Government squanders opportunity to use Credit Union finance for social housing – Cowen

Published on: 04 July 2017

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing Barry Cowen TD says the Government’s failure to engage Credit Unions in financing social and affordable housing by Approved Housing Bodies is nothing short of a disgrace.

Deputy Cowen made the comments after Credit Union representatives appeared before the Oireachtas Housing Committee to outline the resources they have available to invest in social housing.

Deputy Cowen said, “It’s simply disgraceful that the Government continues to refuse to engage with Credit Unions with the view to securing funding for vital housing projects. The Government is refusing to remove the roadblocks that are preventing Credit Unions from making an estimated €2bn investment in social and affordable housing.

“While the Government continues to fudge the numbers on housing delivery, their claim that enough is being spent to build new social housing is simply untrue. Expenditure on social housing is still just €316m, compared to €818m in 2009. Investment in housing is still 65% below the average annual investment from 2004 to 2010. Credit Unions can play a vital role in providing the financing which is clearly needed for social housing projects.

“The Government needs to help establish a special purpose fund which would enable Credit Unions to pool finance and reduce risk. This would help clear the barriers which are currently in place preventing Credit Unions from investing in housing projects. There is absolutely no explanation from the Government as to why they are refusing to establish a new credit union investment vehicle.

“Approved Housing Bodies are well capable of delivering social and affordable housing projects of scale, despite what some Deputies in the Housing Committee claimed today. For example, Cluid Housing Body currently have 2,500 housing units in their construction pipeline, a larger number than many local authorities.

“In the past six years the State has built just 4,000 social houses, fewer than the number constructed in every single year from 1994 to 2009. Fewer than 1,000 new social homes will be constructed in 2017 and fewer than 5,000 by 2020.

“Clearly, housing delivery is not adequately funded. However the Fine Gael Government refuses to allow Credit Unions to invest in Approved Housing Bodies. There can be little doubt that building social housing is not a priority for this right wing Government,” concluded Deputy Cowen.

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