Housing stats not perfect set of data, says Eoghan Murphy

Government working on better measures to capture housing supply, says Minister

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the Government’s goal “is one home for one family”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the Government’s goal “is one home for one family”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said ESB connection figures previously used by the Government to measures housing supply are “not a perfect set of data”.

The figures measure the amount of homes connected to the electricity grid, and have been criticised by experts as misleading when used to measure the number of new homes built.

The housing figures which are based on electricity grid connections state 14,932 homes were completed in 2016. This compares to 5,377 houses recorded as new builds by the Goodbody BER house-building tracker.

Many of the new homes recorded under the ESB statistics include void housing units that were refurbished, and previously constructed homes that were not connected to the electricity grid.

Mr Murphy said his department is working on a “better set” of data which will capture the ESB connection figures and the BER house building tracker statistics, which “will give a proper indication of building” progress.

“We stopped using ESB connection figures as completion figures when I took over this job. It is not a perfect set of data and we want to get to a better set of data. Equally though, counting new houses by counting the BER registrations is not a complete data set either, it has gaps in it too,” Mr Murphy said.

Housing crisis

Mr Murphy was speaking on Monday morning at a Simon Community conference on the homelessness and housing crisis, to mark the 10th anniversary of Simon Week.

He said the Government’s goal “is one home for one family”. He said later in the week he would announce a range of measures to try and increase the supply of affordable housing. Apart from the immediate crisis of homelessness and emergency accommodation, there was a wider issue with overcrowding in homes he said.

“Children moving back in with parents, and people sleeping on couches” due to the lack of affordable rental accommodation and property was a problem he said.

The department aims to have 15 family hubs opened and an additional 200 emergency homeless hostel beds available before Christmas, Mr Murphy said.

“The budget for emergency homeless services has doubled since 2014, it will increase again next year … Still it is not enough, and we should and will do more” he said.

The Department of Housing had set a deadline to move all families in emergency accommodation into family hub housing by July 1st this year. Mr Murphy said it was “really really obvious” when he took up the role as Minister that the target would not be met.

It is understood the department will not be setting any similar hard deadlines on the progress tackling the emergency accommodation issue in the future.

Fall through the cracks

Niamh Randall, spokeswoman for the Simon Communities, said far too many people are being allowed to fall through the cracks in society by the current Government.

“Our housing sector is in crisis – all elements show signs of being broken. The private market has failed … We must act now so that no one is left behind,” she said.

Dr Rory Hearne, sociology lecturer in Maynooth University, said that in the past number of years there has been a “reliance of the private sector to provide social housing” in Ireland. Local authorities moved away from directly building social housing during the property boom he said.

Speaking at the conference, he said the “flaw” of the Government Rebuilding Ireland plan was this continued reliance on the private sector to provide solutions to the crisis. Dr Hearne said an emergency state-led social housing building programme was required.

Mr Murphy said he would be opposed to developing large-scale social housing developments similar to projects constructed in the later half of the last century in Ireland.

He said new housing developments needed to be a “mix” of social housing, private housing and affordable housing.