Wednesday 15 September 2010

Councils focused on selling houses

The slow uptake of a Department of the Environment social housing leasing scheme can be attributed to local authorities being focused on selling, rather than renting, their vacant stock of affordable homes, the Comptroller and Auditor General said.

Just 47 of 175 units approved for long-term leasing by the department were fully operational in June of this year, he said.

The department decided to begin leasing rather than purchasing properties last year in an attempt to meet the State’s social housing needs and deliver a target of 27,000 new units agreed under the Towards 2016 social partnership agreement. Some €20 million was set aside for the purpose in 2009.

The department put the slow start to the scheme down to lead-in time for any new initiative and the fact that not all properties available to it were suitable.

“The department has also stated that the depressed financial markets together with the inclusion of a large number of property developments in the Nama process has militated against uptake of leasing arrangements,” the report says.

The comptroller’s report concludes that the cost of leasing and purchasing were broadly the same.

Labour housing spokesman Ciarán Lynch, who has been a long-time critic of the scheme, said the only true beneficiaries of the arrangement were the various developers whose residential units were currently lying vacant.

Irish Times

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