AS few as 18,000 homes may be built this year due to coronavirus restrictions, 7,000 short of the government target.
The estimate was made by Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O'Brien as the Dáil debated the impact of the emergency on the existing housing crisis.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said that 5,000 homes were built in the first quarter of the year before construction work was halted.
He said that almost 40 sites have been reopened for 1,000 homes as they were social housing developments that are near completion.
Mr Murphy said these will be new homes for people either in emergency accommodation or on the housing list.
He said the Department has been working with the Irish Homebuilders’ Association to develop guidelines for how construction sites can be reopened safely.
Mr Murphy said it's hoped that construction can restart from May 18 as it's "crucial that we build new homes".
Mr O'Brien said he's seen projections from stakeholders that suggest as few as 18,000 homes will be built this year.
He asked if the government has been in contact with the EU to see if it would revise fiscal rules to allow member states to invest directly in housing as part of a stimulus package.
"I think the EU really needs to look at this," he said adding that the housing sector - already under pressure "is now been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis".
Mr Murphy said that there a €200m agreement between the Housing Finance Agency and the European Investment Bank was struck in December.
"There’s plenty of funding available from Europe and other sources to put into housing," he said.
"One of the challenges we will face though, as we open up new sites is social distancing and how that might affect they capacity that can actually be delivered in the next six months," he added.
Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin raised concern about the delivery of social housing and asked if the government is looking at other ways to meet targets including reconsidering the limits on local authorities buying new properties.
He also said that some private sector developments may no longer be viable due to a loss of future sales and asked if they could be acquired as turn-key properties for use as social housing.
Mr Murphy said turn-key properties are being considered as a way of meeting social housing targets.
He said local authority acquisition targets are still being worked out and "we’ll figure out might there need to be more acquisitions depending on what's
happening on social housing sites".
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