By Cate McCurry, PA
The Taoiseach has rejected an accusation that he has failed to resolve the housing crisis during his tenure.
Micheál Martin defended his government’s handling of the housing crisis, saying it has taken “fundamental decisions” to address the chronic shortage of housing.
However, co-leader of the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy said that the crisis “morphed into a disaster”.
She said that house prices, rents and the rate of homelessness have never been higher.
We've just a few weeks left with Micheál Martin as Taoiseach.
How has he decided to cap his tenure?
By restoring bonuses to the banks who collapsed our housing sector while failing to deliver on any housing targets this year.
"People can't live in targets," says @CathMurphyTD pic.twitter.com/H8ezkKtHBj
— Social Democrats (@SocDems) November 29, 2022
On Friday, it emerged there is a record 11,397 people, including 3,480 children, living in emergency accommodation.
Ms Murphy also referred to a report that revealed 11 local authorities have failed to deliver a single new-build home in the first half of 2022.
Three of the local authorities are in Dublin, the area suffering worst from the crisis.
“The housing emergency is not always just about bricks and mortar,” Ms Murphy told the Dáil.
“The price of the disaster is being paid by these thousands of children, many of whom are not meeting milestones, who are losing their childhoods as they grow up in emergency accommodation.
“Homelessness has almost become normalised.
“The price is also being paid by the relationships breaking down because of the stress of housing insecurity, by the couples postponing having a family and by the disconnected communities resulting from people being unable to put down roots.”
She also told the Dáil that almost €500 million of the Government’s housing budget for the first nine months of this year was not spent.
“It should be no surprise then that the Government will miss its modest target to build 4,100 affordable and cost-rental homes this year,” Ms Murphy added.
“Talk is cheap and the Taoiseach’s commitments on housing now lie in tatters.”
Mr Martin rejected an accusation by Ms Murphy that he has failed to resolve the ongoing housing crisis in his time as Taoiseach.
Mr Martin is to hand over the reins of Taoiseach to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar next month.
The Fianna Fáil leader said the government has made some “very fundamental decisions”.
“We are already on track to exceed this year’s target of 25,600 under Housing for All,” he added.
“We need to consider that we had two significant lockdowns during the Covid pandemic, which dominated the first year and a half to two years of this Government.
“Despite the inflationary cycle, the war in Ukraine and the exponential increase in the cost of building materials as we came out of the pandemic, we have continued with new schemes and new approaches and with record legislation in the field of housing.”
He added: “The Affordable Housing Act established the affordable housing purchase scheme.
“The sixth Residential Tenancies Act enhances tenant protections including the introduction of a 2 per cent rent cap; extended Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ) until the end of 2024; restricted deposits in the context of what landlords can do with deposits; extended notice to quit periods; the winter eviction ban; and a whole range of legislative elements.
“The help-to-buy scheme is now a maximum payment of €30,000.
“This scheme has helped thousands of ordinary people to buy their first home. This year we have had a record 16,000 first-time buyers in the past 12 months.
“That is the highest number since 2007, which represents 33 per cent of all home purchases, up from 25 per cent in 2015.
“With social housing, again we are looking at a record this year in the number of social houses that will be brought in through build, through lease, and through acquisition.
“Some 18,500 social houses have been provided since this government came into office.
“This is very significant ramping up of activity on the social housing front.”