Last weekend brought more very bad news for workers and families struggling to buy a home. Media reports quoted a series of housing experts predicting continued housing price hikes. This echoes similar commentary from the Governor of the Central Bank last week. One economist said of our housing market that it is on fire. Another warned that house prices could reach Celtic tiger levels. A third expressed the concern that house prices could continue to rise for the next four years. All of this is, of course, an indictment of the Taoiseach and Government’s failed policies.
Last Thursday during Leaders’ Questions, my colleague, Deputy Doherty, raised with the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, the issue of rising house prices. By way of response the Tánaiste said that house prices are cheaper than they were 14 years ago and that, in any event, people were in a position to borrow more, in other words, to amass more debt.
This approach will only increase house prices further. One has to ask has the Tánaiste learned nothing from the past ten years? Does he not understand that more credit will mean more house price inflation, more debt for workers and families and more expensive housing? Does he not understand that increased debt means greater risk of mortgage default, repossession and, in worst case circumstances, perhaps homelessness?
I spoke yesterday to a family in Ringsend. There were three generations living in one home. They are by no means unique but I will talk about this family. One of the family members, a young woman aged 35 with a good job, had just moved back into her mother’s home for the fifth time. Because of the Government's failed policies, this woman and countless thousands like her feel that their lives are on hold. A whole generation has been left in the same situation. This woman and people like her do not need unsustainable levels of debt forced upon them; they simply need to put a roof over their heads. She needs a genuinely affordable home for her and her family.
Does the Taoiseach agree with the Tánaiste that house prices should increase further and that workers and families should go further into debt? Does he think that is acceptable or does he accept that house prices are too high? Does he also accept that heaping even greater debt on workers and families will force prices up and will not bring them down? All of this scenario, as it unfolds again in a housing crisis, smacks very strongly of the bad old days of Fianna Fáil in power.
The housing system is designed and delivered not for ordinary people, families or workers but by and for developers, and the banks too, of course, get their pound of flesh and line their pockets.
Will the Taoiseach clarify where he stands? Does he stand with his Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, who takes the laissez-faire approach whereby people should simply borrow more and buy more expensive housing, or does he accept that we have a crisis and need to deliver affordable housing?