A total of €1.83 billion has been allocated to housing in Budget 2018.

Announcing the investment earlier today, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said some 3,800 social houses will be built next year by local authorities and approved housing bodies.

Mr Donohoe said: "I am increasing the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme by €149 million in 2018, enabling an additional 17,000 households to be supported and accommodated in 2018".

The increased funding will support the rollout of the HAP Place Finder Service, aimed at helping households to move out of emergency accommodation and into rental properties. 

An €18m increase in funding for homeless services was also announced, bringing the total annual investment to over €115m.

The minister said: "Over €31m has been allocated to the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme which will deliver an extra 4,000 social housing homes next year."

Meanwhile, an extra €500m is being allocated for the direct building programme, which will see an additional 3,000 new build social houses by 2021, increasing the existing target of social housing homes to 50,000, of which 33,500 will be delivered through construction. 

Mr Donohoe said the existing Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund is "geared up to contribute to a significant expansion in housing delivery, with over 30 projects supporting the construction of over 20,000 houses by 2021".

Additional Exchequer funding of €75m for a second phase of the fund has also been announced, aimed at supporting the local authority delivery of affordable housing. 

The minister said: "When combined with the local authority matching contribution, this fund has the potential to provide approximately 5,000 homes at more affordable levels by 2021".

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Peter McVerry Trust, the national homeless and housing charity, gave a cautious welcome to the measures relating to housing and homelessness outlined in the Budget.

CEO Pat Doyle said he particularly welcomed the additional €18 million funding for homeless services and an increase in the HAP scheme.

"Peter McVerry Trust is happy to see an increase in social housing targets up to 2021. However, we would hope that additional funding in 2018 and 2019 would front load the delivery of new capital projects given the deepening housing and homeless crisis," he added.

Mr Doyle also said he was disappointed that an empty homes tax was not announced.

"We feel that this is out of line with the Government's vision and aim to significantly reduce the amount of homes and properties lying vacant around the country.

"Peter McVerry Trust believes that empty homes provide an opportunity to bring about additional housing stock at a faster and more sustainable rate."

The head of homeless charity Focus Ireland said the actions announced in the Budget were needed two years ago.

Speaking on RTÉ's Budget 2018 programme, Mike Allen said the Government is playing catch-up in terms of the homeless issue. He said there is a lot to be welcomed but that "it has come so late."

The €1.8 billion package on homelessness represents how much the Government has failed in dealing with the homeless crisis, he added.

Mr Allen said the commitment by the Government to build 3,800 social houses next year shows that it is not shirking its responsibility to ensure properties are built rather than waiting for the private sector.

He said, however, that the number of houses due to be built does not appear to be any more than it was before the Budget was announced.

"Under Simon Coveney's plan, it appears that there were 5,900 new social homes planned for next year, of which 3,000 were going to be built. Now after all of this there are going to be 3,800 built, but the total number is going to remain the same. 

"So that's actually quite positive because it means the Government is actually taking its responsibility to make sure that stuff gets built, seriously rather than just waiting for the private sector, so we very much welcome that."

He added: "But the actual number of social homes that will be delivered, available to people to move out of homelessness doesn't appear to be any larger than it was before the budget."

Govt 'willing to normalise mass homelessness' - McDonald

Sine Féin's deputy leader has said the Budget confirms that the Government is "willing to normalise mass homelessness".

Speaking on RTÉ's Budget 2018 programme, Mary Lou McDonald said the Government is willing to "tolerate that home ownership is out of reach for an entire generation".

She said the Budget showed that the Government lacks vision and is not prepared to roll up their sleeves and grab the big challenges.

Ms McDonald said Mr Donohoe's announcement today was a "triumph of spin over substance".

She said when the "numbers are crunched and the spin is taken away" there are no measures to address the number of people who are homeless or on hospital waiting lists.

Solidarity/People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said: "This is a Budget of miserable crumbs that will do nothing to solve the most urgent social crisis that we face, the disaster in housing and homelessness."

Speaking in the Dáil, he said that it "simply beggars belief that in this Budget we have 3,800 directly constructed council houses and approved housing body houses approved next year to deal with the scale of the crisis we are now facing".

"3,800 houses is all that this Government can deliver this year for a housing list that has 100,000 families on it and where we have 8,000 people in emergency accommodation," said Mr Boyd Barrett.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Fianna Fáil's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said the Government needs to "step up" and he said it is time for less talk and more action.

"In housing [there is] the additional funding in the housing assistance payments but what we really need the Government to do in that area is to step up housing delivery; build more new homes. It is time for less talk, more action and delivery on the issues that really matter to people."