Sinn Féin's Housing Spokesperson has accused the Tánaiste of being "directly responsible" for the hardship experienced by those struggling to secure housing.
Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, Eoin Ó Broin told Leo Varadkar that he, more than any other politician in Government, is "directly responsible for that hardship of working singles and couples desperately trying to save for a deposit.
"Of separated and divorced people who have lost their family home, or families recovering from Celtic Tiger era home repossession, or students forced to choose between sky-high rents and crippling commutes, of moderate income workers approaching retirement looking nervously to the future."
Mr Ó Broin added that his question is very simple.
"When would you and your Government stop abandoning renters and when would you take action to cut rents and ban rent increases?"
He said Budget 2022 did not include "a single measure to ease the burden of sky-high rents" and he accused the Government of imposing measures that could "make the situation for private renters much worse".
Deputy Ó Broin said this demonstrated a lack of "basic human empathy" shown by the Government.
He said the "only mention" of the private rental sector was the extension of a tax relief to landlords.
Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin says the Budget did not contain measures to ease sky-high rents. He says the Taoiseach conflated the social rental sector with private rents. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says 'misrepresentation and misquotes’ is classic Sinn Féin. | https://t.co/QsFT1pSfwI pic.twitter.com/tHUZnqagbu— RTÉ News (@rtenews) October 14, 2021
In response, the Tánaiste said that the claim that he lacked empathy was "classic Sinn Féin tactics" and is something the party "thrives on".
Mr Varadkar added that this approach was "beneath" Deputy Ó Broin, who he described as "an intelligent person" and "one of the brighter people in your party."
He said that to engage in a personalised attack was "wrong" and "classic of the left populism, which your party stands for".
He said that this approach is "about creating ideas of the masses against the elite, it's about simple solutions to complex problems, and it's about demonising your opponents, not just disagreeing with people but saying that the people you disagree with, are lesser people than you, that they don't care as much.
"That's just pure left populism and it's that kind of populism that has destroyed politics."
Mr Varadkar insisted that it should be possible to disagree with people without questioning their motives and making them out to be uncaring.
"I just think it's beneath you and I think it's unnecessary and I hope you'll reconsider that approach."
He added that it is "a mirror image" of what former US President Donald Trump has done.
Help to Buy scheme has not worked - Ó Broin
Mr Ó Broin also criticised the continuation of the Help to Buy scheme until the end of 2022 and insisted that it has not worked.
He said that the Central Statistics Office has stated that house prices have increased by 10.9% across the State over the last year.
The Dublin Mid-West TD said that this is part of the reason why home ownership as a percentage of the total housing stock has continued to decline.
"Saying you're in favour of homeownership, but pushing homeownership beyond the reach of working families, is not only foolish, but it is deeply hypocritical," he told the Tánaiste.
He added that the Help to Buy is a "bad scheme".
60% of the people who got it did not need it, he said, and claimed it pushed up house prices.
He also described the Shared Equity Loan Scheme as both "toxic" and "pro-developer".
In response, Mr Varadkar asked Mr Ó Broin where was his empathy for the private renters who want to buy.
He said that people are struggling to pay rent and also save for a deposit, but Sinn Féin's solution to this was to offer them a tax credit of €1,000 per year, but "take €20,000 off them by abolishing the Help to Buy scheme".
"The Help to Buy scheme has helped over 30,000 individuals and couples to buy their own home, since it was established," Mr Varadkar said.
He said that it will help tens of thousands more to buy their own homes in the future and that is why the scheme is being continued.
He added that there will also be more investment in social housing, affordable housing and cost-rental housing.