Capital spending by the Department of Housing was 32.5 per cent lower than planned for over the first four months of 2023 despite the unprecedented ongoing housing crisis, the latest exchequer figures show.
While the exchequer returns showed booming tax receipts, accompanying documents record that €434 million had been earmarked for spending on housing up until the end of April. However, just €293 million of this was spent, €141 million below profile.
Asked about the underspend, a Department of Housing spokesman said: “It’s important to note that the figures referred to is the financial position against published profile and that expenditure is typically weighted towards the second half of the year. The department expects expenditure to return to profile throughout the year and allocation to be fully spent.”
The spokesman also said that net capital expenditure of €242 million by the end of March is €56 million higher – or up 30 per cent – compared to the same period in 2022.
Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said it is “concerning” that the level of underspending this year is increasing, saying that it had been 29 per cent by the end of March and was now more than 32 per cent.
He argued that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien was not focused on the “key problem” which he said was “far too much red tape, far too much bureaucracy strangling our local authorities and approved housing bodies and slowing down the delivery of much-needed social and affordable homes”.
He added that this was “ultimately pushing up the price because the more you delay, the more you’re impacted by construction cost inflation”.
Mr Ó Broin said that the Minister “really needs to get to grips with this red tape and bureaucracy or the underspend will continue to grow”.
Last month The Irish Times reported that the Department of Housing failed to spend more than €1 billion earmarked for housing over the past three years.
Minister O’Brien was asked about underspends in recent years during an interview on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne. He said his department has €4.5 billion this year “which we intend to spend”, and that more was spent on housing last year, some €3.5 billion, than ever before.
He said 20 weeks of no construction due to Covid-19 restrictions and supply chain issues due to the war in Ukraine had also impacted on spending. “They’re not excuses, they’re reality.”