Sinn Féin in electoral attack over Fine Gael’s ‘spending of €10 billion on owners’

Taoiseach Simon Harris defends his party’s record on housing and FG spokesperson condemns opposition party’s move on 13 years of figures as ‘a matter of desperation’

In a move aimed at shifting the election debate from immigration to the housing crisis, Sinn Féin analyzed the multi-million euro spending on taxpayer-funded payments to landlords by three successive Fine Gael governments.

The figures given to the Irish independent show that the State has spent €9.5bn on a series of different rental schemes since 2011, when Fine Gael came to power.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said the spend was a “chronic waste of money” and could have been used by the Government to pay for the construction of 40,000 new social or affordable homes.

The new figures come after details of a Housing Commission report which calls for a “radical reset” of the Government’s housing strategy as it estimates around 56,000 new homes will need to be built each year between next year and 2034.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described the Housing Commission’s findings as a “damning indictment” of the Government’s failure to address the housing crisis that has continued for more than a decade.

However, Taoiseach Simon Harris, who yesterday defended Fine Gael’s record on housing in government, said it was the Government that established the Housing Commission so it could receive advice on how best to address the housing shortage. .

The row comes as opinion polls showed the gap in public support between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin is narrowing ahead of next month’s local and European elections. Sinn Féin has struggled to take advantage of the immigration crisis despite it being a key concern of voters, while since her election as Taoiseach, Harris has taken steps to address public concerns about the record number of asylum seekers arriving. to Ireland.

Taoiseach Simon Harris and Mary Lou McDonald clash over call for ‘radical’ housing policy reset

The Fine Gael leader has said he wants the immigration debate to move from being a debate about accommodation to one about the laws governing the asylum process.

New Sinn Féin figures show Fine Gael-led governments spent €3.2bn on rent supplements, €1.8bn on the Rented Accommodation Scheme (RAS), €3.5bn on the Child Assistance Payment Housing (HAP) and 900 million euros in long-term leases. schemes. The total figures for all these taxpayer-funded schemes amount to €9,583,731,000 since Fine Gael came into government in 2011.

Payments to landlords were the cornerstone of successive governments’ plans to tackle the housing crisis.

The Rental Supplement is a long-term landlord payment scheme that is still in place, but state spending fell from €502 million in 2011 to €62 million last year. However, other state aid has replaced the plan as the subsidy chosen by owners.

Fine Gael introduced HAP to replace RAS in 2013.

Last year, the State spent 544 million euros on HAP, in addition to a further 110 million euros on RAS.

Sinn Féin figures also include state payments for long-term rental agreements between local authorities and landlords.

Sinn Féin has for some time criticized the 25-year lease system which allows local authorities to rent a home for a quarter of a century and return it to the owner in the same condition as it was initially rented.

Ó Broin said the State has become too reliant on landlord subsidy programs under Fine Gael governments and the State continues to put the needs of landlords ahead of those who need social housing. “What the analysis shows is that over the last decade, under Fine Gael and later Fianna Fáil, almost €10 billion in subsidies have been paid directly to landlords of social housing for tenants.

“This is money that could have been used to build real homes and, in fact, a conservative estimate is that 40,000 new-build social homes could have been delivered at development prices over that period. This is a chronic waste of money. Obviously support for short-term rentals is necessary, but since 2014 these programs have been considered to have the same status as social housing. It is putting the interests of the owners before those of the social tenants.”

Last night Senator John Cummins, Fine Gael’s housing, local government and heritage spokesman, described Sinn Féin’s tactics as “desperation” as he claimed rental plans cited by the opposition party helped accommodate the most vulnerable in society.

“This is the stuff of Sinn Féin desperation. Adding 13 years of support that has ended thousands of society’s most vulnerable people having a roof over their heads and turning that into an attack shows that Sinn Féin is desperately struggling and panicking at the record housing numbers we have . “Last month alone, more than 18,000 constructions were started,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the Dáil yesterday the Taoiseach was accused of not participating in the Housing Commission report due to the proximity of the June 7 election. Harris said he is examining the report and urged the opposition to wait until it is published before insisting that his recommendations be implemented.