Minister to admit housing deadline won’t be met

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will today concede that a crucial deadline to end the use of emergency accommodation for homeless families by the end of this month — made by his predecessor — will not be met.

The confirmation comes as economic think-tank the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) suggests the housing supply crisis may be worse than it seems, by probing the veracity of construction figures.

Mr Murphy, who is reviewing the Government’s housing programme, will tell a Focus Ireland meeting in Dublin that 650 families were still in B&Bs and hotels at the end of May.

Despite a commitment by former housing minister Simon Coveney that the use of emergency housing would stop by July 1, Mr Murphy has accepted this will not be possible.

In Mr Murphy’s speech, leaked last night, he says that everyone in a hotel by the end of May will in the coming weeks either have left their hotel accommodation or have been notified of the alternative accommodation to move to. He will say that there will still be a small number of families with exceptional needs housed in commercial accommodation until specific tailored solutions can be put in place. At the end of May, 650 families were still in hotels and B&Bs but this is considerably less than the 871 in March, his speech says.

Meanwhile, an economic think-tank suggests the housing supply crisis may actually be worse than it seems.

According to the ESRI, the estimated number of new houses needed to be built per year in order to meet basic demand has gone up from 25,000 to between 30,000 and 35,000; whereas there are only around 13,000 new builds annually.

Of those new builds, the ESRI questioned the official figures, inferring that a pre-recession hangover is playing a part in numbers. Currently, any housing unit is designated as complete by the Department of Housing when it is connected to the electricity services by ESB.

“It may be that more recent increases in housing supply are actually units partially built in the run-up to 2007/2008 and which are only now being finished.

“This would suggest that the official statistics are actually overstating the present rate of construction activity in the domestic economy,” the ESRI said in its latest quarterly commentary.

“Our estimates suggest that, based on this relationship, the level of supply in 2016 [was] 12,700 units — less than the actual figure but not as low as other estimates suggest.

“This still does highlight the significant deviation between actual supply and demand and the likelihood that both prices and rents are set to increase for the foreseeable future.”

Business: 14


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