Housing department left with unspent €214m in 2020

The Department of Housing was left with €214 million in unspent funds at the end of 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 measures on construction activity, according to its secretary general.

Graham Doyle will on Thursday tell the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that while the first two years of the pandemic brought “unique challenges” efforts are being made to “mitigate the lost deliverables and strive for achievement across the ambitious targets in place”.

In an opening statement to the committee, which is to discuss the department’s 2020 accounts and other issues with Mr Doyle, it is stated that gross expenditure in 2020 was €5.3 billion, up by a third on 2019.

Mr Doyle is to tell the spending watchdog that 2020 was a “very unique year in terms of activity and finance with the onset of the pandemic and the range of responses put in place across Government”.

He adds: “In recognition of the impact of construction closures on expenditure, some €214m of unspent capital allocations was carried forward for spending in 2021.”

Rebound in activity

Mr Doyle says the department spent just under €2.6 billion on housing programmes in 2020 with the bulk of this on social housing delivered through building, acquisitions, leasing, Housing Assistance Payment and the Rental Accommodation Scheme. He says this spending helped some 24,000 households during the year.

“Despite the incredibly challenging impact of Covid-19 on construction activity, the second half of 2020 saw a rebound with local authorities, approved housing bodies and other delivery partners anxious to make up lost ground,” he will tell the committee.

Mr Doyle outlines how €40 million from last July’s stimulus package was used to help local authorities refurbish vacant social housing. The voids programme meant more than 3,600 homes available for tenanting in 2020.

He also says that “wider housing supply exceeded commentator’s predictions”. By the end of 2020, the Central Statistics Office had reported just under 21,000 new completions, some 2 per cent less than in 2019 when activity in the sector was unimpeded.

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