Wednesday 18 July 2018

Varadkar claims housing crisis is 'a symptom of Fianna Fáil’s period in Government'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have engaged in a war of words over who is to blame for the housing crisis.

Mr Varadkar rejected criticism of the Government’s efforts to provide adequate social housing, saying it will “take time” to get on top of the situation.

“The housing crisis is very much a symptom of Fianna Fáil’s period in Government. From a very low base we need to ramp it all up again,” he said.

“That includes a significant increase in social housing and houses built by the private sector.

“It is going to take time to get on top of this. We had a construction sector that was decimated and banks that collapsed.”

However, Mr Martin said the even in Ireland’s poorest years the State was capable of building social housing.

He said figures revealed a “shockingly poor performance” and suggested the Government was disinterested in building social housing.

“There seems to be an ongoing strategy of not building council houses. It does seem to be a policy that’s deeply, deeply embedded,” he said.

The Opposition leader said that regardless of any disputes over statistics on homelessness and housing “the bottom line” is that the figures “are going to go nowhere near solving the crisis”.

Mr Martin said that in order to get a council house in Cork a family has to be on a waiting list for 10 years.

“The Government seem paralysed by the scale of the crisis,” he said.

Mr Varadkar 7,900 houses would be provided by local authorities next year through a mixture of direct build, purchase, repair and private sector construction.

“There is no difficulty at all when it comes to supporting the construction of social housing. It is going to be part of the solution of social housing,” the Taoiseach said.

In sharp exchanges with Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, the Taoiseach hit back. Mr Varadkar said Gerry Adams was merely “giving a preview of his Árd Fheis speech” this coming weekend and also trying to “exploit human misery” arising from the housing problems.

Mr Adams had said the Taoiseach was merely trying to “re-position Fine Gael for the next election” when addressing social problems including housing. He accepted that Mr Varadkar’s government had inherited a housing crisis from Fianna Fáil.

“But when you took over from Fianna Fáil you followed Fianna Fáil policy to the letter,” Mr Adams said.

The Taoiseach said the Government had built 2,000 new homes via councils this year and would built 4,000 next year. Other measures included funds for councils to make land available to build social homes and it was also looking at a vacant site levy this looked like it posed many practical problems.

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