Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Environment Barry Cowen says Alan Kelly is struggling to get to grips with the housing crisis after admitting that the Government has failed to meet its own social housing targets for 2015. However, the Minister only came clean about the figures after being caught out in a Committee hearing.
Deputy Cowen explained, “Minister Alan Kelly appears to have been forced into admitting the seriousness of the situation after I submitted a Parliamentary Question on the issue. The Minister is planning to rely on units leased from the private sector rather than building new units. In fact, the majority of units planned under the Social Housing Strategy 2020 are to be private sector leases.
“The Ministers reliance on these so-called ‘current funded’ units rather than ‘capital funded’ units (such as new builds) is worrying. As part of the 22,000 social housing units, Minister Kelly has promised by 2017, 15,700 of these (68%) are to come from current funded units while 7,500 are to come from capital funded units.
“The Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP) was set up to make new housing units available to people on housing waiting lists. However, the latest figures from the Department reveal just how far away the Government is from meeting these targets. In 2015, only one-third of the SHCEP units targeted for the year have been met. Moreover, many of these (possibly as high as 80%) have been let on long term leasing contracts, at market rates, from NAMA. These NAMA units are ‘low hanging fruit’ and will be exhausted by next year.
“This figures show just how utterly unrealistic, unplanned and non-transparent the Minister’s whole social housing strategy is. Minister Kelly is happy to make ‘big bang’ announcements on housing, but is failing to do the simple things which would bring thousands of units online in a short space of time.
“He continues to refuse to fund the refurbishment of vacant housing units which are owned by local authorities, if the remediation costs more than €30,000. Similarly, he has failed to push NAMA into providing a higher ratio of social housing. While the Minister has been offered 10% of new NAMA developments or 2,000 units, he could have pushed for closer to 50:50 social/affordable and private housing tenure mix. Cumulatively, these measures could have made an estimated 13,000 additional units available within three years”.