Ireland has lowest rate of home-ownership since 1970s, Dáil told

Micheál Martin claims Government’s ‘litany of failures’ have doubled child homelessness

Micheál Martin said families who previously could have expected  council housing were now facing living in emergency accommodation long-term. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Micheál Martin said families who previously could have expected council housing were now facing living in emergency accommodation long-term. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

 

Ireland has the lowest rate of home-ownership since the 1970s because of the obstacles now faced by people attempting to buy their own property, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

He said the rate of home ownership in Ireland - once one of the EU’s highest - was now down to 68 per cent, its lowest point since 1971.

Mr Martin claimed the Government had presided over “a litany of failures” on housing provision and that the number of homeless children had doubled.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused Fianna Fáil of causing the current housing crisis, which his Government was now slowly getting to grips with.

During Leaders’ Questions, Mr Martin said families who previously could have expected council housing were now facing living in emergency accommodation long-term. He said huge sums of money that could have gone to house building were now directed towards emergency measures because of the move to housing assistance payments (HAP).

When Mr Varadkar become Taoiseach 1,881 children were homeless but it had more than doubled to 3,794.

‘Lecture’

Mr Varadkar said Mr Martin was a senior figure in a government that presided over a false construction boom, which had finished abruptly with an accompanying banking system collapse.

“You’re not in any position to lecture,” Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin.

Mr Varadkar said 22,000 new homes were built in the last year and up to 25,000 new homes would be constructed in 2019. House prices were gradually levelling off and falling in Dublin, and soon there would be enough new houses provided to meet demand, he said.

He added that the Government was committed to maintaining Ireland’s level of home-ownership. He said that at 68 per cent to 70 per cent it was “much higher than in most European countries”.The Taoiseach said the rate of home-ownership fell faster under the last Fianna Fáil government.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the so-called living wage of €12.30 an hour was significantly different from the €9.80 legal minimum wage. She said the income of many public service workers was between the minimum wage and the living wage and she called on the Taoiseach to legislate for this wage, pointing out that everyone in the Dáil earned multiples of this.

The Taoiseach replied to her bluntly, saying “no”.

He said the Low Pay Commission calculated the minimum wage and there was a pay deal with the public service trade unions. When that ended, he said he believed there would be another pay deal with the public service unions.

“That is how we decide on pay levels within the public service.”

He said Ireland’s minimum wage is the second highest in the EU and “far from being behind the curve, we are well ahead of it”.