Social housing figures announced weeks ago, minister concedes

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has admitted housebuilding figures announced in the budget have been known for weeks.

Amid criticism from Sinn Féin over the numbers, he accepted that the total number of social houses being developed between now and 2021 will increase by 3,000 from the previous figure of 47,000 to 50,000.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Donohoe said 3,800 new social houses would be built next year by councils and housing bodies. Later in the evening he said that 1,800 additional units were on top of what has already been announced, while Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said next year the State would build 3,800 homes.

Mr Donohoe, in a post-budget phone-in on RTÉ, defended the number in his speech and said: “That is the figure that Eoghan Murphy, I believe, announced at a housing summit that he had a few weeks ago.”

The row over figures broke out after the minister’s hour-long speech in the Dail when Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Eoin O’Broin both rounded on the Government and claimed no additional social housing delivery had been secured.

The TDs said the figures were already unveiled in the Rebuilding Ireland plan announced in July 2016.

There are estimated to be 90,000 to 180,000 vacant homes in Ireland while more than 8,000 people, including 3,000 children, live in emergency accommodation and more than 90,000 people wait for a social house.

Head of homeless charity Focus Ireland Mike Allen questioned whether the actual number of houses due to be built next year is any bigger than had previously been announced.

Mr Donohoe insisted it was not true that there were no new housebuilding measures in the budget and said he has increased spending for the next four years.

“The difficulty we have if I was to say to you in October we are going to have thousands of new homes built next year, you’d ask me then the question how are they going to get planning permission; how are they going to get tendered; doesn’t it take a period of time for them to be actually built? It’s because of that there’s little change in the direct build figure for next year. It changes beyond that.”

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