Priority Questions

Private Rented Accommodation Provision

Barry Cowen


1. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the proposals he is considering to try to stem inflation in rent prices in the private rental sector in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35579/16]

Notwithstanding the initiatives in Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness to deal with supply and the housing crisis, for which enabling legislation is expected to come before the House in the weeks ahead, with one such Bill currently before the Seanad, we have an immediate problem in the rental sector where inflation is running at more than 10%. This rate of inflation cannot be sustained by current household incomes and is leading many people to homelessness. An immediate solution is required. We have all engaged in the consultation process of recent weeks and I hope the Minister will produce proposals in the short term. I earnestly ask that he consider introducing legislative proposals in the coming weeks to give Deputies an opportunity to analyse and scrutinise them, with a view to ensuring the best possible solution is proposed, one which secures the approval of as many Deputies as possible.

The significant increases in rents we are seeing, particularly in urban areas, are primarily caused by a severe shortage in supply. The best way to address rents in the long term and benefit the entire sector is to increase the supply of rental accommodation and accelerate the delivery of housing for the private and social rented sectors. However, I acknowledge that short-term measures are also needed.

Pillar 4 of Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness commits to developing a comprehensive strategy for the rental sector. The strategy will include measures to address immediate issues affecting the supply, cost and accessibility of accommodation. In addition, it will consider measures to increase security of tenure and, in particular, the potential of new mechanisms for both setting and reviewing rents. There will also be a focus on maintaining existing levels of rental stock and encouraging investment in additional supply.

The rental strategy will provide a vision of the role the rental sector will play in the short, medium and long term in the context of the Government’s overall objectives for the housing sector. I expect it to be finalised by the middle of December. Some of the measures in the strategy will require supporting amendments to be made to the Residential Tenancies Act. However, other legislative changes are being accelerated for early enactment in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016, which commenced Second Stage in the Seanad yesterday. Tenants and landlords alike will, therefore, see a number of improvements introduced arising from these legislative provisions.

The key challenge is to ensure the development of a viable and sustainable rental sector that can provide choice, quality, value and security for households, together with secure, attractive investment opportunities for rental providers.

My objective is to use the opportunity presented by the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016, which will come before the Dáil in early December, to make necessary amendments that are consistent with the rental strategy once it has been launched. These amendments will probably be made on Committee Stage in the Dáil. I hope I will be able to reflect the concerns expressed by a number of political parties and individuals in the consultation process. I will try to find a balance that will ensure continued investment and supply and provide an appropriate response to the difficult conditions in which many tenants find themselves as a result of rental inflation.

I thank the Minister for his response and acknowledge that he agrees with many Deputies on this side on the urgent need to introduce short-term measures to address the terrible inflation being inflicted on those who find themselves in the awful predicament of renting accommodation. I also welcome his commitment to consider the possibility of amending legislation to ensure security of tenure for tenants and to place before the House legislation which will give effect to new means and mechanisms for setting and renewing rents along the lines of rent certainty and control.

I also acknowledge the commitment given by the Minister to introduce amendments on Committee Stage of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 consistent with the rental strategy which he will announce in the weeks ahead. This reflects the calls made on this side for urgent action to be taken on this issue. Amendments should not be taken lightly because they interfere with the market but market intervention is unfortunately necessary because market conditions are abnormal. Changes can be reviewed after a period to ensure they achieve the desired outcomes. I ask the Minister to bear in mind that regardless of how abnormal his amendments may seem, the market is also abnormal and the changes the House introduces can be reviewed after a period.

Striking a balance is difficult; if it was easy, we would have acted months ago. Sinn Féin has made proposals on numerous occasions and I understand the party intends to introduce another Private Members' motion in two weeks' time, which is just before we are due to the launch the rental strategy. I am not sure if this will be helpful given that we are trying to finalise a rental strategy that takes on board the concerns of many stakeholders. That is politics, however.

The issue for me is to get this right. The last thing I want to do is introduce a blunt measure that may solve an immediate problem for one sector but cause a major problem in another sector. We must ensure that, regardless of what steps we take, the private rental market continues to attract investment because we need many more rental properties. However, I will not ignore the pressures many tenants are under. We have taken time to consult many interested parties, including the Opposition, on this matter and we will finalise the process as quickly as possible. I hope political games will not be played during the process because this is a genuine effort to get this right.

I assure the Minister that I will not seek to play political games on this issue. I want the legislation to be brought before the House in order that it can be analysed, scrutinised and improved. I want a consensus to be achieved in order that the legislative changes the House makes will have the desired effect and will be reviewed after six or 12 months. I want measures introduced urgently that will deliver the best possible outcomes and provide security of tenure and legal mechanisms to allow for fair play in the setting and renewing of rents.

The rental strategy is an important part of the housing strategy. The rental market has doubled in size in the past 20 years. Thousands of families rely on a sustainable and predictable rental market to provide certainty about where they will live in six weeks, six months or six years. We are trying to respond to changing circumstances and the crisis in supply in many parts of the country. It is not easy to get the balance right, which is the reason we have taken a little time to develop the strategy. I appeal to people to allow us to conclude the strategy. There will be an opportunity to debate the amendments to legislation we will introduce as part of the rental strategy as well as policy initiatives we will take to try to strike the right balance, which will not require legislation.

Housing Provision

Eoin Ó Broin


2. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his plans to direct local authorities to sell public land at low or below market rates as part of pillar 3 of his housing action plan; the public sites currently under consideration for such sale; the total hectarage of these sites; the number of houses that will be provided at these locations; the percentage of these houses that will be social housing; the timeframe for providing these units; and the cost to the State arising from the low or below market sale of these lands. [35578/16]

The housing action plan refers to the potential for providing low-cost lands to private developers for the provision of private units at affordable costs. Last week, following the launch of pillar 3, there was media speculation about the low-cost sale of lands to private developers. The Department's website features a speech given by the Minister when he announced the 19 potential pathfinder sites. As it does not provide much detail, the purpose of my question is to elicit as much detail on this aspect of the plan as the Minister is able to provide today.

That is a fair question. Rebuilding Ireland's core objective is to increase and accelerate housing delivery to meet demand.

In the context of State lands, that means extracting the optimum housing supply in the shortest possible timeframe, while also securing the greatest value for money possible in terms of State-owned assets. In practical terms, this will include accelerating social housing delivery and securing more homes for sale and rent at lower and more affordable price points.

Many local authorities have significant landbanks and are pivotal in managing the overall planning and development of housing to meet the needs of citizens. It is not my intention to direct local authorities on how to maximise the housing supply from their sites but, rather, to work with them in partnership, using all of the levers available to me, to support the development of housing on such sites.

In this regard, Rebuilding Ireland contains a number of key actions that are capable of supporting the accelerated delivery of mixed-tenure housing from local authority sites. These include the commitment to spend over €5 billion on adding a significant number of social housing units to our existing stock, the €200 million local infrastructure housing activation fund and the major urban housing development sites initiative, which involves some local authority-owned and private sites. I hope we will get significant and ambitious public private partnerships in order to get mixed-tenure sites moving. This will be done on a case-by-case basis.

In principle, we have agreed politically on O'Devaney Gardens. We want to bring finance to the project to support 30% social housing. We also want Dublin City Council to try to design a system that can attract significant private sector interest in the site and to use the land that is available, which is the key to ensuring that the council receives as much of a dividend as possible from the private developer. It may be a social as well as a financial dividend, or one or other, in terms of the 20% affordable rental element of the project that we envisage.

Depending on the location and value of a site, the last thing we want are large sites remaining empty for five or six years when the current pressures on supply continue. We are encouraging the chief executives of local authorities to be ambitious and to come to us with projects that we will help them put together.

As the Minister knows, we support the principle of mixed-tenure estates and want public landbanks used to the maximum public housing benefit possible. I urge that there be the greatest degree of flexibility possible from the Minister's Department in terms of the proposals chief executives bring forward. Different local authorities have different landbanks and sets of needs. In the case of O'Devaney Gardens, for example, Dublin City Council has other land that can produce other mixed-tenure sites, possibly under a similar model.

In my constituency, the bulk of the Clonburris strategic development zone, SDZ, land is private, but the Grange, or the Corkagh site on the Minister's list, is one of the last major publicly-owned pieces of land for social housing. If we do not get that process right, it will reduce the overall increase in social housing we are able to develop in an area of very high need. I would be interested in hearing whether the Minister is open to the idea of council-led mixed-tenure estates or the current proposal that the city manager of South Dublin County Council is considering in terms of the sale of land with the council receiving its full market value, the Department possibly funding the 30% social housing provision and the local authority being able to use the money from sale of the land to purchase further land in order to provide more mixed-development estates. That would be the most advantageous use of the land in the constituency.

That is a very fair point. Depending on where lands are located, the circumstances in the communities around them and so on, sometimes we need to actively try to get private housing in certain areas in order to create real mixed-tenure and broader communities - O'Devaney Gardens is a good example of that. In other areas, it may be sensible to have a higher percentage of social housing because there may already be a lot of private housing there.

It would be sensible of me to look to the experience within local authorities, which know their areas a lot better than I do, come back which proposals, vet them and have a robust discussion about ensuring that we derive maximum value from the relevant sites. We also need to try to meet the policy objectives of the Rebuilding Ireland plan, which aims to change the way in which we deliver social and affordable housing in terms of mixed-tenure and use, better design and building communities rather than simply building housing estates.

As I said, we are encouraging local authorities to work with our housing delivery unit and to be ambitious in respect of prospective projects. We have a lot of money to spend on housing next year, the year after and so on. We will be part of those projects but they need to make sense from a policy point of view.

I thank the Minister. I acknowledge and welcome the flexibility he has outlined. I urge him to consider other areas of flexibility. I refer to the affordable or cost-rental element of some mixed-tenure estates. There is a real value in considering local authorities being responsible for cost rental or affordable rental schemes, partly because it would increase the rent paid to local authorities, which would assist them in meeting their commitments in respect of the long-term maintenance of the stock.

I refer to housing for sale. We know, from replies from the Department to parliamentary questions I submitted, that the all-in cost of local authority building for two or three-bedroom houses is significantly below that outlined in some surveys, such as the one carried out by the Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Therefore, there could equally be a benefit to local authorities and the State if the latter was in the business of providing affordable housing for sale that could be sold at below €200,000 or €220,000. That profit could be recycled back into future mixed-tenure housing developments. I am not saying that the Minister should consider the proposal instead of what clearly seems to be a more private sector focus. However, it is a model he should actively explore.

I do not have a closed mind. I find it difficult to believe that local authorities would be able to manage projects more efficiently than a competitive tendering process where a project goes to market and the person who produces the best and lowest cost proposal will be awarded the contract. Local authorities should be involved in the management of the process. By and large, however, the likelihood is that they will tender in order to try to get the best value, design and so on.

We should not forget that local authorities have not built many houses for quite some time. In terms of building up expertise and teams of architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and so on, they will be under a lot of pressure to get social housing projects built on time without taking on a lot of extra staff. If there are exceptions to that, if there is a good case being made, if chief executives think it is a good idea and if they are supported by councillors, we will consider the proposals so long as they are not a contravention of competition law.

Planning Issues

Barry Cowen


3. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government if his Department has undertaken an audit of potential bottlenecks and undue regulatory burdens slowing down the planning process for building multi-unit housing developments such as apartment buildings or housing estates; the findings of this audit; and his plans to remove such blockages. [35580/16]

The Government has acknowledged on numerous occasions that the cost of building houses and apartments is a key issue in the holding back of supply. However, there appears to be no mention of an intention to undertake regular audits of construction costs in the Rebuilding Ireland document, despite it being one of the main recommendations of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness. That being the case, can the Minister inform the House whether he or his Department has carried out an audit of the cost burdens or impediments that are affecting the supply of housing? Will the Minister make it public to Members and allow us to analyse it in order to ascertain what measures and actions are necessary on the part of the House in order to improve supply?

The Deputy has asked a slightly different question to the one that was tabled. I will respond to his comments. We are now working with the Housing Agency to put together an independent audit of build cost. The Deputy has requested that for some time and of course it makes sense to do it. I do not think we should rely on the Chartered Surveyors of Ireland, even though the report it compiled has contributed to the debate. It factored in over €60,000 of site value, a profit of 15% and so on. We need to have a genuinely independent process. The Chartered Surveyors of Ireland did an interesting job but we need to be seen to have an independent assessment of build cost that includes everything in order that we might have a benchmark to measure against in terms of our discussions on the cost of building and what is an affordable house and what is a reasonable price to expect in different parts of the country. We can then factor in land costs, etc., on top of that. We need to benchmark against the cost of building houses in other parts of Europe.

For example, we need to look at the costs of concrete in Ireland compared with other parts of Europe, which is a fair ask. That process is very much under way and has been for about one month.

I thank the Minister for his response. I welcome again the commitment of the Minister and the acknowledgement of this being a factor which has to be investigated independently, properly and authoritatively with a view to informing the market of the actual cost of construction, which heretofore nobody has been able to provide. This aspect was a major recommendation of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness. I welcome the Minister's commitment and his ongoing work to provide this.

Perhaps the Minister could inform the House when this might be first available and at what stage the reviews will take place thereafter. Will reviews be quarterly or half yearly? It is important to ascertain the impact of the amendment on, for example, a decrease of planning development levies, of certification costs and of VAT rates and a decrease in the costs of finance. It is not competitive when one has rates far in excess of what should be competitive rates of 3% 4% or 5%. We hear of mezzanine funds at 15%, 16% and 17%, within one of which the Government has a role, and that cannot continue. That is only part of the mix that will emanate from a report which will authoritatively and independently assess the costs of construction. Will the Minister indicate when it will first be available and when reviews will take place thereafter to analyse and see that costs are coming down?

We have been acting in trying to get down the cost of building a house. That is what the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, is all about. It is also why we are making publicly owned land available in an effort to create joint public private partnerships and in getting affordable housing projects moving. This is why we are looking at a much more streamlined and efficient planning system for some of the larger housing estates, in order that there can be certainty around the timeline for decisions, which also has an impact on funding. We are also looking at the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, with regard to on-site infrastructure investment at low cost. All these are being done.

To be fair, the core question Deputy Cowen has been asking for some time is whether we can get an independent assessment of the complete picture with regard to the construction costs for a house or an apartment complex. We have asked the Housing Agency to co-ordinate this and it is putting together a task force. I suspect we will have it in the first quarter of next year. Once there is a template to assess that, it should not be difficult to reassess it periodically to see whether elements of our construction industry are too expensive and if we can deal with that. When we have that list itemised, I believe it will be easier to do it.

I thank the Minister. He acknowledges that it will be in the first quarter and that we would agree a framework for assessing that thereafter and a period which would be acceptable to the rest of the House. Will the Minister make available his Department's audit of the various cost burdens associated with house and apartment construction that led him to that decision, notwithstanding the pressure from me, the committee and others who have been seeking that information? Perhaps the Minister would make available to me, as soon as possible, whatever audit has been carried out by his Department in allowing him to arrive at that decision, in addition to other pressures coming from other parties.

When making the decisions in the Rebuilding Ireland strategy, we looked at the process of building a house and looked at the levers that are controlled by the Government, by local government and by me. We looked at the obvious things that we could change. We know, for example, that 15 planning applications for more than 100 houses have been submitted to An Bord Pleanála this year. We know that the time period from concept to final decision was 78 weeks on average, with many of the planning applications taking longer than that. It did not take a genius to conclude that maybe we should take a look at streamlining the system, and that is what we have done.

Likewise, we looked at the cost of development levies on many of the sites. There is enough planning permission currently in Dublin for 27,000 houses, but only 4,000 are under construction. When one speaks to people about why construction is not happening they speak about a series of costs. One of those costs is the cost of infrastructure to open up the land for development, so we targeted that issue with the LIHAF fund.

This is a practical response to practical blockages in the system as opposed to being a formal audit. I am happy to share and discuss this. We have had a lot of discussion in the committee on many of these issues already.

Before I proceed I wish to say that I am very reluctant to interrupt a Deputy or the Minister while they are trying to ask a question or give an answer. We are, however, consistently breaking the time barrier for this debate, which means that somebody at the end of the time allotted for this debate is not going to have his or her question answered. I ask for everyone's co-operation. A slot is six and a half minutes with 30 seconds for an introduction. This does not seem to be a problem at all. The Minister is then given two minutes to reply and there are four minutes for supplementary queries and responses, comprising one minute for the Deputy, one minute for the Minister, another minute for the Deputy and another minute for the Minister. When I interrupt, it is because I want to let Deputies know that we need to keep things moving to ensure everyone gets a fair play. I have probably just taken up one minute saying this, so we will move on pretty rapidly.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Richard Boyd Barrett


4. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the number of council houses owned and managed by local authorities that will be delivered in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 under the Rebuilding Ireland plan; if he will provide a breakdown of these figures by local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35506/16]

For some time I have been trying to get to the bottom of actual council houses and the delivery of same under Rebuilding Ireland. I would like to be wrong and I hope I am wrong but I suspect that under the heading "social housing" or "new build" we are actually getting hardly any local authority housing. Will the Minister provide the factual situation on local authority housing?

The 47,000 social housing units to be delivered under Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, span the years 2016 to 2021. All of these 47,000 units will be available for local authorities to utilise in addressing housing need for those on waiting lists. Of the overall total, up to 33,650 will be owned and available to be managed by local authorities. Of these 33,650 units, approximately 18,700 will be delivered through construction, PPPs, voids, regeneration, rapid build and Part V acquisitions by local authorities. Some 2,300 will be acquired from the market by local authorities and 3,500 will become available to local authorities through the new repair and leasing scheme. There will be 9,150 units leased from a range of sources, including private owners and the NTMA special purpose vehicle, which is to be established. These units will be secured using robust long-term lease arrangements for periods of ten to 20 years. In the case of such units, local authorities may directly manage them or may arrange for them to be managed by approved housing bodies. The balance of 13,350 units within the overall 47,000 target will be constructed or purchased and managed by approved housing bodies. These are all new houses coming into the system.

A breakdown of the 33,650 overall local authority delivery, which I referred to earlier, is not available on an individual local authority basis at this point. However, the following table sets out the annual national breakdown envisaged. While all local authority areas have targets out to 2017, details of which are on my Department’s website, and are being supported by my Department to accelerate and increase social housing delivery, new individual targets that reflect the increased ambition and funding provided under Rebuilding Ireland will formally issue to each local authority in January 2017, following the completion of the summary of social housing assessments in 2016. The assessment process is now well advanced and will provide updated figures for social housing need. This will allow for social housing delivery and resources to be aligned with the up-to-date, priority housing needs locally.

Annual breakdown of delivery of the 33,650 new units that will be owned and available to be managed by local authorities















The expression, "The devil is in the detail", takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to trying to get to the bottom of figures for social housing in the Minister's Rebuilding Ireland plan.

I will study the Minister's answer in detail, because there was a lot of detail. Certainly, on first hearing, one could be forgiven for saying I am not really getting a straight answer as to how many of the 47,000 houses will actually be - let me be very clear - new local authority houses, not ones acquired under Part V leasing arrangements, not approved housing bodies-----

Part V is not leasing.

This is the detail I am trying to get at. I will be asking about Cherrywood later. We are going to have 8,000 houses. How many of them will be council houses? My fear is it will be very few. I know that, next year, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown will get 103 local authority houses, although, in fact, we do not even know if they are all local authority houses. It is probably fewer than 100 council houses whereas we have 6,000 people on the list. This is the detail I want at national level and then broken down county by county.

With regard to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, while I was in talking about how we can deliver more social houses, Deputy Boyd Barrett was outside protesting.

I was. I am not a councillor.

As opposed to making a contribution to the solution, he was just screaming and shouting, as usual.

The issue for Dún Laoghaire or for anywhere else is that its local authority decides how many social houses it wants to deliver and then we will pay for them. We want to work with local authorities to ramp up social housing delivery dramatically. I made that very clear when I was in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. My understanding, according to a figure I got the other day, is that an extra 222 will be delivered by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown by January 2018, which is in just over one year. We can go through the detail of that if we get the detail from the local authority.

My only objective is to increase significantly the number of social houses owned, built, acquired or altered to make them suitable for good quality social housing, preferably in mixed tenure estates. We will encourage that and spend a lot of money to deliver it. That is why we are talking about these kinds of figures, with 18,700 to be delivered through construction, PPPs, voids, regeneration, rapid build and Part V acquisitions. Part V is not leasing; it is acquisitions. There are other leasing projects we can do that make sense, for example, leasing for between ten and 20 years to give people certainty and security of tenure. Although the Deputy might not like to hear it because it does not suit the political arguments, the Government is committed to delivering tens of thousands of extra social houses over the next five years.

The reason I was protesting is that, for six years, since I was elected to this House, I have been pleading with the Government to return to the provision of local authority housing. For five of those years, I got blanked completely, and the list in Dún Laoghaire went from about 3,000 to about 6,000, with people now waiting 18 years on the list. I have people coming in to me every week with their kids, literally crying about having no place to live. That is why I am protesting. If the Minister can solve the problem, I will be a very happy person. It is not out of a desire to have an unnecessary political argument. I just want a solution for the desperate people who are coming in every week.

What I cannot get, and I hardly have time to ask the question, is the information on how many of these will be local authority housing, as opposed to housing from the approved housing bodies or leases. Let me put it this way. Of the 8,000 houses, let us say I can convince the council that 2,000 of those should be council houses, will the Minister give Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown the money to take 2,000 of the 8,000 houses in Cherrywood into public ownership as local authority houses?

The point I was making about protesting is that we were out there to discuss how we ramp up and significantly increase social and affordable housing provision in Dún Laoghaire, which has specific problems because of the extraordinarily high average rents and house prices there. We need to tailor solutions, as I made clear to some of the councillors who are connected to Deputy Boyd Barrett's grouping. I recognise there are almost unique problems there that require solutions which my Department has to be part of. That is what we are there for.

If the Deputy looks at what we are trying to do, he will see we are increasing the housing budget for next year by 50% in one year. No other Department is even coming close in terms of the pace of increased budgetary commitment. That is because, primarily, that money will be going into social housing provision in Dún Laoghaire and elsewhere. We need ambitious approaches to come from local authorities and we want to work in partnership with them to make that happen. That is what we are trying to do. There is no mystery about it and no one is trying to hide anything.

The figure I believe the Deputy is looking for is that 33,650 of the 47,000 will be owned and available to be managed by local authorities. The other 13,000 or so will be through AHBs because we need to get the balance between the two to maximise output.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Catherine Connolly


5. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the number of houses that have been acquired and purchased by Galway City Council in each year from 2011 to date in 2016; the number of houses that have been constructed by the city council for each of those years; the number that are under construction; the number of houses that will be completed by the end of 2016 and by the end of 2017; the number that are planned for construction by the city council in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35507/16]

Galway city has 4,720 households on the waiting list, comprising 10,000 to 15,000 people, and that figure is rising. As I speak, 29 families with 79 children are homeless, 18 other families are at risk of becoming homeless and 20 people are sleeping rough. My question is very specific. What houses were built and what houses are going to be built?

The development of new social housing in Galway city is, in the first instance, a matter for the local authority. However, it is something the Department is taking very seriously, and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, has visited Galway three or four times in the past couple of months. The idea behind Rebuilding Ireland is to work with local authorities to drive change in this area.

Since 2011, 84 social housing units have been acquired by Galway City Council or approved housing bodies in its area. This includes two in 2011, 22 in 2012, 56 in 2015 and four up to the end of June 2016, with additional units expected by the end of 2016. In that period, 15 new social housing units were completed in an unfinished development at Cúirt Róisín and were taken over by Clúid earlier this year. Galway City Council has also secured 261 units through long-term leasing arrangements, including 50 new units under Tuath at Ballyburke through the NAMA special purpose vehicle, the National Asset Residential Property Services, NARPS.

A target of 518 social housing units over the period 2015 to 2017, supported by a funding allocation of €28.3 million, was notified by the Department to Galway City Council in April 2015 to be invested in a combination of building, buying and leasing schemes. Following this, the construction of a total of 69 new social houses at Ballymoneen Road was approved, and I am advised that the first phase of 14 units is expected go on site next month for completion in 2017. I am also advised that phase 2 of this project, which will deliver 55 units, will start on site in 2017. A further 19 new units are also due on site in 2017 across three approved housing body projects, while in July last, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, announced the delivery of 73 new units at Ballyburke as part of the second bundle of the social housing public private partnership programme.

Funding has also been approved by my Department under the capital advance leasing facility for the acquisition by three approved housing bodies of 69 units in Galway city. Delivery is contingent on approved housing bodies securing the balance of funding required, but if successful, 39 units are expected to be delivered by the end of 2016, a further 27 in 2017 and three in early 2018.

In the context of the increased targets in Rebuilding Ireland, the Deputy can be assured that the Department will continue to work with Galway City Council to increase and accelerate social housing delivery in Galway city.

I do not think the Minister of State heard what I said. I asked him what the Government is going to do. The local authority produced plans every single year and no funding was made available. I share Deputy Boyd Barrett's frustration with this type of reply. I want to welcome any positive news.

I want to be crystal clear. Not one single social housing unit has been built in Galway since 2009. That is why we have between 10,000 and 15,000 people on a waiting list since 2002. The Minister of State spoke about approved bodies and different leasing schemes. The 14 he spoke about are still not built. That is simply because of lack of money, or that is what I am told. If I am wrong, the Minister of State can correct me.

I understand that the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government stopped the bigger scheme and instructed the council to get more units on site despite the fact that the latter had been given approval.

I will do my best to answer the question Deputy Connolly tabled, which relates to the detailed figures.

How many houses have been built?

I went through the figures. The Deputy asked what we are going to do and whether there is an issue with funding. It is not an issue of funding any more. We have made it clear to all local authorities that we are in a position to work with them on projects across all the initiatives. We will work to tailor the needs of each county. The Minister and I are trying to visit every local authority as quickly possible in order to meet their officials and elected representatives and make it clear that the funding is available under the different schemes and can be adapted to suit their needs. A few of the new schemes announced would suit Galway County Council very well in respect of the buy-and-repair initiative. It is working on proposals for that. The housing budget is €1.3 billion extra. It has increased by 50%. The year after next there will be a major increase. The funding is there and the capacity of people in the Department and every local authority can be employed in order to deliver this and spend the money. There will not be an excuse.

The Deputy is correct that the figures for the waiting list are not acceptable. We understand that and we are all determined to drive those figures down by providing solutions. We will do that across many initiatives.

I thank the Minister of State for the positive news and for expressing his outrage that the list is too long. I appreciate that candour. My question was very specific. How many houses were constructed by the city council year on year and how many will be constructed? Can the Minister of State please tell me if it is correct to say that not one new house will be constructed by the end of this year by the city council and that it will be next year before we see any new local authority house built by the city council? That will be 14 units, the first building project since 2009. Are the Ministers meeting the councils regularly to increase that figure to deal with the housing crisis?

The Department, the Minister and I are in touch with every local authority on a weekly, if not daily, basis at this stage. The idea behind having an action plan is to drive change. We recognise that the financial and human resources were not there in recent years in order to drive the kind of change that is needed. Galway City Council is in a position to increase its numbers. Its previous target was 518 units by 2017 across a range of schemes. It could choose which ones suited its needs. It is doing that and is well on target. We have told it in the past couple of weeks to acquire any houses it can before the end of this year. Every local authority has been given the same instruction: spend the money to acquire houses. It is not the easiest solution for Galway, although it did avail of it in recent years. However, there is pressure in Galway now in the context of housing. There is a range of schemes available and the council has approached this very well in various ways. For the past couple of years, it was not just a case of building houses but also of acquiring or leasing them. The council is on target but that target will be increased, and rightly so, because there is increased funding available.