Saturday 1 October 2016

16,000 social homes target won't be met

Published 24/11/2015 | 02:30

The Government will miss its target to provide almost 16,000 homes to families on council waiting lists.

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Just over 7,600 social housing units have been delivered in the first 10 months of the year, and the Coalition is under mounting pressure to ramp-up delivery in the midst of a severe housing crisis.

But Government sources insist almost 15,000 homes - of which 10,000 will be 'new' - will be delivered by the end of the year. This is almost 1,000 short of the promised number, and will heap enormous pressure on the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition in the run-up to next year's General Election.

Some €700m has been committed for housing this year, due to rise to €820m in 2016, and funding is not a problem, sources insisted.

"We're going to exceed the capital targets (for new builds and purchases) but will be below the current targets (to lease)," one source said. "But 10,000 of these units are new, these are people taken off council waiting lists. The funding is there and targets are set for each local authority. Some of the local authorities are very good, and some are slow."

The slower rate of delivery is due to the shortage of homes available for rent and long-term leasing, coupled with the difficulties in ramping up delivery of new homes. However, a targeted programme of bringing vacant or 'void' units back into use will deliver up to 2,500 properties this year - in excess of the 1,000 promised.

The Government also plans to allow local authorities buy or build homes in lots of 15 units, valued at up to €2m, without going through a protracted approval process in the Department of the Environment.

This is designed to speed up delivery of new social housing construction projects, and the changes will be in place before the end of the year.

But new figures, covering the period up to the end of October, show that the lack of construction activity and shortage of homes coming onto the market is hampering delivery of the social housing programme. They show that some 3,000 homes were due be leased, but just over 900 have been delivered. By year-end, this will rise to 1,500, below the target. Another 2,000 homes were due to be delivered under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, where homes are rented directly by local authorities from landlords. Some 1,500 will be delivered.

Another 8,400 units were to be delivered under the Housing Assistance Payment. This will fall just under target, at 8,000.

Fewer homes will be delivered by voluntary housing bodies, but local authorities will build and purchase more than expected. Some 3,500 homes are under construction or being acquired.

A target to bring back 1,000 vacant homes, or 'voids', will be exceeded - some 1,400 are already in place, with another 1,000 due before year-end.

The Government said that some house purchases were going through the conveyancing process, and so could not yet be classed as being delivered.

It added that local authorities could increase monthly rental payments by up to 20pc in areas of high demand, to help keep people in their homes. Between 4,000 and 5,000 homes will be delivered through new-build or purchase from 2017.

Irish Independent

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