Friday 19 January 2018

Just 130 houses have been built from a tranche of 3,000 promised last year

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Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Just 130 new social houses have been delivered from a total of almost 3,000 promised more than 18 months ago - with 630 under construction.

The lack of progress comes despite the schemes being approved by the Department of Housing in July 2015 and January last year. At the time, the Government said they were "shovel-ready".

They are part of the wider social housing building programme under Rebuilding Ireland, which aims to deliver 47,000 new units by 2021. The department insists that the programme is on track.

But an analysis of progress on 2,576 homes to be delivered by local authorities, and 400 by approved housing bodies (AHBs), raises concerns. There are delays in approving projects, a lack of progress on design and planning and, in some cases, problems acquiring land.

The Government approved the projects as part of the State's response to the housing crisis, and said it was an "aggressive plan" to tackle the crisis.

Each of the developments had gone through the first stage of the approval process, meaning the councils and AHBs were told to complete the design and planning stage. In many cases, this has not yet happened.

While the Government insists 80 households are being provided with a home every day, the lack of progress on projects suggests serious problems.

Read More: Developers could be paid upfront by the Government in bid to kick-start building

The figures were provided by local authorities and AHBs. The figures show that in the local authorities, 136 schemes provided for 2,576 units. The total budget was €484m. To date, 132 have been completed or acquired, and 626 are under construction.

Three councils did not respond - Cavan, which was to deliver 14 homes under the July 2015 and January 2016 approvals, Galway County (120) and Westmeath (65).

On the AHBs, responses were received in relation to 400 units, with a budget of almost €70m. Five homes have been built. Projects are awaiting department approval, some since last March, while others are at the planning or design stage.

Across the social housing programme, projects have been cancelled. However, these have largely been replaced with alternatives, and there is now a pipeline of 10,000 units planned.

One source suggested there were not enough resources in place to help local authorities, many of which lost capacity when social housing programmes were abolished.

The department said the time taken to complete the approvals process varied through different projects, with "informal dialogue" used to resolve problems.

"Construction projects by their nature take time and the priority is to deliver new social housing that is sustainable. The above stages take on average 18 months," it said.

"This timescale is consistent with an average pre-construction period for delivery of private housing, which ordinarily would not be delayed with matters of tendering or public procurement, as is the case with social housing". It was "simply not correct" to say the department was delaying projects, it added.

Irish Independent

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