Taoiseach: ‘Housing crisis is holding us back’

Taoiseach: ‘Housing crisis is holding us back’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the housing crisis is holding Ireland back as a country. He says a “can-do” Covid-style response needs to be adopted to solve the emergency situation, similar to the response taken to the pandemic. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

THE housing crisis is holding Ireland back as a country, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar said a “can-do” Covid-style response needs to be adopted to solve the emergency situation, similar to the response taken to the pandemic.

The Fine Gael leader, who became Taoiseach for a second time earlier this month, said the Government needs to turn the corner on housing as it is causing inter-generational division.

“Sometimes in Government we’re too willing to say that things can’t be done, because of public finances, because of state aid rules, or because of the Constitution, or because of something else, I’m not willing to accept that,” he said.

“We need to turn the corner on housing, it is an emergency, it’s affecting people in so many different ways.

“It’s holding us back as a country, and it’s causing inter-generational division that I don’t like to see. So, it’s really going to be a case of let’s do everything, unless there’s a really good reason as to why we can’t.”

The Dublin West TD said next year the Government needs to move from an emergency and humanitarian response to “more permanent housing solutions”.

“That’s what we’re going to do in the next next couple of months,” he said. “We have to look at in the round. There are people here, for example, 5,000 people still living in Direct Provision who have status, it’d be good if we could find a way to accommodate them to free up those places.

“And then, also, there are a lot of Irish people, Irish citizens and EU citizens that are on housing lists for a very long time. So we need to look at that in the round and make sure that we’re fair to everyone.”

He added that there are many different ways of increasing supply.

“We have lot of levers we just need to make sure that we use the right ones,” he said.

“Obviously, there’s financial levers, grants, Government spending, Government investment, also things that could be done on the tax side for example, that we need to examine. There are legislative levers then as well, so, for example, planning law reform, to make sure that things get through planning permissions quickly.”

Mr Varadkar also said the Government intends to use a “carrot and stick” approach with schemes such as the Croi Connaithe scheme and zoned land tax to entice private developers to build new homes.

The Croi Connaithe fund aims to bridge the gap between the cost of building apartments and the sale price when the cost to build is more than the sale price.

Asked whether he intends to increase the zoned land tax, which is currently set at 3% of the market value of the land, Mr Varadkar said there was no plan to do so at present but that when it comes to housing, “absolutely everything has to be on the table and properly considered”.

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