Leo Varadkar feels that one of the major problems facing the Irish housing market is too many 3-bedroomed houses, and not enough one-bedroom homes. The Tánaiste last night defended the Government’s credibility on housing and instead felt the lack of one-bed apartments to cater for young, single people is to blame. His points came in response to Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns, who has accused successive governments of overseeing a cost-of-living crisis in Ireland.
“This is no country for young people,” Ms Cairns declared, citing figures which show 27% of last year’s first-time buyers were aged 30 or under. “Young people in Ireland have been handed a poisoned chalice. They’ll be the first generation who are less well off than their parents. Of course, stagnant wages and soaring housing costs are largely to blame. In the past eight years, housing prices have doubled.”
On the topics of wages and opportunities for the people of Ireland, Cairns said things have not improved since the 2008 economic crash. She believes the pandemic has “further compounded this disadvantage, disproportionately impacting on young people’s opportunities, social lives, and earnings”. Speaking to Varadkar, Cairns asked, “Why should young people have any faith in your government?”
Adding that 70% of people own their own home, Mr Varadkar said his government believed in homeownership. The Tánaiste said Government want people in their 20s and 30s to have that reality of owning their own home. Hitting back at the Social Democrats, the Tánaiste accused the party of misunderstanding how the society in Ireland has changed.
“It is disappointing to see so many people, including members of your own party, objecting to new homes being built,” Varadkar said. “Particularly in Drumcondra, for example,” referring to plans for the construction of around 1,600 apartments on the grounds of the Holy Cross seminary.
“Objecting to new homes being built because they’re one-bed apartments. Surely you know how many young people are single. One of the changes that has happened in our society, is that people tend to form their households later in life, tend to get married later, tend to be single for longer. And objecting, as the Social Democrats often do, to housing on the basis that they are one-bedroom apartments, really misunderstands the fact there are so many single people now in society.”
With Ireland being a country “of three-bed homes, by and large,” Mr Varadkar believes it is “one of our biggest deficiencies in housing supply in Ireland”. He said many young people were able to raise a deposit to get a mortgage through the Help to Buy scheme, which some experts believe is pushing house prices up.
Ms Cairns claims one of the key measures in the Housing for All Plan would create more debt for first-time buyers. Lamenting the Government’s shared equity scheme, the Social Democrat TD also claims that the Government is “wedded to a developer-led approach”. In response, Mr Varadkar said most of Government’s housing policies are “orientated around increasing home ownership in Ireland. I think shared equity is part of that. I have seen it work in my own constituency.”