A SERIOUS blow was dealt to social housing last night with the decision by the Government to cut funds for those most desperate for homes by at least €140 million.
The reduction in funds to build homes for Ireland’s poorest could amount to over e235m, it was confirmed, when additional department cuts are added onto budget changes.
The reduction in e140m was part of an overall e200m cut in funds for the Department of Environment. The remaining e60m will hit water services, including sewerage and water treatment services under local authorities.
While not mentioned by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan directly in his budget speech, the figures were included in the department’s summary of supplementary budget measures.
New social housing starts are expected to be severely affected by the cuts.
A department spokesman confirmed the amount, which will be taken from its capital spending. But it could be greater when a reduction in e95m is added from reductions in the department’s current spending on social housing.
Minister John Gormley’s department expects about 7,000 social housing homes to be provided this year. But only 5,000 of these will be built with another 2,000 rented long-term.
Some 7,000 social housing homes were built last year.
Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh slammed the move.
“With rising unemployment in the construction sector the Government should actually be looking at providing additional resources, or loan guarantees to local authorities to commence an expanded social housing new build programme,” he said.
The Construction Industry Federation warned about decreased work and business for industries because of the housing and water cuts.
The cuts in social housing money came as there were calls for the Government’s new toxic bank agency to buy up land banks to build new homes on.
The Irish Council for Social Housing called for the newly announced national asset management agency to “undertake a strategic acquisition programme aimed at land banking sites for future social housing development”.
Donal McManus, executive director, said “the ICSH is seeking a commitment from the Government that the State and those most in need will benefit as top priority from any assets obtained. Social housing providers should have first call on suitable sites that are fit for purpose and at written-down value”.
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