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Labour U-turn on Social Housing provision - Adams

23 April, 2015 - by Gerry Adams

Statement from Louth TD Gerry Adams and Councillor Imelda Munster:

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has received responses from the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, to questions he submitted recently about the government’s housing plans for County Louth. These are contained in its Social Housing Strategy 2020 and its Social Housing Targets for local authorities.

The Louth TD said:

“The Minister’s responses fail to provide the essential necessary information about government plans for housing provision in Louth over the next five years. Nor will the government’s plans significantly dent the housing waiting list in the constituency.

“Crucially, the Ministers housing strategy marks another U-turn for Labour. Six months ago Alan Kelly presented himself as an implacable opponent of the privatisation of social housing. Today his housing strategy for the next two years for Louth is entirely dependent on private housing provision.

 “At the beginning of April the Minister for the Environment published his Social Housing Targets for local authorities.  This included €57 million for Louth which Minister Kelly claimed would provide 778 housing units.

“In my PQs I challenged the Minister on his claim that his proposals will reduce by 20% the Louth waiting list. Currently as of March 31st there are 4636 households on that list – over 1800 of these are in the Drogheda region alone. 20% of this real figure is 927 or 139 housing units more than the Minister claims his strategy will provide. The Minister’s reliance on outdated waiting list figures that were collected by the Housing Agency almost two years ago in May 2013 is a serious flaw in his approach. Could his officials not have picked up the phone and asked Louth County Council for an up-to-date figure for the housing waiting list?

“Of the 778 units announced for Louth only 288, or 36%, will be provided under capital programmes. The majority will come from the private sector. 443 will come from the Housing Leasing Initiative and 47 from the Rental Accommodation Scheme. This will provide a significant challenge for Louth County Council. Reports indicate that is already a major shortage of private housing for rent with many private landlords are preferring to rent or lease on the private market where there is more profit to be made and are opting out of the RAS scheme.

“It is also important to note that the security of tenure for a tenant that comes with local authority housing does not exist in the private sector.

“The Minister’s reliance on the private sector is at odds with his position only six months ago when he warned that, “the privatisation of social housing should never have happened … It was wrong and it was more than wrong, it was simply unacceptable and we are going to change that.”

“If it was wrong six months ago why is the Labour Minister now almost entirely reliant on the private housing market to provide social housing in Louth? Six months ago the privatisation of social housing was “wrong” and “unacceptable” and the Minister was going to “change that” but instead Louth will depend for over 60% of its social housing provision on the private housing system.

“Finally, the Minister fails to answer important questions about where the new social housing units will be built; will they be constructed on the existing landbanks in Louth; and when he expects these new build schemes to commence and reach completion. These are issues for Louth County Council but also for the Minister.

“When you look beyond the spin it is clear that the government is not providing sufficient investment in social housing. It is over dependent on the private housing market. The Rental Accommodation Scheme and Housing Assistance Payment have been shown to be vulnerable to market trends and have pushed some tenants out of their homes and into homelessness. The government’s strategy is seriously flawed. What is needed is a strategy that builds local authority housing units which provide security of tenure for tenants.”

Comment by Louth County Councillor Imelda Munster.

Louth County Councillor Imelda Munster has expressed her “disappointment at the refusal of the Minister to give a commitment to meet with the Housing Strategic Policy Committee of Louth County Council”.

Councillor Munster said:

“The Minister claims in his PQ to be working with all of the Councils to ensure that the housing projects provide value for money. But he has not met Louth County Council to discuss his proposals and failed to respond to Teachta Adams question.

“Minister Kelly’s claim that the government’s housing strategy is evidence that housing is a priority for it does not stand serious scrutiny. Last year the government spent €497 million on housing. This year the figure will be approximately 20% higher but over the five years of the Social Housing Strategy new government spending will only amount to an average of €30 million extra per year. This is not enough to tackle the serious housing and homeless crisis across the state and in Louth.”

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