Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has confirmed he will increase the affordable housing eligibility threshold for couples above the current €75,000 income limit.
In his first Dáil question time as Minister he said, “I don’t think it’s helpful that we have basic salary caps of €75,000 for couples” because in urban areas in particular a couple with average incomes will be over that threshold.
“And it’s that cohort of people I want to actually make sure that we bring in,” he said.
“We won’t exclude couples that earn over €75,000 unlike other parties”.
In a row with Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin about affordability he said he would not set a ceiling on the prices yet. “I am going to bring a detailed report on delivery to the House and publish it in the autumn,” he said.
There were a number of options for affordable homes, which he was looking at.
“What I’m not going to do is restrict myself at this early stage. I don’t think it’d be prudent,” Mr O’Brien said.
Mr Ó Broin, who raised the issue, expressed concern that the Minister had “two different and competing definitions of what affordable housing is”.
During the election “you rightly called for affordable homes to be delivered at prices of €250,000 or less”.
But “more recently you’re on record in the Dáil as saying that setting absolute limits on the price of affordable homes is flawed and that instead you’re opting for the equity share model.”
The Dublin Mid-West TD said shared equity was not affordability, but “simply a way of getting around the Central Bank’s sensible macro-prudential rules”.
“You either build houses and sell them at cost, which is where you can actually determine the price from the outset, or you take a market price at a discount”. The buyer pays less initially but “they have to pay back the initial discount of up to 40 per cent in addition to the mortgage”.
Mr Ó Broin warned that it was either selling homes at a price of €230,000 or less, or in the shared equity model “where people have an initial price of €250,000 or €260,000, but ultimately have to pay beyond €300,000”.
“So it’s either cost or to market discount, you can’t have the two,” and the sooner the Minister decides the sooner hardworking families will know “ if this Government is going to deliver genuinely affordable homes or like the last Fianna Fáil government homes that look affordable but aren’t, and (that will) get them into trouble at a later stage”.
But Mr O’Brien hit back saying: “I know sometimes Deputy you think you have all the answers but you don’t. There’s not just two mechanisms to deliver affordable homes.”
He said he wanted to see guide prices of between €160,000 and €260,000 depending on the house type and the area.
“There’ll be different economic realities depending on where they are, depending on the sites.”
He criticised a Sinn Féin Dáil motion on affordable housing as “unworkable” and “inferior”, and said it would have left more than 40 per cent of those who needed affordable housing out of the system because of an arbitrary cap of €75,000 salary for a couple.
As Mr Ó Broin attempted to intervene the Minister told him that he “sometimes doesn’t like hearing the truth”. He said the public “don’t want to see you shouting at me or bickering with me.
“What they want to see is an affordable purchase scheme that delivers for them. And that’s what this Government intends to do.”