Sinn Fein spokesperson for social protection and TD for Wicklow-East Carlow John Brady has said that the government housing plan falls short of what is needed:
“Fine Gael’s ‘Housing Action Plan’ is a small improvement on the plans produced by his Labour predecessor Alan Kelly but still falls far short of what is actually needed. With over one hundred thousand households across the state now on the social housing waiting list, there is a fear that despite recent announcements we could be heading from crisis to catastrophe.”
Teachta Brady said putting party politics aside, the holes in the current government plans are pretty stark and show that the government seem to be seriously underestimating the extent of the challenges ahead:
“All parties need to get on board in working to deliver results that will resolve the housing crises as soon as is humanly possible. But the current round of government plans has some serious flaws, all of which have been pointed out by Sinn Fein. We very much welcome increased investment in social housing. However contrary to Minister Coveney's announcement; the real increase in investment in social housing on his predecessor’s plans is less than the €2.2bn claimed by the Minister. The actual increase is to €1.29bn towards 2020 and €1.54bn towards 2021. This is a critical difference because these figures will determine the ability of Government, local authorities, and approved housing bodies to deliver the social houses urgently required.”
Regarding targets Teachta Brady said we have to ‘get real’. When targets are set the government must aim to reach them:
“Minister Coveney’s plans will produce up to 6,000 real social houses a year for six years. This falls far short of the annual target proposed by the Dáil Housing and Homelessness Committee - 10,000 real social housing units a year. In other words Minister Coveney is falling short of the Dáil Housing and Homelessness Committee recommendations by 40%. More worrying is the fact that the increase in Capital Spending on Social Housing next year is a mere €150m. Given the relentless rises in the numbers of people in emergency accommodation, living at risk of homelessness and languishing on local authority waiting lists; this increase is simply not enough and way short of previously stated goals.”
Teachta Brady also pointed out that in terms of dealing with Mortgage arrears the Fine Gael plans seriously backtrack on commitments made in their programme for Government:
“There was much to be welcomed in the Programme for Government commitments to deal with mortgage arrears including many things Sinn Fein had long called for. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the watering down of these commitments, which we have already quizzed the Minister for Finance on, has been confirmed in this plan.
“Gone is the promise to ‘establish a dedicated new court’ for mortgage cases. In its place, the Minister for Justice will ask the Courts to hold these cases at certain times and places. The commitment to hold these cases in private has now been put in doubt too with the Housing Action Plan raising concern about the constitutionality of this move.
“Gone also is the Programme for Government commitment to amend the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears. We have pointed out the backsliding of Minister Noonan on this issue when he told us that the commitment only referred to non-bank lenders like vulture funds. Now it is clear that even that commitment has been reduced to ‘an assessment of existing sustainable solutions’.
“Likewise, the commitment to raise the threshold levels for accessing the Personal Insolvency system have been downgraded to only a possibility instead of a commitment to raise them ‘where appropriate’.
“There is a little welcome detail on the new advice service and the powers available to it. However, we have seen many schemes like this before that were promised but never delivered. There is a worrying gap between what this government promises and what is actually delivered. We are eight years on since the banking crash yet Fine Gael are simply not on top of the mortgage crisis. The 85,989 families in arrears can’t afford any more backsliding on what were only modest advances in the first instance.” Concluded Teachta Brady.