Taoiseach ‘encouraged’ by progress on housing as he vows more action
Leo Varadkar also accused Fianna Fail of ‘just throwing out’ policies which turn out to be unworkable.
The Taoiseach has defended Fine Gael’s record on housing as he insisted there cannot be a return to “boom-bust” policies.
Leo Varadkar said Fine Gael is committed to delivering all types of housing, both private and social, and he defended his party’s nine years in Government.
Asked if he is “ashamed” of the Government’s record on housing, he said: “No, I’m not. Rather than being ashamed, I am encouraged by some of the progress that has been made in the past couple of years.
“I have been in Government for the last nine years but the housing brief has only been held by my party for three-and-a-half years.
“In that period we have seen the number of new homes being built treble. We have seen us embark on what has been the biggest social housing programme in many, many decades – to the extent that we’re adding 10,000 homes to the social housing stock this year.
“We have also seen 15,000 people benefit from the Help-To-Buy scheme which means first-time buyers have been getting on the property ladder.
“There are a lot or flaws in our housing system, and one of the mistakes is that our construction and housing sector goes from boom, bust, boom, bust, boom, bust.
“Ninety thousand houses built one year then a crash and then none built for several years, and then you have to try to rebuild them all again.
“What I want to do is make sure we get it right this time and increase housing supply until it gets to a sustainable level of around 40,000. We don’t want to see a return to boom-bust policies on housing.”
Mr Varadkar criticised Fianna Fail and other parties for “just throwing out” housing policies.
He said: “We see that from the main opposition party – Fianna Fail. (Leader) Micheal Martin goes to a conference and says he is going to have a lower rate of VAT on some forms of housing and doesn’t bother to check the EU directive which says you can’t do that – or doesn’t care.
“Then he goes to another conference and says he is going to ensure that the Central Bank changes its mortgage rules. He either doesn’t know or care that the Central Bank is independent under Irish and European law.
“Then he throws out ideas on supporting rent controls, only for his party’s housing spokesman to go on radio and say the Bill needs more work.”
Last week, Mr Martin said the confidence-and-supply deal between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will become “untenable” if a legislative programme for the new year is not set out.
But Mr Varadkar said he plans to meet with Mr Martin early in 2020 to agree on the legislative programme.
Mr Martin wrote to the Taoiseach and asked that they agree an election date, indicating the “sensible and logical option” would be to agree a set of legislative priorities up until the Easter break.
A general election is expected to be held in spring next year, with Mr Varadkar stating May would be his preferred month for the vote.