Tuesday 25 October 2016

230k homes lying empty as 6,000 officially homeless

Minister Simon Coveney
Minister Simon Coveney

New Housing Minister Simon Coveney wants "a non-political" approach to tackle the country's growing housing crisis and help build 25,000 homes a year for the next decade.

His call came as a new Housing Agency report showed there were 230,056 homes vacant across the State.

The Fine Gael TD, in a direct appeal to local authorities controlled by Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, warned that housing demands can only be met through a practical house construction programme supported by all major political parties.


Sinn Fein confirmed that it was now writing to Mr Coveney and Finance Minister Michael Noonan over how it plans to address the latest "shocking" Housing Agency report.

"There are 6,000 people officially homeless, including 2,000 children," said housing spokesman Eoin O Broin.

"There are up to 130,000 households on local authority housing waiting lists. Rents and house prices are spiralling out of control.

"Yet the Housing Agency has prepared a report for Government detailing up to 230,056 vacant houses across the state."

But Mr Coveney said all-party support was required for tackling what he described as the single greatest challenge facing Ireland.

The fledgling Government already faces major rows over housing initiatives at the former Dublin Glass Bottle site.

Local councillors want a focus on social housing and council-led construction.

However, others argued that only a mix of council and private sector housing will prove economically feasible.

The problem is further exacerbated by warnings from major developers, including Owen O'Callaghan and Michael O'Flynn, that construction levies need to be reduced to kick-start the private house building sector.

Mr O'Callaghan pointed out that, in areas like Cork, developers are actually losing money on every estate house completed.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI) confirmed that less than half the cost of building a new home is accounted for by construction charges.

An average €330,000 semi-detached house build involves only 45pc (€150,000) in direct construction costs, the remainder being made up of taxes, fees, levies and land costs.


"This is not going to be easy - everyone knows that. I think this is probably the greatest challenge facing our society," Mr Coveney said.

"I believe we need a practical response to a situation where so many families now need the help and support of the State," he said.

"I want this to be non-political.

"It is abundantly clear that we will need the support of all Irish political parties. Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are very important in this context because they are in positions of power in many local authorities."

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