I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. I assure him that the Government is determined to address the problems faced by people waiting for housing. Unfortunately, we inherited an economy that had collapsed, which had a significant effect on capital budgets.
One means of dealing with the housing list is to make available empty houses. Some 3.3% of social housing stock is vacant, out of a total stock of almost 130,000 social housing units. Local authorities are responsible for the management and maintenance of the social housing stock. Rental income is used to support responsive and planned maintenance programmes. However, constraints on local authority revenue funding have resulted in a growing number of properties being left vacant for protracted periods.
The best approach to preventing houses becoming long-term voids is through proactive, planned maintenance programmes by local authorities and taking steps to ensure the quick turnaround of properties as they become vacant. Local authorities are, by and large, doing this, although some problems remain. My Department has a number of capital support measures in place to assist them in refurbishing vacant and boarded up houses.
This year, the Department is providing funding of more than €121 million in capital grants to local authorities for improving the social housing stock. This includes €80 million for the regeneration of run-down estates and flat complexes in Dublin city - Deputy Conaghan will be familiar with some of these - as well as Limerick, Cork and a number of regional centres. Approximately €20 million is being provided for estate wide remedial works and this year the Government approved a new €50 million insulation retrofitting programme which will result in some 25,000 local authorities houses being provided with attic, roof and wall insulation. This will have a significant impact on comfort levels and energy savings and create much needed jobs. Some €10 million of this funding has been made available this year and will be used to retrofit approximately 5,000 properties. A further €25 million will be made available in 2014 when I expect work will be completed on some 12,500 properties. On a visit to Corduff in Fingal yesterday I saw how this programme is being used to make houses more comfortable and energy efficient and to reduce fuel costs for householders.
The Department also applied for funding from the European Union and I hope this application will be successful. This funding will be used specifically to address problems in flat complexes in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.
The Government's housing policy statement published in June 2011 clearly identifies that the priority for Government will be to meet the most acute needs of households applying for social housing support. We must use all the schemes available to us while we await further capital funding. This includes the rental accommodation scheme, securing housing units from the National Asset Management Agency, a process we are seeking to accelerate, and working with approved housing bodies. These bodies have demonstrated a capacity to raise funds additional to those that are allocated from the Department's capital budgets. We are, therefore, working to provide social housing through various means.
This year, the Department announced funding to enable local authority housing construction programmes to commence. This funding is additional to funding provided to address void or vacant housing units. Some local authorities have a large number of void units and we want to ensure they are returned to use. While the sum provided this year is relatively small owing to the ongoing difficulties with capital allocations, we will increase this funding when it becomes possible to do so. I am determined to ensure the social housing programme optimises the delivery of social housing and the return for the resources invested.
It is essential that we use all available Exchequer supports in the prevailing conditions, and the various solutions at present, to address housing needs. That includes a variety of measures.
I am determined that we will address this problem. It was one that was on the increase during the Celtic tiger when the money was around. It is more difficult now because we have so little in terms of capital funding, but the economy is recovering. We intend to ensure that we use the rising of the economy to be in a position to provide more social housing.