The next government has been warned to step up its plans to tackle the social housing crisis after one organisation claimed the current strategy was insufficient given the scale of the problem.
Figures emerged yesterday that shows it takes more than a year in some counties between one family moving out of a social housing unit and another moving in.
Cork County had the longest average turnaround time at 66 weeks, followed by Kerry with 55 weeks, and Donegal with 44 weeks.
The last government committed to dealing with the social housing backlog under its Social Housing 2020 strategy, but Sean Healy of Social Justice Ireland said the targets in the document were inadequate.
“The Social Housing Strategy in place, while welcome, is nowhere near the scale required to solve the problem,” he said.
Dr Healy said the targets in the document needed to be almost trebled so as to provide the 90,000 units he believes are required, as well as increasing work on turning around so-called ‘voids’ — properties that are in need of greater refurbishment and which may have lain vacant for longer periods of time.
Dr Healy said it made little sense for local authorities to go back to building one-off units and instead that new housing developments needed a social mix that included social housing units.
He also said it was vital that this investment was “off the books” so that it did not compromise Ireland’s total fiscal space involving debt ratio versus GDP.
Simon Brooke, head of policy at Clúid Housing Association, said one response would be for all income through social housing should be ringfenced for social housing, rather than being added to the central coffers of a local authority.
“What it does show is that there is a really urgent need for overhaul of local authority social housing finances,” he said, adding that part of the reason councils cannot turn around properties quickly enough is that “they don’t have the money”.
Mr Brooke said progress had been made regarding returning voids to use but that ringfencing the estimated €300m from social housing rents would help bring more properties on stream.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said: “Last year the target for refurbishing voids was 1,000 units. This target was well exceeded with some 2,700 units returned to use.
“In 2014 an accelerated programme of refurbishments was introduced which over the course of 2014/15 saw some 5,000 units returned to use at a combined cost of €60m.”
The department has also rejected criticism regarding funding for local authorities to tackle the issue of voids.
Responding last week to a question from Labour’s Tommy Broughan, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said: “My department places no monetary limits on what a local authority spends on refurbishing such units.”
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