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Govt failed to hit revised social housing targets last year as concerns raised for 2023

The Department of Public Expenditure estimates that only 6,500 social homes were built in 2022.

THE GOVERNMENT IS set to miss its revised social housing targets for 2022, briefing documents from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform show.

According to the ministerial briefing provided to Paschal Donohoe following the reshuffle in December, civil servants at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) have said that the revised target of 8,000 social homes in 2022 will be missed.

“We currently estimate we will build about 8,000 new homes, but that will be supplemented by purchases of new homes, by leases of new homes,” said then-Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath in November.

However, DPER now estimates that only 6,500 social homes were completed in 2022.

This is 2,500 less than the initial target and 1,500 less than the revised target.

Typically, social housing is provided by either a local council or an approved housing body for households on low incomes that are unable to afford a home. 

The delivery of social housing is seen as key to reducing the number of people in homelessness and providing stable accommodation for the most vulnerable.

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson, Eoin Ó Broin, told The Journal that by missing last year’s social housing targets, there will be a year-on-year deficit of social housing.

“There is a direct impact between the cumulative loss and the homelessness level,” Ó Broin said.

He added that while there have been “modest improvements” on the housing figures delivered last year compared to 2020 and 2021, the target for this year has still been missed “significantly”.

553People Before Profit (1) Sinn Féin's Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin

Housing spokesperson for the Social Democrats, Cian O’Callaghan, said that he was not surprised by the missed targets and called on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to level with people.

“The Minister for Housing was adamant that they would exceed targets,” O’Callaghan said.

“It begs the question, why won’t he level with us? 

“It’s disingenuous to spend the year saying we’re going to deliver these houses and then trying to brush it under the carpet.”

Figures showing that the Government will miss its 2022 social housing targets come just a week after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and O’Brien held a housing stakeholder conference at Government Buildings.

Following that conference, the Taoiseach told reporters that the Government would likely need to revise up its housing targets.

“It makes sense we will need to revise upwards,” said Varadkar, adding that targets will need to be exceeded.

The briefing document also says that it will be difficult to hit housing targets in 2023, particularly due to the impact of inflation on construction costs and capacity issues.

“It will be challenging to deliver the social and affordable housing target in 2023 due to a range of factors including rising construction costs, capacity constraints and complexity of delivering mixed tenure developments,” the document reads.

DPER also say that it is likely that less than 1,000 affordable homes were delivered last year and that more needs to be done to “activate delivery on publicly owned land”.

There have also been concerns raised by DPER about whether or not the Department of Housing will be able to spend its allocated budget, mentioning that there had been an overall underspend of around €1 billion in 2022.

Of that €1 billion, €340 million is due to be carried over into 2023 which will increase the Department’s total capital expenditure budget to €3.85 billion.

“Given continuing challenges in the external environment relating to construction inflation and interest rate increases, it is anticipated that DHLGH [Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage] may continue to have difficulty in spending its capital allocation in 2023,” reads the briefing note.

Eviction ban concerns

The DPER briefing document also raises concern about the potential impact on homelessness levels whenever the eviction ban ends in April.

It says that the current pressures within the rental market are leading to a higher level of homelessness, with homelessness services hitting their capacity.

According to the Department of Housing, there were a record 11,542 people in emergency accommodation centres throughout the country in November.

The DPER briefing says that there may be a further increase in homelessness levels when the eviction ban expires, due to private landlords leaving the rental market.

“Further exits by landlords from the rental market may accelerate this further once the temporary ban on evictions ceases from April 2023,” the document reads.

It adds that the Government needs to oversee a review of the Irish rental market to prevent small landlords from leaving the market.

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