Did the Government Build as Much Social Housing as it Says?

Of the many figures put out by the Department of Housing earlier this week, some closed in on the number 1,058.

That was the number of homes built directly by local authorities in 2017, according to the reports from Minister Eoghan Murphy’s department. Some of the more straight-forward additions to social-housing stock.

Other parcels of the more than “7,000 new homes” that were “brought into the active social housing stock” were drawn from acquisitions, so homes bought from the market, and “Part V” homes, which are bought from private developers of new sites, as well as those built by non-profit housing providers known as approved housing bodies.

That 7,000 figure also included some leased homes, and “voids” – which means refurbished social housing, some of which is only vacant for short periods of time between when a family moves out, and the next moves in.

But the interest in the 1,058 number stemmed from some housing watchers noticing that this would be a significant spike since the number reported in the autumn of homes built directly by local authorities.

At the end of the third quarter of 2017 – so after nine months of the year – there had been 328 local-authority builds.

If this week’s figures are right, then the last 3 months must have seen 730 homes finished (with little ribbon-cutting). Where did this happen?

“We Only Have the Headline Figure”

The Department of Housing Press Office was unwilling to give a breakdown on Monday of where in the country those new social-housing units were built. Which makes it difficult to double-check the figures.

The department said it wasn’t releasing what its breakdown of the figure is right now. “We haven’t published the figures broken down like that,” said a spokesperson.

“I’m afraid we don’t have final figures broken down like that yet. We’ll be publishing them as soon as possible, once they are finalised,” said another.

They didn’t respond to queries as to how they compiled the headline figure of 1,058, if they didn’t have the figures finalised from the local authorities.

“We only have the headline figure,” said the second spokesperson, several times on the phone.

At a Local Level

Of the 31 local authorities across the country, 21 got back so far to confirm how many social-housing units they had built this year – including some of the biggest local authorities: Dublin City Council, Cork City Council, and Cork County Council.

Altogether, those 21 local authorities gave figures which add up to 710 homes in 2017. Dublin City Council showed the biggest jump in the last quarter of the year, from 31 at the end of September up to 235 homes built by the end of the year.

That breaks down to 79 flats at Charlemont Street in the south inner city as part of the regeneration there, as well as 130 “rapid-build” homes at St Helena’s in Finglas, Cherry Orchard, Belcamp and Mourne Road, and 26 new homes in Darndale.

Limerick also saw an increase from 0 to 113, made up of 81 homes which are part of a regeneration project on Lord Edward Street, 11 at Moyross, 13 at Southill, 1 at St Mary’s Park, and 1 at Ballinacurra Weston.

Figures for the other 10 local authorities online from the Department of Housing for the third quarter of 2017, and amount to 59 social housing units. (Some said they’ll send their up-to-date figures later this week.)

So far, though, those add up to 769. It’s unclear, at the moment, where the remaining 289 homes were built.


Local Authorities Builds in 2017 Infogram

[UPDATE: This article was updated on 17 January at 12.06pm and 4.15pm with additional details from local authorities. And on 18 January at 12pm.

It was also updated on 19 January at 15.54pm, as Fingal Co Co said it had given the wrong figures.]

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Lois Kapila: Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's editor and general assignment reporter. She covers housing and land, too. Want to share a comment or a tip? You can reach her at [email protected]

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