€773m extra investment in housing - Will it be enough?

Updated / Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 18:44

By John Kilraine

The Government has made much of its Budget 2021 announcement of an extra €773m to be spent on housing with €110m earmarked for affordable housing.

However, opposition parties are underwhelmed pointing out that there is little actual increase in social or affordable housing supply.

Meanwhile, homeless charities are worried that there is not enough housing supply to cater for a possible upsurge in people facing housing difficulties.

The Government has said that €500m will be spent to provide more social housing, with 9,500 newly constructed homes, and an overall figure of 12,750 additional units next year, including leasing and acquisition of existing properties.

However, the previously announced targets for Rebuilding Ireland were for 12,157 social housing units so the Budget announcement boils down to around 600 extra social housing units to be built next year.

To be fair, housing initiatives will be announced as soon as possible and not 'held' until Budget day, such is the urgency of the crisis.

€110 million has been allocated for affordable housing

Opposition parties such as Sinn Féin and others have criticised what they say is a missed opportunity and a lack of action on increasing housing supply.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien failed to secure the level of capital investment required from the Department of Finance and described the Budget as "hugely disappointing".

In particular, he criticised the €110m figure for an affordable housing scheme as too low.

The plight of those who cannot afford current house prices, but who earn too much to qualify for social housing, became an issue during the last election campaign.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has yet to publish details of its long-awaited affordable housing scheme, but says it will in "the coming months".

The Government has also announced that the enhanced Help-to-Buy scheme will continue until the end of next year. This scheme increased the amount of money first-time buyers can claim back in tax from €20,000 to €30,000.

However, Labour has criticised this, claiming the measure will inflate house prices and favour developers. 

Budget 2021 also saw the announcement that there would be an increase in the number of households receiving rental supplements through HAP by 15,000, and through the similar RAS scheme by 800, meaning a total of 85,000 supported tenancies next year.

People Before Profit pointed out that the Government had already promised 86,000 homes through HAP and RAS next year under Rebuilding Ireland.

Homeless charities are also concerned, with Rosemary Hennigan of Focus Ireland pointing out that there is expected to be 320,000 people unemployed this year, but the Government is providing fewer than 16,000 extra supported tenancies.

It comes as an extra €22m was allocated for homeless charities, on top of an extra €20m last year.

Ms Hennigan said homeless charities are already facing increased costs because of Covid-19, including additional staff being required, and this extra funding could easily be "absorbed" over the coming months.

The Government is putting store by other initiatives and says the Land Development Agency, which is taking over State land for development, will have €1.2bn to provide nearly 9,000 affordable and cost rental units over the coming years.

It is also providing €90m extra for critical water infrastructure.

The targets for social housing delivery are also set against a backdrop of output this year being reduced by 35% due to the pandemic restrictions.