Government needs to more accurately measure spending on social housing

Government needs to more accurately measure spending on social housing

The C&AG said there is not absolute clarity as to the effectiveness of some of the social housing spending. Picture: PA

The Government should use output and outcome indicators to measure the number of people receiving social housing support and the percentage of those requiring supports who are actually receiving them. 

The C&AG makes the recommendation in his latest annual report after observing that while the Government has met its recent targets in relation to the building of social housing, there is not absolute clarity as to the effectiveness of some of the spending involved.

"The department has achieved or substantially achieved most of the performance targets it has set for the housing programme funded under the Vote for Housing, Planning and Local Government," said the annual report. 

"These are predominantly output targets that measure aspects of the programme-funded activity. However, the measures used are not well aligned with the nature of the activity that is funded. Some substantial funding lines have no output or activity measures associated with them. Some measures relate to a number of funding lines, so it is difficult to see what contribution each spending channel is making.

"There is no single document in the vote accounting cycle which brings together information on both financial outturns and performance against output or outcome indicators. 

"The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform should conduct a review of the current process for developing estimates and subsequently the production of accounts to identify opportunities for increased transparency through greater integration of financial and performance information."

It said Australia and some European countries offered examples of good practice for performance measurement.

On the money that was spent, it said just over 100,000 units of social housing were secured through five delivery streams — almost 10% above the target for the period 2016-2019. Expenditure on the department’s housing programme in 2019 was two-and-a-half times the corresponding figure for 2016, with the 2020 estimate due to exceed that again.

It also referred to a potentially enhanced role for the National Oversight and Audit Commission, an independent statutory oversight body for the local government sector, whose data shows a 4.1% increase in the stock of local authority social housing dwellings over four years, but a jump of 32% in the percentage of those in emergency accommodation classed as long-term homeless in the same period.

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