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Amanda Major has a picture taken with Darragh O'Brien. Photograph by John Kelly

O’Brien upbeat despite crisis

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THE housing crisis in Clare may be acute, but when he was in Ennis last Friday, Minister Darragh O’Brien (FF) only saw positives. Addressing the media, he claimed continuously that things are getting better, and exuded an air of self congratulation rather than that of a man grappling with a crisis.
At the official opening of 18 new social homes in Ennis, he was asked about a number of complaints made by county councillors that week, including claims that the State is distorting the market locally, actually making things harder for working people who want to buy their own homes.
Responding, the Minister insisted that the housing crisis is easing, while he suggested Clare County Council would want to hurry on with delivering affordable housing.
“The first thing is to commend Clare County Council, our councillors as well, our Dáil deputy Cathal and our senator Timmy for all the support they’ve given me on the development of new homes in Clare,” he said.
“In the just short of four years that we’ve been in Government and had the housing portfolio, housing output has increased by over 75%. We have built just short of 1,800 new homes. The challenge remains, there’s no question about that, there were ten years of very significant undersupply under previous governments.
“What we’re doing now with Housing For All is the single biggest intervention that any Government has ever made in housing. This year we will invest €5.1 billion in housing, including in Clare.
“Now in relation to housing for working people, across 21 different counties in this country I have approved affordable housing schemes for over 4,500 homes.
“I’ve discussed this with Clare County Council, the councillors would be well aware of this and the executive, they are working on two schemes that I’ve yet to receive.
“They will get support from me and the Department for any application that they bring forward. There are two particular areas that the Council have been looking at for some time.
“I mentioned at a previous event that I would like to receive those applications as soon as I can, because a priority for me, my party and this government is to help people who want to own and buy their own home.”
To be fair he did say that those who don’t qualify for social housing are in his thoughts and do face problems.
“What I’m saying to you is there is momentum there, progress is being made. Are all the issues resolved? Absolutely not. The cohort of people above the social housing limits are one that I am acutely focused on.”
Asked about the pausing of a 30 unit development in Ennistymon because of waste water issues, and the fact that other parts of North Clare are also facing a medium term in which housing developments won’t be possible, he began talking about the provision of waste water facilities in Broadford and Cooraclare.
When it was suggested that the situation in those two villages is somewhat irrelevant to the situation in Ennistymon and other parts of North Clare, the Minister sought to put the focus back on a more general picture. “Nationwide we have more first time buyers now than we’ve had since 2006. It is still difficult for younger people and not so young people, but the progress is there. Not everybody is feeling that, but it is happening. The overall housing output last year was over 33,000 new homes, way ahead of our target two years in a row. We’re playing catch up, we are seeing first time buyers because of the schemes we’ve brought forward like the help to buy grant, €30,000 of people’s own tax back in their pocket to help with a deposit. The first home scheme which is the shared equity scheme, which on average would give €70,000 in equity to people, that applies to self build homes as well. Another scheme that’s working with 8,500 households applying and registering for it.”
He did, however, admit that he hasn’t yet solved things completely. Before congratulating himself on how well he is doing. “”There still remains challenges certainly, unquestionably, but how we tackle that is by increasing supply. Thankfully that trajectory in relation to supply since we’ve come into Government and since I’ve been appointed.”

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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