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Only 75 local authority houses were built in 2015 - the worst year on record

Last November, Alan Kelly vowed there would 200 council houses built by the end of the year.

Alan Kelly visits homelessness service Source: Niall Carson/PA

FIGURES RECENTLY RELEASED by the Department of the Environment show that local authorities built just 75 social housing units during the whole of 2015 – the lowest on the official record, which dates back to 1970.

The figures show that between October and December, local authorities across Ireland built an additional 47 units on top of the 28 constructed between January and September.

Over the course of 2015, voluntary housing associations built 401 social housing units. The combined total of 476 makes last year the worst for social housing construction in Ireland, in official departmental records, dating back to 1970.

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In 1975, local authorities built 8,794 social housing units, the highest on record.

While voluntary and co-operative housing agencies increased their output – from 357 in 2014 to 401 last year – local authority builds were down by more than half, from 158 in 2014 to 75 last year.

This also constituted a decrease of 98% from 4,209 a decade ago, and 94% from the 1,328 new local authority builds in 2010 – the first full year of the economic crisis.

Last November, confronted with figures that showed just 20 local authority units had been built from January to June, Environment Minister Alan Kelly vowed there would be “10 times more” built by the end of the year, suggesting a final tally of 200.

In fact, that number increased by just 55.

Twenty units were built by local authorities in the first three months of 2015, none at all between April and June, eight from July to September, and 47 between October and December.

AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger called the new figures “shameful” and added:

They nail the lie we were constantly spun by Alan Kelly and Enda Kenny that they were spending more on social housing than any previous government. In fact they were spending less than previous governments – in the midst of a housing crisis.
Only large scale building of both social and affordable homes by local authorities can end this crisis.

The figures also show that, while social housing construction slumped to its lowest level on record last year, private housing experienced a small recovery, increasing by 16% from 10,501 in 2014 to 12,201 in 2015.

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While the number of new social housing units built fell to its lowest level since 1970, there was a massive increase in the number of houses acquired for social housing use – from 183 in 2014 to 1,085 last year.

A spokesperson for outgoing Environment Minister Alan Kelly defended his record in office and argued:

…The construction process for housing takes approximately two and a half years between funding approval, design work, planning, and tendering. Any construction completed in 2015 would most likely have commenced in the first three months of 2013.
Because construction of new units takes two and a half years on average, local authorities emphasised delivery from other schemes which would contribute to the immediate delivery of a new unit…

These schemes include the 1,836 households moved from rent supplement to the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) in 2015, and the 5,680 households that availed of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), where tenants on rent supplement are taken off local authority housing lists, in exchange for a payment by local authorities to their landlord.

Housing and Homelessness forum Outgoing Environment Minister Alan Kelly visiting newly-built rapid-build modular homes in Dublin, in March. Source: PA WIRE

However, Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis accused the government of “spoofing” when it comes to social housing statistics.

The government has regurgitated the same figures, time out of number, and it’s now been shown for what it is – a spoof.
There has been a lot of social leasing, a lot of transfers between social housing and HAP, and a lot of juggling the figures.

On local authority construction falling to its lowest level on record, he added:

It doesn’t surprise me that the figures are so bad, because we’ve been detecting this for a while.
Some local authorities haven’t been building a single house, and there’s no doubt that local authority housing has collapsed in some areas.

Five local authorities built no social housing whatsoever in 2015. They were: Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, and Sligo County Councils, and Galway City Council.

In fact, Leitrim County Council has now not built a single social housing unit between the last three months of 2012 and the end of 2015, the figures show.

Reacting to the numbers, Fianna Fáil Environment spokesperson Barry Cowen told TheJournal.ie:

As those on the ground know, the Department have just not been approving social housing projects.
We need a national building programme in which all primary stakeholders, including the Department, Local Authorities and Voluntary/Cooperative housing bodies are given the resources and mandate to fast-track social home construction and are held to account if they do not.

You can download spreadsheets containing all relevant housing and social housing construction data here and here.

Read: It looks like just 200 council houses will be built in the whole of 2015>

Read: County by county – Number of social housing units returned to use and funding given out>

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Dan MacGuill

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