Darragh O’Brien admits ‘major challenges’ to housing affordability

Darragh O’Brien speaking at the quarterly update on progress (PA)
Darragh O’Brien speaking at the quarterly update on progress (PA) Darragh O’Brien speaking at the quarterly update on progress (PA)

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has said that a report on the costs of building homes “speaks to the challenges that we have” to tackle housing issues and said that there were still “major challenges” to affordability.

The minister was responding to questions from opposition parties about a report form the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) that indicated costs in the Greater Dublin Area have increased by an average of 24% or 90,000 euro in three years.

It indicated the average cost of building a three-bed semi detached house in Ireland ranges from 354,000 euro in the northwest to 461,000 euro in the Greater Dublin Area, which includes counties Meath, Kildare and Wicklow.

During Leaders’ Questions, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the minister that across “every level”, people were struggling to afford or access housing.

He referenced difficulties in purchasing homes, in qualifying for cost-rental and in Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) rental tenancies.

“So at every level people can’t afford to buy, they can’t afford the cost rental in many cases, and they can’t afford to find a HAP that is within the threshold,” he said.

He called on the state to provide 70-80% of homes being built, to establish a State construction company and buy up the housing that has been delivered by private companies.

Mr O’Brien said he understood that Mr Boyd Barrett was “earnest” in raising the issue and admitted that “there still remains major challenges with regard to affordability”.

He said the SCSI report “speaks to the challenges that we have, and that’s why we need to continue to advance the Housing for All plan because what’s really important, deputy, is that we increase supply across the board.”

Earlier, Sinn Fein’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty accused Mr O’Brien of “complete deflection”, and asked the minister when he said his housing plan was “working” was he referring to record high numbers of people in emergency accommodation.

“I would genuinely ask you, or any of the ones that were laughing and heckling there, do you think it’s working when we’ve seen the record level of rent increases ever since records began, 12%?” Mr Doherty.

“Do you think it’s working that when housing prices in the Greater Dublin Area have increased by 90,000 euro since you took office three years ago?

“Do you think it’s working for the nearly 4,000 children who woke up in emergency accommodation today, because I know where my party stands, I know where we stand.

“Your plan is failing and failing dramatically, and every bit of evidence shows it.”

He asked the minister what he would do about the SCSI report, which stated that a joint-income of 127,000 euro was needed to purchase a home in the GDA, compared to the average single income of 37,000 euro.

“What we need to do and what we’re doing is increase supply across all tenures.

“We’re increasing supply and we will do over 30,000 homes this year, between 40 and 50% of them actually supported by the state.

“We have a very strong pipeline into next year and we are turning the corner on housing delivery. And yes, deputy, there remains challenges and there certainly does and the single biggest priority is those who don’t have a home to enable them to get home.

“But on every measure we brought forward all you’ve done is oppose them.”

Mr O’Brien then accused Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh of objecting to 200 social and affordable homes in his constituency, to which Mr O Snodaigh said was “an untruth” and “a lie”, prompting the Ceann Comhairle to call for order.