€2.2bn housing initiative to create 10,000 homes

Construction workers onsite at a new development in the Rathfarnham, Dublin.

A €2.2bn public housing investment in the next three years should lead to the building of 10,000 homes, the Government has said.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin insisted the scheme, the first major investment in building in five years, would deal with a “dire social need” after the Government came under heavy fire for not doing enough to deal with the housing crisis.

The project will see €1.5bn of exchequer funding used alongside €300m from social partnership, and a further €400m from a “financial vehicle” set-up to attract investment from the private sector.

Proceeds from the sale of Bord Gáis Energy will be used to help pay for the initiative, Mr Howlin said.

“We have not been able to build enough houses in recent years to meet the demand that is being driven by our economic recovery,” said Mr Howlin. “The Government is determined to meet the scale of social housing need with a level of investment commensurate with the challenge. Next year, I am allocating over €800m for the housing programme in 2015. Over €450m of this will be capital expenditure.

“This represents the first major investment in housing since 2009. Further measures will be taken in 2016 and 2017, with allocations of €500m and €600m in those years for social housing capital. Overall, this large- scale investment will fund the provision of over 10,000 housing units by 2018.”

Opposition parties were not so impressed by the move, saying an opportunity had been missed in dealing with the housing crisis.

Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen said the Government had learned nothing from the housing bubble.

“This budget was a chance to help revive the private housing market,” said Mr Cowen. “Instead the Government has rolled back planning laws designed to make sure everyone benefited from an upturn in the property market, not just a few.

“This comes before they have even established an independent planning regulator to oversee a properly functioning planning system in Ireland. By putting the cart before the horse, the Government is showing they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

“Tackling the housing crisis across both private and social sectors should be the focus of this Government. This budget does little for the long-term health of the sector and little for those struggling to keep up with rents. The short-sighted approach of the Government across its budget measures is sadly reflected in their housing policy.”

Services for the homeless were boosted by €10.5m, which brings spending in the area back to 2010 levels of €55.5m per year.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said: “The availability and supply of secure, affordable and adequate housing is essential in ensuring sustainable tenancies and ending long-term homelessness.”

The Simon Community welcomed the move, but warned more aid was needed to deal with the scale of the housing crisis.

Key numbers

* Housing Spend rises 40%, from €566m to €798m. Additional €180m for capital programmes and €52m increase in current spending. Total increase €232m;

* 7,500 housing units to be delivered in 2015 through current and capital spending, including the refurbishment of 1,000 vacant units;

* Local authority direct build and acquisition to quadruple from 200 units in 2014 to 946 in 2015, upping investment by €90m;

* 400 new housing units for people with specific needs and up to 150 new homes for people with disabilities requiring institutional care;

* Homelessness services spend increases by 20% to €55.5m;

n€10m for the Mortgage to Rent scheme to allow people stay in homes;

* 3,000 additional new housing units will be leased in 2015;

* Community & Rural Development Provision €133m for 2015, with Community & Voluntary support up €1.5m to €12.3m

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