Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - Local Authority Housing.

Ceist:

4 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the number of families and individuals who require housing from their relevant housing authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10378/00]

The results of the assessments of housing needs undertaken by local authorities at the end of March last year indicated a total of 39,176 households in need of local authority housing. In addition, the housing needs of a further 6,400 households were considered by local authorities as being most suitably met by other measures including voluntary housing, rent supplementation and other social housing schemes. Details of the results of the assessment were placed in the Oireachtas Library on 5 October last.

Last November local authorities were notified of their allocations of housing starts for the period 2000-03. I expect that local authorities will commence the construction of, or acquire, in excess of 5,500 houses this year and that the level of house completions, including acquisitions, will be in excess of 4,000 units.

The purpose of introducing a multi-annual local authority housing programme was to enable them to produce a streamlined delivery of hous ing output over the coming four years and a better and more effective mechanism of social housing delivery. Previously, local authorities had no assurance as to the level of their programme beyond the current year, which led to inefficiency in terms of timing and scale of contracts and forward planning generally. Local authorities were asked to front load their programmes as much as possible to meet higher levels of housing need. The indications from work programmes furnished to my Department are that we will achieve an accelerated output level and I am confident local authorities will commence or acquire in excess of 5,500 units this year. Up to 850 of these will be purchased.

I am very conscious of the increased level of social housing need and priority is being given in tackling it. I expect that total social housing output, taking account of new local authority housing, vacancies arising in the existing housing stock and output from the complementary social and voluntary housing measures, will meet the housing needs of some 11,000 households in need of social housing this year and that the increased social housing output over the coming four years will meet the needs of more than 50,000 households. My Department will support local authorities and will co-operate in every way with them to help them achieve their housing programmes.

Mr. Hayes

Does the Minister accept that since his taking up office there has been a 43% increase in the number of families who require social housing from the local authority housing sector?

I do not accept that. The increase is from the last census in 1996, which covers a year and a half of the previous Government's term of office and a year and a half of this Government's term.

Mr. Hayes

Is the Minister disagreeing with page 48 of the report which he placed in the Oireachtas Library? Does he not accept that since the assessment on 31 March 1999, there has been a massive increase in the number of people who are now seeking local authority housing? Would he consider using the powers provided under the Housing Acts to establish an emergency assessment this year to update the conservative figure given to the House in March 1999?

A conservative figure was not given to the House in March 1999 or at any other time. The only figures given to the House by me or the Minister of State are figures compiled from the information supplied to us on a three yearly basis by the various local authorities. I do not disagree with anything in the report. The increase of 43% referred to by the Deputy did not happen since the Government took up office. It happened since the 1996 figure was compiled, which was for March 1996.

Mr. Hayes

In view of the present emergency is the Minister prepared to consider my suggestion to introduce an emergency assessment this year to update the figures raised last year? The Housing Acts provide for it.

I will consider all suggestions that will help ease the housing situation.

Mr. Hayes

Will the Minister consider an emergency assessment –"yes" or "no"?