Housing crisis: dire warnings as ministers say housing for all plan fails to meet key targets

Cabinet ministers have been warned that the government’s historic plan to tackle the housing crisis misses key targets and will not deliver the number of properties needed to solve the long-standing property supply problem.

A private meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Housing has been told that the Housing for All policy needs urgent review and that additional budgetary funding for the €4 billion plan may also be needed if it is to achieve its goals.

A series of dire warnings about state housing policy were spelled out in a series of memos delivered to ministers who attended the monthly meeting last week.

This included officials saying it was clear the sustainability of the government’s housing targets for the next two years was at ‘considerable risk’.

They were told that the goal of delivering 24,600 homes this year had been achieved.

However, the plan will fail to deliver the number of new social housing units they aimed to have built by the end of the year.

And in more bad news, ministers have been told that the targets set for the development of new affordable housing ‘will be significantly below target for the year’.

The government’s plan for building social and affordable housing “is currently not on track”, senior Cabinet officials have said.

Key Housing for All goals – such as developing a national policy to incentivize older people to downsize – have been delayed.

Deadlines to develop a healthcare model for the homeless were also missed, as were goals to empower local authorities to incentivize people considering converting vacant commercial properties into residences. There has been a delay in developing official guidance on achieving appropriate tenure mixes within communities, including rules on how to engage with local people before developing new housing.

A review of the Housing for All strategy should include ‘discrete timetables’ for a number of measures which have yet to be introduced, the Cabinet committee said.

The delay in the supply of housing is partly due to rising construction costs and problems with the supply of materials for the construction of new houses, according to sources who attended the meeting.

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The briefing also highlighted how the lack of housing supply causes significant problems in all aspects of the housing crisis.

The Cabinet committee was told that the ‘exodus’ of small landlords was exacerbating the problem in the rental market and called for further measures to be added to the government’s housing for all plan to ensure there was enough rentals for tenants.

The overhaul of the Housing for All plan will have to take into account the long-term consequences of housing tens of thousands of people fleeing war in Ukraine, the Cabinet committee said.

Ministers were urged to speed up or secure greater benefits from the recently introduced Croí Cónaithe scheme, which provides funding to developers building homes in cities or renovating properties in rural towns and villages.

Government sources said they were surprised by the lack of action on some of the measures promised by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to tackle the housing crisis.

The details of the private briefing come at a time when homelessness figures are at record highs due to a lack of social housing.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has worsened the housing crisis with more than 45,000 refugees looking for accommodation.

The briefing included figures showing homelessness has increased by 30% since last year to 10,568 people, including homeless children. However, he also pointed out that the number of homeless people had decreased over the same period.

But the growing number of people seeking emergency accommodation is putting additional pressure on the supply of accommodation at local authority level.

It was also noted that there has been a significant increase in the number of European Economic Area (EEA) citizens seeking emergency accommodation in Ireland over the past five years.

In 2016, figures show that 9.6% of people seeking emergency accommodation were from EEA countries, while this figure rose to 19.4% last year. In July, 26.2% of single adults looking for accommodation were EEA nationals.

The growing number of departure notices issued by landlords was also highlighted as a serious concern that adds to the homelessness crisis.

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