2003 National Development Plan Could Collapse if Scaling Down of Investment in Social Housing Persists

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Stable and adequate accommodation crucial to labour force participation and growing the economy

The National Housing Organisation Threshold warned today in its pre-budget submission to Government that cutbacks in social housing could have a catastrophic effect for the future viability of the National Development Plan. The increase in the length of local authority waiting lists by 24% between March 1999 and March 2002 shows the consequences of previous under-investment. When households are inadequately accommodated, they face daunting barriers in trying to build productive lives. The prospect of them getting and holding jobs and contributing to a growing competitive economy is bleak. Significant levels of public investment in social housing are essential if the National Development Plan is to retain credibility and if labour force participation is to be encouraged. Given the 12% cut back in investment on local authority housing between 2002 and 2003, there is no likelihood of activity in 2003 coming close to the 8,700 still required to achieve the mid-term target. Local authority starts in the first half of 2003 were only 71% of the level reported during the same period of 2002. Investment in 2004 must address this shortfall which Threshold estimates could be as much as 4,600 units. High social housing investment is unlikely to contribute significantly to inflationary pressures. The local authorities are now geared up to provide substantial levels of output, and with pressure easing elsewhere in the construction sector, competition for tenders is stronger. Threshold urges the Government to halt the cutbacks in capital spending on the provision of local authority and social housing spending. The private rented sector according to the 2002 Census now contains many more housing units than does the local authority sector, at 141,459 units versus 88,206 units. Private rental housing is another source of accommodation for people in housing need. Targeted public expenditure could enhance its effectiveness in this role. Threshold urges that the estimate given in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, for €2.5 million on an annual basis to cover operation of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), should be accepted for budgeting purposes. The PRTB will play vital role in the successful and effective implementation of the Residential Tenancies Bill creating an effectively regulated private rented sector, encouraging investment and increasing supply. Patrick Burke said “This budget more than ever should directly address people experiencing poverty and social exclusion in this country and declare that they are cherished equally as citizens of the state. The Government must prioritise the provision of adequate sustainable accommodation above roads and other infrastructure. This will ensure that people and families who are suffering at the hands of a spiraling housing crisis have the opportunity of participating economically and socially in this country’s future.” ENDS For further information please contact Patrick Burke, Director of Threshold on 086 2225774

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