Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government Barry Cowen TD says the increased allocation for housing in Budget 2017 is a step in the right direction, but says a lack of measures to shakeup the rental market is deeply disappointing.

Deputy Cowen further added that he has concerns surrounding the new first time-buyers savings scheme and says a concrete strategy is also needed to accelerate social housing construction.

“Unfortunately housing was not a priority for the previous Fine Gael led Government, and this led to a crisis in the rental sector in particular. I welcome the increased allocation for housing in Budget 2017, but further action is needed to address the crisis that has been allowed develop over the last five years,” said Deputy Cowen.

“I have serious concerns over the design of the new savings scheme for first time buyers. This initiative will see first time buyers chasing fewer than 10,000 new houses or apartments earmarked for construction next year. This scheme is useless without any accompanying measures to increase supply. In fact it could exacerbate the housing crisis by overheating the new builds market, which in turn will lead to increased house prices.

“The additional €150m allocated from the capital budget towards new housing provision is a positive development, but it’s worrying that there is nothing in Budget 2017 to bolster the capacity of local authorities to deliver on social housing targets. Local authorities built fewer than 75 new social homes in 2015. This is the lowest output on record.

“All local authorities will require much more significant staffing allocations and expertise to dramatically increase new housing supply. This will require nothing short of a radical overhaul in the performance of local authorities throughout the country and this must be a priority for the Government.

“I am also concerned given that the fact that there are no headline measures to deal with the overheated private rental market. People who are renting have suffered enormous increases in housing costs in recent years. The Government should have used Budget 2017 as a way of providing assistance to these people while we wait for housing supply to increase.

“It is disappointing that Budget 2017 provides no concrete proposals to increase rental unit supply, such as reforming development levies, reducing construction costs and addressing VAT issues. This Budget represents a missed opportunity to radically stimulate the supply of new homes alongside introducing an affordable cost rental scheme, both of which will be essential in reforming what is a highly dysfunctional rental market.”