Almost 4,000 social homes will be built next year, says Varadkar

'We’re starting from a very low base, there’s no point in dressing it up in any way'

Almost 4,000 new "public homes" will be built next year by local authorities, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said, despite the fact that fewer than 500 social homes were built in the first six months of this year.

The Government was in “catch up mode” when it came to the provision of social housing, Mr Varadkar said. But he said he was confident 20,000-25,000 houses would be built in both the public and private sector next year, almost 4,000 of which would be directly built by local authorities.

“We are really starting from a standstill position and are just ramping things up now,” he said.

“We’re starting from a very low base, there’s no point in dressing it up in any way.”

Local authorities and social housing organisations built 638 homes last year and 455 in the first six months of 2017.

“Last year only a couple of hundred public homes –social housing – were provided. [There will be] 2,000 direct builds this year and nearly 4,000 next year and, including other models such as long term lease, up to about 7,000 next year. But it is going to take some time to get on top of this,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was speaking after laying the foundation stone for the construction of 84 new social homes in Clongriffin, Dublin. Shortly after he departed, the stone fell over and broke.

Funded by Nama

The homes, which are being funded by the National Asset Management Agency, are due to be completed in early 2019. The 84 apartments and duplex units are being built as part of Gannon Homes' obligation to provide 10 per cent of its Clongriffin Town development for social housing.

The homes will be offered to people on Dublin City Council's housing waiting list, but will be managed by voluntary housing body The Iveagh Trust.

Asked if the housing shortage was a concern when Ireland was bidding to host EU institutions currently based in Britain, such European Banking Authority, post-Brexit, Mr Varadkar said it was an issue.

“It is certainly something that comes up as an issue, there is absolutely no doubt about that, when we are canvassing for investment in Ireland and in Dublin in particular. The fact that there is a housing shortage in Ireland and in Dublin is an issue that comes up.”

The housing issue was a factor in general in businesses making decisions when it comes to investment, he said.

“It is of course also a factor in other cities as well, but the key thing we put forward when it does arise is our plans, and we have plans, to ramp up housing construction really dramatically over the next number of years.”

Mr Varadkar was also asked about the potential of a future coalition with Sinn Féin. He said the current Government was working well.

“I am not interested in Sinn Féin or anyone else auditioning to be a coalition partner .”