There was a significant shortfall in the Housing Agency's target for the delivery of 1,600 residential units by the end of 2020, the Comptroller and Auditor General's latest report on the Public Services shows.

The C&AG, the state's spending watchdog, said that by the end of 2021, the Housing Agency had completed acquisitions of 868 residential units - just 54% of its target of 1,600 units.

718 of these units were sold on to Approved Housing Bodies (AHB) and local authorities, while just two units were sold on the open market and 15 units were transferred to local authorities for no consideration.

The target for delivery was extended to end 2021, but the revised target was not achieved, the C&AG noted.

In 2016, the Housing Agency was give €6.7m in capital funding to buy vacant houses and apartments. In 2017, the agency received a further €70m capital funding to establish a revolving fund for housing acquisition.

The intention of this funding was to engage with banks and private equity investment funds in areas with high levels of social housing demand to buy vacant residential units for social housing.

The units acquired would then, if necessary, be refurbished to comply with the standards for rented accommodation and offered for sale to approved housing bodies (AHBs) and to local authorities.

The Housing Agency said its shortfall was mainly due to slower than anticipated sales of properties and consequent delayed replenishment of the fund, combined with a reduced stock of suitable available properties.

To meet the original delivery target, it said it needed to buy and dispose of a housing unit at an average cost of around €175,000 within an average turnaround time of 12 months.

But today's report said the average turnaround time achieved was just over 17 months per unit.

The agency had said at the outset of the scheme, it had aimed to recycle properties within six months.

But it became apparent for a number of reasons - AHB operational capacity, AHB lender requirements to bundle property sales into larger transactions as well as conveyancing requirements - that this would not be possible.

The acquisition of the first 400 units was completed in June 2018 - six months later than estimated - and the actual capital cost was €71.4m to give an average of €178,500 per home.

The acquisition of the second 400 units was completed in July 2020 (18 months later than estimated) at a capital cost of €77.3m - or €193,250 per unit - representing an increase of 8.3% in the average unit cost.

The next cycle started in July 2020, and just 68 units were acquired to the end of 2021.

The cost of these 68 units came to €16.8m - an average cost of €247,000 per unit.

The spending watchdog that the Housing Agency's purchase of properties in 2021 was at its lowest level since establishment of the Fund.

At the year end, the cash balance of the Fund was €37.7m - more than half of the total Fund investment. This represents an under-utilisation of the Fund's resources, it added.

Over half of all residential units acquired to the end of 2021 were located in five local authority areas - Dublin City Council (19%), Fingal (11%), Dublin South (8%), Kildare (9%) and Cork County Council (8%).