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Sticking-plaster remedy for housing crisis just won’t wash



Taoiseach Micheál Martin faced a backlash in the Dáil on Budget day. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Taoiseach Micheál Martin faced a backlash in the Dáil on Budget day. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Taoiseach Micheál Martin faced a backlash in the Dáil on Budget day. Photo: Steve Humphreys

It has been said most of us would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. If you happen to be in government, you are not likely to succumb to the first of these fates. The temperature in the Dáil might have been cool due to the fact the heating will not be turned on until next Monday, but predictably heated exchanges as Budget 2023 was debated meant no one was feeling the cold. Yet for all the energy, little new light was shone on key issues.

The Government was pretty confident it had done a good job in giving people back money they had earned. But pretty much everyone else in the chamber was just as convinced this was not the case.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik claimed the Budget’s provisions were spread so thin that a mini-budget would be required early next year.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said there was a real risk the proposed rent credits will result in rental increases.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin claimed Sinn Féin’s figures on the rent tax credits did not add up. But Ms McDonald was not having any of it.

The Government has “left the door open for more rent hikes, more exploitation and more hardship”, she said.

The Government was equally adamant the Budget was the requisite response to an unpredictable, rapidly developing situation.

Despite the deafening claims to the contrary, Mr Martin insisted that when the various measures were combined, the three lowest-income groups received the highest amount. Then came fears from backbenchers that the €80m levy on the sale of concrete products will push housing costs even higher.

If the opposition was hoping to draw blood, it might have had better luck had it trained its fire on what the Government had not done. After all, the price of power is responsibility.

Leaving the Government wide open to attack was its lack of a commitment to significantly increase the housing supply or address the shortage that has been the burning issue for at least a generation.

Throwing money at rents is, at best, a short-term approach in the face of a long-term problem.

Delivering more homes is the only answer to the housing crisis; until this is done, everything else will be seen as a sticking-plaster solution.

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An example of one of these is revealed today in the review of the Help-to-Buy housing scheme.

The review advised it should be scrapped. It was classed as poor value and badly targeted.

Carried out by financial consultancy firm Mazars, it still suggested it be extended for two years, but with changes. Yet the Government decided to press on with it for two years without the changes.

The coalition may claim it played as good a hand as it could, given the cards it was dealt after a series of exceptional events.

But the housing crisis and the enormous pressures it is putting on families have not come out of the blue. People can accept there may not be a quick fix in sight, but that is a far cry from accepting no fix at all.

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