Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael clash over core issue: housing

Martin vows new scheme to help tenants save deposit and exit ‘rip-off’ rental market

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Declining home ownership due to  a ‘failure of Government policy’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Declining home ownership due to a ‘failure of Government policy’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

 

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have traded insults over each other’s housing policies in an early sign of what is likely to be one of the major battlegrounds in the next general election.

The exchanges came after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin outlined several policy initiatives in a speech to the party’s youth wing, Ógra, on Saturday.

He said Fianna Fáil would introduce a rent freeze, change Central Bank lending rules to ensure rental payments are taken into account when people apply for a mortgage, establish a shared ownership scheme to allow the State take a stake in people’s homes, provide €2 billion for an affordable housing scheme and start a “special savers scheme to help tenants save up a deposit to get out of the rip-off rental market”.

Mr Martin attacked the Government over declining home ownership.

“The reason for this is not that young people are squandering their wages on avocado toast. Nor is it because they want to live with Minister [for Housing Eoghan] Murphy in what he calls boutique-style hotels or what the rest of us call extortionate chicken-battery bedsits. The real reason is a failure of government policy.”

Mr Murphy characterised Mr Martin’s pledges as “entirely disingenuous”. He said Fianna Fáil had for three years “promised a housing plan and still nothing”.

“All they have are slogans and soundbites. But now we are seeing some scant detail and even that is very worrying because it is so lacking in substance.”

Fianna Fáil record slated

Mr Murphy accused Mr Martin of wanting to interfere with Central Bank independence. “His government did that before and it collapsed the housing sector and the economy.”

He said the Government has already brought in a shared ownership scheme and that Fianna Fáil supported it and the wider Rebuilding Ireland plan.

The Dublin Bay South TD said he and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar turned the sod on a new affordable housing scheme in Cork on Saturday and asked if Mr Martin is “so detached from what his own frontbenchers are agreeing that he missed the €310 million allocated to our affordable housing scheme?”

Mr Martin responded by saying the Minister and Taoiseach should “knock on the doors of the northside of Cork and they would find out pretty quickly what people think of their failed housing policies”.

He added: “Photos of hard hats and shovels in the middle of a byelection won’t cut it.”