Labour Blog

Labour Blog

Co-living Proposals Show Fine Gael is Out of Touch

Posted on May 21, 2019 at 04:23 PM


Brendan Howlin TD, Leader of the Labour Party (Leaders' Question, Dáil, 21 May 2019)

Minister Murphy recently said that professional people should live like students in so-called co-living accommodation, because that is now normal in London or New York. I would point out to the Minister that those are among the most unaffordable housing markets in the world, where prices and rents are out of control.

London and New York have serious problems because housing is now an investment for speculation. Speculative investment in housing is clearly happening in Ireland too.

The most recent OECD report warns that the Irish economy is vulnerable to recession due to a disorderly Brexit. But it also warns that the presence of foreign investors in the property market is a particular risk.

 More than half of all investment in commercial property is coming from outside the State. And student accommodation and buy-to-let properties are crowding out other housing development for the simple reason that they are more profitable. It is a textbook example of how a free market approach will not deliver affordable housing to meet public needs.

Does Fine Gael understand this?

These kinds of speculative investment are taking construction workers away from our core social need, which is affordable housing. And when housing becomes another investment focused on maximum profit, this forces people to pay more and more in housing costs.

The reliance on financial investment also pushes down standards, as we have seen with the co-living proposal. It attempts to normalise cramped living conditions and erode building standards for public housing.

We should be using regulations and taxation in such a way to ensure that the most profitable investment at this time is to build decent, affordable housing. Instead, the Minister for Housing is an apologist for those seeking to push down housing quality, which we spent so many years trying to improve.

It all shows that this Fine Gael government is out of touch with the reality of people’s working lives. Not everyone is privileged enough to go from college into a well-paid professional job where they can quickly earn enough to put down a deposit for their own home. It seems to be the Minister’s assumption that co-living would be acceptable for someone on that kind of gilded career path.

This shows a complete lack of understanding for the kinds of jobs that are available to most people. One in four workers earns less than two-thirds of median earnings… little over €23,000 a year after tax. Working people need affordable housing, and the obvious gap is the lack of State investment in building decent quality housing that people can afford to rent. Instead, Fine Gael is giving away public land and relying far too much on private investment in the housing sector.

In the three other large projects it has undertaken, this Fine Gael government has lost control: the children’s hospital, broadband and the Metro. We are not getting value for money. A critical IMF report on the hospital spending was ignored. Other investments will be delayed. Why should we have any confidence that the Government knows what it is doing in relation to the massive investment needed in housing?

But will the Government admit failure, and change direction on housing policy in favour of a State-led house building programme, such as Labour has outlined in detail?


The detail of Labour's housing policy is here:

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