Hayden welcomes publication of 2015 social housing report
I WELCOME the publication today of the 2015 Social Housing report by Minister Alan Kelly. This report published in collaboration with the Housing Agency enhances openness and transparency around the delivery of the social housing strategy and other programmes to tackle the current housing crisis.
There are many aspects of the report to be welcomed not least the fact that 13,000 new social housing units were delivered in 2015, a significant improvement on 2014 (86 percent). However it must be recognised that we are coming from a very low base. Over the last number of decades the role of Local Authorities has been downgraded in the delivery of social housing. Since the 1990s local authorities have taken on the role of enablers rather than directly delivering housing as they did in the decades before that. The recruitment of 420 staff by local authorities to facilitate the delivery of the social housing programme cannot be underestimated.
Moreover local authorities have been particularly successful in bringing back into use 2,700 vacant social housing units as the report acknowledges. Local authorities have been criticised over boarded up and vacant units in the face of a severe homelessness crisis. The vacancy rate in Dublin now stands as low as 1 percent. This has been enabled by funding from the Department of the Environment.
Support from the Department of the Environment in facilitating local authorities in rolling out the Housing Assistance Payment scheme is also most welcome. This programme enables a higher rate of support for participants than the rent supplement scheme and puts local authorities back where they belong, right back at the heart of housing. More importantly the scheme enables those on it to go back to work without loss of benefit. Minister Kelly is committed to extending the scheme as a matter of urgency and I welcome this.
Our task as a society must be to end homelessness, by the end of September 2015 1,645 homeless individuals had exited homelessness. Dublin authorities for example must allocate 50 percent of all social housing allocations to homeless and other vulnerable households. This must give hope to all those who are today in emergency accommodation and may wonder how long they must wait to restart their lives.
The programme priorities for 2016 are ambitious but realisable. Today’s announcement of funding for the construction of another 1,000 social housing units is an excellent start and demonstrates the commitment of the Labour Party and Minister Kelly to the programme.