Budget will not just be about housing, says Varadkar

Taoiseach: If there was a housing quick fix, others would already have suggested it

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael think-in in the Galway Bay Hotel, in  Salthill on Thursday. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael think-in in the Galway Bay Hotel, in Salthill on Thursday. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended Government’s record on housing but said there were no “quick fixes” and that the budget would be about much more than just housing.

In response to opposition demands for a “housing budget” Mr Varadkar said “a budget has to be comprehensive, it can’t be just about any one problem.

“The budget has to be about pensions and welfare, it has to be about health, it has to be about housing, it has to be about education, it has to be about infrastructure, it has to be about climate change, it has to be about the tax burden that a lot of middle income families bear, it has to be about childcare,” the Taoiseach said, speaking to reporters in Galway where the Fine Gael autumn think-in is taking place in advance of the new Dáil term.

“I think we would be letting people down if the budget was just about any one thing, because that’s to ignore everything else. There are lots of issues in our society that need to be dealt with,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added that the Government had already “allocated a big increase in spending on new housing, on social housing and also on developing land for private housing.

“Of course there can be other measures too and we’re happy talk to Fianna Fáil and other parties about that. But it’s not big budget announcements that are going to solve those structural problems.”

Mr Varadkar said that while there was much attention focussed on the number of people in emergency accommodation, other statistics show that the Government’s housing policies were working.

“The number of people rough sleeping is down by about 40 per cent - that’s evident to people who walk around Dublin, that there are fewer rough sleepers than there were this time last year. And that’s because of Housing First and our partnership with the Peter McVerry Trust.

“The number of new homes built - 4,400 new homes built in the last three months, more than in the entire year of 2010.I don’t think anyone can deny that progress. Look at the official statistics when it comes to rent - the ESRI-RTP statistics - we see rent increases of about 2 per cent over the last six months, as opposed to the double digit increases that we would have had in the past. So there are areas where we do have progress, compared to last year,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar said that he can “understand why people are sceptical but if there was a quick fix solution to this problem I think other people or other parties would have put that forward by now - would have published it, would have defended it, would have brought it through the Dáil for example, we don’t have a majority in the Dáil, the opposition does. The truth is there is no quick fix. I think the vast majority of people do understand that.”

The event in Galway continues on Thursday and on Friday.