Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that it is "all hands on deck" when it comes to the Government delivering on social and affordable housing, and they will "make no apology" for doing so.
He told his party's TDs, MEPs and Senators that the Government is prioritising social and affordable housing on public owned land, and that if the Government is serious, it needs to facilitate and drive on with supply.
The Taoiseach added that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien were "progressing solutions" regarding the problem of institutional investors competing with first-time buyers.
In a critique of Sinn Féin, the Taoiseach said the Government does not have the luxury of "opposing everything and sloganeering".
At Fine Gael's parliamentary party meeting, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was never intended to allow investment funds purchase housing estates, and said that the Government will ensure it does not become an enduring phenomenon.
He said problems regarding home ownership have to be addressed and "real differences" are required to ensure people have their own homes.
Earlier today, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said that if not for the Covid-19 pandemic, people would have taken to the streets over the absence of affordable housing and high rents.
Speaking in the Dáil, Ms Murphy said there was a generation that was "not prepared to take it anymore".
She said rent had increased by 62% between the years 2010 and 2020, whereas the EU average was 15% - adding: "Is it any wonder institutional investors are looking to Ireland?"
'The cuckoo funds don't really care about our housing crisis, they only care about their bottom line,' Social Democrats co-leader @CathMurphyTD tells the Dáil during Leaders' Questions | More: https://t.co/ph2KOYERkv pic.twitter.com/LXGcfhVRP8— RTÉ News (@rtenews) May 12, 2021
The best method to tackle the housing crisis, Deputy Murphy said, was for the Government to take an interventionist approach.
In reply, Micheál Martin said the State is intervening - rolling out a range of both affordable and social housing.
He said the Government's recently announced housing plan was "transformative"; the Government was taking a comprehensive approach; and the issue was how to build enough houses.
Regarding "cuckoo funds" block buying housing estates, he said the Ministers for Finance, Public Expenditure and Housing were examining what he termed a "combination of measures" and they would come back to Government for the plan to be approved.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said an entire generation has now been locked out of home ownership.
She said this is the first generation of those in their 20s and 30s who are worse off than their parents.
The weak response from Government, she said, tells the investor funds purchasing homes here that they have nothing to fear.
"Is this why you led Fianna Fáil back into Government? To let Fine Gael continue to call the tune on housing?" she asked.
Taoiseach @MichealMartinTD has said it 'would be far better' if Sinn Féin supported house building projects across the country 'instead of opposing them' | More: https://t.co/ph2KOYERkv pic.twitter.com/lu8D5AqWdf— RTÉ News (@rtenews) May 12, 2021
The Taoiseach answered that he led Fianna Fáil back into Government to make housing a fundamental right.
"It would be far better if your party supported housing projects instead of opposing them," he said.
Mr Martin said the Government's target is to build 50,000 social homes and to create ways to make housing affordable for younger people.
"Your policies are shallow, there is a lack of substance behind them," he told Ms McDonald.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office show house prices rose at their fastest rate in two years in March of this year.
Rents are also increasing across the country. Property website, Daft.ie, found that listed monthly rents rose in the first three months of the year.
Reporting: Mícheál Lehane, Paul Cunningham