New council houses promised by 2017 won’t even begin to keep pace with number joining the list this year alone

housingPBPA predicts housing crisis will continue to worsen unless emergency measures are taken

In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, for the People Before Profit Alliance has said that the 1,700 new council houses promised nationwide by Minister Alan Kelly by 2017 will not even keep pace with the number of new housing applicants joining housing lists this year.

Deputy Boyd Barrett predicted that the housing crisis will continue to get much worse unless the government dramatically up-scale its plans to build and acquire new council housing.

Deputy Boyd Barrett also said the latest announcement by Minister Kelly was, in fact, simply a repetition of previous announcements and was designed to mask the fact that government plans to deal with the housing crisis depend overwhelmingly on the private sector to meet social housing demand and, as such, were guaranteed to fail.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said to have any impact at all on the housing list an emergency public works programme of at least 10,000 council houses per year over five years would be needed, as well as the more immediate introduction of rent controls and an increase in rent allowance caps to deal with the short-term crisis.

Deputy Boyd Barrett also called for an emergency review and audit of NAMA’s housing, land and cash assets to see how NAMA could significantly improve its contribution to dealing with the housing and homeless crisis.

Richard Boyd Barrett said:

“Yet again we have old and totally inadequate announcements from Alan Kelly’s office being trumpeted as something new and significant, when they are nothing of the kind.

1700 new council houses between now and 2017 will not even begin to address what is a catastrophic and daily worsening crisis. That’s less than 600 new houses a year when thousands upon thousands of new applicants will be joining the lists each year over the same period. It won’t even begin to keep pace with the numbers of people joining the lists across the country this year, never mind over three years.

In Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown alone, 1200 people joined the list in the last year. Similar numbers are joining the lists across Dublin and other big urban centres. So several multiples of the number of houses promised over three years, are joining the lists in one year alone, and that’s on top of approximately 100,000 families and individuals on the lists already.

To put it simply, if this is all the government are offering to deal with an already unprecedented crisis, the numbers on the housing lists will continue to spiral over the coming years, and we will be in an even worse situation in 2017.

The constant trumpeting of re-cycled housing announcements by the government is designed conjure a perception that serious action is being taken to deal with this crisis when, in fact, the plans are grossly inadequate.

When you scratch beneath the surface of government PR and spin, the truth about the government’s plans to deal with the housing crisis is that they overwhelmingly depend on the private sector to deliver the vast majority of social housing that we need, through the so-called HAP scheme. More than three quarters of the Housing 2020 strategy unveiled by Minister Kelly at the end of last year depends on arrangements with private landlords and developers through the HAP scheme, RAS and other leasing arrangements. This is an utterly misguided fantasy that simply will not materialise and guarantees that an already disastrous situation is going to get worse.

The private sector is not even able to deliver for demand in the mainstream market, the idea that it can deliver the scale of social housing we need is absurd. Private landlords are running away from rent allowance and low income tenants at the moment, so what on earth makes the government think they can meet the enormous and growing demand for social housing. It’s pure madness.

The only way we can even begin to deal with this crisis is to start an emergency public works programme of at least 10,000 new council houses per year over five years and, in addition immediately introduce rent controls and increase rent allowance caps to tackle the short term crisis. We also need an inventory of all housing, land and cash assets held by NAMA to see how they can contribute to dealing with this emergency, which so far they have spectacularly failed to do.”