herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

Officials red-faced after admitting 'spin' in emails on housing

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

RED-faced officials have said it was wrong to use the word "spinning" in an internal government communication on the housing shortage.

The row concerns doubt about the numbers of houses which can be built to meet a shortage, especially in the greater Dublin area. Documents detailing correspondence between the Environment and Finance Departments contained an admission of "spinning."

"We have been spinning that there is sufficient land with planning permission/zoned for housing circa 46,000 housing units ... but the reality is that this includes land not yet zoned for housing and without planning permission," the email from an Environment Department official to the Finance Department states.

The email, published by the Sunday Independent yesterday, posed questions about statements from Environment Minister Alan Kelly about the housing crisis.

Mr Kelly's officials disowned the use of the word "spinning", while insisting that they are on target with zoning and house-building plans.

"There is sufficient land zoned in Dublin to build 46,000 homes as published by the Dublin Housing Supply Task Force," a spokesman said.

"This figure is part of the county development plans for Dublin and these have not changed since last year, as altering these requires a change in county development plans, which has not occurred," he added.

PLanning

The official said the figure of 46,000 is broken down into 21,000 units which have planning permission and 25,000 involving land which is zoned, but without planning already approved.

The official added that these were the figures indicated by the Minister last November when he published an ambitious plan to tackle the housing shortage.

"Both figures are subject to change as planning permissions are lodged and granted.

"It is likely that the figure of 21,000 with planning permissions has increased to closer to 30,000 with new permissions coming on board," the official stated.

The Government has set aside some €4bn to provide more social housing up to the year 2020.

But the housing shortage risks being made worse by large numbers of people in mortgage arrears and increasing repossessions.

Some 200 applications for possession are due before the court in the Taoiseach's home town of Castlebar this week alone.

hnews@herald.ie

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