Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Barry Cowen, has said that Minister Coveney’s assertion that the level of State investment in social housing construction is adequate enough to meet the housing crisis is simply not credible.
Deputy Cowen was commenting after receiving capital budget figures from the Department of Housing which show that aggregate capital spending in 2016 was 65% below the average annual capital spend from 2004 to 2009.
“Despite all of Minister Coveney’s bluster on social housing investment, we are still at only two thirds of the 2004-2009 investment, at a time when the number of people seeking social housing has never been greater.
“The current government, and the previous one, talk a great game on housing delivery. Day in, day out, they seek to portray themselves as an administration that is delivering on housing.
“The real story is that of consistent and constant fudging on housing delivery. When you look under the bonnet, and analyse, in detail, the capital budget identified for social housing in each local authority area, you will see a government that is failing on this crucial issue.
“In 2016, the Government tells us that it spent €316m on social housing. Taken in isolation; it looks like a sizable investment. However, when compared to the €828m spent by the State in 2009, the real story emerges.
“Between 2004 and 2009, the average, annual, capital spend on social housing was €913m. This includes all funding for building and acquiring new social housing. The Government’s promises on social housing simply aren’t being matched with the necessary resources.
“It’s even more startling when you look at the number of social houses actually built. Over the past six years, the State built just 4000 social houses which is the same number of houses built in almost every single year from 1994 to 2009.
“No wonder we are seeing council housing lists grow month on month. The State is simply not giving the local authorities the funding to build the houses they need.
“Historically, the State acted as the largest single house builder in the country. Six years of Fine Gael government has reversed that tradition. Between 2009 and 2015, the percentage of houses built by the State dropped from 20% to 4% resulting in falling social housing capacity.
“Nothing Minister Coveney has done since taking office would lead me to believe that Fine Gael’s poor record on social housing is about to change.
“How is it acceptable that there have been no new approvals of large social housing projects since January 2016?
“It beggars belief that Minister Coveney thinks he can deliver on his housing commitments when there are just 8,400 social housing units in the construction pipeline, with one third at only Capital Appraisal stage.
“If the Minister is lucky, fewer than 1,000 new social homes will be constructed in 2017, with the figure rising to just 5,000 by 2020.
“It’s clear that the 2021 target of 26,000 units will not be met unless there is a significant increase in the level of funding made available to local authorities.
“Those in need of social housing have traditionally not been the natural constituency of Fine Gael, but one would have thought that with a national housing emergency in full flight, Minister Coveney would have done what is right by the people, no matter the political considerations,” concluded Cowen.