European Commission vice-president pledges funds to ease Irish housing crisis

Frans Timmermans says housing is a European crisis and should have EU solution

Vice-president of the European Commission and leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Frans Timmermans, with Labour European Parliament election candidate Alex White, in Donnybrook on Friday. Photograph: Dave Meehan for the Irish Times

Vice-president of the European Commission and leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Frans Timmermans, with Labour European Parliament election candidate Alex White, in Donnybrook on Friday. Photograph: Dave Meehan for the Irish Times

 

European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans has promised European aid to help tackle Ireland’s housing crisis.

Speaking in Dublin this morning where he visited a housing association development at Beech Hill in Donnybrook, Mr Timmermans proposed the incoming Commission use structural funds to support the social housing sector.

“I want to make it easier for the social sector to get financing that will make it cheaper to build. The risks are very low,” he said.

Mr Timmermans who is seen as a contender to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the incoming Commission at the end of this year, said housing was an EU-wide issue and should have an EU-based solution. He said “we need to build more social housing we need to do it urgently.

“I would say to local councils or to Dublin City if you build new housing and you do at least 30 per cent social housing we will support you financially. That is something we can do from Brussels.”

He told Labour party leader Brendan Howlin that the European Investment Bank could also be involved. “There is one thing, loans, we can arrange that. But you can also have direct investments, you can have a combination of the two”.

“I want to have a direct conversation with the councils or with the cities because the most successful model I’ve discovered is Vienna where 60 per cent of the housing is subsidised. It is not all social housing, it is all subsidised and in public property. You have a housing crisis in all European cities now because parents are saying children can not live in their own cities anymore”.

He said such a policy would survive the European elections this summer “because it is really a problem that we share as Europeans”. He said “we need to talk about what we are going to do in the next financial framework”, and using the structural funds for housing would be an “ideal” use for them.

Mr Timmermans was speaking at he visited the home of Teresa Cummins, a resident in the new 20-unit, one-bedroom apartments, developed by RHD Housing. RHD Housing was set up by the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook but operates as a separate legal entity as a housing association.

Accompanied by a retinue of Labour party members, including European election candidates Sheila Nunan and Alex White, Mr Timmermans toured the development. Local Senator Kevin Humphreys said the site had been the location of an older block of flats which were largely boarded up and in poor repair and scheme to replace them with homes for the elderly was formulated in cooperation with Dublin City Council.

The council has also developed housing on former green areas in the Beech Hill estate, much of which was originally a Dublin Corporation estate. Mr Humphreys said the payback for the locality in losing some green space was that local people on the housing lists would have priority for the houses.