I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.
The difficulties facing the State’s finances and the necessity to reduce public expenditure to sustainable levels are impacting on capital programmes all across the public service, including my Department’s housing capital programme. The amount of capital funding available has decreased significantly in recent years along the lines highlighted in the Medium Term Exchequer Framework for Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016. As a result, capital spending on housing programmes is subject to constraint over the short-term.
In July 2012, I announced details of a three-year funding programme of €100 million to deliver some 377 new units of voluntary housing and 431 units of local authority owned social housing. I am monitoring expenditure under my Department’s housing programme for 2013, together with the level of contractual commitments extending into 2014, with a view to a decision later this year on approving some limited new construction and house purchases over the period to end 2014. New housing provision by local authorities and the voluntary sector in the period beyond 2014 will be considered in the light of the prevailing economic conditions at that time.
Delivery of social housing will be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and 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 engaged with NAMA to ensure delivery of housing units for social purposes.
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.