Local authorities need more than €5.5 billion to be made available to them over the next five years to address the housing crisis, a local government association has said.
The Association of Irish Local Government was making a submission to the Oireachtas committee on housing and homelessness last week. It is the statutory representative body for elected members and their local authorities.
It told the committee the country was facing “one of the biggest housing and homelessness crises in its history”.
“With approximately 139,359 people on local authority housing lists as at February 2016, there must be a significant increase in capital funding for local authorities to deliver an acquisition and new-build programme over the next five years to meet this ever-increasing demand as our population increases.”
Representatives also criticised the Government for consulting with the chief executives of local authorities rather than with elected members “dealing on a daily basis with those in housing distress”.
Under the current social housing strategy, it is proposed that 110,000 social housing units will be delivered between 2015 and 2020.
The organisation said that of these, only 35,000 were to be delivered through new-build and acquisitions. The remaining 75,000 would be delivered through existing schemes via the private housing market.
The association said this was “a continuation of the existing over-reliance on the private housing market” and it called for the figures set out in the new programme for government to be revised to a 50:50 split between new builds and the private market schemes.
“We acknowledge that this will be an enormous challenge for both the Government and the Oireachtas to deliver on this level of capital funding. However, taking the current housing crisis into account we feel that there is little alternative.” It welcomed recent comments from the
Housing Finance Agency
that it could lend to local authorities for social housing projects at a fixed rate of 1.75 per cent for 25 years .
It called on the Minister to carry out a review of procurement and tendering to fast-track social housing projects. “Currently the length of time it takes to deliver a social housing project is unacceptable and needs urgent reform.”
There was evidence of one project taking 26 months to deliver a 19-unit housing scheme already 100 per cent funded.
“So money is not the problem,” the association’s submission said. It recommended households facing repossession should be able to transfer to a government agency where they could continue to pay rent while the agency negotiated a long-term solution.