Threshold, the national housing charity, has condemned the Government’s failure to address the housing crisis in the budget estimates. Funding for local authority and voluntary housing will increase by only €49 million to €1.1 billion in 2006. When housing inflation and land costs are taken into account, this figure probably represents a net decrease on last year.
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 recommends that an additional 73,000 houses for people in need be provided between 2007 and 2012. This would involve almost doubling existing social housing output from the 6,117 produced in 2004 to over 10,000 in 2006. The budget estimate for social housing flies in the face of this advice and at best represents a standstill.
The Government assessed the numbers of people in need of social housing in March 2005. Nine months later, these results have still not been made public. But Threshold strongly suspects that the number of households in need of housing will be even higher than the 48,413 households of 2002. If that is the case, then even 10,000 houses per annum will not be enough.
Aideen Hayden, Chair of Threshold, said:
“The money provided for housing in the budget estimates is derisory. People on the margins of Irish society have been forgotten. The NESC recommendation of 10,000 houses per year is the least amount necessary to go anywhere towards solving the problem. The €50 million increase is a far cry from the additional €750 million that’s needed to double output and provide an extra 5,000 units per year.
Minister Roche needs to go back and bat with his cabinet colleagues for people on the housing waiting list who are depending on him to give them light at the end of the tunnel. There are people in Ireland renting today who will spend the rest of their lives in rented accommodation if the Government doesn’t get real about the housing needs of people living in poverty.”