Of all the areas where the Government could ill afford another slip, surely housing must rank high. It’s slowly becoming clear, however, that the Coalition’s social housing delivery target for 2022 is not going to be achieved.
The original target, laid down in the Government’s Housing for All strategy, was 9,000. However, this was revised down to 8,000 last November, before Department of Housing officials warned in December that it was more likely to be 6,500, 30 per cent below the original. The 6,500 figure now also looks optimistic, given the total for the nine months to the end of September was just 2,706.
At a time of record homelessness levels and rents, the Government can expect heavy Opposition fire on this one. Admitting the missed target for 2022 in the Dáil on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the housing crisis was holding Ireland back as a country, economy and society.
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy asked what the point of the Government’s housing targets was when those for social homes have been missed “three years in a row”, adding: “You and your predecessor [Micheál Martin] continually claimed you’re prioritising housing, but where is the evidence for that?”
Varadkar insisted the below-target total was still the “highest number of new social homes provided in Ireland for a very long time”. He also noted that the Government’s main housing target for 2022 – of building 24,600 new homes – would be exceeded.
We’ll get the official tally from the Central Statistics Office on Thursday via the agency’s latest new dwelling completions data, which cover the fourth quarter. Several industry analysts believe the 2022 target will be exceeded, not least because output for the first three quarters is already at circa 21,000.
John McCartney, head of research at BNP Paribas Real Estate Ireland and author of the BNP Paribas’s quarterly report on the sector, thinks the out-turn will be in the region of 28,000 this year, about 14 per cent ahead of target. No doubt the Government will use this number to deflect criticism of its social housing out-turn.