Taoiseach challenged over Varadkar promise to build 40,000 houses a year

Lost construction of homes due to pandemic will have to be made up over remainder of decade - Martin

The lost construction of thousands of houses due to the pandemic will have to be made up over the remainder of the decade the Taoiseach said. Photograph : iStock

The lost construction of thousands of houses due to the pandemic will have to be made up over the remainder of the decade the Taoiseach said. Photograph : iStock

 

The lost construction of thousands of houses due to the pandemic will have to be made up over the remainder of the decade the Taoiseach said when challenged about the Tánaiste’s commitment to build 40,000 houses a year.

Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy asked Micheál Martin if he was standing over the commitments made by Leo Varadkar at the weekend at Fine Gael’s ardfheis.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we witnessed a political transformation unlike almost anything we’ve seen for the last 20 years,” she said.

“Having been an enthusiastic Tory fiscal conservative for his entire life Mr Varadkar has seen the light,” Ms Murphy claimed.

“There were so many spending commitments announced on Saturday that Fine Gael delegates must have been checking to make sure they were at the right event.”

Outlining the promises made she said Mr Varadkar committed “to build 40,000 houses a year; an extra €4 billion a year for health services; expanded medical card eligibility; occupational pensions , a living wage, more money for welfare payments”.

She said this was all to be paid for “not with tax increases but with some very vague sounding growth at a time when the economy recovers from the pandemic, (while) we’re coping with Brexit and (when) our corporate taxes are set to reduce”.

Ms Murphy asked the Taoiseach “were you warned or consulted on these announcements that health budget will increase by €4 billion a year or will that come as a surprise to the Fianna Fail Minister for Health.

“Is the Minister for Housing planning delivery of 40,000 houses a year?

“Are you standing over all those commitments and how they’re going to be paid for?”

She asked if they were to be included in the summer economic statement.

The Taoiseach said the Tánaiste was speaking at the Fine Gael ardfheis and “he is entitled to present his perspective on a number of issues”.

He said Cabinet had received an overview of the summer economic statement presented by the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure “which maybe characterises a more sober assessment of the situation over the next five years generally speaking.

“We knew for these two years there would be exceptional spending in terms of the pandemic and exceptional deficit. But over the lifetime of the Government we will ease our way to a balanced fiscal position.”

He said the Minister for Housing is preparing the Housing for All strategy. “We lost a lot of houses last year and this year.”

The ESRI was saying 33,000 houses needed to be built annually but “given that we’ve lost some house 6,000, 7,000” houses this year and last “we need to make that up for the remainder of decade”.

Mr Martin earlier quipped that he could “report that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is in rather good form in last 48 hours in the underpinning of the substantial health budget which will be required.

“He might rather optimistically think that his bilateral with the Minister for Public Expenditure may not be as difficult or challenging as ministers generally have.”