Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick has questioned the content of the government’s ‘Housing for all’ plan and has called for more action to help solve the housing crisis. According to Deputy Fitzpatrick a clear short term solution is available which is putting more emphasis on bringing vacant properties back into housing stock.
“The housing issue has been a constant topic for debate during my time in Dáil Éireann. We have seen housing lists grow consistently over the past number of years, with each Government struggling to deal with a very serious issue. I have said many times in this House that I will support any measures that will help tackle the housing problems we are currently experiencing. While I welcome the Government’s recent Housing for All announcement, I am not satisfied it will produce the result we need. Housing for All lists the following as its goals: to put affordability at the heart of the housing system; to prioritise the increased supply of public, social and affordable homes; and to increase the supply of social housing by more than 50,000 units with an emphasis on new builds.
“I could go on, but these goals are all aspirational. What we need is action, not aspirational statements. When I heard the Government was going to increase the supply of social housing by 50,000, with an emphasis on new builds, I despaired. Surely, I am not the only one who sees the many hundreds and thousands of vacant homes throughout the country. In my hometown of Dundalk, one can walk down any street and find at least one vacant property. Why is the Government not putting more emphasis on bringing vacant properties back into the housing stock? Surely, this can be a short-term solution to the current housing crisis. Many of these vacant properties are in well-established residential areas where there are already communities, services and schools. It is a no-brainer to fund local authorities to get these vacant properties back into use for tenants. Louth County Council has been to the forefront in this regard and we are well regarded as leading the way.
From speaking to officials, I know they could do much more if adequate funding was forthcoming from Government. There would be many benefits to this approach.
“Vacant houses, which are often used as areas for antisocial behaviour, would be habitable again. It would improve the area and the quality of life for existing residents. While I welcome the Government’s Housing for All plan, not enough resources are being put into getting vacant properties back into the housing stock. It is more important than ever that we have an accurate vacant property register. It would help identify vacant properties that are suitable to be brought back into the system. I have called for this previously and urge the Government to move on it.
“When discussing housing, it is important to examine rent increases over recent years. Efforts by Government have clearly failed to prevent rent inflation. How can it be that in Dundalk someone will pay between €1,200 and €1,600 for a standard, three-bedroom home when servicing a mortgage on the same property would cost significantly less? There is something wrong somewhere when are in this situation. Surely we should support people who are currently paying these rents and who are quite clearly capable of servicing a mortgage, yet cannot get one.
“While I support the efforts of any party to address the housing situation, it is quite clear that we have a short-term solution in converting vacant properties into habitable homes. What we need now is a commitment from Government that it will make available the necessary funds to local authorities to upgrade vacant homes. Every week, mothers, fathers and children come into my constituency office looking for a home. They are walking down all the streets in Dundalk and Drogheda and seeing vacant properties. They cannot understand why they cannot get a home. Residents in lovely areas have vacant properties and all we see is antisocial behaviour. We can see drug takers and people on corners. It is wrong. Louth County Council is one of the leading authorities at the moment. It is pleading for the Minister to give it more resources so it can get homes for families,” he concluded.