Minister cautions against ‘quick fix’ to homes shortage

There is “not a hope” of the housing crisis being solved within the next two years, according to a Government Minister of State.

Ciaran Cannon has dampened expectations of a quick fix to the problem of a shortage of houses, which is leading to higher rents and homelessness in Galway and across the country.

But the Minister for Diaspora insisted progress was being made – and the Government was pursuing the correct policies.

The Galway East Fine Gael representative said money was not an issue, and there is a record level of funding being made available to local authorities to build social housing.

“You’ve seen our construction sector go over the edge of a cliff in 2007 and 2008. You know all of the Galway-based developers that simply stopped building houses and went bankrupt. Cranking that machine right back up again has been incredibly difficult. It’s slowly beginning to happen. You’re beginning to see some development happening again in the city, and some smaller developments happening in our county towns,” he said.

Minister Cannon said Ireland was building 90,000 houses per year during the boom, and that dropped to 1,500 or 2,000 during the worst years of recession. Roughly 25,000 or 30,000 units per year is what experts say needs to be delivered now, he said.

“The private sector house building machine is still only beginning to find its way back to life again. The other side of the coin is public housing. And as Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has repeatedly pointed out, money is now not an issue. There has never been a commitment to the scale of what we’ve committed to do in terms of public housing over the next four to five years.

“During the depression and recession, our local authorities didn’t have the resources to build any houses, they were doing well to maintain their existing stock. That kind of corporate knowledge of memory of delivering large-scale housing was probably undermined significantly. Now the Councils are being charged with building very large housing developments again, and it is taking them time to crank-up the operation.

“I’m certainly hoping that in the next 24 or 48 months now, in terms of the private sector and the public sector, through local authorities, I think we’re going to make a dent in it. Are we going to solve it in two years? Not a hope, because there’s a massive catching-up exercise to be done here.

“It’s not an issue of resources, and that’s the key thing. A commitment on resources has been given by Eoghan (Murphy, Housing Minister) and Leo (Varadkar, Taoiseach),” he said.

As well as the dreadful impact the housing shortage is having on people’s lives, the housing crisis is politically damaging. Minister Cannon said the Fine-Gael led Government is pursuing the proper policies.

“In terms of people’s daily experiences, their own personal experiences, until they see the houses being built in their own local towns, until they see the housing lists beginning to reduce, the message won’t get through and why would it, if people aren’t seeing the physical manifestation of a policy, then as far as they are concerned the policy isn’t working. So, until such a time as they see that happening, we’re still fighting a battle. But that’s what we’re continuing to do in trying to convince people that we are doing the right thing here.

“I think we are – we’re making the planning process much more straightforward, we’re supporting local authorities in beginning to deliver housing on a large scale, primarily by telling them there is no issue with funds. You tell us how much you want, when you want it, and you shall have it.

“State intervention in the private sector, to prime the pump, I don’t agree with that, I think the private sector is well capable of pumping itself in terms of construction. Out here in my own locality in East Galway, I do see some of the more competent developers now beginning to get back into business and hopefully they start to deliver again on houses but it’s going to take time,” added Minister Cannon.