The Government has been responding actively to the increased level of social housing need by significantly expanding social and affordable housing output. The strong commitment of the Government to meeting the housing needs of low income groups and those with social and special housing needs is reflected in the total housing provision, Exchequer and non-Exchequer, of €1.885 billion in 2004, which represents an increase of 5.5% on the 2003 provision. The funding available in 2004 will allow for the housing needs of more than 12,000 households to be met in 2004 compared with almost 8,500 in 1998.
We are delivering the highest level of local authority completions for 16 years. In 2002, local authorities built or acquired 5,074 houses. In the first nine months of 2003, more than 3,270 local authority houses were completed or acquired. The Government is fully supportive of the voluntary and co-operative housing sector which continues to play an increasingly significant role in the provision of social housing. Output of 1,360 units in 2002 was the highest level ever recorded for the sector. In the first nine months of 2003, 1,113 units of accommodation were completed.
Activity is also increasing significantly under the affordable housing and shared ownership schemes, with more than 7,200 households having benefited under both schemes since January 2000. The provisions under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, will also assist in the delivery of social and affordable housing and the affordable housing initiative included in the national partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, is being progressed as a priority. This initiative, combined with Part V arrangements, will build on the progress made in delivering existing affordable housing schemes to boost the supply of affordable housing over the coming years.
The current level of public investment in housing is significant. The need to ensure we are making optimal use of available resources in meeting housing needs is reflected in Sustaining Progress, which provides for a review of the effectiveness of programmes designed to assist low income groups, including those with social housing and special housing needs.
It is a matter for each local authority to administer house purchase loans in its area, having regard, as appropriate, to the housing needs and circumstances of the area. My Department is keeping the terms of the income and loan limits under review, taking into account the movement in house prices, the effectiveness of various schemes in meeting the needs of the relevant target group and the availability of mortgage finance in the private sector.