I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 151 and 152 together.
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.
My Department does not have access to information from the Department of Social Protection in respect of Rent Supplement demand or associated costs. However, when applying for social housing support, households are required to confirm to the relevant local authority whether they are in receipt of Rent Supplement.
My Department also does not hold information on the number of households on local authorities’ waiting lists. This figure continuously fluctuates as households are allocated housing and new households apply for housing support. Detailed information on the latest statutory assessment of housing need which was carried out in March 2011, including a breakdown by authority and category of need, is available on my Department’s website www.environ.ie. or on the Housing Agency’s website www.housing.ie. A summary assessment is due to be carried out in May 2013 and the results will be published in autumn 2013.
In terms of addressing the demand for social housing, the social housing capital budget has been reduced from €1.535 billion in 2008 to €287m in 2013 and the financial parameters within which we will be operating for the coming years rule out a return to large capital funded construction programmes. The Government is committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to social housing support needs through a variety of mechanisms, including through increased provision of social housing. In July 2012 I announced details of a three-year funding programme of €100 million to deliver some 800 new units of voluntary and 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.
In spite of the challenging circumstances within which local authorities must operate the final outcome for 2012 is expected to be in the region of 4,000 to 4,500 housing units. Given the current volatility of the market and different challenges to the channels of supply it is difficult to estimate the likely output of new units for social housing this year. However, it is provisionally estimated that in the region of 5,000 units will be provided for social housing in 2013.
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.