Dáil debates

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Ceisteanna - Questions

Cabinet Committees

1:22 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Over the last ten years we were not building enough houses so we have to rapidly increase and then consistently have an output of housing of 33,000 to 35,000 per annum for the next ten years. That will enable us to provide younger people, in particular, with affordable houses to rent or buy.

In response to Deputy Barry, I often thought he might have kissed the Blarney Stone when he first arrived from Dublin to Cork because he has what the Blarney Stone mythically gives one when one kisses it. The closure of post offices is a serious issue. I recently met with representatives of post offices in Cork. The Government intervened last year and in the previous year by providing a funding stream to underpin some of the services and to support the viability and continuation of post offices. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is looking at this very keenly at present because it is due to expire towards the end of the year. We are concerned that a town such as Blarney would be without a post office. We are looking at transferring services, but the customers of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank are going to migrate to other financial institutions and it is open to An Post to perhaps provide banking services and so forth. Fundamentally, however, there is the issue of the community-based services.

In collaboration with the Ministers with responsibility for rural development and public expenditure we will seek to do what we can on financial underpinning and what other services, in particular State services, post offices in rural Ireland could realistically provide.

Deputy Cian O'Callaghan referred to the Croí Cónaithe fund. This has two aspects. One is apartment building in cities and the other is to try to facilitate through much smaller grants the repair of housing in town centres across rural Ireland. We all go through villages and towns where there are buildings and houses that are not in use or that have not been refurbished or renovated. This is one aspect. With regard to the aspect identified by Deputy Cian O'Callaghan, where there is an upper limit of €120,000, and not all may achieve this, there has been a challenge with regard to the viability of apartment blocks in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick. There has not been anything near the level of development of apartment blocks that are desired in city centres for a number of reasons. There is the whole idea of compact living, whereby all services are available within walking distance to people who live in residential areas and we have a more energy efficient city. There is a societal objective to ensure the viability of building large apartment blocks. This has not been realised to date. There is an aversion to tax incentives and this is shared across the House. The Croí Cónaithe fund has been designed to see whether we can bridge the gap between the viability cost and the market price to enable us to get far more supply into the market so that young people can buy apartments at affordable rates. Currently this is not the case in cities. We are looking at a supply of approximately 5,000 apartments. This is what the scheme is targeted to deliver.

Deputy Bacik referenced the issue of low pay. We have not opposed her Bill. The Tánaiste will come forward with a report on low pay. The Government has committed proactively to a living wage provision.

Deputy Cowen raised the issue of energy and the wider issue of competition in the market. Again, the Government will be giving active consideration to this. This was a feature prior to the pandemic. The fact that our prices are price higher than our European counterparts has been a feature of the Irish energy market for quite some time. This will be examined by the Government.

I take the point made by Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan on energy audits and their application to micro-companies. He raised two issues. Yesterday, the Government extended the low rate of VAT for the hospitality sector, including restaurants and small hotels, until February 2023. This should be of some help notwithstanding the huge impact of energy input costs.

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