Government accused of bowing to pressure from developers with amendment to scheme for construction of social and affordable housing.

Since the law changed two years ago, just 50 social and affordable housing units have been built. The government now wants to encourage more schemes, like the Mount Anthony estate in Rathmines, where apartments for older people have been built alongside privately owned apartments.

Under the proposed government legislation, builders will have to pay the local authority a levy on each of the new homes in developments that had planning permission prior to the social and affordable scheme coming into effect. The permissions for these developments would be due to lapse next year.

It's two years since the law was changed to require builders to make twenty per cent of new developments available for social and affordable housing.

Minister for the Environment and Local Government Martin Cullen says that the new measures will bring greater flexibility to the building process by allowing builders to swap land with local authorities or providing affordable or social housing at another location. Planning permission has also been extended for around 80,000 houses which were initially granted before the social and affordable scheme came into effect. Martin Cullen says,

I'm hitting a levy on the builders on the sites that didn't require to have the social housing content in them.

The new measures have been broadly welcomed by the Irish Council for Social Housing. President of the council Fred Stephens says that the new measures release a log jam that has been in the system for some time.

Critics of the new measures believe that hopes of greater social integration have been dashed. Opposition to the government say it has caved in to the building industry by bringing in amendments to the social and affordable housing scheme. The Labour Party is critical of the government decision to extend planning permission for around 80,000 houses, granted before the scheme took effect. Builders have said they're disappointed by the decision not to abolish the requirement for developers to make 20 per cent of their land available for cheaper housing.

Eamon Gilmore of the Labour Party says,

The effect of the Minister's amendments is to hand back about 16,000 social housing sites to the builder friends of Fianna Fáil.

The new proposals are due to be debated in the Oireachtas next week and could become law by the end of the year.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 6 December 2002. The reporter is Orla O'Donnell.