Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has accused the opposition of using the housing issue to simply “embarrass” the Government and described threats of a motion of no confidence in him as “pure politics” by Sinn Féin.
Mr Murphy finds himself under fire after it emerged on Thursday that one in three of all the new homes thought to have been built over the past seven years never existed.
The Central Statistics Office reported that some 85,154 new houses and apartments were calculated to have been built from 2011 to 2017, but the true number was 53,566 — just 63% of what was believed.
“We know what is going on here. This is pure politics. Sinn Féin are trying to embarrass the Government and put Fianna Fáil in an awkward position, and Fianna Fáil are looking to make themselves part of that in order to keep themselves relevant,” Mr Murphy said.
He attacked the lack of concrete solutions coming from the opposition and their attempts to personalise the debate around him.
“They are in the business of making posters and attacking policies. It is only about me because they can’t attack the policy.
“This isn’t about me, this is about the people sleeping rough on our streets. We are making progress,” he said.
Mr Murphy said that after the financial crash, the system of using ESB connections to track house builds was no longer a satisfactory means of measuring.
“It wasn’t a perfect data set. That is why I asked the CSO to drill down to weed out farmhouses and give a truer picture,” he said.
He said the country will build 25,000 new homes a year by 2020, and by 2040 we will get to 35,000.
He also said about 2,400 social homes were built last year, adding that number will be doubled this year.
Housing expert Lorcan Sirr said he and a number of other academics and architects had been pointing out for some time that using ESB connections was a faulty methodology.
“We raised the issue of this flaw several times with Simon Coveney, but he maintained it was the best methodology,” he said.
“To be fair to Eoghan Murphy he asked for new methodology.”
Mr Sirr said it was important to know what the exact capacity was.
“Do we have the capacity to churn out 25,000 houses every year? Do we have the tradesmen or women? I think we could stretch to 17,000. After that quality will suffer,” he warned.
Mr Sirr pointed out that between 2011 and 2017 only 53,000 houses were built while the Government had claimed that 85,000 were built.
“We’re way behind where we should be,” said Mr Sirr.
He also raised the issue of obsolescence — where houses fall out of use.
This is part of the natural process, he said and was 0.4% which translates into 8,000 houses per year which, when subtracted from the 14,000 new houses built last year, meant net additional stock of just 6,000.
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