Refusing to use private sector in building homes ‘fighting with one hand behind back’

Minister insists it is ‘absolute priority to level playing pitch for first time home buyers’

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has insisted it is an absolute priority to “level the playing pitch” for first time home buyers. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has insisted it is an absolute priority to “level the playing pitch” for first time home buyers. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has insisted it is an absolute priority to “level the playing pitch” for first time home buyers.

Introducing his Affordable Housing Bill which aims to make housing more affordable to rent or buy for low to medium income households he said that work is underway to expand Part V of the Planning Act on the percentage of housing in developments that builders are obliged to provide for social and affordable units.

Speaking in the Seanad Mr O’Brien said this will include designating a range of units for first time buyers.

Referring to the issue on institutional funds buying up completed housing estates,the Minister said “work is underway with the Attorney General, right now, to bring these amendments forward to further the playing pitch for first time buyers, which is an absolute clarity from the Government”.

‘Refuse’

He warned however that “to refuse to use the private sector, is to fight with one hand behind our back”.

In apparent criticism of Sinn Féin which has sharply criticised the Minister’s approach Mr O’Brien said “we need to stop letting one party’s perfect be the enemy of everyone else’s good when faced with this crisis”.

He said that “silver bullet fantasies and hysteria politics do a generation locked in a rent trap a grave disservice.

“I’m committed to using every weapon in our arsenal to fight the battle and turn the tide in our housing crisis.”

And he said the State would play a central role, “the biggest role, the State has played in generations” with a “a major leap forward in our housing policy”.

The most controversial element in the Bill is the shared equity scheme in which the State takes a stake of up to 20 per cent to bridge the affordability gap between an individual’s mortgage limits, and the price of the unit.

Mr O’Brien said it had received “intentionally distracting focus”.

He said the shared equity scheme “will work in conjunction with the Help to Buy scheme to get people into homes this year” and it will help “turn Generation Rent into a generation back and own their own home”.

Mr O’Brien stressed that “safeguards are being dealt in to tailor eligibility to meet individual affordability” and the scheme “will not compel homeowners to borrow more than they can afford”.

Independent Senator Victor Boyhan welcomed the Bill but said the Minister had “not adopted a definition of home ownership based on income” not on market value, a criticism echoed by a number of Senators.