Plans to ensure a massive 90,000 people on social housing waiting lists are in homes by 2020 have been announced, amid fears thousands will soon flock to the State service because they cannot afford a home.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly revealed the ambitious attempt to wipe out the social housing backlog by the end of the decade in a move he said was the reason he took on his ministerial role.
However, concerns have been raised over where the units will be built and if private landlords will be enticed into a key part of the project, while the opposition has claimed the move is a “PR stunt” to hide the third Government housing plan in just six months.
Under moves revealed by Labour’s deputy leader, the Coalition will attempt to build 35,000 social housing homes by 2020 at a cost of €3.8bn, up from the €2.2bn announced in last month’s budget.
A new rental scheme called the housing assistance payment will be established to ensure another 75,000 households can be accommodated through deals with landlords.
A group tasked with solving the difficulties in Dublin, where 19,000 families are on waiting lists including 7,500 for more than five years, will also be set up, while 25% of new homes will be for homeless people.
Mr Kelly said the expected 110,000 new homes in the plan would ensure everyone on a social housing waiting list would be in a home by 2020, while still allowing for a 20,000 “head-space” for future queue joiners.
In a move away from existing policy, he said people would be able to move from one local authority waiting list to another in order to allow changing prospects.
Mr Kelly said he was “unlikely to have a more important day in Government”.
He said the dependency on the private sector to fill social housing gaps over the past decade “was wrong”, adding now was the time for long-term policies not based on “electoral cycles”.
However, Mr Kelly faced criticism after he was unable to clarify exactly where the new units would be built and how landlords needed for the 75,000-unit private renting part of the scheme would be encouraged to sign up if the State will “manage” rents.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the plans would not address housing and homelessness problems soon enough, while Fianna Fáil labelled them a “PR stunt”.
Hitting out at what he said was a policy that risked resulting in empty words, the party’s environment spokesperson, Barry Cowen, said the plan was hiding the “third launch of the Government’s housing policy this year”.
Reacting to claims his party’s time in office and focus on the private sector to solve housing needs caused the current problems.
He said: “This is a rehash of old ideas. They are cooking the books by diverting people onto the new housing assistance payment.”
The social housing plan emerged after a leaked report being examined by Taoiseach Enda Kenny said thousands of people might need to turn to social housing because they could afford to buy a home.
The document — to be published in the coming weeks — said officials must put forward a “systemic and honest exploration of aspirations, goals and possibilities for home ownership”.
It said a decision must be made on whether ownership or long-term renting should be promoted.
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