13 May 2015
Initially greeted with optimism last November, the Minister’s “Social Housing Strategy 2020” to tackle the public housing crisis was subsequently widely criticised as being light on detail. More information was finally released from the Department of the Environment last week as to how targets will be met and how over 100,000 households on waiting lists currently will be dealt with.
“What is even more striking is how tiny the targets are relative to the size of the housing lists.“
Given falls in housing commencements since the introduction of Building Control Regulations SI.9 last March, it is hardly credible that the private sector can more than double residential output over the next 2 years to reach even the modest new-build targets contained in the detailed proposals. More likely that the rental sector will continue to be impacted upon by continuing lack of supply of affordable family dwellings, with rents increasing accordingly. To put the following numbers in context, only 2,501 housing units were commenced in all of Dublin in 2014. This figure is less than half that required to meet demand, according to the Housing Agency.
In January 2015 there were 693 housing completions for the entire country, just 17 more than January last year.
The following three recent press articles ask hard questions about the Minister of the Environment Alan Kelly’s “Social Housing Strategy 2020”:
In a the following article “State reliant on private sector in housing crisis” Kitty Holland says:
“In his foreword to his Social Housing Strategy 2020, published last November, he says: “The strategy restores the State to a central role in the direct provision of social housing through a resumption of building on a significant scale.”
Certainly the numbers are impressive. Some 110,000 households would be housed under the strategy. There would be 35,000 new units of social housing provided, while 75,000 households would be “supported” in the private rented sector.
What is emerging is how few will be council-owned – as low as 24 per cent in South Dublin County Council and 26 per cent in the cases of Fingal and Galway city. The majority will come from leasing arrangements with the private sector.
This matters, as it means the vast majority of new “social housing units” will not be council homes where the household’s tenancy is secure and the rent regulated. They will be homes where the private landlord or developer may choose to opt out at relatively short notice.
What is even more striking is how tiny the targets are relative to the size of the housing lists. [Emphasis by BRegs Blog]
In October, the Minister said: “The privatisation of social housing should never have happened . . . It was wrong, and it was more than wrong, it was simply unacceptable and we are going to change that.”
Certainly the local authorities are back managing the provision of social housing. The significance of their move back to house building and public housing provision, however, remains questionable.”
In a separate article “75% of social housing to be sourced from private sector- Irish Times May 4th 2015” Kitty Holland gives more detailed breakdowns:
“Three-quarters of new social housing to be supplied in several major local authority areas under the Government’s social housing strategy will be sourced from the private sector…This means just a quarter of the new social housing units will be council-delivered or owned, figures show.
…The broad targets announced last month will, if achieved, represent implementation of Phase 1 of the Minister, Alan Kelly’s, Social Housing Strategy 2020. Published in November, it says 18,000 units of social housing will be provided by the end of 2017 with an additional 17,000 by the end of 2020.
According to the targets issued to the four Dublin authorities – which have a combined housing waiting list of 42,000 households – some 7,049 units are planned in the next two years and eight months. Of these, 2,560 (37 per cent) will be council-delivered, while 4,489 units (63 per cent) will be privately sourced.
South Dublin County Council, which has a housing list of 8,641, has been given a target of 1,445 units, of which 350 (24 per cent) will be council-owned and 681 (76 per cent) will be sourced privately.
In Fingal, the proportion of units to be council-owned is 25 per cent. The local authority has a housing list of 8,378 and plans 1,576 units of social housing by the end of 2017. Of these 396 are to be publicly owned and 1,180 are to be private.
The largest local authority, Dublin City Council, which has a waiting list of 20,000 households, has a target of 3,347 new units by the end of 2017. Of these some 1,498 (45 per cent) will be council-owned, while 1,849 (55 per cent) will be provided through leasing arrangements with the private sector.
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, with a housing list of 5,285, is targeting 681 new units, of which 316 (46 per cent) will be council-owned and 365 (54 per cent) will be private.
In the third article from the same paper “Social housing funding down €35m in past three years” Ciarán D’Arcy notes how funding has fallen in previous years for local authority housing:
“Government funding for local authority housing has fallen by €35 million since 2012, new statistics show.
Data compiled by the Department of the Environment and Local Government and seen by The Irish Times reveals that grant money provided to councils for the building and acquisition of social housing was reduced from almost €115 million in 2012 to just over €80 million last year.
…Co Mayo did not buy a single social housing unit in 2012 and 2013. Instead, €1.1 million was used in building new units….Co Leitrim received the smallest allocation of €1.28 million over the three years.
…No money was spent on new builds in Waterford city and county in 2013 or in Co Longford and Co Tipperary last year as cuts came into effect.
Sinn Féin spokesperson Brian Stanley said an “almost total lack of investment” in the sector had precipitated a crisis.”
Other posts of interest: