Social housing construction rates have plummeted with less than 10 per cent of the 2020 target built in the first half of the year, according to the Department of Housing.
Just 725 social homes were built in the first six months of the year, against the annual target of 7,736. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the poor results were “unavoidable” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These figures show that delivery of social housing has been very much impacted by the outbreak of Covid-19 in late Q1, and the significant restrictions during Q2.”
However, he said he remained committed to meeting overall social housing targets despite a “challenging” first half of the year.
Speaking earlier at a Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) conference, ahead of the release of the figures, Mr O’Brien said while the pandemic presented challenges in reaching the 2020 targets, he believed the sector had the “skillset” to recover.
ICSH chief executive Donal McManus said there was a growing awareness that social and affordable housing needs to be viewed as essential infrastructure, rather than a welfare service.
“There is no better way to protect Irish society and the economy at this time, than with substantial investment in social and affordable housing.”
Paul Kelly, director of real estate finance with AIB told the conference the provision of “Part V units” – the homes developers are obliged to sell to local authorities or housing bodies for social housing, would over the next two years “ bear no resemblance to what was hoped for and wished for back in January this year”.
However, he said, private developers may become more reliant on work from social housing bodies.
“Developers have had great relationships, built up over the years, with AHBs [approved housing bodies ] and local authorities. Now is the time to capitalise on that because private developers will increasingly now look at the social housing sector to help balance their sales risk. We have been funding that exact space to date and will be looking to do more.”
Sean O’Connor, chief executive of Tuath Housing said the pandemic was an opportunity to scale up social and affordable housing provision.
“House building is akin to petrol on an economic fire, we just need to do more. We need to assist the country’s economic recovery while providing homes, and viewing homes and housing as essential infrastructure.”
Tuath’s financial position had not deteriorated due to the pandemic, he said. “Rent collection year to date is rock solid,” he said. “Who says social housing tenants don’t pay their rent? It’s not our experience and I understand talking to other CEOs it’s not their experience either.”