That Dáil Éireann approves the following Policy Directive in draft:
Planning and Development (Urgent Social Housing Supply) Policy Directive 2015,
copies of which have been laid in draft form before Dáil Éireann on 29th October, 2015.
On behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Kelly, I welcome the opportunity to discuss the motion that Dáil Éireann approve this draft policy directive regarding urgent social housing supply. This was discussed at the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht last Tuesday and relates specifically to the unprecedented and increasing number of homeless families that are presenting, in particular in the Dublin area, with resultant disruptive effects on family life and the health and well-being of children. To put this in context, of the 637 families currently homeless in the Dublin region, 401, comprising 534 adults and 843 children, are being accommodated in unsuitable arrangements in hotels. The Minister and I are concerned about this increasing phenomenon. Undoubtedly, that concern is shared by all Deputies.
The new capacity being created by the various housing solutions currently being implemented is not yet sufficient to accommodate the numbers presenting. Therefore, there is an urgent need to accelerate the provision of housing to address the accommodation needs of homeless households, especially families. In this context, the Government has approved a comprehensive programme of measures, including the initial delivery of 500 modular housing units for the Dublin region, which will help to reduce the number of homeless families in hotels by providing more appropriate family living conditions. In the first instance, these units will provide emergency accommodation. The placement of households in these units will be on a temporary basis, but they will offer a greater level of stability than the alternative of hotel accommodation while options for long-term living are being secured.
It is intended to have the first 153 units delivered in the Dublin City Council area, with the city council expecting the delivery of an initial 22 units by December, approximately 131 units in the first quarter of 2016 through a fast-tracked procurement process and 350 units across the Dublin region in mid-2016. This fast delivery compares with a timeframe of up to two years to provide conventional social housing units.
In this light and with a view to supporting the use of the fastest planning process in order for the modular units to be in place as quickly as possible, the Minister indicated his intention to issue a policy directive under section 29 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 addressed to the four Dublin planning authorities. A draft directive has been prepared and, as required, laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The purpose of the draft policy directive is to remind those planning authorities of the statutory provisions of section 179 of the 2000 Act and the related Part 8 measures in the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, which set out the procedure for local authority own development, such as the provision of new housing developments.
In the context of discharging these functions and the requirement to provide urgent social housing to meet the needs of homeless families, the draft directive directs these planning authorities to utilise all powers available to them under section 179, as appropriate, for the purpose of finding solutions to the situation and accelerating the delivery of developments to address the urgent and increasing need for social housing accommodation in the Dublin region. Subject to Oireachtas approval, this directive will issue to the four Dublin planning authorities under section 29 of the 2000 Act and they will be bound to comply with it.
The legislative basis for a policy directive underpins and strengthens any policy direction that the Minister may wish to issue. The issuing of a policy directive in the context of the delivery of social housing will underscore the importance of the expeditious delivery of this programme of modular housing, as approved by the Government. It is essential that the programme be implemented speedily. From a planning perspective, the draft policy directive is aimed at assisting by supporting the programme and the relevant planning authorities that are delivering it.
The recently announced Government package of housing measures, entitled "Stabilising Rents, Boosting Supply", which is aimed at improving stability in the private rental sector and supporting increased housing supply, demonstrates that addressing the current problems in the housing market is a key Government priority. The programme for delivery of modular housing, supported by this policy directive, is just one element of the response to the housing issue. Along with the implementation of the Construction 2020 strategy, the social housing strategy and the housing package, it provides a comprehensive framework for ensuring that homes are provided for those who most need them. Accordingly, I trust that, following discussion, this important policy directive will be approved by the Oireachtas so that it can be issued to the relevant planning authorities.