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28th Apr 2018

Debunking Ireland’s Social Housing Figures – How Many Are We ACTUALLY Building?


Over the last two years, there has been a lot of jargon used by politicians when it comes to housing numbers making it nearly impossible for us mere mortals to decode. has trawled over the reports and spoken to industry experts to debunk the mystery surrounding the country’s housing figures. And it turns out we’re not the only ones who are confused… 

While we’ve been led to believe the state built up to 7,000 houses last year – a quick skim through the numbers would suggest it’s less. A LOT less.  

Here’s what we found out:

In 2016, the government promised to deliver 137,563 units of social housing by 2021. 

Over 33,000 of those units were to be built by the state under the Rebuilding Ireland programme. 

Rebuilding Ireland 123

Since the start of the programme, the government set itself targets for each year and divided each target under various headings such as build, acquisition and lease. (See image above)

As you can see the report says over 7,000 units were delivered last year. And again, earlier this month, Junior Minister Damien English said 7,000 units were built.

However, ‘delivered’ and ‘built’ are two very different things. 

‘Built’ means built by the state through council tenders. 

‘Delivered’ means houses that were built by the state, or built by a private developer and bought by the state to be used for social housing as well as houses leased by the state for social housing.

When challenged on Twitter about where those 7,000 units were built by D.I.T Housing Lecturer Lorcan Sirr, the housing department’s reply essentially said; “When Minister English said “houses built”  he actually meant “houses built and leased and acquired”.

So, now that we know what Minister English actually meant, we decided to dig a little deeper into the various categories.

When you take away the number of houses that are leased and acquired you are left with 4,002 units in the Build section.

(Interestingly, it looks like the figures above have recently been deleted from the housing department’s website. Thankfully, we got a screenshot for you for posterity.)

Sirr told this category also includes units that haven’t been built by the State.  

These units are called; regenerations (knocked down and rebuilt), voids (empty council houses) or units under the Part V mechanism. 

Units under the Part V mechanism are built by private developers but given over to councils for social housing. These are definitely not built by the State but have been included in the Build category.  

Social Housing Delivery 2017

Recently, the government released the above image which shows more of a breakdown of where the units come from. 

From this, it looks like the State has built 2,245 as opposed to 7,066 or 4,002 but again regeneration and units under the Part V mechanism are still included. 

Last week, the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, claimed 1,014 houses were built by local council but again was called out by various people including Sirr and Housing Spokesperson and Sinn Féin TD, Eoin Ó Broin.

In addition to the low social housing builds, a report from Goodbody Stockbrokers released during the week revealed that Ireland has the lowest rates of house-building in Europe.

It looks like Lorcan Sirr may have gotten far closer to the real number with a response from the housing department which he posted on Twitter as 780 units.

Ultimately, we still don’t know if this is the real amount built by the State but we do know it is far lower than what was claimed by Minister English on the April 13 or Minister Murphy on the April 19 and what the housing department has said in various official publications.

Someone is telling tales out of school.

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