Govt slashing of social housing spend criticised

Funding for social housing has collapsed under the Fine Gael-Labour Government, according to data received by Fianna Fáil following a parliamentary question to Minister Alan Kelly.

The data shows that there has been a 79% fall in funding for local authority housing, a 70% fall in funding for voluntary and housing co-operatives, and a 53% fall in private house grants since the Government came to power in 2011. Over the past two years the Government has spent just €328m on the sector.

Data released following a Freedom of Information request also shows that there has been a 34% rise in the number of households in Dublin City on the social housing waiting list over the past two years, with 21,592 households now awaiting accommodation and a historically unprecedented 43,872 people on the list. Just 338 social housing units have been built for Dublin City since 2011. 

The revelations come at a time when the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has spoken out about Dublin’s lack of social housing, identifying this as a major factor in the capital’s homelessness crisis.

John-Mark McCafferty, head of Social Justice and Policy for SVP, told The Irish Catholic that “The issue is a lack of social housing in the capital and a fairly loose approach to the private rented sector which means there is no such thing as rent certainty – landlords have the right to increase the rent for the year”.

He explained that the State’s atypically low tax take, by European standards, means that Ireland is “not in a position to provide the public services that you would take for granted in other Northern European countries”, such as social housing.

“For us right now the burning platform, the big issue, really is housing,” he said. “That’s the one where there has been an historical lack of investment in social housing. It’s been a key issue now in the last 18 months and a lot of people are now homeless – families who were on the edge and we were assisting and now they cannot afford their rent.”

According to Kerry Anthony of Depaul, the depth of the crisis highlights the irony of this situation happening when “Ireland’s rate of economic growth is quite rightly lauded in comparison to the rest of Europe”. 

Pointing out that Ireland’s underinvestment in social housing is key to the country’s current homelessness crisis, she said, “with the latest figures showing that 565 families including over 1,000 children are statutorily homeless, we see every day the costs of this policy”.