FIANNA FÁIL’s opponents claim the party made a deliberate decision to reduce the number of social houses built by local authorities when in government.
During RTÉ’s seven-way TV debate, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said: “Fianna Fáil hollowed out the capacity of local authorities to build houses in the time of plenty… they left it to the private sector and bought and leased houses from the private sector.”
Mr Martin insisted: “No, no, that’s not true, that’s not true.”
Fianna Fáil states that between 2004 and 2010 the total number of social houses built by local authorities was 33,705 compared to 10,630 between 2011 and 2018 when Fine Gael was in office. “Fianna Fáil out built Fine Gael, over 3 to 1 in local authority housing,” the party said.
This claim is broadly backed by Department of Housing figures for the past 16 years.
But figures for each year show that while nearly 5,000 local authority houses were built in 2007 and again in 2008, there was a significant drop in direct builds after that. In 2009 3,362 local authority houses were built, while in 2010 this figure fell to 1,328.
While the economic crash may be to blame, Dáil statements by then Fianna Fáil junior housing minister Michael Finneran signal that there was a shift in policy.
Mr Finneran told the Dáil in December 2009 that the government reform programme involved “a shift away from construction/acquisition and a one size fits all approach to meeting social housing needs towards a more graduated system of supports”.
In 2010 Mr Finneran said the government had a “lesser reliance on construction and acquisition” and was restructuring the social housing investment programme “to allow for a greater role for the Rental Accommodation Scheme and leasing” which, he said, “offer the most effective and efficient response to market realities and housing need”.
Presented with these comments, Fianna Fáil did deny that there was a conscious policy shift in its final years in government, but a spokesperson insisted: “Our record on building homes is clear. We out-built Fine Gael in every metric over a comparable period of time while in government.”
Mainly TRUE. While Fianna Fáil has a strong record when it comes to building social housing it is evident that it moved away from directly building them in its final years in office.
Independent.ie will be live fact-checking the leaders' claims on tonight's Prime Time debate at 9.35pm