Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varakar in the Dáil today
In the Dáil…
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy repeatedly asked the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if it’s true that Dublin City Council only built 21 social housing units last year.
Mr Varadkar appeared to confirm the figure when he said that a breakdown of social housing figures is available, he has seen the figures, and “I imagine that that is correct”.
But his answer came after some time.
Ms Murphy is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and recalled a recent meeting of the committee involving the Housing Department’s Secretary General John McCarthy whom, she said, stated “quite categorically” that the figures for council housing are extremely clear in terms of the breakdown/categorisation of these properties.
She said Mr McCarthy said the department publishes “quarterly updates in this regard” and he “refuted allegations of spin when it comes to the presentation of the figures”.
Ms Murphy said:
“In 2018, the social housing output figures, under local authority build, the number is listed as 2,022 but the minister has bundled all of those categories and has consistently refused to give a breakdown of local authority build by individual category.
“However, at the Public Accounts Committee meeting last week, the secretary general [Mr McCarthy] in response to questions I posed, finally gave us a breakdown of the figures for 2018.
“Those figures: 768 for turn-key units, 200 regeneration properties and that leaves a total of a 1,054 actual newly built local authority houses for 2018.
“Why then the continued blurring of numbers by Minister Murphy?“
Ms Murphy said that a few weeks ago Minister Murphy, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Gavin Jennings “grilled” the minister for a breakdown of the social housing output but his questions went unanswered while the minister said the figures would be available the following week.
But, Ms Murphy said, these figures still haven’t been made public, outside of being made available to the Public Accounts Committee; they’re not on the department’s website; and they’re not in the department’s press releases.
The Social Democrats co-leader then asked if the reason for the “reluctance” to give a clear breakdown of the output is that some councils are performing “very poorly”?
Ms Murphy then said:
“For example, it has been said that Dublin City Council, who are at the epicentre of this crisis, only built 21 houses last year or could it be red tape? We need to know?”
“So, Taoiseach, can we get some straight answers to the following questions please?
“Can you confirm that the new builds by local authorities, given to the Public Accounts Committee, by the Secretary General last week, are accurate?
“Is it correct that Dublin City Council only built 21 units in 2018 themselves?
“And what’s the actual breakdown by local authority of the 1,054 new builds in 2018?”
In his response, the Taoiseach said people receiving homes don’t ever raise the categorisation of social housing.
“What matters as a fact is that last year 9,000 – more than any in ten years – 9,000 families moved into social housing with secure tenancies and we shouldn’t obsess ourselves about whether it’s done through an affordable housing body or local authority, or trust or Part 5, Part 8 or Part 26. That’s not what matters.”
Ms Murphy said knowing the breakdown does matter.
She said knowing the breakdown allows people to know what’s cost effective and value for money.
“We need to get those breakdowns so that information can be evaluated. This is public information, it’s public money. Why are you so reluctant to give the figures in a way that breaks it down and you can make those comparisons?
“Is it true that Dublin City Council built 21 houses last year? The performance of our local authorities matters because they’re going to be the ones that are going to deliver, if we’re actually going to deliver the kind of numbers that are needed, to actually get a grip on this crisis.
“You cannot keep on answering questions in the way you did. The breakdown matters.”
Mr Varadkar said:
“Deputy, I’m advised by the minister of state behind me that those figures are available and I’ve seen breakdown so I imagine that that is correct and they are available.
“But I think you’ve got it wrong here. The truth is, after years of running into problems, years of delays, when we didn’t have the money to do it, after years and years of trouble, we’re now delivering on social housing, increasing the housing stock by 9,000 last year.
“We’ll increase it by even more this year. And what you’re trying to do, is you don’t want people to know that. So you’re trying to make that housing provided by affordable housing body like Peter McVerry Trust or the Iveagh Trust doesn’t exist.”
Watch Dáil proceedings live here