Too many three-bed houses and not enough one-bedroom homes is one of the major problems facing the Irish housing market, Leo Varadkar has said.
The Tánaiste on Thursday defended the record of the Government on housing, while saying Ireland lacks enough one-bed apartments to cater for growing numbers of single young people.
The Fine Gael leader was responding to a question from Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns, who accused successive governments of overseeing a cost-of-living crisis in Ireland.
“This is no country for young people,” she told Mr Varadkar.
Ms Cairns cited figures that show that only 27 per cent of first-time buyers last year were aged 30 or under.
“Young people in Ireland have been handed a poisoned chalice,” she said.
“They’ll be the first generation who are less well off than their parents. Of course, stagnant wages and soaring housing costs are largely to blame. In the past eight years, housing prices have doubled.”
She said wages and opportunities have not recovered from the economic crash of over a decade ago.
“The pandemic has further compounded this disadvantage, disproportionately impacting on young people’s opportunities, social lives and earnings.
“Why should young people have any faith in your Government?”
Mr Varadkar said his Government believed in homeownership, adding that 70 per cent of people in Ireland own their home.
“We want that to be a reality for people who are in their 20s or in their 30s,” he said.
Mr Varadkar hit out at the Social Democrats, accusing the party of not understanding how Irish society has changed.
“It is disappointing to see so many people, including members of your own party, objecting to new homes being built. Particularly in Drumcondra, for example, objecting to new homes being built because they’re one-bed apartments,” he said.
Mr Varadkar was referring to controversial plans to build around 1,600 apartments on the grounds of the Holy Cross seminary in Drumcondra, Dublin.
“Surely you know how many young people are single?
“One of the changes that has happened in our society is that people tend to form their households later in life, tend to get married later, tend to be single for longer.
“And objecting, as the Social Democrats often do, to housing on the basis that they are one-bedroom apartments, really misunderstands the fact there are so many single people now in society.
“One of our biggest deficiencies, in housing supply in Ireland, is we’re a country of three-bed homes, by and large, and we don’t have enough one-bed homes.”
He said a Help to Buy scheme, which critics and some experts have said is pushing up house prices, had helped many young people raise a deposit to get a mortgage.
Ms Cairns also said the Government’s shared equity scheme, one of the key measures in the Housing for All Plan launched this year, would create more debt for first-time buyers.
The Government, she said, is “wedded to a developer-led approach”.
Mr Varadkar responded: “Most of our housing policies is orientated around increasing home ownership in Ireland.
“I think shared equity is part of that. I have seen it work in my own constituency.”