THE representative organisation for approved housing bodies (AHBs) has said it is “not surprising” there was a €1bn underspend in housing over the last three years.
It follows the publication of expenditure figures from the Department of Housing which revealed a €1bn underspend in capital expenditure on housing across 2020, 2021, and 2022.
The Irish Council for Social Housing said the construction sector lockdown of 13 weeks in 2021, with some exceptions, “was a very challenging experience for residential housebuilding”, particularly as it came after a seven-week construction lockdown and rolling delays in 2020.
Brexit-related supply obstacles, price increases, and workforce issues are also understood to have negatively affected delivery.
“The cumulative impact of this meant that many social housing projects were delayed, and others were unable to commence on time,” it said.
The publication of the Department of Housing’s expenditure figures was in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, who said the “massive underspend” has contributed to rising levels of homelessness.
His party colleague, Cork North Central TD Thomas Gould, told The Echo that it’s “a disgrace and a disaster” that the sum of funding was left unspent.
“Since the ban on evictions was lifted, we have people who are going to become homeless, and at the same time, €1bn wasn’t spent, and we have thousands of people on housing waiting lists,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central, Pádraig O’Sullivan, said that he believes the Government will still reach its housing targets by the end of this year.
“We had the same conversation last year that we weren’t going to meet our targets,” he said.
“Despite the underspend, we still essentially met the 30,000 threshold that we set ourselves. So, despite the ongoing difficulties in the construction sector, I’m quite confident that we will meet our targets as we did last year.”
Although Mr O’Sullivan has faith in the department to deliver its target, he is hoping to see a shift of emphasis.
“I would like to see Government have a greater emphasis on affordable homes,” he said.
“I believe that we’re building sufficient numbers of social homes in particular and I just think we need to have a greater emphasis on the affordable side of things for people.”