A Department of Housing statement last night defended the Government's record.

It said: "The Government is solving the housing crisis, supply is ramping up. We are building homes across Dublin and every county."

It said the Government was "willing to work with any third party to provide homes" and pointed to partnerships for providing social and affordable homes. It said that without land and planning it would be two years before any homes were finished, adding: "In that time, 50,000 new homes will become available across Ireland."

The statement added: "While anything to help ease the crisis is welcomed, the Government will not prioritise housing for high-paid workers. Our priority is those who need help securing affordable accommodation or those in need of social housing."

Irish Independent

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