Social housing wait list report to be published next year

Paudie Coffey: Disputed thefigures released by Fianna Fáil.

A report outlining the most up-to-date figures on Ireland’s social housing waiting list crisis is likely to be published in the first half of next year — just in time for the general election.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Alan Kelly confirmed the schedule, ultimately decided by the State’s independent housing agency, amid a growing political row over whether Government is “hiding the true scale” of the scandal.

On Monday, Fianna Fáil environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, claimed the Coalition is under-stating the extent of the social housing crisis by up to 45% by basing its official rates on figures which are two years out of date.

Mr Cowen said Freedom of Information Act records obtained from every local authority in Ireland show 130,008 people are currently waiting on social housing waiting lists, 40,346 people more than the official Government level. He said the rate, which when families are included, means more than 300,000 people could be affected, is being hidden by a government which is instead basing official figures on a report from 2013.

The Government responded by saying the reason the 2013 report by the independent housing agency is being given prominence is because it is a three-yearly definitive outline of the situation, and that Fianna Fáil’s figures may include people on multiple waiting lists and others who have found a home but are still on lists due to administrative errors.

On Monday evening, a spokesman for Mr Kelly was unable to say when the next “comprehensive” report by the housing agency would be published next year.

However, speaking last night, he confirmed it will be in the “early months of 2016”, meaning it is almost certain to be made public just as the public goes to the polls.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, Housing Minister Paudie Coffey, accused Fianna Fáil of publishing figures it knows “have duplicity in them” and that “a lot of those people would have left the housing list” by now.

“There are changes in people’s circumstances, sometimes people’s housing need would increase and sometimes it would be removed altogether where people would go off the list.”

A number of independent bodies also questioned the accuracy of both the Government and opposition figures, saying neither provide an entirely true indication of the ongoing housing problems damaging large parts of the country.

However, despite the criticism of the political row, Sinn Féin last night entered the argument with its housing spokesman, Dessie Ellis, warning the response from Mr Coffey shows Government has “no grasp of the scale of the housing crisis” and is “not prepared or willing to make the decisions needed”.

“I’m not remotely surprised the Government does not know the realities of the housing crisis, nor am I surprised the ministers responsible were misleading us with out of date figures. But it is an insult to the intelligence of the public that Minister Coffey would try to tell us two year old data is more reliable than new data from the same bodies.”

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