Plans to publish revised housing targets in autumn show ‘lack of ambition, urgency’, Bacik says

Labour leader says Taoiseach’s call for 250,000 homes ‘clear acceptance new targets needed’ but Minister of State says ‘robust evidence-based research’ required

The Government’s plan to publish revised housing targets in the autumn has been criticised in the Dáil for showing “a lack of ambition and urgency”.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said it was “extraordinary” that new goals would not be published until then because the Government had accepted that the targets were already too low.

Minister of State for Housing Malcolm Noonan had told the Dáil that a review of housing targets “is commenced, work is well advanced and refreshed targets will be agreed by Government and published this autumn”.

Current targets provide for an average of 33,000 homes a year, increasing to 40,000 by 2030. Mr Noonan said revised targets will be underpinned by research and modelling by the The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

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“It is very important to underpin this work with evidence-based research and that’s what we’re doing in partnership with the ESRI,” he said.

The Minister said a review of the targets was planned, particularly in light of the 2022 census. He said that “they will take into account population growth, migration, updated assumptions regarding housing obsolescence rates and household sized with smaller household sizes meaning more housing is required”.

During question time on housing and local government, Ms Bacik asked when the revised targets would be published. She said that everyone knew the 33,000 homes a year target is unlikely to be reached “but we also know it is way too low”.

She said that the Housing Commission stated 60,000 will be needed, while Taoiseach Simon Harris announced that 250,000 homes would be needed over the next five years. That was an “absolutely clear acceptance of the need for increased targets”.

But Mr Noonan said that “targets are being bandied about of 50,000, 60,000, 100,000 annually. It also requires capacity to be built into the system. We’re looking at modern methods of construction, and all of these elements combined.”

The Green Party Minister said “targets for 2024 will be met and by all accounts exceeded” and house commencements were at a record high. They are the only housing targets underpinned by “robust evidence” he said.

He added that the trajectory over the past four years “has taken time to build up capacity and that capacity is now delivering”.

The research for the revised targets would take into account the right kind of housing in the right place and the right quantum of housing and the right type of housing mix.

“We anticipate that tenure-specific targets for social affordable, private rented and owner occupation will be published this autumn.”

Expressing her disappointment that it will be this autumn before the revised targets are published Ms Bacik said “that’s extraordinary, because your Government has accepted that the targets are simply too low”.

But the Minister pointed out that housing output rose from 20,000 in 2021 to 34,000 this year and “that is a significant trajectory upwards”. “That is going to continue, we can’t put a figure on it until we understand and delve into the research that’s carried out by the ESRI.”

Earlier there were sharp exchanges between Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin over the housing targets.

Mr Ó Broin repeatedly accused the Minister of failing to meet housing targets, saying that in his Dublin Mid-West constituency the only affordable housing on sale cost more than €400,000.

He said that in each of the four years since Mr O’Brien took office “you’ve missed all of your housing targets and missed them very significantly” including by 62 per cent for affordable houses and 59 per cent on cost rental housing.

But the retorted that “I’m very happy to stand over our plan and the delivery of it”. He told Mr Ó Broin that “it stands in sharp contrast to your own lack of plan”.

He said that last year more than 4,000 housing supports were delivered, a 128 per cent increase.

He said they had set an ambitious programme and almost 12,000 new social homes were provided last year, “the highest level of new build social homes in about 50 years” and had a record State investment of €5 billion this year for housing.

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