The Government has been accused of only adding 31 homes to house building targets for next year.
While Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe admitted some of the numbers in the Budget on social housing had been announced before, Sinn Fein said one of the headline figures had been unveiled in the middle of last year.
The party’s housing spokesman Eoin O Broin claimed a plan to build more than 5,800 social houses was unveiled as part of the Rebuilding Ireland package, and that Budget 2018 only includes a provision for another 31.
Mr O Broin also claimed the Government’s solutions for 19,600 people and families on social housing waiting lists is to push them into the private rented sector.
“Subsidising social housing tenants to live in the private rented sector is not the same as real social housing. Families cannot put down real roots in their communities,” he said.
“It is also much more expensive to the state in the long run.”
Mr O Broin added: “Over-reliance on the private sector to meet social housing need is part of the reason why we have a housing crisis.”
Amid the criticism, Mr Donohoe accepted that the total number of social houses being developed between now and 2021 will increase by 3,000 from the previous figure of 47,000 to 50,000.
A figure of 3,800 social homes being built next year, included in the minister’s speech, had been announced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy several weeks ago.
There are estimated to be between 90,000 and 180,000 vacant homes in the country while more than 8,000 people, including more than 3,000 children, live in emergency accommodation and more than 90,000 people wait for a social house.
Head of homeless charity Focus Ireland Mike Allen questioned whether the actual number of houses due to be built next year is any bigger than had previously been announced.
As part of the Government’s budget plans to secure 25,000 tenancies for people who need a home the Housing Assistance Payment scheme increases to 149 million euro and there is another 18 million euro for homelessness services.
Mr Donohoe insisted it was not true that there were no new house-building measures in the Budget and said he has increased spending for the next four years.
“They will be building more social houses but, because it takes to build these homes, we cannot build them all in a single year,” he said.
“The difficulty we have (is) if I was to say to you in October we are going to have thousands of new homes built next year, you’d ask me then the question: how are they going to get planning permission? How are they going to get tendered? Doesn’t it take a period of time for them to be actually built?
“It’s because of that there’s little change in the direct build figure for next year. It changes beyond that.”
Mr Donohoe said the Housing Assistance Payments – paid to help families cover rent in the private market – is doubling next year while efforts continue to get house-building projects under way.
On the traditional post-Budget phone-in on RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, the minister also insisted his budget was not designed with an election in mind.
He also defended his decisions by saying he was not in a position to “do everything for everyone”.
Sean Healy, of Social Justice Ireland, said: “The approach taken in Budget 2018 towards addressing the need for a substantial programme of building social housing is totally inadequate.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the housing strategy and said: “We understand the stress faced by people without a home and the strain on our society that homelessness is.
“We know so many people struggling to buy or to rent a home. These people aren’t faceless statistics, they are our friends and families, constituents and supporters, people we know and people we want to help.”
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