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ard fheis Tanaiste Leo Varadkar sets new target of 40,000 homes to be built a year 

'We must renew the social contract and make owning your own home a fundamental part of it'

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has set a new target of up to 40,000 new homes being built every year to reach a target of 70pc home ownership by the end of the decade.

In a speech to the Fine Gael ard fheis on Saturday evening, Mr Varadkar, whose party has been in government for the last decade, said the dream of owning a home is “out of reach for far too many” and “must again become a reality”.

He committed to doubling the current number of homes built every year - and building around 7,000 more annually than the Government currently plans - in order to increase the overall rate of home ownership in the State.

“We must renew the social contract and make owning your own home a fundamental part of it. Tonight, I want to set a target of getting back to 70pc homeownership by the end of the decade. This will require getting up to forty thousand new homes built every year, double where we are now,” he told delegates.

“This will be done through public and private investment, and we will champion the building of new communities and new homes – social, shared ownership, cost rental, student accommodation, homes to rent and above all, homes to purchase.

“Housing is a human right but it means nothing just to say it or to write it into law. You have to mean it and make it happen. This means voting for new housing not against it, it means stronger protections for renters, encouraging investment not chasing it away and helping first-time buyers to get a deposit and a mortgage.”

Speaking at the end of Fine Gael’s five-day online event, Mr Varadkar also repeated the party’s position that there will be “no increases in income taxes by stealth or by design because we believe in rewarding work through better pay and fairer taxes”.

He said that the financial supports introduced during the pandemic will remain in place for as long as they are needed “so that every business gets a fighting chance to recover and grow”.

In the wake of the pandemic, Mr Varadkar called on his party to embark on a “new mission” to build a ‘Just Society’.

He pledged to improve pay and conditions for low-paid workers, saying the definition of essential workers had been redefined. It is not just nurses and doctors, Gardaí and paramedics, he said, “but also supermarket workers, drivers, cleaners, and people working in food production and service”.

Mr Varadkar said the legacy of the pandemic must be better pay, terms and conditions for all workers, public and private sector and committed his party to the introduction of statutory sick pay, the move to a living wage and access to an occupational pension for all employees to supplement their state pension.

“Reforming our social welfare system to provide a better safety net for people who lose their jobs or take time out to care for others,” he said.

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Mr Varadkar said that a “new normal” in the workplace means facilitating people to work from home or a hub near where they live and said: “The future of work must be more family friendly, women must have equal opportunities to men when it comes to pay and promotion, and the gender pay gap must be closed.”

He also vowed to make the Irish health service one of the best in Europe by the end of the decade by retaining the €4bn in extra funding which was provided to to the health service to deal with the pandemic.

Mr Varadkar said the government has committed to restoring all the jobs that have been lost due to the pandemic and to have 2.5 million at work in Ireland by 2024.

“This will require a huge expansion of higher and further education, skills development, lifelong learning and apprenticeship as we prepare our people young and old for the jobs of tomorrow,” he said.

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