Labour Cllr John Pratt, newly elected chairperson of the Dungarvan Lismore Area, has criticised the plans by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to put €500 million into a Rainy Day Fund next year ‘when we are in the middle of a housing crisis’.
Labour is calling for 2,000 affordable homes to be built with the money and offered for rent, to tackle the housing shortage and to give people security of tenure.
“Rather than creating a so-called ‘Rainy Day Fund’ of €500 million which will be invested who knows where, a much better use would be to invest this into building affordable housing for rent. We are in the middle of a housing crisis, with the latest figures showing nearly 4,000 homeless children, rents reaching record highs across the country and house prices continuing to rise,” said Cllr Pratt.
The Labour councillor feels that the question has to be asked why, two years into this Government, they still haven’t tackled this major issue.
“Here in Waterford we need more affordable housing, we have a growing housing list and not enough investment from the Government. Such a fund could build over 2,000 homes and costs would be reduced by doing this on publicly owned land. There are over 700 sites available across the country, adding up to 1,700 hectares. Estimating a build cost of €250,000 per unit which is a conservative estimate of the cost of building apartments, at least 2,000 new homes for rent could be built,” he said.
Cllr Pratt said there is now a situation arising where some companies are delaying expansion plans because of a lack of housing for future workers, and it has been reported that multinationals are leasing whole blocks of apartments before they are even completed, so that they have somewhere to house their workers.
“Creating affordable rented housing is crucial to allow people to take up jobs in a context where private rents are exorbitant. This investment would benefit the economy, and allow job growth.This would be a one-off, capital investment, so that there is no recurrent commitment, and a much better use than putting €500 million away in a bank account somewhere or invested in stock exchanges around the world.”
Cllr Pratt feels that it is not prudent to ‘save’ money, if a lack of affordable housing is holding back sections of the economy and feels this is the kind of strategic investment that the Government should be leading on ‘not putting Irish taxpayers money into some kind of cold storage where we have no idea where that money will actually be invested’.