This article examines the marked decline in Irish social housing’s traditional role as the main source of accommodation for low-income households. We argue that although this policy redirection has become clearly apparent in the context of the Global Financial Crisis; its roots are, in fact, much older. They lie, not in Ireland’s most recent fiscal crisis, but in the last one which occurred between the late 1970s and mid-1980s. Changes made to arrangements for funding social housing during this time effected a long-term contraction in the social housing’s contribution to total housing output which, in turn, precipitated growing reliance on housing allowance subsidised private rented housing to accommodate this group. The post-GFC austerity merely accelerated this long-term trend rather than signalled a new policy direction.