Threshold, the national housing charity, has condemned the Government’s failure to address the housing crisis in the budget. Funding for local authority and voluntary housing will increase by just €49 million to €1.1 billion in 2006, a drop on the €66 million increase provided in 2005. When housing inflation and land costs are taken into account, the budget allocation probably represents a net decrease. This means that no progress will be made on providing housing for marginalized people.
The budget provision for social housing is also slap in the face for the social partnership. The Government’s own think tank, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), recommends that an additional 73,000 houses for people in need be provided between 2007 and 2012. This would involve doubling existing social housing output from an average of 4,000-5,000 per year to over 10,000 in 2006. The Government has instead moved marginally on tax relief for the better off and has done nothing for people on housing waiting lists.
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 48,143 households of 2002. In view of this years budget and the failure of the Government to make any extra provision, those in the housing sector are concerned that the bad news on housing need is being held over until after the budget.
Threshold calls on the Government to immediately publish its assessment of housing need and to provide the money needed to meet the NESC recommendation of an additional 10,000 social housing units per annum.
Aideen Hayden, Chair of Threshold, said:
“The housing poor have been forgotten in this budget. Nobody on a waiting list for local authority housing or affordable housing will draw any comfort from Minister Cowen’s speech.
Brian Cowen rightly pointed out the importance of the construction sector to the Irish economy – 77,000 new houses were provided last year. But for whom? Certainly not for the working poor or people on housing waiting lists. In his concern not to make changes that would overheat the construction market, the Minister has ignored people on the margins, including the 50,000 children that are today living in damp, overcrowded or other intolerable forms of housing.
We are all aware that some people buy properties and never even occupy them. Rather than dampen down social housing build, the Minister should have looked in greater depth at the other drivers in the housing market, such as tax reliefs and the growth of holiday homes. The Government should not sacrifice poor people to maintain the stability of the housing market.”