Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said that local authorities are being “tooled up” so they can deliver new-build homes through their “housing delivery teams”.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland and Newstalk Breakfast, the Minister defended the Housing for All strategy published on Thursday, saying that it was the largest social housing building programme ever in the State.
Mr O’Brien also said that the proposed Vacant House Tax would be introduced as soon as possible once it was determined the reason why some properties were vacant. It would not be fair to tax a vacant property where the owner was in long-term care, he said.
A survey was being conducted on vacant homes at present, he said, and he expected to have the data by November.
“We have to find out the reasons why they are vacant.” To bring forward a tax, data was required he said. “Once that comes back in, we have committed to a vacant property tax.”
There were solutions, but change was not going to happen overnight, Mr O’Brien said. “We need a structured response.”
The Minister said that a review of the previous plan ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ would shortly be published with contributions “from those at the coal face.”
“This may be plan number four, but it is different, it is multi-faceted and multi-funded.”
The Housing for All Plan contained 213 different action points and offered three different options, he added. While the plan was a public-private combination, the State remained the “biggest builder”.
When asked about his alleged refusal to debate the plan with Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, Mr O’Brien said that the plan was not about him or Mr Ó Broin.
It was a “red herring” to say he would not debate the plan and Sinn Féin had criticised the plan even before it was published, he said. “This is about the thousands who want to own their own home.”
'Homes not data centres'
The Minister said he would debate the plan with Mr Ó Broin and Social Democrats spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan.
Earlier on Morning Ireland, Mr O’Callaghan said that the Government was already failing to deliver what it had set out in its manifesto and that the plan included fewer homes than had been promised in the last Budget.
Targets needed to be met, he said. When asked about shortages of workers in the construction sector, Mr O’Callaghan said that the Government should insist that apprentices be taken on as part of every contract.
“This is a missed opportunity.”
The Government should prioritise the building of homes not data centres, he urged.
There was already considerable data on vacant homes so more was not required for the Government to act, he said. There should be “no fudging and no delay” in getting vacant homes back into use.