Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail leader criticises ‘litany of failures’ in tackling homelessness

Micheal Martin has hit out at the Irish Government over what he described as a deepening housing crisis.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said the housing crisis is deepening and home ownership is now at its lowest level since 1971 (Brian Lawless/PA)
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said the housing crisis is deepening and home ownership is now at its lowest level since 1971 (Brian Lawless/PA)

The leader of the Opposition has described the Irish Government’s policies to tackle homelessness as a “litany of failures”.

Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin said the housing crisis was deepening, with child homelessness doubling in the past two years since Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach.

But Mr Varadkar said the Fianna Fail leader he was “not in a position” to lecture or advise anyone on housing.

There was an over-reliance in the free market, on the private market, to solve all of the issues and that I would suggest that that over-reliance has backfired and has failed Michael Martin

Mr Martin told the Dail the Government’s “over-reliance” on the private market had “backfired” and young people were now “locked out” of home ownership.

He said the rate of home ownership, at 68%, was now at its lowest level since 1971 and that the younger generation had “lost confidence of ever being able to afford to buy a house”.

Mr Martin added child homelessness had more than doubled to over 3,700 and that by any yardstick it has been a “litany of failures”.

“Plan after plan has been produced and they haven’t worked in accordance with the targets that were set in each plan,” he said.

“There was an over-reliance in the free market, on the private market, to solve all of the issues and that I would suggest that that over-reliance has backfired and has failed.”

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Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar acknowledged the “enormous challenges” the Government faces when it comes to housing and said its objective was the to reduce the number of families experiencing homelessness.

He said the Government was “committed” to home ownership and the private market had always been needed to deliver it.

“It’s never been the case that Governments build houses for people to own, Governments build houses for people to rent, to those who aren’t able to own their own house,” he said.

“That’s why we do need the private market so that people can purchase their own homes and own their own homes.

“And I want that reality – that 70% home ownership – to be a reality for people in their 20s and 30s.”

Mr Varadkar added the help-to-buy scheme had already benefited more than 10,000 people and they were already beginning to see progress with house prices levelling off.

The Taoiseach added people should not forget what happened 10 to 12 years ago under Fianna Fail’s watch.

He said the country experienced a “boom and bust”, hundreds of thousands of people had lost their jobs and the banking system had collapsed.

“We had on your watch ghost estates, Priory Hall, mica, hundreds of thousands  of people in negative equity and hundreds of thousands of people in mortgage arrears,” Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin.

“You’re not in a position to lecture or advise anyone on housing.”

PA

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