Housing for Whom?

Posted on Wednesday, 5 October 2022
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In our Budget Choices 2023 submission, Social Justice Ireland called for an additional €1.4bn to be made available for social housing construction by Local Authorities and AHBs. This would have bridged the gap between the Housing for All target of 9,000 social homes per annum and the real need of 14,000 to account for households on the social housing waiting list and those in HAP and RAS tenancies. It would also have helped to free up over 60,000 homes in the private rented sector that could be made available for tenants at a more affordable price. Instead, the capital allocation in Budget 2023 increased from €2.56bn to €2.6bn, which is insufficient to meet the existing targets. The allocation of €544m to fund an additional 8,800 HAP tenancies indicates that, notwithstanding evidence that HAP does not provide sustainable tenancies, Government continue to rely on the private rented sector to bridge the gap in social housing provision.


In terms of overall construction, just 20,570 dwellings were completed in 2021, more than a third below the Government’s Housing for All target of 33,000. Even if this target was met, it still would not be sufficient to meet the housing needs of the population while reducing the household occupancy rate to that of our European peers. The Construction Technology Centre, launched in July 2022, was a welcome development. Increasing productivity in the construction sector requires a shift towards modern methods of construction and a move away from concrete builds; it is therefore disappointing that Budget 2023 contained no specific allocation to support it.

The Help to Buy Scheme, introduced to support First Time Buyers has been used to buy increasingly more expensive properties (properties in the €226,000 to €450,000 range account for 83% of Help to Buy purchases compared to 60.6% of all new dwelling purchases recorded on the Property Price Register), while almost 28% of Help to Buy purchasers had a deposit of 20% or more. Notwithstanding this intervention, the proportion of First Time Buyers purchasing new properties fell from 55% in 2010 to just 33% in 2021. Given that this scheme is being used by buyers on higher incomes to buy increasingly expensive properties, and is having little impact on the proportion of first time buyers purchasing new builds, it is disappointing that Budget 2023 extended it by two years despite several calls for its termination.

Since the routine publication of homelessness statistics in December 2014, the number of people accessing emergency accommodation has increased by 105%. In July 2022, 10,568 people accessed emergency accommodation, the highest number since December 2014. Of this, 3,137 were children (an increase of 256% on December 2014) in 1,423 families (which increased by 250%). Local Authorities spent €153.5m on emergency accommodation in 2021, while spending just €13.1m on homelessness prevention and tenancy sustainment.

Social Justice Ireland called on Government to introduce an Equity Scheme for Long Term Mortgage Arrears, at an initial cost of €100m to support mortgage holders in arrears of 10 years or more. We are disappointed that this has not been a priority for Government in Budget 2023.

Finally, while we welcome the increase of €67m for housing adaptation grants, we are disappointed to note that no commitments were made to support the outstanding actions arising from the Policy Statement on Housing Options for Older People.