Offaly TD and Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Barry Cowen TD has warned that the Government needs to urgently demonstrate it has the capacity to respond to the escalating housing crisis.
Deputy Cowen said, “Three years ago the Government declared that Ireland was in the midst of a national housing emergency. This came as no surprise to the families who faced homelessness as a result of rising rents and the declining availability of affordable accommodation."
“There have been many announcements but very little progress in actually delivering much needed housing over the last three years," he claimed. "In the meantime, the number of homeless families has increased by over 200% and rents have continued to increase at an alarming rate. Just last week we had a change in Minister at the Department of Housing which will undoubtedly result in a delay in implementing key policies to help tackle this crisis."
Cowen claimed that Fianna Fáil has put forward many "constructive ideas" to address the national housing crisis. "More urgency has to be applied to actually delivering homes for citizen’s right across the country. The Government needs to accelerate the construction of social, affordable and private housing. It should implement initiatives to help bring some of the 260,000 vacant properties in the State back into use, including the refurbishment of ‘above shop’ units in towns and cities," he added.
“The Government also needs to launch an ambitious social housing construction programme. In the past six years the State has built just 4,000 social houses, which is fewer than what was built in almost every single year from 1994 to 2009. This has led to people being stuck on social housing waiting lists for years on end. Traditionally the State, through Local Authorities, has acted as the largest supplier of housing. We need to return to this model to ensure we have a functioning housing market in the years ahead which can provide for all people in our society."
The Clara deputy insisted that there are a number of immediate steps that Fine Gael could take to alleviate the housing crisis. "The most fundamental barriers that are holding back the supply of more affordable housing must be dealt with. There should be greater sanctions on those who horde land and there should be a limited three year VAT reduction on residential construction. Development levies should also be reduced alongside excessive planning fees."
“Most importantly, Credit Unions must be given the opportunity to provide loans for Local Authority led housing construction. The Irish League of Credit Unions has already indicated that its members could provide a €5 Billion fund for social housing. The Government needs to take up Credit Unions on this offer. Investing in housing is an investment in the future of the State,” concluded Deputy Cowen.
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