By Cate McCurry, PA
Leo Varadkar’s legacy as Fine Gael leader will be “sky-high rents” and “spiralling high prices”, it has been claimed.
Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin accused the Tánaiste of leading a party of “privilege” and “rising housing costs”.
He made the comments after figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) this week showed that more than three quarters of renters who share accommodation with others believe they will never own a home.
Mr Ó Broin told the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions that the statistics made for “grim reading”.
“These are the casualties of 10 years of Fine Gael’s housing policy,” Mr Ó Broin added.
“Tánaiste, you’ve sat at the Cabinet table for those 10 years. These stories and the hardships are your legacy.
“In 2011 when you joined the Cabinet the average price of a new home in Dublin was €318,000.
“Today it is €503,000, half a million euros.”
The Sinn Féin housing spokesman said that during Fine Gael’s time in office, house prices have increased by 88 per cent across the State, and 95 per cent in Dublin.
“That, Tánaiste, is your legacy,” Mr Ó Broin added.
“In 2011, the average cost of renting across the state was €781 per month.
“Today, the average cost is €1,256, that’s an extra €6,000 a year on rent.
“In Dublin, the situation is even worse. Average rents have increased from €960 per month to €1,745.
“That’s almost €10,000 a year extra on rent for average renters, that is your legacy — spiralling high prices and sky-high rents.”
He added: “When you were elected leader of Fine Gael, you said you wanted to represent those who get up early in the morning to go to work.
“The only people I see your Government represent are big developers and big landlords, throwing around sweetheart deals and sweetheart land deals like confetti.
“I have to say it’s become increasingly clear that Fine Gael is not the party of hard-working people. It is a party of privilege, and a party of ever rising housing costs.”
Mr Varadkar defended his party’s stance on housing, but added that he wanted to increase the housing budget.
He said that 65 per cent of people in Ireland own their own home through policies introduced by his party.
“It’s because of policies and decisions made by my party and the Fianna Fáil party and Labour and Greens and others in years gone by,” Mr Varadkar added.
“I know that’s not a reality for hundreds of thousands of people in the State, for whom homeownership is a dream, a distant possibility, and that has to change.
“The Government gets that too and that’s why we’ve taken actions in order to help people buy their first home, for example the Help to Buy programme, which has helped tens of thousands of people to get a deposit to buy a home, something opposed by Sinn Féin.”
Mr Varadkar said that the main solution to the housing crisis is more supply of housing of all forms.
Mr Varadkar said: “The housing budget and the budget for social housing, that’s under consideration at the moment.”
He added that he wanted to increase the housing budget “as much as possible”, but added there are other demands.