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Build More Social Housing

Local authorities built only 394 homes in 2017

by Mel Reynolds


MINISTER FOR FINANCE Paschal Donohoe set out the stall for Social Housing in Budget 2018: “I am allocating a total of €1.83bn for housing in 2018. Some 3,800 new social homes will be built next year by local authorities and approved housing bodies…1”. In fact Local Authorities are building a fraction of this figure.

Gains and Losses
Purpose-built new homes are an essential component of permanent social housing provision. But they are not the only component. Additional permanent stock can come from a number of sources. New and second-hand private-home purchases (acquisitions) and so-called ‘Part V’ housing – 10% of schemes acquired from or built by developers, all add to permanent stock. Official tallies also include ‘voids reclaimed’ as additional homes. These are typically short-term vacant local-authority properties brought back into stock but counted as additional homes. Leases can also count as, temporary, housing ‘solutions’, and are similarly included as additional stock.

There are losses to stock to be considered. For example, just looking at new homes completed last year: Dublin City Council (DCC) completed 139 new-builds and purchased 58 ‘turnkey’ new homes from developers. However, DCC demolished 148 and sold 54 existing local authority dwellings, leaving a lower net figure2.

Nevertheless, new-build social housing illustrates how the state is managing public resources and delivering new
permanent stock on state land. Local Authorities own zoned land with a capacity for 48,724 dwellings nationwide yet they used just 0.8% of this state land capacity for new-builds, 394 units3.

But state capacity is even greater. Nama-controlled land currently has a capacity for 65,399 dwellings. 10% Part V
social housing could be provided, giving an additional 6,540 social homes.


New Builds
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG) produces detailed new-build social housing data. Established as part of the ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ housing strategy in 2016, quarterly ‘Social Housing Construction Status Reports’ currently catalogue 930 projects with a ‘pipeline’ of 14,813 new homes, noting location, stage of delivery, number of units, and if units are being purchased or built by Local Authorities or Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs).

These reports include two categories of new homes as ‘builds’. New-builds are purpose-built new social homes
procured directly by Local Authorities and AHBs. So-called ‘turnkey’ units are new homes purchased from developers (acquisitions) and are somewhat contentious as the state is competing with private buyers in the open market. Both types are, however, additional permanent stock with security of tenure.


2017 Output
In 2017 Local Authorities built 394 homes and purchased 386 ‘turnkey’ new homes from developers. AHBs built 270 new homes and purchased 654 ‘turnkey’ new home acquisitions4. Excluding purchases, there were 664 new-builds nationwide in 2017. 375 new social homes were built in the City and County of Dublin and, of this, the four Dublin Local Authorities completed just 232 new-builds.

In 2017 there were 44,802 on Co Dublin housing waiting lists.


2018 Output
In 2018 so far Local Authorities have built 364 social homes and purchased 123 ‘turnkey’ acquisitions from developers nationwide5. AHBs delivered 113 new-builds and purchased 200 ‘turnkey’ new homes. Excluding new home purchases, there were 477 new-build social homes in the first six months of 2018 from all sources.

Dublin Local Authorities completed 145 newbuilds in six months.

Local Authorities own enough vacant zoned land in Dublin to accommodate 29,377 dwellings but have used 0.5% of this capacity for new-builds so far this year.


There were 10,694 subsidised leases in the first six months of 2018, 22 leases for every newbuild in the country6. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) estimate that, in areas of high demand such as Co. Dublin, a
subsidised lease is twice as costly as a Local Authority new-build on state land.

In 2018 more than €900m per year will be spent on subsidise private-sector social rents, homeless services and other rent assistance programmes. DPER project more than €1.7bn will be spent per year on state rent assistance by

There has been little increase in new-build social housing in Co Dublin, the area with the most acute housing need. New-build social housing output will need to increase increase four-fold to achieve Budget targets.


1. Budget 2018 speech delivered in Dáil by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe #budget2018” Leinster Express;
2. Noac Performance Indicators Report 2017 (p13); Performance-Indicators-Report-2017.pdf
3. “State owns enough zoned land to build 114,000homes” Irish Times; land scarcity? – Eolas Magazine;
4. Minister Murphy publishes Social Housing Construction Status Report Q4 2017 – Rebuilding Ireland; http://
5. Minister Murphy publishes Social Housing Construction Status Report Q2 2018 and details of Social Housing Output for Quarter 2 2018 | Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government;
6. Housing Data: 9 Oct 2018: Written answers ( Q534- 537 incl.;
7. “Spending Review 2018 Current and Capital Expenditure on Social Housing Delivery Mechanisms – Daniel
O’Callaghan and Paul Kilkenny , IGEES Unit and Housing, Planning and Local Government Vote” July 2018; delivery.pdf