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Fine Gael woos Dubliners with 'build own home in country' plan

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and party candidate Catherine Ardagh hold her fourweek-old twins Sean and Darragh

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and party candidate Catherine Ardagh hold her fourweek-old twins Sean and Darragh

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and party candidate Catherine Ardagh hold her fourweek-old twins Sean and Darragh

Cash-strapped Dubliners who want to move to the country will be able to buy State-owned sites at knock-down prices as part of a Fine Gael plan to incentivise people to relocate to rural towns and villages.

The new scheme is central to the party's election manifesto and will see it offer potential homeowners plots of publicly-owned land in rural communities at cost price.

The land will be connected to roads, water and electricity when sold and those buying the sites will be asked to contract a developer to build their homes.

Fine Gael believes that there are at least 1,400 sites in rural communities which it says will provide around 8,000 new homes.

Any site offered under the scheme will be large enough to accommodate between four and six new houses.

The plan is aimed at encouraging people to live in towns and villages rather than construct one-off houses in more rural areas with a population of less than 200 people.

Charged

Local authorities will be charged with selling sites and will not be permitted to make a profit from the sale of the land.

Councils will also be able to buy sites in populated rural areas and sell them on if it makes financial sense.

The scheme will be available to owner-occupiers only and anyone buying a site will have to commit to living in the house they build for a certain period.

The local authority-run project will be open to first-time buyers and downsizers.

Some of the sites are derelict bus depots on Office of Public Works land which are no longer in use.

The brown-field plots will have a low market value but will be connected to local services ahead of sale.

Buyers will be expected to apply for planning permission themselves but as the sites are in towns they are not expected to face many difficulties.

It comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was off the election trail yesterday after taking ill.

Mr Varadkar was due to take part in a walk-about with Dublin North-West candidate Noel Rock in a Santry shopping centre but it was cancelled at short notice.

The Taoiseach did attend the launch of Fine Gael's online safety proposals in Castleknock where he appeared unwell to observers.

It is understood a planned interview with Newstalk's Ivan Yates last night was also set to be cancelled. However, the Taoiseach later agreed to appear on the programme.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar said: "The Taoiseach had a stomach bug overnight, but he's feeling a lot better now."

During the radio interview Mr Yates asked the Taoiseach about the slump in popularity for Mr Varadkar and Fine Gael in recent polls.

The Taoiseach said polls "go up and down" and that "perhaps they'll come back up again before the election".

Meanwhile, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are set to make election manifesto promises to increase the universal childcare subsidy in a move to win over the votes of young families.

At an event today, Fine Gael will pledge to raise the payment for under-threes from €20 a week to €100 a week on a phased basis.

Savings

Mr Varadkar will also say he will increase in the free Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) for three to five-year-olds from 38 weeks to 42 weeks by 2025. This represents savings for parents of up to €972.

Fine Gael also plans to increase the €60,000 income threshold for the targeted childcare scheme of increased subsidies.

Fianna Fail is expected to promise to increase the child subsidy payment to €80 over the next five years.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will also pledge to increase maternity leave by four weeks and double paternity leave, which is currently set at two weeks.

Fianna Fail will also pledge to reduce capital gains tax from 33pc to 25pc over the lifetime of the next government.