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

Alan Kelly said that “ten times” more social houses than the 20 built so far this year will be completed by the end of 2015.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

ALAN KELLY HAS said the number of council or social houses built by the end of this year will be “significantly higher” than the just 20 that were built in the first half of 2015.

The Environment Minister said the figure will be “up to ten times higher” by the end of the year. He insisted that social housing could not be built overnight and said that there is “a lag of a couple of years” due to the policy of the previous government.

The Department of Environment’s own figures, revealed last week, show that just 20 social houses were built in the first three months of 2015 with none built in the second quarter.

The Department has insisted that 3,500 social houses are currently under construction and that by 2017 5,000 units per year will have been completed.

Speaking at the conclusion of a homeless forum in Dublin today, Kelly said: “That figure [of 20] by the end of the year will be substantially higher. I can assure you it will be substantially higher, up to ten times higher.

The volume of sites is in excess of 200. We’ll be announcing, myself and Minister [Paudie] Coffey, a lot more sites in the coming weeks. When we took office we hadn’t the funding, we [now] have the €4 billion which we secured though government.

A spokesperson later insisted that between newly-built houses and local authority purchases, the figure for new social houses will be over 1,000 by the end of the year.

Kelly said that the previous government had effectively “privatised” social housing and that now local authorities have been “ramped back up to actually provide social housing”.

He insisted: ”We’re quite happy with the level of turnaround that local authorities are engaging with as regards other aspects of social housing, while those social housing units are being built,” the Labour deputy leader said.

Anybody who engages in this and doesn’t acknowledge the time period it takes to build houses is being unfair.

He said that the government has instructed local authorities that they will be given the money necessary to turnaround void (empty or boarded-up) social houses as quickly as possible.

He said that this had been particularly successful with “a couple of thousand” voids turned around last year and “in excess of a thousand more” to be done this year.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance has been hugely critical of the government, saying the figures disclosed last week were “shocking and shameful”. Tomorrow the Dáil will debate an AAA motion calling on the government to declare a national housing emergency.

The motion calls for a ban on economic eviction, a reversal of the rent supplement cap, mortgage write downs, rent controls linked to inflation and backdated to 2011, and the building of 100,000 social and affordable homes in the next three years.

These measures would be funded by redirecting €4.5billion from NAMA and borrowing €2 billion from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund.

Read: Why a two-year rent freeze could do a lot more harm than good

FactCheck: Have only 20 council houses been built this year?

Read: This is why Paul Murphy paid his €1,150 property tax bill

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Hugh O'Connell

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