The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has challenged Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, Noel Ahern TD, on his upbeat assessment of the housing statistics for 2004 issued today (11 July 2005).
“The Minister talks of the unprecedented levels of housing construction in Ireland, at rates not seen elsewhere in Europe”, says Margaret Burns, Social Policy Officer with the Centre, “but what he fails to highlight is the extremely low provision of social and affordable housing. Less than 7 in every 100 houses built in 2004 were for people on lower incomes who qualify for either rented social housing or for subsidised house purchase. For two years in a row now, the output of social housing has actually declined.”
The Centre draws attention to the recommendation of the latest Report on Housing by NESC (National Economic and Social Council) that there should be an annual construction of 10,000 units of social housing alone each year up until 2012. This year’s output of 6,117 was substantially below that target.
“Meantime’, says Margaret Burns, ‘thousands of people on lower incomes are living in over-crowded conditions, in poor quality, but expensive, rented accommodation or in B&Bs throughout the country.”
Another issue of concern is the continuing increase in house prices (11%) but the report suggests that affordability is not a major problem for most buyers since it should be measured on the basis of two-earners per household. “This completely ignores single or separated people and couples with children who want one partner at home at least even part-time” says Ms Burns.
Margaret Burns also pointed out that the Minister, in talking about Ireland’s housing boom, failed to advert to the fact that a very high percentage of new housing over the past decade has gone for second homes. The NESC Report points to studies suggesting that at least one third of new houses are second homes. “Such housing does nothing to meet the need, and right, of everyone to have a home, which should be the priority for Government policy.”