Threshold Chairperson, Aideen Hayden, has expressed concern that the Government’s budget estimates announced today do not make sufficient provision to address the housing crisis. Funding for local authority and voluntary housing will increase by just €107 million to €1.27 billion in 2007, roughly a 10% increase. When housing inflation and land costs are taken into account, this figure probably represents a ‘holding position’.
The Government’s own think tank, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), describes the current housing crisis as “a major national challenge which bears comparison with other great challenges that Ireland has faced and met in the past half century.” NESC recommended in 2004 that an additional 73,000 houses for people in need be provided between 2005 and 2012, to bring the total stock to 200,000 dwellings. The figure of 200,000 units was based on projected increases in the Irish population and the limited responses to existing social housing needs. NESC also pointed out that an estimated capital investment of €1.4 billion a year would be required to achieve a net increase of 73,000 units.
But with almost 44,000 households currently on waiting lists, Threshold believes that the 2007 budget estimates for social housing do not go far enough. Today’s announcement of €1.27 billion falls short of the NESC estimate of €1.4 billion and will not deliver the 10,000 houses needed to address the housing crisis in 2007. With estimates of €1 billion in 2005, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government delivered only 6,477 social houses; so the maximum number of houses that could be delivered with €1.27 billion in 2007 is about 8,000 units. The budget estimate for social housing flies in the face of NESC’s advice and at best represents a standstill.
Threshold welcomed the commitment in the social partnership deal ‘Towards 2016’ to provide 27,000 new social housing units by 2009 as a positive step towards meeting the NESC target (although 1,000 of these units are to be in the rented sector). Clearly the targets set out in Towards 2016 are also not going to be met on the basis of the estimates furnished. This represents a disappointing departure on a commitment so recently signed off.
Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said:
“This is an unfortunate development and will be a disappointment to the many thousands of families on local authority waiting lists. Threshold understands that the Government is concerned about overheating in the construction sector of the economy. But we don’t believe holding back on investment in social housing is an appropriate measure; this simply makes people on housing waiting lists pay the price for our economic success. The market has lately showed signs of quietening down, and this could actually be a good time for the Government to ratchet up social housing build.”