Irish Examiner View: Lack of direct-build social homes nothing short of depressing

It has emerged that just 647 new direct-build social homes were completed across the country in the first six months of this year, with 11 local authorities failing to build any at all.
Irish Examiner View: Lack of direct-build social homes nothing short of depressing

We are in the midst of a housing catastrophe.

At a time when  housing is front and centre of practically every pronouncement made by any Coalition Government minister, it seems almost incredible that so many local authorities in this country have this year contributed precisely zero new direct-build social homes.

That three of the four such authorities are in Dublin, where housing needs are greatest, is almost beyond credibility, but with councils in places such Galway City and county, as well as counties Sligo, Longford, Louth, Roscommon, Mayo, and Kildare, where the needs are not as numerous but no less pressing, also failing to deliver any new homes, the national picture is nothing short of depressing.

With record funding now in place exactly for this purpose, it has emerged that just 647 new direct-build social homes were completed across the country in the first six months of this year — 251 in the first quarter and 396 in the second. These figures won’t reduce housing lists anytime soon.

Fingers have been pointed at overzealous civil servants intent on fulfilling their bureaucratic requirements and overly strict application of the State’s spending code for causing this apparent apathy by local authorities to meet demand.

Ireland has seen many housing crises since before the founding of the State and we have seen several since then, most notably in the 1930s, 50s, and 60s. But these were largely stalled by huge schemes such as Crumlin, Finglas, and Ballyfermot in Dublin, and Ballyphehane and Gurranabraher in Cork.

The provision of affordable housing has always been an issue across the years, and even when forced into it by such as the slum clearances of the 1930s and 1960s, various governments made the provision of suitable replacement homes a priority and it got done.

Certainly, the National Building Agency, a semi-State body set up to build a lot of houses quickly, did just that, but we ended up with developments like those in Ballymun, Southhill, Mayfield, Togher, and Rahoon, none of which had the services such as shops, playgrounds, and sports facilities which can bind communities and help them develop.

We learned from these mistakes and have, for the most part, not repeated them, but what are we left with? 

A housing catastrophe where the grass is greener overseas, but not in neighbouring counties.

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