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FactCheck: Has the government quadrupled social housing construction in two years?

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted that “social house building has quadrupled since 2015″.


SOCIAL HOUSING IS right at the top of the political agenda, with some opposition politicians chaining themselves to railings outside last Friday’s housing summit. Ministers emerged from the conference promising to build more social housing next year – but also with claims about progress so far.

What was said 

A spokesman for the Taoiseach told FactCheck that this tweet was a shortened version of a longer statement to the media:

“Social housing is being wrapped up from a position a few years ago when almost no council houses or council apartments were being built, we are now going to be building between two and three thousand this year. Which is four times as many as two years ago but obviously we acknowledge that the level of response isn’t enough and we are going to need to add to that next year and in the years ahead.”

Similarly, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said that “this year we’re going to build four times as many social houses as we did in 2015”.

The facts

The target for newly-built social homes in 2017 includes those built by non-profit organisations, as well as by councils. It’s 2,400. That compares to 476 new builds in 2015. So, if all goes to plan, there should be five times as many social homes built as in 2015.

That’s still considerably below the levels seen before the financial crisis. Between 2004 and 2010, social housing construction was running at 5,000-7,000 a year.

And there’s no data on the number of homes completed in 2017. 2,400 is just a target at this point.

As of March 2017, 856 homes were at “practical completion” stage, according to an official update. Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy also said in June that “2,000 are already on site in terms of construction”, although that doesn’t tell us much about whether they’re on track for completion this year.

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While it’s accurate to say that the government hopes to quadruple social house building in 2017 compared to 2015, (and then some), it’s not accurate to say that the government has actually achieved this. The Taoiseach’s and the Minister’s full statements reflect this difference; Taoiseach Varadkar’s tweet does not.

As such, we rate the claim HALF-TRUE. The statements from the Taoiseach and the Minister add the context needed but, viewed on its own, the claim in the tweet would be untrue.

  • Tune in to TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck slot on The Pat Kenny Show tonight, Wednesday, 13 September, on TV3 at 10pm for more on the claims, facts and figures around social housing.

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