I thank the Chairman and other committee members for inviting us here today.
The AILG, believes the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness should propose that local authorities embark on a more ambitious, nationwide local authority house-building programme to include acquisitions and a new-build element. With approximately 139,359 people on local authority waiting lists as of February last, there must be a significant increase in capital funding for local authorities to deliver an acquisition and new-build programme in the next five years to meet this ever-increasing demand as our population grows. We are already a year into the social housing strategy announced in 2015 but little has been achieved. In some ways, this is due to the fact not enough projects have been shovel ready to commence.
During the course of the past decade and under various Governments, national policy has been over-reliant on the private housing market to deliver social housing units. We believe now is the time for this trend to be reversed. The number of local authority social housing units either newly built or acquired fell from 31,527 units delivered in the six-year period from 2004 to 2009 to 5,702 units delivered in the following six-year period from 2010 to 2015. This significant drop in local authority new build and acquisition units was partially compensated through the delivery of 32,011 privately provided housing units during the same six-year period to 2015. These units were delivered through several other social housing supports in the private housing sector including the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, the housing assistance payment, HAP, and the social housing current expenditure programme, SHCEP, previously known as long-term leasing.
Such figures demonstrate considerable over-reliance on the private housing market to deliver social housing units. However, with population growth figures set to continue to rise and a high demand for housing, this will inevitably lead to both social housing and private housing clients competing for the same limited supply of units in the absence of a significant increase in the building of social housing units. While we believe local authorities, in their role as housing authorities, have an important function in facilitating housing provision and development in conjunction with the private sector and the approved housing bodies, it is imperative that local government be allowed the freedom to substantially enhance its own capacity to directly deliver housing units.
Under the current Social Housing Strategy 2020, it is proposed 110,000 social housing units will be delivered between 2015 and 2020. Of these, however, only 35,000 are to be delivered through new builds and acquisitions, with the remaining 75,000 to be delivered through the existing RAS and HAP schemes via the private housing market. We feel the HAP scheme has reached saturation point because the housing units are simply not there. The association sees this as a continuation of the existing over-reliance on the private housing market. Accordingly, in the absence of a significant investment in new unit development by the local authorities, we envisage continued inability to meet housing demand throughout the State. We, therefore, call for the figures, as set out in the social housing strategy, to be revised to a more even 50-50 split for the delivery of these units between new builds, acquisitions and units delivered under the RAS and HAP schemes.
Local authorities have a strong record of achievement in the area of housing and are always conscious of the need to create sustainable, integrated communities with access to schools, community facilities, shopping centres and employment. A national local authority house-building programme will ensure that these sustainable communities will continue into the future. In that regard, we caution against following simplistic calls for NAMA housing to be handed over in bulk to local authorities. We have a responsibility towards sustaining communities. Simply accepting units offered through NAMA, without due regard for the need for community sustainability, could conceivably end up creating even more legacy challenges for the relevant housing authorities.
In conclusion, given that our research is in some ways limited, we believe there is a very small number of NAMA units available in many parts of rural Ireland, many of which, thankfully, from an Exchequer perspective, have already been sold off. I will ask Mr. Dermot Lacey to continue.