Tánaiste challenged on Government’s social housing target
McDonald says Coalition has given little detail on how units will be delivered
Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton: the Sinn Féin deputy leader told the Tánaiste the the additional €210 million for social housing in budget 2015 !will not cover the cost” of the planned new homes. Photograph: Eric Luke
Tánaiste Joan Burton was challenged to say if the Government’s target of 5,384 new social housing units would be met this year, during sharp Dáil exchanges.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said although the Government had produced a glossy 90-page social housing strategy, there was very little detail about how the units would be delivered.
“The additional €210 million for social housing in budget 2015 will not cover the cost of these homes. Talk of off-balance-sheet borrowing and public-private partnerships is just that, talk.”
Ms McDonald said Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly had not even told local authorities what their social housing budget would be this year.
“If and when he does, it will take up to 15 months before any new social housing units are designed, built and tenanted.”
Ms Burton said the Government had committed a significant amount of capital financing to a new housing programme, which was one of the biggest in the State’s history.
“The deputy is correct in saying it is not possible to plan, design, build, fit out and hand keys over for houses within a short period.’’
Ms Burton said there were several elements to the Minister’s proposals, the most significant being to deal with the boarding up of perfectly good houses and apartments by local authorities.
The first part of the strategy was to bring all available units up to a certain standard and hand them over to tenants, both families and individuals, who were waiting on accommodation, said the Tánaiste. The second part was to provide finance, and that was what the budget had set out to do.
Ms Burton said Mr Kelly had been meeting local authority representatives regularly up and down the country.
Ms McDonald said the Government’s strategy document, launched to much fanfare before Christmas, specifically promised 5,384 new social housing units this year.
“I did not write the document; it is a document of the Tánaiste’s Government and of a Labour Party Minister.’’
Ms McDonald said if she had heard the Tánaiste correctly, she was conceding there was not a chance of delivering the 5,384 units. “No,’’ replied Ms Burton.
Ms McDonald said irrespective of the meetings the Minister might have had, local authorities had not been given their budgetary allocation for this year.
Ms Burton said Ms McDonald seemed slightly irritated over the fact that the Minister was meeting the county managers on a weekly basis. “That is to the Minister’s credit.’’