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Have only 20 council houses been built this year?

The Anti-Austerity Alliance has cited Department of Environment figures which make for shocking reading. But what’s the truth?

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been criticised for reportedly delivering only 20 council houses in the first half of this year – all of which were completed in the first three months of 2015.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance, citing the Department of Environment’s own latest figures, said that 20 local authority houses had been built in the first quarter of 2015.

A grand total of zero had been delivered in quarter two according to the Department’s figures:

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.56.11 p.m. Source: Department of Environment

Last November, the government committed to supplying 35,000 additional social housing units – at a cost of €3.8 billion – over the next six years.

With just 20 delivered by the mid-point of this year, it’s unsurprising that AAA TD Ruth Coppinger lashed the government for the lack of progress as the housing crisis dominates the political agenda.

“How in the midst of the worst housing crisis in living memory can the government think that the building of council homes shouldn’t feature?” Coppinger said yesterday.

How can Alan Kelly brag about the biggest ever investment in housing without one solitary council house completed in three months? These figures are shocking and shameful.

‘Grossly out of date’

However, the Department of Environment hit back, insisting the figure of 20 – which is their own  - was “grossly out of date”.

A spokesperson for the Department told RTÉ that, in fact, between Christmas 2013 and Christmas this year local authorities are on course to put 4,800 void (empty) homes to use.

They added that 3,500 social houses are currently under construction and that by 2017 5,000 units per year will have been completed.

Coppinger hit back today, pointing out that the government’s claim of the figures being “grossly out of date” didn’t stack up when they were published by the Department of Environment on 22 October – just three weeks ago.

coppinger-leader

Coppinger said:

If these figures are ‘grossly out of date’ as the government are trying to claim, my question is has the government built thousands of new council homes in the last three weeks?

The Dublin West TD said a situation had emerged whereby the government is now contradicting its own figures because the opposition had highlighted them. She said

The government should clarify the situation with the latest up-to-date figures since 22 October if they are so grossly out of date and loads of new homes have been built.

Questions, questions, questions

So this afternoon, TheJournal.ie submitted four fairly simple questions to the Department of Environment:

  • Exactly how many social houses were built in Q1 this year?
  • Exactly how many social houses were built in Q2 this year?
  • Exactly how may social houses were built in Q3 this year?
  • If Coppinger’s figures are “grossly out of date” can you provide the most up-to-date figures on the exact number of social houses built so far this year as opposed the number estimated for completion by year’s end?

The Department did not directly answer our questions in its response, nor did it dispute the eye-catching figure of only 20 council houses so far this year.

9/12/2014. Launch of Plans to Tackle Homelessness Crisis Alan Kelly Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

They told us that in deciding on targets, the social housing strategy determined that the new-build programme would be “slow in the initial phases of the strategy as the planning and design and tendering processes had to be progressed first”.

‘Thousands’

However the Department insisted that it was confident that 7,000 units will be delivered this year through build acquisitions and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (which is for those on rent supplement for a long period) and leasing, and 8,400 under the Housing Assistance Payment scheme, which will be replacing rent supplement.

The Department also repeated that there are currently 3,500 social houses under construction nationwide. 

By 2017 the government expects to be building some 5,000 new houses per annum, the Department said. It added:

We have already finalised in excess of a 1,000 voids this year and by the end of the year this will climb to 2,400 approximately.

It added that historically the final quarter of the year “sees an accelerated level of delivery as LAs [local authorities] finish out projects, finalise purchases/leases etc in order to draw down the funding before the end of the year”.

In conclusion, it is correct to say that only 20 council houses were built in the first half of  2015. But the Department appears confident that it will have delivered significantly more than that by the end of the year and many more in the years ahead.

Read: The housing crisis may be much worse than we thought

Read: Alan Kelly cancelled a meeting with councillors about homelessness because of water charges

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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