Government to provide further 17,000 social housing unitsTuesday 26 January 2016 22.49
The Government has said it will provide another 17,000 units of social housing this year as part of its five-year programme to tackle the housing crisis.
In a report on the Social Housing Strategy, the Department of the Environment said the recovery in public housing is now happening faster than in the private sector.
The 17,000 units are to be provided by a mixture of construction, refurbishment of empty local authority dwellings, leasing buildings for rental to council tenants and rental-assistance schemes where local authorities pay supplements directly to private landlords.
This now includes the Housing Assistance Payment which provides rent for those on low incomes as distinct from social welfare.
Just over 13,000 units were provided last year which was an 86% increase on the year before.
The overall plan is to provide a total of 110,000 units of accommodation including new builds for those on council waiting lists between 2015 and 2020 at a cost of nearly €4bn.
Minister Alan Kelly said local authorities will be constructing 10,000 new social housing units a year by 2020.
There will 1,000 such units this year and he said the "foundational work" of selection, acquisition and planning is being done now following the hiring of 240 additional planning staff for local councils.
Minister Kelly said that construction work could not happen any faster and that it is the biggest home-building programme in the history of the State.
He said 500 units of modular housing will be completed this year in Dublin.
He blamed the crisis on the previous government saying: "It is rooted in decisions and neglect of previous administrations, where local authorities had their expertise in housing development systematically removed during the construction boom, where local authorities became enablers as opposed to providers of social housing."
However, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have criticised the Government's response to the housing crisis.
Fianna Fáil have tabled a Dáil motion calling on the minister to sign an order requesting NAMA to provide 10,000 units to the State for social housing.
The party's environment spokesperson Brian Cowen said the issue did not even feature at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis.
"It remains to be seen if Fine Gael and Labour do the decent thing or simply continue to ignore the thousands of people stuck in emergency accommodation".
Elsewhere, the Peter McVerry Trust welcomed the publication of today's first annual review of the Social Housing Strategy.
Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, said: “The social housing strategy set down ambitious targets and this first annual review will help identify what exactly has been achieved and what needs to be achieved in the years to come."
Earlier, a study by Simon Communities Ireland has found that 95% of properties available to rent are priced beyond the reach of people depending on State rent supports.
Ms Kerry Anthony, CEO of homeless charity Depaul Ireland, said: "We saw in the report released today by the Simon Communities that only 5% of rental properties currently available in Ireland are within the financial reach of those who rely on rent supplement or housing assistance payments.
"The case is clearly there for rent supplement and housing assistance payment levels to be increased in line with market rates and we would call upon the Government to enact these changes immediately," MS Anthony said.
"While the delivery of 1,000 new social homes is indeed commendable, these homes comprise a paltry 4% of the 25,000 housing units required annually to meet demand, according to ESRI figures.
"It is time to prioritise Ireland's housing and homelessness crisis as the emergency that it is and work to end long-term homelessness for good," she added.