Housing Spin And Old Media


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy at the Housing Summit in the Custom House, Dublin last week

NAMA Wine Lake writes:

It’s one thing for Government to a miss a second important housing target, it’s another for entire nation not to realise it’s being missed.

In July 2016, the government’s target for building social housing in the 12 months of 2017 was X.

Last week, the Government said that its current plans for building social housing in the 12 months of 2017 was Y.

What is X and what is Y?


Hint: Y is “four times the number of units built in 2015” – that’s what the Government said last week and that’s what the old media faithfully reported.

Confused? You really should be.

Neither X nor Y has been clearly communicated by either the Government or old media.

This piece will clarify both and lambast the old media for its failing in this regard.

[TLDR? X is 3,000 units Y is 1,860. The Government will fail to meet its target for 2017 by 1,100-odd units, or 38%]

The story of X

In July 2016, the Government published its Rebuilding Ireland report. The 117-page report was largely devoid of meaningful targets.

For example, it committed to “47,000 social housing units delivered by 2021, supported by investment of €5.35 billion”. This is typical of this government’s announcements which take the format – “we’ll spend x squintillions to build y bazillions of homes by the time hell freezes over”.

Short-term targets, by which the Government could be held to account, were nowhere to be found.

You remember the brouhaha during this summer when the Government missed its target of getting the homeless out of emergency accommodation by July 1? That wasn’t a target in Rebuilding Ireland.

When the report was being launched, the then Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said the use of hotels would be “practically eliminated by the middle of next year”. That was the only short-term target and it wasn’t even in the report!

And for the few people who paid attention, they interpreted that commitment as rehousing the homeless, but as the homeless numbers continued to increase month-by-month, a new term entered our lexicon “family hub”, which is the euphemism this government is applying to the already well-established term “poorhouse” (singletons will be accommodated in these new poorhouses, and whilst a singleton might be a one-person “household”, they can hardly be described as a “family”, and what sort of media would embrace and repeat the term, the progressive-sounding “hub”?).

Regardless, we all now know the Government has failed to meet the target of rehousing the homeless.

And some, perhaps most, think the target has been perverted anyway and poorhouses were never originally anticipated as solutions to homelessness.

So, what was the target for building social housing in 2017? The Rebuilding Ireland report didn’t actually provide a number. It did however provide a graph!

The blue represents actual new construction. So, what do you think the target was for 2017?

I would have said 2,500, but last week, the new Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the original target for 2018 was 3,000 units, and, as you can see from the graph above, the amount of blue in 2017 looks identical to the amount of blue in 2018, the target for 2017 must therefore be 3,000 units.

Seriously, in Ireland, this is how we divine Government targets for the provision of critical public services.

In fairness to the housing minister, last week, he predicted they would build 3,800 units in 2018 compared to the original target of 3,000 (no diff with clearly articulating that, eh?!) but given Paddy Power is offering odds of 1/3 for an election next year, the present housing minister is unlikely to be around to be held accountable for anything that happens next year.

If you thought divining the target was an ordeal, brace yourself for divining the present plan!

The story of Y

On Friday last, the current housing minister (having been in the job for three months and a day, he should be up to speed by now) said this government will this year build four times the amount of social housing built in 2015.

“Four times”? “Wow”, eh? “2015”, though? That’s strange.

Why didn’t he provide a clear figure though? Why didn’t he refer to social housing built in 2016, rather than 2015? I don’t know, but let’s look at the actual figures and an explanation might suggest itself.

The Department of Housing says a total of 465 social housing units were built in 2015, comprising 64 units built by local authorities and 401 by private sector housing associations (the likes of Cluid and Tuath).

So, four times the number built in 2015 would be 1,860 (465 X 4). 2015 just happens to have been the worst year on record for building social housing.

In 2016 (not the reference year used by housing minister last week), 652 units were built by local authorities and housing associations. If the housing minister used the same format for a statement referencing 2016, it would read, “this year we will be building between 2-3 times what we built in 2016”.

Precisely, it’s 185% more than 2016 but that’s not as impressive as saying “four times” what we built previously.

Did the housing minister deliberately refer to the worst year on record as a base for comparison with current year plans? Who knows?

Did the housing minister avoid reference to a specific number in case anyone was keeping track of what the original plan was? Who knows?

What does this all tell us about Government and old media?

With a target of 3,000 units and a current plan of 1,860 units, representing a fairly pathetic 38% failing, you might have thought the housing minister would be battening down the hatches with all the criticism he’d be receiving? Not at all.

He’s basking in the reflected late summer sunlight of building “four times” the number of units built in the worst year for social housing-build. Good job old media!

Governments don’t like short-term targets, or even 12-month targets. There was practically no short-term target in Rebuilding Ireland.

Between July – December 2016, old media appeared ignorant of the target of “practically eliminating” homeless in emergency accommodation by mid-2017.

Governments feel safe in announcing long-term targets, but will resist being nailed down on short-term targets. Governments will spin the bejaysus out of actual performance.

Old media allows Governments to announce meaningless plans. Where were the demands last July 2016 when Rebuilding Ireland was published for short-term targets by which performance and progress could be measured?

Is old media incapable of asking questions of “how much”, “when” and demanding meaningful responses.

Old media doesn’t challenge neologisms like “family hubs”. Old media reports cryptic announcements without challenge, like “four times 2015”.

And, in the middle of a housing supply crisis, old media fails to harry the housing minister and his department for, er, monthly housing supply statistics.

NAMA Wine Lake

Previously: When Anthony Met The Housing Minister

‘The Numbers That Are Really Vacant Are Actually Much Smaller’


House completions – 1970 to 2015

There you go now.

40 thoughts on “Housing Spin And Old Media

  1. A snowflake's chance in hell

    Maybe a smarter question would be : how many homes SHOULD tax payers be funding for the can’t work won’t work crowd? ie. how many are really homeless or could live with their Mum or down the country somewhere where houses are more plentiful?

    I guarantee it’s let me guess the ‘homeless’ figure quoted last week by some is “4 times” the number of really hard up genuine cases.

    1. MKG985

      Maybe a smarter question would be why, when faced with a government set targets they never intend to meet, do people like you choose to blame those who are let down by the policy of failure?

      1. A snowflake's chance in hell

        Because they’re an easy target

        IF they had any actual boopsy-booples they wouldn’t need the likes of wishful thinking types like yourself to stand up for them

    2. Barry the Hatchet

      Congratulations snowflake, you have willfully missed the point. Employed, unemployed, young, old, sick, healthy, we all need somewhere to live. The private market is doing a p*ss-poor job of providing sufficient good quality housing to meet the level of demand – even for the comfortably employed. The incredibly obvious solution to this failure is a planned programme of state built housing. With the exception of a few well publicised blunders, this has worked tremendously well in the very recent past.

      Pray tell, what is your clever solution to the housing crisis? Having people live with their parents forever? Rounding up the poor and shipping them off to the Midlands en masse?

      1. A snowflake's chance in hell

        Not at all

        First of all it’s not a crisis -we have more than enough accomodation units to house everyone nationally

        Second it’s an issue only because we allow our bums to decide basically where THEY want to live

        Third there’s no ‘clever’ solution required – it’s a simple solution, you live here where we tell you or we cut your benefits and dole money for drink, drugs, heroin and crack

        Fourth – you don’t like it – there’s always North Korea. We’ve turned into a nation of entitlement-seeking freeloading bums – at every strata.

          1. Brain warp

            Newstalk staff letter demands Hook be taken off air immediately

            “Misogyny should never be normalised,” according to a draft letter signed by around 20 staff.

            STAFF AT NEWSTALK have drafted a letter to management calling for George Hook to be taken off air in light of his comments about rape last Friday – but were asked by the company earlier today not to proceed with it.

            TheJournal.ie understands that the letter was due to be handed to station bosses this morning, but that a meeting was then called and staff informed that a ”process” to respond to the issue was taking place and that it would conclude shortly.

            The letter, which has been signed by around 20 staff, says that the longer Hook remains on air, “the more reputational damage this station will suffer: damage that will unfairly reflect on the hardworking and professional staff at Newstalk”.

            “Misogyny should never be normalised,” the draft letter says. It goes on to call upon management to ”defend the reputation of the station and the reputation of the staff at Newstalk by removing Mr Hook”.

            News of the letter’s existence is likely to increase pressure on management to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the company and the majority of staff sooner rather than later.

            A spokesperson for Newstalk confirmed to TheJournal.ie that a process to respond to Hook’s remarks had been under way since Friday. The meeting today was to inform staff of those proceedings, the spokesperson said.

            No letter from staff had yet been presented to management, according to the spokesperson.

            Widespread condemnation

            Hook, who has been a mainstay at Newstalk since it was set up as a Dublin-only station in 2002, has been under sustained pressure in the wake of his comments at the start of his High Noon programme on Friday afternoon.

            Referencing a UK case in which a Commonwealth Games swimmer was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman, Hook asked “is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”.

            Hook and Newstalk offered full apologies on Saturday after his comments were met with widespread criticism from former abuse victims and campaigners. However, the Communicorp station has come under further pressure since then, after the Dalata Hotel Group terminated its sponsorship deal with Newstalk yesterday.

            The dispute spilled out onto the station’s airwaves yesterday too, when singer Mary Coughlan cut short an interview with evening presenter Ivan Yates, telling the broadcaster it “wasn’t the first time” Hook had made such negative comments against women.

            hook1 George Hook. Source: Newstalk

            The letter has been signed by both presenting and production staff at the station.

            This is the full text:

            We the undersigned wish to express our utter repudiation of the views expressed by George Hook on High Noon last Friday.

            We also wish to express our profound disappointment with management in Communicorp at their failure to deal with this issue swiftly and decisively. The longer George Hook remains on air, the more reputational damage this station will suffer: damage that will unfairly reflect on the hardworking and professional staff at Newstalk.

            Misogyny should never be normalised, and we call upon management
            at Communicorp to defend the reputation of the station and the reputation of the staff at Newstalk by removing Mr Hook.

            It’s expected management’s process to deal with Hook’s comments will conclude in a matter of a short number of days, if not sooner.

    3. catch

      The reality is that we live in an eco-system, knock one thing out and it affects everything else. It has been a lethal experiment but we can now safely say that when social housing is not provided several things happen. Those who depend on social housing are forced onto the private market.This affects housing costs, property prices and rents. When these costs increase everything increases,the price of building materials which leads to an increase in builders fees and in the wages of chippies, brickies,plumbers & electricians. To meet these increases wages have to increase to allow workers who are not directly linked to the building/property game to pay rents/mortgages. When demand outweighs supply investment becomes a less attractive proposition, particularly in relation to companies looking to relocate from the UK because of brexit. If overheads are cheaper in frankfurt than in dublin why choose dublin? On the positive side though, some B&B owners, hoteliers and landlords have been enriched by the experiment. On balance social housing is necessary to keep costs down.

      1. Kolmo

        +1. The infallable religion of ‘the market will sort it’ is a dangerous one, FG/FF have ideologically retarded themselves in bowing to the short-term profit interests of their owners in absolute contradiction to the common good, it’s embarrassingly treacherous, the only surprise is that there hasn’t been actual civil unrest at the scale of mismanagement of the republic with scandal after scandal after nauseating scandal.

    4. Mick D

      Obviously you are an establishment supporter/lacky, you’re also a toerag that desreves to have your balls kicked…hope that’s not too unpolitically correct for you (if it is I couldn’t give a toss) ya see I have no fear of you or your kind..have a poo day

    1. Brother Barnabas

      It’s quite amusing actually how they repeatedly cite “the 2015 figure” without ever actually specifying what it is. Sort of tactic 13 year-old schoolboys try to use on disinterested teachers. Nice indication of how much regard they have for the electorate.

  2. Donal

    I trust nothing that comes out of the mouth of the current government.
    In my opinion they have proven themselves incapable of solving any of the problems we face.
    They have proven themselves capable of blaming past administrations for everything.
    They have proven themselves to be more interested in spin than honesty.

  3. Cian

    “…from the graph above, the amount of blue in 2017 looks identical to the amount of blue in 2018, the target for 2017 must therefore be 3,000 units.”
    No, if you look closely the 2018 block is 23px high; the 2017 block is 21 px high; this is a 8% difference, so if the 2018 figure is 3,000, then the 2017 figure is (roughly) 2,740.

    1. Cian

      Saying that, I agree with NWL that (a) the various parties should have clear, specific targets, and (b) they should be given the resources to meet them, and (c) that the current targets are too low and we should be building more social housing.

  4. egghead

    Spot on Cian,
    This FG mentality of obfuscating the figures won’t deliver homes. Being wed to the free market doesn’t mean Leo and the gang can’t/don’t have a conscience.
    They just need to raise the finance and set bigger targets.
    Also well done to Broadsheet for consistently highlighting this numbers game. Mainstream tends to just go with the flow.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      “Being wed to the free market doesn’t mean Leo and the gang can’t/don’t have a conscience.”

      Hmmm. It’s either that or they’re incompetent. I suppose that is *quite* possible as well. Gombeen government for a gombeen nation.

  5. Diddy

    It’s impossible to house a population of 5 million people in the least densely populated island in Europe simply impossible. The only way forward is to cram everyone into over priced tenements on the east coast.

    1. dav

      welcome to the blushirts, we see a great future for you in the party. Pick up the party manifesto and introduction to dealing with brown envelopes from the pile in the back.

    1. martco

      If you care then there’s no maybes about it IP, you must vote next time!!

      Here’s the thing, do you know the only thing that counts at the individual level that you can do to realistically take this train of lies off the track? You realise you can’t change anything going on here no matter how sharp NWL is?

      Yes, use your vote come next GE

      Thanks to likes of NWL but it’s also up to us all to take the very reliable and all round respect that NWL’s numbers gets and use them to debunk the spin and lies & show those gaping (width of Galway bay) holes in some of this utter jackanory stuff coming out from your “elected” government on a daily basis now. Show your friends the facts. involve them in conversation and let nature take its course cometh the hour. start with this crisis – it’s easy to demonstrate the lie and even though it’s enough in itself there’s a ton of other problems to go along with it as well you know.

      FG deserve the same kind of pummelling that fake Labour got last time out. “Sure isn’t that what you tend to do during an election” has now become seemingly acceptable all day long now? WTF?!

      For me it isn’t even about their ideology anymore, it’s being taken for mugs that gets to me now. Picture the look on Varadwa—r’s face as he loses his own seat for a bit of inspiration. Nice, eh?

      Do vote. If you want to try halt this bs. Vote disruptively and try influence your friends and family to do it also!

    2. rotide

      The next government will be different by definition.

      But you won’t agree with them and your opinion still won’t be valid because you can’t be bottied even taking the slightest bit of responsibility and voting.

  6. Zaccone

    Great work as usual NWL.

    Seeing these numbers how can anyone think what the country needs is tax cuts for those in the upper income bracket, and not the building of homes for the homeless with that money. Its not as if the building of social housing would only benefit the homeless either, it would reduce rents and house prices helping anyone under 35 too.

    But I guess anything that stalls, or gets rid of, house price inflation is complete anathema to FG.

  7. Eamonn Moran

    According to Diarmaid Ferriters recent article 100,000 Social houses were built between 1973 and 1977

    1. Cian

      According to the numbers at the top of this article it was ~35,000;
      Is it possible that he said housing for 100,000 people? @3 people per house that would be about right.

        1. Cian

          There is a big picture between the article and the comments. immediately after the word “Update:” been there since before lunch,

  8. Eamonn Moran

    There is a general point here. When Government or other bodies release a report they also do a summery press release. Due to the lack of money for independent journalism in this country that summery generally is what is used to write unquestioning articles in our daily broadsheets. Another issue is that the small number of political journos that we have didn’t get their jobs as the were good at deciphering dodgy stats.

    1. Andy

      Most people are now not willing to pay for good journalism – particularly young people who have grown up with digital media.

  9. Joe

    what’s going on in 2021 in that graph, a dramatic predicted drop in hap social housing provision inside a year. I’m calling crap on that chart.

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