Threshold, the national housing charity, today expressed disappointment that less than 5,000 households have been removed from the housing waiting listsin the last three years. According to figures released today by theDepartment of the Environment, numbers on local authority waiting lists havefallen by just 4,729 households, from 48,413 in 2002 to 43,684 in 2005. Threshold says it is shocking to find that after a period in which housing has been ‘prioritised’ by Government, that almost 44,000 families are still in housing need in Ireland today.
The figure for housing need represents a mere 3% decrease per annum in the numbers on housing lists. Threshold fears that even such a minor decrease may have caused the Government to ignore the issue of housing in this year’s 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 in 2006.
The Government’s track record on meeting targets for local authority housing is depressing. In the National Development Plan, the Government promised to deliver 35,500 local authority homes by the end of 2006. As of June 2005, just 19,660 additional units had been provided. So with just over a year to go to the end of the NDP, 45% of the council houses have yet to appear. Little chance exists of the Government producing these desperately needed homes by the deadline unless its takes radical action.
Going forward, the Government’s own think tank, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), recommended in 2004 that an additional 73,000 houses for people in need be provided by 2012. That translates as a housing output of over 10,000 units per year over the next seven years. In recent years, total social housing output has been running at 4,000 – 5,000 units per year. If the Government was serious about meeting the NESC target it would have set aside an additional Euro 700 million in the 2006 budget instead of just 50 million.
The Government’s failure to deliver on housing has forced many poor families on the waiting list to pay high rents in the private rented sector. The 2002 Irish National Survey of Housing Quality found that over a quarter (28%) of people living in private rented accommodation were spending more than
one-third of their income on rent, while a 2004 study by the Combat Poverty Agency, ‘Housing Poverty and Wealth in Ireland’, found that “the most serious affordability problems in the Irish housing system arise in the private rented sector.” Local authority housing is the only solution for vulnerable people currently living in the private rented sector.
Aideen Hayden, Chair of Threshold, said:
“We in Threshold are concerned that the decrease in housing waiting list figures has led to Government complacency in this year’s budget. Despite being in charge of the most successful economy in Europe, the Government has allocated less money in real terms for people in housing poverty.
Every day in our advice services, we in Threshold see the real impact of overcrowding and the real impact of people living in substandard accommodation. It is difficult for us to take comfort from the fact that almost 44,000 people remain on housing waiting lists after a period of unprecedented prosperity.
Threshold calls on the Government to recommit to deliver on the National Development Plan target of 35,500 local authority dwellings by the end of 2006, even if this requires a supplementary estimate. Threshold also calls on the Government to accept the NESC recommendation of 73,000 additional
units by 2012 as the minimum that should be achieved in social housing provision.”