Minister for Housing aims to inject ‘new energy’ to role
Eoghan Murphy pledges to increase housing stock and tackle planning bottleneck
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Gene Clayton of the Iveagh Trust with Ann Uzell who has downsized to a new one-bed apartment at Annamore Court in Ballyfermot. Photograph: Alan Betson
The new Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, is “looking at everything” his predecessor Simon Coveney planned to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis and will bring “new energy” to the portfolio, he says.
In his first public engagement as Minister – a visit to a new 70-unit social housing development for older people in Chapelizod, Dublin – he said being the fifth minister for housing in six years was not a problem.
“I think it’s very important we now have a new housing minister. The Taoiseach has appointed me to come in and redouble our efforts.”
The Government action plan on housing, Rebuilding Ireland, published by Mr Coveney (now Minister for Foreign Affairs) in July 2016, was “a fantastic piece of work”.
“But we now need to see what additional efforts we can bring in. That’s what I’ll be doing over the next couple of weeks, to see what new things we need to do directly to increase supply as quickly as we can.
“We will look at ways to tackle the planning bottleneck that’s there. Some good ideas and good initiatives have already been taken in that space. I’ll look at that again. But we also need to look at the procurement piece as well and some good initiatives have been taken on the procurement side. But we need to ensure that once planning is given we can move very quickly to get people on the sites.
“I’m looking at everything. Certainly the cost of building is being reviewed as well and I’ll be having talks with the Minister for Finance [Paschal Donohoe] as to what new measures we may be taking later this year in the budget.”
The €10 million scheme is built on the site of formerly derelict bedsits, owned by Dublin City Council. The council transferred the site to the trust for €9,000, and funding was accessed through the European Investment Bank and the Housing Finance Agency.
Ms Uzell is one of 16 of the 70 new households in the complex who surrendered larger family homes to the council, to “downsize”.
“I had a four-bedroom house in Ballyfermot, on my own,” she said. “My children are all reared and it felt wrong to be in it.”
The most important factor in accepting the apartment in Annamore Court was that it was in her community. “I wouldn’t have moved far. Here I can walk to the bus stop in seven minutes, I can see the church where I did my Holy Communion and got married. I’m near the shops. I’ve no regrets.”