Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that while a third of the housing budget wasn’t spent, there is “no lack of political will” to end the housing crisis.
The Sunday Independent today reported that €476 million of spending planned for the first nine months of this year went unused.
Speaking to On The Record, the Tánaiste said that the year is “not over yet” and that more of the housing budget will be spent before the new year.
“Part of the reason is we have the biggest budget for housing ever in the history of the state”, he said.
“So there’s no lack of financial commitment from the government to resolving the housing crisis.”
“But there are real constraints – real constraints that would be there no matter who’s in government.”
These “constraints” include labour shortages, high materials costs and the availability of those materials.
The Tánaiste acknowledged that the underspend “looks very large”, but he expects the figure to be “a lot less” by the end of the year.
Presenter Gavan Reilly asked about the efficacy of the state’s budgetting when it hasn’t spent near the amount it forecasted.
The Tánaiste said that, in his experience, capital spending is “always very lumpy” as it’s “very different” to current spending, such as staff wages.
“If a project gets delayed by a few weeks even, the project can fall into the next quarter”, he said.
He said that the Department of Education is running ahead of itself in capital spending which, like underspending, is not uncommon.
The Tánaiste said that the cost of construction has been a “real difficulty”.
“It’s not just the cost of it, it’s the availability of materials, and some of that is linked to what’s going on in Ukraine”, he said.
“Commodities and supply chains have been affected.”
While expensive materials should make the budget run out quicker, the Tánaiste said that things are only “dearer if you can get [them]”.
Despite the challenges, he is confident that the government will exceed its “overall” housing target this year of building more than 24,000 new homes.
“It may be closer to 28,000”, he said.
Listen back to the full conversation here.
Main image shows Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews