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FactCheck: Are there really 8,500 social housing units currently being built?

Part One of FactCheck’s two-part series on high-profile disputes over social housing, this week.


THIS WEEK SAW two high-profile rows between the government and opposition over what’s being done to increase the provision of social housing in Ireland.

On Thursday afternoon, Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald clashed in the Dáil over the number of social housing units currently being built.

And on Thursday’s Tonight With Vincent Browne, Sinn Féin’s Eoin O’Broin and Junior Minister Damien English accused each other of not telling the truth over the number of new social housing units provided last year.

In a two-part series,‘s FactCheck responds to reader requests, and steps in to resolve both disputes and find the truth of the matter.

Tonight, we’ll deal with Cowen and Fitzgerald’s row in the Dáil, and on Tuesday, we’ll referee O’Broin and English’s on-air argument.

(Send your FactCheck requests to, tweet @TJ_FactCheck, or send us a DM).

Claim: 8,500 social housing units are currently under construction

What was said: 


In the video below, you can watch excerpts of the exchange in Thursday’s Leaders’ Questions, and a breakdown of the facts, but these are the most relevant statements:

Barry Cowen: On Tuesday, for example, the Taoiseach was here and he waxed lyrically about the fact that there was over 8,500 [social housing] units presently under construction.
And I…lost my head in trying to point out to him that that wasn’t at all true. (Emphasis added).


Frances Fitzgerald: There are 8,500 social housing units being built across the country at the moment.

The Facts

In response to our request for evidence, Fianna Fáil cited figures contained in the Department of Housing’s most recent Social Housing Construction Status Report, which was published on Monday.

FactCheck did not receive a response from the Department of Justice, or Fine Gael, on behalf of Frances Fitzgerald.

This week’s status report stated that, as of 31 December 2016, there were:

  • 8,430 social housing units at some stage of development
  • 2,687 were at the capital appraisal stage, which means funding has not yet been approved, but the project is being considered
  • 1,279 were at the pre-planning stage, which involves a check on whether the design meets guidelines, a value-for-money assessment, and other elements
  • 490 were at the pre-tender design stage
  • 1,493 were at the tender report/Turnkey approval stage, which involves two final assessments of costs and procurement, before the project is approved for tender to the private sector
  • Construction had started on 1,829 units

For a full-size version of this chart, click here For a full-size version of this chart, click here

So as you can see, the Tánaiste was mistaken in her claim that “there are 8,500 social housing units being built across the country at the moment”.

There are 8,430 at some stage of development, but only 1,829 are actually being built at the moment.

It should also be noted that 2,687 of those 8,430 (32%) are at the capital appraisal stage, which means they may or may not even be approved for funding and construction.

Barry Cowen was therefore right to say it was untrue that ”there was over 8,500 units presently under construction”.

Enda Kenny’s contradictions

But it’s worth noting that in the Dáil on Tuesday, the Taoiseach made contradictory statements on this issue.

At first, Kenny offered a breakdown of the 8,430, accurately listing the number of units for each stage of development, and correctly stating that 1,829 units were currently under construction.

However, he later contradicted this by saying “There are 8,430 homes currently under construction”, adding:

That means blocks, concrete, block-layers, plasterers, chippies, site works – 8,430.

As we’ve shown, this is false. That description only applies to 1,829 of the 8,430 units at some stage of development, some 22%.


Frances Fitzgerald’s claim was that “There are 8,500 social housing units being built across the country at the moment”.

We rate this claim FALSE. As our verdicts guide explains, this means “The claim is inaccurate”.

This is the third time we’ve fact-checked a claim by Frances Fitzgerald. She has now received verdicts of TRUE, Half-TRUE and FALSE. You can read her FactCheck file here.

FactCheck File Frances Fitzgerald 17_02_24 / YouTube’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here.

For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here.

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