Budget 2021: construction of additional 593 social homes planned for next year

Department of Housing allocates an extra €22m for homelessness programmes

The Irish Council for Social Housing said the capital investment in public housing was a “positive response to the scale of the housing crisis”. File photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters

The Irish Council for Social Housing said the capital investment in public housing was a “positive response to the scale of the housing crisis”. File photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters

 

The construction of an additional 593 social homes is planned next year as part of the €5.2 billion budget allocation to the Department of Housing.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said he was allocating an extra €500 million for the construction of 9,500 new social homes in 2021. The Government’s Rebuilding Ireland programme had set a social housing construction target of 8,907 homes next year.

A total of 12,750 homes will be added to the social housing stock when homes acquired under other schemes, such as long-term leasing and acquisitions, are included, up from the 12,157 target.

Some €2.4 billion will be spent on housing assistance payments for 15,000 social housing tenants renting from private landlords as well as 800 tenancies for those supported by the Rental Accommodation Scheme, while €13 million will be allocated to local authorities to renovate empty social houses.

An additional €22 million has been allocated for homelessness programmes, including additional beds and the introduction of a cold weather initiative, to prevent rough sleeping in the winter months .

Some €110 million will be provided for affordable purchase and cost rental schemes, with 2,000 more affordable homes to be completed on both private and public land next year, Mr McGrath said.

Social housing bodies and advocates largely welcomed Budget 2021.

The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) said the capital investment in public housing was a “positive response to the scale of the housing crisis”, and sent a clear signal to social housing providers to meet “and even exceed” existing targets.

“What we must ensure is that we can actually spend this money and that any obstacles to the local authority and approved housing body construction pipeline are removed,” said ICSH chief executive Donal McManus.

The coronavirus pandemic had “intensified” the housing crisis, he said. “We are asking that Government designate residential construction as essential work so that sites can remain open if the country moves to levels 4 and 5, and once all public health guidelines are adhered to by the construction sector.”

The Peter McVerry Trust said the budget delivered on calls for a “more ambitious and enlarged” social housing programme.

“It will enable local authorities and housing charities to make major progress in providing critical housing pathways to people in homelessness and on social housing waiting lists,” said trust chief executive Pat Doyle.

Paltry sum

However, Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said the housing package was “in some instances even worse than I had anticipated”. The €110 million for affordable and cost rental housing was “so far away from what many of us had expected”, and was a “paltry sum of money given the crisis that is out there”.

He said the 593 additional social homes were a “real insult to the thousands of families in emergency accommodation, and the tens of thousands on local authority housing waiting lists”.

Mr Ó Broin said given that private sector output was likely to slow, it was now time for the Government to step in and buy these developments for social housing, which would also serve to keep construction workers in jobs.