Threshold, the national housing organisation, welcomes today’s Government announcement that almost 6,500 social housing units were produced in 2005, but warns that this falls far short of what is needed. While the 2005 housing statistics may look good at first glance, just 400 more units were produced than in 2004. In addition, only 2,800 affordable homes were provided in 2005. This is disappointing as it represents only a small fraction of the over 80,000 houses completed in Ireland last year.
Currently there are 43,684 families waiting for local authority housing around the country – roughly the equivalent to the number of private households in the whole of Cork City. Threshold considers that 6,500 social housing units is not going to make the breakthrough needed to get families off housing waiting lists and into permanent homes.
In fact, the Government’s own think-tank, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), says the minimum number of social units needed is 10,000 per year. Using this benchmark, the Minister is 3,500 units short for 2005. Under the National Development Plan, the Government promised an additional 35,500 local authority units between 2000 and 2006. Based on today’s announcement, this target too will not be achieved.
Affordable housing output is performing no better than social housing. Affordable housing differs from social housing because it is targeted at people who could afford to buy a home with Government assistance, whereas social housing is for people who cannot afford to buy. Most people waiting for social housing have an income of less than 15,000 euro a year. While many affordable housing schemes have been announced over the lifetime of this Government – including the 1999 affordable housing scheme, Part V of the Planning and Development Act, and the 10,000 additional affordable houses promised under Sustaining Progress – the reality is that these schemes have not delivered anywhere near the numbers of affordable units needed. In this context, today’s announcement of just 2,800 units for 2005 is bad news for people struggling to buy.
Aideen Hayden, Chair of Threshold, said:
“The Government’s failure to meet its own housing targets is certainly nothing for Minister Noel Ahern to be proud of. Threshold is concerned that social housing is not being given the priority it clearly deserves.
Just because people are not sleeping on the streets does not mean they are not homeless. Everyday in our advice offices, we come across people who are sleeping on friends’ floors, doubling up with relatives or living in substandard accommodation. There are also 50,000 children in this country living in accommodation that is overcrowded, damp or unfit for other reasons. All of them deserve decent housing and they are depending on the Minister to deliver it for them.
It is now crucial that the Minister makes a commitment to increase social housing output to 10,000 units a year and to ramp up affordable housing schemes to deliver in much greater numbers. “
Notes to Editor:
The total number of social housing completions in 2005 was 6,477 units, including 5,127 local authority units and 1,350 voluntary and co-operative housing units. The total number of houses completed in 2005 was 80,957 units. See www.environ.ie
The National Economic and Social Council’s report ‘Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy’ recommended in 2004 that an additional 73,000 social housing units be produced between 2007 and 2012, which is equivalent to 10,000 units a year.
The Children’s Research Centre 2004 publication ‘Housing Problems and Irish Children’ reported that 50,000 children were living in housing poverty.