Budget includes €100m increase for homeless services and HAP

Cuts to funds for local authority housing sites condemned by voluntary sector

The State’s housing budget has been increased by €200 million to €2.5 billion for next year.  File photograph: Frank Miller

The State’s housing budget has been increased by €200 million to €2.5 billion for next year. File photograph: Frank Miller

 

The State’s housing budget has been increased by €200 million to €2.5 billion for next year.

The increase includes an additional €20 million for homeless services, bringing total funding for emergency accommodation, long-term supports and preventative and days services to €166 million in 2020.

A further €80 million has been provided to pay for renting homes from private landlords, using the housing assistance payment (HAP). This will help to support the 50,000 social housing tenants already in privately-owned flats and houses and to add 15,750 new tenancies to their number.

The construction and acquisition of social houses will be supported by capital funding of €1.1 billion to deliver 11,000 new social homes, about 1,000 more than the 2019 target.

The Land Development Agency established last year to govern the construction of social, affordable and private housing on State lands will have its €1.25 billion budget topped up by €17.5 million.

However, the Serviced Sites Fund, set up to provide infrastructure on local authority lands so they can be made ready for housing, has seen its funding cut. Last year it was announced this fund would be allocated €142 million in 2020, but this has been reduced to €126 million.

Several housing organisations have expressed disappointment at the lack of an affordable rental scheme, which could reduce the continuing reliance on HAP for social housing.

“A national affordable rental scheme is urgently needed to address the housing needs of so called intermediate households; that is households that won’t qualify for a mortgage and are really struggling to rent in the private rental sector but are not eligible for social housing,” said Respond spokeswoman Niamh Randall.

“This should be available both on State land and private land so that approved housing bodies, such as Respond, can deliver affordable rental homes, alongside local authorities,” she said.

The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) described the budget as “deaf” to the demand for investment in “public housing”.

The budget “reflects the State’s failure to listen to the Irish public who demand long-term investment in social housing and affordable rental housing options,” the council’s chief executive Donal McManus said.

“Additional spending of €20 million on homelessness services is necessary and welcome, but the Government needs a strong foundation of capital investment in affordable rental housing options,” he said.

The Peter McVerry Trust said it was unfortunate the €20 million increase in homeless funding was being split across emergency accommodation and prevention measures as well as day services. “Given that the rate of new cases into homelessness is at the highest rate on record, Peter McVerry Trust advocated strongly and had hoped for a robust package of prevention initiatives,” spokesman Francis Doherty said.

The additional €80 million for the HAP scheme in 2020 was “a recognition that we will remain very much dependent on the private rental market to accommodate those in need of social housing and the continuing rise in cost of rent in key urban areas,” he said.