Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney said the Government will introduce major initiatives in the next budget aimed at getting first time buyers into the housing market.
Mr Coveney said Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will introduce measures in the budget which will focus on helping first time buyers get on the property ladder and focus on expanding the rental market, as a major step towards easing the housing crisis.
Speaking at Cork City Hall where he officially launched the Government's Rebuilding Ireland programme, Mr Coveney said addressing the challenges facing first time buyers was critical to tackling the housing crisis.
“Measures in the budget will be targeted at first time buyers because they are the people who need help most - about 53 per cent of the house buying market are first time buyers - the majority of that 53 per cent are simply locked out of the market at the moment, particularly in Dublin and Cork.
“That’s because of where house prices are at and we need to address that in the budget, and I think we will take a significant initiative to do that,” said Mr Coveney, adding he was aware developers were seeking a reduction in VAT but that was only one factor in the cost of providing housing.
He said the Government was working to reduce the gap between the cost of building a house and what first time buyers can afford to pay for a house, and they would be working to do both to help address the housing crisis - but developers too will need to play their part.
‘Onus on developers’
“But there is an onus as well on developers to find a way of providing housing in a more cost-effective way - the competition in this city and in some parts of Dublin and the price of land and the prices that are being paid are crazy and that is then being factored into the cost of selling a house.”
Mr Coveney said measures to increase the rental market are also necessary because of societal changes in terms of family size and mobility, and this needs to be addressed by building more single and two bedroom units rather than larger three- or four-bedroom houses.
He predicted Ireland will move away from the owner-occupier model to one where more people will live in rented accommodation, with people staying in rented properties much longer than is currently the case before they start thinking about buying their own home.
A small number of protesters picketed the launch of Rebuilding Ireland at Cork City Hall, with one woman, Terri Newman, who has been on the housing waiting list for 12 years, dismissing the Government plan as "total nonsense".
“There are over 6,000 homeless people in Ireland today. A third of them are children. They are the hidden homeless. We can’t wait until 2020 to get full housing build up, we need houses now,” said Ms Newman.
Right to protest
Mr Coveney said he respected people’s right to protest, but his focus was on finding solutions to the crisis. “Some people, instead of coming in here and discussing solutions with me, want to try and rile people up and make headlines through protesting outside, but my focus is on solving the crisis.”
Cork City Council director of housing Valerie O'Sullivan said there are currently 5,400 on the council's housing waiting list but the council was due to start work on some 400 units shortly under the Rebuilding Ireland initiative.
Ms O'Sullivan said the 400 units were at 13 different sites around the city, and some 65 of them along with a community facility at Deanrock in Togher would be discussed at Monday's City Council meeting, while a further 40 units were being developed at Gerald Griffin Street near Blackpool.
Construction would commence on all 13 sites before the end of the year, said Ms O’Sullivan, adding the council was making good progress on turning around unoccupied or void houses and making them available to people on its housing waiting list.