Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Questions (43, 85)

Paul Murphy

Question:

43. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of new build homes to be completed by each local authority by the end of 2019. [51370/19]

View answer

Niamh Smyth

Question:

85. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of new builds undertaken by his Department and or local authorities by county in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51136/19]

View answer

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Housing)

I ask the Minister how many new-build homes are to be completed by each local authority by the end of 2019 because the Government has a mantra that 10,000 social housing units will be delivered this year, which is simply not true. I want him to put the figures on the record to demonstrate that it is not true and that he is engaging in spin worthy of Boris Johnson.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 85 together.

Earlier this year, I published the 2019 targets for social housing delivery on a local authority basis and by delivery mechanism, including build, acquisition, leasing, housing assistance payment, HAP, and rental accommodation scheme, RAS. Each quarter, I publish details of progress against those targets and the outputs for the third quarter of 2019 have just been published. These show 66% delivery to the end of September, or just under 18,000 households securing keys to a home under a social housing programme in the first nine months of this year.

All stakeholders recognise the critical need to continue to increase social housing supply through build activity. When Rebuilding Ireland was published in 2016, the construction activity base and pipeline in place were so low that the action plan's build targets had to be weighted towards the latter years of the six-year programme, recognising the time lag between project conception and delivery. In 2016 and 2017, therefore, the focus was on maximising delivery by returning vacant stock to active use and by supporting the completion of vacant homes, while, in parallel, a major programme was put in place to expand the build pipeline significantly. This year, we continue to see the fruits of the expansion of the social housing construction programme. The build target for 2019 is to deliver 6,545 homes, an increase of more than 30% on last year's target. Along with teams from my Department, I have been meeting local authorities regularly to ensure every effort continues to be made to achieve this target and I am confident we are on track to deliver close to the full target.

The social housing construction status report, which is published on a quarterly basis on the Rebuilding Ireland website, provides detailed information on build activity in each local authority, including the number of homes on-site and actively being delivered. In addition to the homes being built this year, more than 3,400 additional social homes are to be delivered through acquisition and leasing schemes. In total, we are committed to ensuring more than 27,000 households are supported across all of the social housing programmes this year, bringing to 100,000 the number of households that will have been supported since 2016. Next year, in excess of 11,000 social housing homes will be delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes. This includes more than 7,500 newly built social housing homes, which will be 11 times the level in 2016, the first year of Rebuilding Ireland, and will be the highest number of such homes to be built this century. My Department and I will continue to work proactively with local authorities and AHBs to ensure this and other targets continue to be met.

The Minister plays with figures and the definition of social housing to create confusion. To be clear, as he said, the plan is to build 6,545 new social housing homes. The plan is not to build 10,000 homes, 20,000 homes or 27,000 homes but 6,545. The figures of 27,000, 20,000 and 10,000 are the equivalent of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's 60 new hospitals and 50,000 new nurses. Can the Minister confirm that of the target number of new builds of 6,545, only just over 1,000 had been built by the halfway point of this year? Construction has to be ramped up to the extent of a 400% increase to meet that target. Does he accept that out of the figure of 10,000 he talks about, 2,130 homes are to be leased from private developers? They will be owned by private individuals, rented from the State and then rented out to people on social housing waiting lists. That does not amount to social housing.

I am not playing with figures and there is no grand conspiracy here. We published the targets for a reason. They include local authority builds, AHB builds, what is happening on private sites with Part V developments, what my Department oversees and what the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform approves. If those figures were made up, there would be a grand conspiracy involving every local authority, housing body and Department. The Deputy should stop his nonsense and stick to the facts.

The Minister should stick to the facts.

This year we will increase the social housing stock by 10,000 homes. More than 6,000 of those will be directly built for social housing, either by local authorities, AHBs or using the Part V process. We no longer rely on one stream of social housing delivery because we learned from the past that outsourcing it to the private sector leaves the strategy completely exposed if the private sector fails. To totally rely on one form of local authority housing delivery would leave the strategy exposed if there was a difficulty in that local authority area for whatever reason. We have a combination of local authority, AHB and Part V builds. Local authorities do the heavy lifting by a factor of approximately 2:1 versus AHBs. The Deputy should get his ideology out of the way. It does not matter if it is an AHB building on local authority land or a local authority building on local authority land. They are social housing homes for people coming off the social housing lists.

Let us stick to the facts. The Minister should stop talking about 10,000 social housing homes being delivered this year. That is not true. He should stop talking about 20,000 or 27,000 social housing homes being delivered. The Government's plan is to build 6,545 new social housing homes. He cannot seriously claim that more than 2,000 homes leased from private developers amount to social housing homes. In what world is that social housing? There is no grand conspiracy but, instead, there is a deliberate manipulation of the definition of "social housing" to pretend the Government is planning to do a lot more than it is. That gives the Government much higher targets than the reality of its targets. It also distracts from the fact that the Government is nowhere near its targets. The Government's ideology means it is in favour of incentivising landlords and developers to come into the market. It simply refuses to invest in public housing to deal with the housing crisis. The landlords and the developers the Government represents are getting super rich as a consequence of that. The idea we have ideology and the Government has no ideology is utter nonsense.

Some €2.4 billion was spent on housing this year. It is the largest amount a Government has ever spent in a single year on housing. That is our commitment to public housing. The Deputy does not understand how the build programme works because, in 2018, the exact same claims were made in quarter 1, quarter 2 and quarter 3 that we would not meet our build targets. By the end of 2018, we were 3% shy of them. We got thereabouts on build targets.

The Government did not meet them.

We were 3% shy in the context of more than 4,000 homes. The Deputy is claiming today we are nowhere near our targets. I am telling him we are close to them and we will know by the end of the year whether we achieved them. It was the exact same narrative last year and it proved to be untrue. The Deputy can stop telling his untruths, stop spinning and get his ideology out of the way because these are real homes for people coming off the housing lists and that is what matters, not his ideology.

With the agreement of the House, I am going to allow Deputy Connolly to come back in. She walked in as her question had passed but she is always efficient with her time so I propose we allow her to put her question. Is that agreed? Agreed.