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. I am determined to ensure that the social housing programme is framed in a manner which optimises the delivery of social housing and the return for the resources invested. To achieve this it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing conditions and explore the full range of solutions to address housing needs.
The social housing capital budget has been reduced from €1.535 billion in 2008 to €332.7m in 2012, with an anticipated outturn of some €299m for 2013, and the financial parameters within which we will be operating for the coming years rule out a return to large capital funded construction programmes. Nevertheless, the Government is committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to social housing support needs through a variety of mechanisms, including through increased provision of social housing. In spite of the challenging circumstances within which local authorities have been operating, a tentative out-turn in the order of 4,000 housing units was achieved in 2012. Given the current volatility of the market and different challenges to the channels of supply, it is difficult to estimate the likely output of new units for social housing this year. However, it is provisionally estimated that in the region of 5,000 units will be provided for social housing in 2013.
Delivery of social housing will be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as social leasing, but the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition.
There is also obvious potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government’s objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). My Department and the Housing Agency are working closely with NAMA with the aim of ensuring that a significant number of housing units are made available in this way by NAMA in the current year and beyond.