Harry McGee and Jack Horgan-Jones
A four-week delay in the launch of Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien's landmark housing policy has been received as a significant setback for him and for the Government.
The Housing for All publication, which will determine the State’s housing policy and plans until 2030, was due to be published next week but is now not likely to be launched until late August or early September.
The Government on Thursday played down the delay and strongly denied there were any divisions within the three Government parties on funding for the plan, or on its major policy initiatives.
A spokesperson for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the launch of the policy was being put back in order to allow for more work to be done on the package of reforms next month.
“Work is continuing on the Housing for All plan. It’s a multi-annual plan, to 2030, and a fully funded plan with a number of Departments feeding into it and this work will continue throughout August,” she said.
“There are a number of iterations and we are working our way through the drafts. There are some things that need agreement that are still under discussion.”
‘Year of promises’
However, opposition parties criticised the delay and a Government backbench TD expressed frustration at the development.
Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said it was incredible the plan had not been published.
“We have had a year of promises and half baked legislation but no indication of the new social and affordable housing targets for each year from 2022,” he asserted.
“For all their faults at least Fine Gael had a housing plan published within 100 days of taking office. At this stage it appears that the plan is being held up by further wrangling between the coalition partners on the budget allocation,” he said.
Several Fianna Fáil TDs also expressed frustration at the delay. The Dun Laoghaire Deputy Cormac Devlin posted on Twitter that it was “frustrating to see our Housing for All plan delayed again. Those delaying the plan won’t be thanked by people waiting to buy affordable homes or access cost rental schemes”.
Not quite ready
Other Fianna Fáil TDs seemed to attribute the delays to Fine Gael. However, Government sources representing all parties maintained that the main reason the publication had not been finalised was that it was felt the plan was not quite ready.
One source said that there was also a view at senior level that it would not have sufficient impact with the public if launched in the run-up to the August bank holiday weekend.
It was also confirmed that none of the parties have major issues with any element of the plan and that there have been no issues with financing. “There has been no drama or walk-outs,” insisted a senior official. “We have not been banging the table.”
It is understood the new likely date for publication is the end of August, or early September.
The plan envisages a raft of new policies to tackle homelessness, affordable home ownership, public and social housing and reforms to the rental sector, including the development of the cost rental sector.
A senior Government source said a cross-departmental group, chaired by Martin Fraser, the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach will meet next week to finalise elements of the plan.
That group includes the secretaries general of several of the largest government Departments including Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Justice, Enterprise and Social Protection.
Work will continue at official level over the summer before publication. Sources said elements still to be concluded focused on the development of rural towns, sustainable retrofitting and planning reform.
Cabinet is also set to approve work done on expenditure by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for each department next week, including housing, which is seen as a key element that has to be in place before the plan is launched.