Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Ceisteanna (48)

Bernard Durkan


48. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which the restoration of a public house building programme can be reintroduced with a view to the provision of an adequate supply of local authority housing (details supplied); the degree to which comparisons have been made between a once-off capital cost and an ongoing and possibly never ending current cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23996/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Housing)

This question seeks to make a comparison between enhanced capital expenditure on local authority housing compared with annual subvention through the housing assistance payment, HAP, or other similar support services to local authorities with a view to achieving the best value for money.

Over the course of Rebuilding Ireland, the Government is committed to meeting the housing needs of more than 138,000 households. This will be achieved through blended delivery, with over 50,000 homes being delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes, and some 88,000 further households being supported through the housing assistance payment, the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and other schemes. A social house building programme is already well under way, with local authorities and approved housing bodies significantly expanding new build output year on year. We have seen increases of seven or eight times in activity over the past 12 to 18 months. It is important that we are back building houses and we are committed to that as a Government and under Project 2040, which allocated the funds to increase the social housing stock to 12,000 units annually until 2028.

At the end of 2018, the housing needs of some 90,500 households were being supported under current-funded programmes. If all the funding provided for these 90,500 households had been transferred to capital expenditure, to support building or buying homes, it would only have delivered approximately 5,500 homes, leaving no resources available to support the other 85,000 households. Looking at it another way, it would take almost €20 billion to provide a new-build local authority home for the 90,500 households supported under current-funded programmes at the end of 2018.

Rebuilding Ireland is working well, with annual delivery targets consistently exceeded. This has been achieved through a blended approach to delivery, the mix of which is evolving year on year, such that in 2021, the final year of Rebuilding Ireland, more households will be supported through build, acquisition and leasing programmes than through HAP and RAS.

I am confident that the actions, targets and resources available under Rebuilding Ireland provide a strong platform for the continued delivery of high quality, value-for-money social housing supports for those on social housing waiting lists.

As all Members know, if it was possible to build houses immediately and deliver them straight away that would be best, but one cannot. People need homes today. When we started Rebuilding Ireland some years ago and focused resources to build new housing, we also had to find homes there and then. There is a combination of current and capital spending and that blend will change in coming years and rightly so. This Fine Gael-led Government is committed to building social housing.

To what extent have comparisons been made and benefits examined, given that capital is a once-off cost and the current support services are an annual cost, which I think is in the region of €400 million to €500 million annually?

Naturally, we would rather invest all taxpayers' money into capital projects but we need housing today. The numbers availing of HAP housing in the last three years is around 48,000 families. These could not have been built any quicker in a capital programme. Over time, we are committed to replenishing the social housing stock and bringing it to a level similar to other European countries. We are committed to a level of social housing stock. Other parties are not going there. They talk about numbers but no one reaches our ambition. We have set aside money to put behind that and the pipeline projects, and the new processes to deliver on that because we do believe in building social houses that the State owns. While we are building them, however, we must find people homes for today and the months ahead and for next year. That means we must work with the private sector to subsidise that and support that. We would much rather that money went into social housing, however other Governments did not continue to build social housing. Previous Governments ceased building social housing but we restarted that over the last two and a half or three years. We are making good progress, on which we will continue to build.

Normally I would agree with the Minister of State but there is an issue in respect of subventing through HAP or rent support, to the extent of €2,000 per house or family, per month, compared with the benefits of greater capital expenditure. To what extent has such a comparison been undertaken, because €2,000 per month is almost double the cost of a mortgage payment for the same family?

It is about trying to stretch taxpayers' money to deliver as many houses as we possibly can and using current funding schemes, which gives us the extra houses we need today. It is a supply issue overall. The cost of rent and HAP will come down when we increase supply. We recognise that we have a duty to find people homes today, which is what we are doing. That is why last year, more than 5,000 individuals and thousands of children left a homeless situation and are now in housing through a combination of schemes, which are capital and current funded. It is a good use of money in the short term but the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, and I, as well as the Department and Government, are absolutely committed to construction of social houses through a capital build programme. However, that takes time to get to where we want. Under our plans, this year, there will be 10,000 new houses, and that will increase to 12,000 in coming years. I encourage other Departments to match that and deliver the same.