At the launch of the economic recovery plan last summer, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Our core objective is to restore, go beyond pre-pandemic employment levels. To not just rebuild, but to build back better.”
There has been so much talk about building of every type, but those without a home looking toward the Dáil for concrete action still must make do with acrimony and accusations.
Once again, Mr Martin and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald have clashed bitterly on the subject.
Told by Ms McDonald yesterday that he still did not “get it” when it came to understanding the needs of Generation Rent, Mr Martin saw red.
He went on the attack, claiming the Sinn Féin leader enjoyed a “far different” youth to his. “Don’t you dare lecture me. I understand realities of life as well as anybody else in this House,” he retorted.
The time when the public had any interest in such exchanges has passed.
It has been 12 years since this country was devastated by Europe’s biggest property crash.
We know the State needs 36,000 new homes a year over the next decade to keep up with demand. The acrid smoke of such personalised fiery clashes merely clouds issues further, instead of clarifying them.
Housing remains the most important domestic policy issue facing the country. Partisan sharp-shooting is a self-serving distraction we cannot afford. The only target we want to see hit is the number of houses we need to satisfy demand for affordable and cost-rental homes.
Our focus must fix on the delivery of solutions, not slogans. The country is trying to get off its heels after the pandemic.
We have seen a considerable increase in private house construction, but the extra housing has not resulted in greater affordability – the gap between supply and demand is still too high. So much of the new supply is being sold buy-to-rent, beyond the reach of those who need it.
Mr Martin attacked Ms McDonald on the grounds that her party had been serial objectors to various housing developments.
Meanwhile, Ms McDonald presented photos illustrating the appalling conditions some tenants must endure while being forced to pay outrageous rents. She called for a tax rebate and a freeze for three years on rent.
Both measures have short-term advantage and popular appeal, but how effective they would be in addressing the fundamental problem is another matter.
The delivery of cheaper homes to buy or rent is the only thing that will make a difference.
When it comes to creative thinking, so much can be learned from the social housing sector.
The State needs to give more support to schemes where payments depend on income.
Streamlining regulation on what we build and where we build at an affordable rate is the priority.
Too often politicians have found it easier to find someone else to blame than to find solutions on housing.