Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has reassured first-time buyers that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” but said there are “real imperatives” in terms of resolving the property crisis.
The Sunday Independent revealed today that nearly €500m of the government’s housing budget for the first nine months of this year has not been spent.
Cabinet was told in a memo by Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien on Tuesday that hundreds of millions of euros of his Department’s unprecedented €4 billion-a-year budget for Housing for All are not being spent.
Despite this, Mr Varadkar said the government will meet its overall target for housing this year.
“It hasn’t been issued yet and of course the year isn’t over yet. Part of the reason is that we have the largest housing budget in the state’s history, with $4 billion committed to housing this year,” he told On The Record with Gavan Reilly on Newstalk.
“There is no lack of government financial commitment to solving the housing crisis, there is political will, there is no lack of compassion or caring, but there are real caveats.
“Real restrictions that would be there no matter who is in government. Labor availability, cost and availability of materials such as steel and concrete.
“But while there is a very large underspending at the moment, I think by the end of the year, if there is any underspending at all, there will be a lot less.
“That could mean buying more land so we have more public land to build housing on, it could mean helping local authorities pay off some of their debt on their existing housing developments to give them the financial firepower to give, to spend more.”
Mr Varadkar said it was “concerning” that many young people are considering emigration, but that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for first-time buyers.
“It worries me and I made it explicit in my speech last night when I spoke to young people who are asking if they can ever own a home and if they should go abroad. The grass can look greener and considering emigrating is not the same as actually doing it and many come back,” he said.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, because last year more than 16,000 people – including couples – well over 16,000 bought their first home.
“This is the highest level in 15 years. We are now seeing a very significant increase in first time buyers who are able to purchase their first home.
“At least in terms of first-time buyers who can buy a home, we’re coming around the corner.”
Ahead of next month’s cabinet reshuffle, Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael knew how to “make things permanent”.
“What has fundamentally changed is that we are in government together, it happened under very tense circumstances, in the middle of a pandemic when we had to form a government,” he said.
“We had to come together and do what was right for the country and form a coalition, the only option at the time was snap elections.
“I think it worked well and I know people would criticize the fact that you’ve been in government for 12 years, but I know how to make a government work.
“With Fianna Fáil and the Greens we now have a very good government that will endure. One thing Fine Gael can do is work with other people, form a government, compromise and make things last.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/leo-varadkar-says-there-is-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-for-first-time-buyers-42158794.html Leo Varadkar says there’s “light at the end of the tunnel” for first-time buyers