THE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED a whole package of measures in yesterday’s Budget aimed at addressing the growing housing and homelessness crisis.
In total the Finance and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe increased the housing budget to €1.9 billion – a 46% increase on the previous year.
Among the measures announced was an investment in social housing with more funding committed to building new units.
Donohoe said that a total of 3,800 new social houses will be built next year by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies.
But is that 3,800 more than had already been flagged in other announcements this year? TheJournal.ie has found that in fact, only 31 new social housing builds than those already previously promised by the government will be delivered next year.
The minister also announced an extra €500 million for a direct building programme from 2019 onwards, which he said would see an additional 3,000 new build social houses ready by 2021.
Donohoe said this would increase the existing Rebuilding Ireland target of social housing homes to 50,000. He said 33,500 will be delivered through construction.
Taking everything into account, we looked at whether the government actually announced any new social housing builds for next year.
Rebuilding Ireland - the government’s housing action plan launched in the summer of last year – committed to delivering 47,000 new social housing units by 2021.
These units were to be delivered through a combination of new builds, refurbishments, acquisitions, leasing and rent assistance measures such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
No actual new social housing builds were announced for 2018 in this year’s Budget.
The figure of 3,800 announced by Donohoe in his speech had already been flagged by Murphy in September.
Following a housing summit with the heads of the 31 local authorities, Murphy announced that figure when he said that the social housing budget was moving away from acquisitions and into actually building units.
In its detailed breakdown following the Budget announcement, the Housing Department laid out exactly how many social housing units would be delivered next year.
As well as the 3,800 being built by either local authorities or Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs – not-for-profit companies that deliver social housing), an extra 1,200 would come from Part V builds or rebuilt/refurbished vacant homes.
Part V builds are the 10% allocation that all private developments have to give to social housing. An additional 900 units would come through acquisitions.
In total, that will give 5,900 “real” social housing units in 2018 (as in, social housing that is newly built or acquired by the State or an AHB).
Last year, the Housing Department laid out its target for real social housing builds at 5,869. Therefore, the Budget targets see only an increase in 31 units.
On top of this, a further 2,000 homes will be secured through long-term leasing arrangements; while 17,600 will come from tenancies under the Housing Assistance Payment and the Rental Accommodation Scheme.
This gives a grand total target of 25,469 for social housing delivery for next year.
While the 3,800 figure is over five times the number actually built in 2016 (the target was actually 2,260 in 2016), the government has been criticised strongly for failing to commit to building more units.
“Based on this brief and on the Budget measures announced, the Minister for Housing has failed miserably,” said Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin.
Ó Broin highlighted the tiny increase in social housing units that will actually be built announced yesterday, compared to last year’s targets.
“A lot of us were expecting that the total quantity of social housing would increase,” he told TheJournal.ie.
The Irish Council for Social Housing, meanwhile, said more investment was needed in building housing.
“The housing association membership body is concerned that diverting significant funds to supporting the private rental sector represents bad value for money,” the group said in a statement.
Aside from 2018, Donohoe did commit an extra €500 million for new social housing building programmes from 2019 onwards.
The Minister committed to allocating the funding which would provide an additional 3,000 direct build social housing units going towards 2021. This in turn increases the number of planned social housing units under Rebuilding Ireland from 47,000 to 50,000.
As well as these provisions, an extra €149 million was allocated to the Housing Assistance Payment. Meanwhile, homelessness services funding was increased by €18 million to €116 million.