Varadkar defends housing record saying opponents more focused on ideology than delivery

Taoiseach turns sod on State’s first affordable purchase housing scheme in the country

Leo Varadkar: ‘Every year housing construction is increasing and there is growing evidence of house prices levelling off.’ File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Leo Varadkar: ‘Every year housing construction is increasing and there is growing evidence of house prices levelling off.’ File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended Fine Gael’s record on housing and accused both political opponents and media commentators of being more concerned with ideology than delivering homes for people.

Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael was committed to delivering all types of housing, both private and social but others seemed more concerned with how the houses are provided.

“When it comes to housing, some commentators and parties are obsessed with the mechanism of delivery, rather than simply with delivery. Their focus is ideological. Our focus is different, it is not on ideology, it is on delivery.

“It is to ensure there is a greater supply of housing - social housing for people on the housing lists, private housing for people who want to buy, because most people want to buy their own home and (have) places available for people to rent.”

Mr Varadkar was speaking an event in Cork where he was joined by Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy to turn the sod at a €40 million affordable housing scheme,

The project, on a 13 acre (5.2 hectare) site assembled and made available by Cork City Council at Boherboy Road, Lotamore in Mayfield on the city’s northside, is the first affordable purchase housing scheme in the country.

A total of 153 homes, including 116 energy efficient affordable homes, consisting of 24 two-bedroom units and 92 three-bedroom units, are to be constructed at the Mayfield site immediately.

The development, which is being built by Emmaville Limited, is a joint venture between Clancy Construction and Lyonshall Limited. The houses will range in price from €198,000 to €223,000 and are expected to be ready by November next year.

The project also includes a crèche while a portion of the site is being made available to a housing association to build and manage 37 apartments for social tenure requirements.

Mr Varadkar conceded the Government has more to do in terms of tackling the housing issue but he proffered the Mayfield project as an example of its commitment to delivering affordable housing.

“Today’s sod-turning is a significant moment because it makes a statement that goes beyond Cork. It is a statement that affordable homes are being built all across Ireland, ” he said.

“We are beginning to see the results. Every year housing construction is increasing and there is growing evidence of house prices levelling off. More than 20,000 new homes were built in the past year.

Mr Varadkar, flanked by Fine Gael North Central by-election candidate, Senator Colm Burke, pointed out that figures this week from the Central Statistics Office shows a 22 per cent increase in new housing and an 80 per cent increase in new apartments.

And he pointed out that the Serviced Sites Fund established by Mr Murphy represents a €310 million investment by the State to facilitate the provision of affordable homes to buy or rent.

Mr Varadkar said that new affordable houses will also be built in Churchfield and Glanmire in the city while a further 240 homes have also been approved for development in Kinsale, Midleton, Carrigaline and Clonakility.

The Government will invest a further €126 million in the Serviced Sites Fund in 2020 for affordable housing projects and similar developments will be replicated in towns and villages across Ireland, he said.

Mr Varadkar also pointed out that the Government was bridging the affordability gap by extending the Help to Buy Scheme with some 14,000 people having already benefitted from the scheme.

Meanwhile over 2,500 first time buyers, including 300 in Cork, have been helped to buy their own homes with low interest mortgages through the provision of €563 million for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme, he said.