Division between Coalition as major housing plan is delayed
24th July 2021
© Provided by Extra.ie
The Housing Minister has had to delay the Government’s long-awaited plan to solve the housing crisis.
The setback comes amid growing divisions between the Coalition partners over the budget for the scheme.
In a development that is sure to pile further pressure on Minister Darragh O’Brien and the Government, the already delayed Housing For All plan will now not be ready until late August or September after ministers clashed over the funds that will be allocated to it.
The Opposition was quick to exploit the deepening rift between the Coalition partners on Thursday night, saying that house prices and rents continue to climb while the Government fails to treat the housing crisis with the urgency it deserves.
It is understood that there have been arguments among Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael ministers about the amount of money allocated to the scheme.
A second Cabinet meeting had to be held last Wednesday as ministers failed to agree on the Summer Economic Statement and the housing budget.© Provided by Extra.ie The setback comes amid growing divisions between the Coalition partners over the budget for the scheme. Pic: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
The five-year plan is to act as the Government’s blueprint and will replace the Rebuilding Ireland scheme brought in by former housing minister Eoghan Murphy in 2016.
However, a Cabinet source, who has been involved in some of the tense discussions over the Housing For All plan, said that it had been delayed over ‘details’.
‘The Department of Housing is being stress-tested in terms of the realism of the plans it has brought forward,’ they said.
‘Right now, there is not a fully credible plan that could have billions put into it. So it has been delayed, which frankly, in my experience, is very unusual for such a fundamentally important plan. When a Taoiseach says that housing is his number one priority and the plan is to be published in July, and then it is delayed until September, that doesn’t create helpful mood music going into a summer recess.
‘It is indeed unhelpful. Backbenchers will go back to their constituencies and have to tell constituents that there is a delay on solving the issue that is the number one issue coming up on the doors. The backbenchers are very unhappy.’
It comes after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is understood to have questioned the Taoiseach Micheál Martin at a Cabinet meeting back in May about what ‘making housing a number one priority’ meant.© Provided by Extra.ie It comes after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is understood to have questioned the Taoiseach Micheál Martin at a Cabinet meeting back in May about what ‘making housing a number one priority’ meant. Pic: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said on Thursday night it was incredible the plan had not been published. ‘We have had a year of promises and half-baked legislation but no indication of the new social and affordable housing targets for each year from 2022,’ he said.
‘For all their faults, at least Fine Gael had a housing plan published within 100 days of taking office. At this stage, it appears that the plan is being held up by further wrangling between the Coalition partners on the budget allocation.’
A spokesperson for Minister O’Brien said on Thursday night that work would continue on the plan over the summer ‘throughout August’. However, it is expected that the plan will not be unveiled until September.© Provided by Extra.ie Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said on Thursday night it was incredible the plan had not been published. Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos
One Fianna Fáil source said on Thursday night that Minister O’Brien said that there was ‘no one specifically delaying’ the plan.
They argued that the minister has been ‘working night and day’ to get the plan over the line and Fine Gael need to stop ‘interfering’.
‘Fine Gael has not got a good track record on affordable housing apart from cancelling it,’ they said.
‘I don’t want them interfering and saying, “we can’t commit now” or “we’ll do it next year”. Fine Gael have to let us do what we do best on housing and sit back. They had a good run in their own reign on this and they failed to deliver. The public told them that in the election.’
The Taoiseach has repeatedly insisted that housing is the Coalition’s ‘number one priority’.
As he unveiled a new housing development in Sandyford, Dublin, last Friday, he said: ‘The key focus of Government, of course, is housing as we emerge from this pandemic.
Those of us who have responsibility to deal with the housing crisis must never forget what we are doing.© Provided by Extra.ie The Taoiseach has repeatedly insisted that housing is the Coalition’s ‘number one priority’. Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos
‘We are working to help people get decent roofs over their heads, security in their lives and homes where they can raise their children and create lifelong memories.
‘I see housing as the most urgent and most important social challenge facing this Government.’
The Tánaiste, meanwhile, told the Fine Gael ard fheis last month that the party ‘will champion the building of new communities and new homes’. Mr Varadkar previously told his parliamentary party that they needed to ‘change the narrative’ that they were not addressing the housing crisis. He also said that it wasn’t helpful that the two Government parties seemed to be at odds with each other on housing.
Reacting on Thursday, Social Democrats’ housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan said that the delay questions how seriously the Government is taking the housing crisis. ‘The fact that it was going to take the Government over a year to come up with our plan on housing, given the urgency around housing, is hugely concerning in the first instance,’ he said.
‘Now that’s just going to be further delays to it. It questions how seriously the Government are taking this? Do they not see that there’s an urgency in this?’© Provided by Extra.ie The Tánaiste, meanwhile, told the Fine Gael ard fheis last month that the party ‘will champion the building of new communities and new homes’. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire
People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett called the delay ‘very alarming’, adding that it is ‘madness that the Government is arguing over the financing of the plan’.
He added: ‘We need an immediate end to this in-fighting.
‘Housing is a right and far too important for senior ministers to be squabbling over.’