I directed all housing authorities to prepare a summary of social housing assessments carried out in their areas as at 7 May 2013. The data submitted by housing authorities are currently being analysed and once verified will be collated and a report published by the Housing Agency. This information will provide an important insight into the level and type of need for social housing support across the country.
The current assessment is the first to be carried out since the commencement of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations on 1 April 2011, which introduced a standardised system for assessing applicants for social housing support, including revised basis of need criteria. The results will not therefore be directly comparable to the results of the last assessment carried out, as at 31 March 2011, which found that there were 98,318 households on local authority waiting lists. The full results of this assessment are available on my Department's website www.environ.ie and the Housing Agency's website www.housing.ie.
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 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.
Delivery of social housing continues to be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and leasing, and the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms to increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms include options to purchase, build to lease and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. In addition, my Department and the Housing Agency are engaged with NAMA to ensure continued delivery of housing units for social purposes.
In spite of the current challenging circumstances, almost 70% of the budget for the Department will go directly to support housing in 2014 with an investment of over half a billion on a range of programmes. Meeting social housing need within the available resources will necessitate smarter and more innovative approaches in order to maximise output. In 2014, I will continue to focus the available resources towards the most vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of the community.