I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the House today about Housing for All. This Government and I are keenly aware of the housing challenges facing people right across this island. We know that the impact of the housing crisis is felt in every family right across our country. It ranges from hard-pressed tenants stuck in a rent trap and wondering if they will ever own their own home to those at the sharpest edge of the crisis, who will spend tonight sleeping in emergency accommodation, or worse, sleeping rough on one of our city streets. To tackle the roots of the crisis, our central goal in Housing for All, as set out in the programme for Government, is:
Everyone in the State should have access to a home to purchase or rent at an affordable price, built to a high standard and in the right place, offering a high quality of life.
Is í tithíocht an phríomh-eisiúint in Éirinn inniu. Tuigeann an Rialtas é sin. Ní mór dúinn feabhsú, ar mhaithe lenár ndaoine, agus táimid in ann é a dhéanamh. Is é seo an plean tithíochta is tábhachtaí inniu. Táimid ag infheistiú níos mó airgid ná riamh ar son ár ndaoine; beagnach €50 billiún sna cúig bliana amach romhainn. Cuirfimid úinéireacht tí i lár an bheartais chun tithíocht a cheannach ar phraghas réasúnta agus, don chéad uair, tithíocht a fháil ar cíos ar phraghas réasúnta freisin. Feicfimid níos mó tithíochta sóisialta tógtha ná riamh. Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh a dtithe féin ag daoine. Oibreoidh an plean seo.
Quarterly progress reports will be submitted to the Cabinet committee and to the Government setting out performance against the targets and actions set out in the plan, prepared by a dedicated unit in the Department of the Taoiseach, assisted by the programme management office within my own Department. To keep us on track, the actions in Housing for All will be updated on an annual basis, including timelines, to sustain momentum on delivery during the lifetime of the plan.
Housing for All is the most ambitious housing plan in the history of our State. It sets out, over four pathways, a series of bold actions that rise to the challenge we face. Through pathway 1, it will support home ownership and increase affordability. Pathway 2 will deal with eradicating homelessness, increasing social housing delivery and supporting social inclusion. Pathway 3 is about increasing new housing supply across the board, and importantly, pathway 4 will address vacancy and efficient use of existing stock.
Crucially, however, this plan is backed by historic levels of investment, with in excess of €20 billion available through the Exchequer, the Land Development Agency, LDA, and the Housing Finance Agency, HFA, over the next five years alone. This amounts to over €4 billion in capital per annum. It is the first time we have had a multi-annual plan such as this fully funded. This will provide the sector with the stability and certainty it needs.
Over 300,000 new homes will be built by the end of 2030, including a projected 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable purchase homes and 18,000 cost rental homes. It is the largest State-led building programme in our history, eclipsing even the programmes of de Valera in the 1930s. Of course, the simplicity of that statement belies the complexity of executing the plan. I do not underestimate the challenge ahead but I do believe Housing for All will transform our housing system by removing the constraints that lead to delays and blockages in the provision of quality, affordable housing to buy or rent.
Housing for All puts forward a new vision that places homeownership back in the hands of ordinary working people. The first home scheme will see people buy their home with the help of the Government by bridging the gap between the finance they have and the cost of the home they want. The local authority-led affordable purchase scheme will see homes at an average of €250,000 right across the country. A reformed local authority home loan will see more single people eligible for State-backed mortgages, with much-improved terms. I have already implemented a reduction of the mortgage interest rate by 0.25% for new borrowers under the existing Rebuilding Ireland home loan, RIHL. This lower rate will also apply to loans issued under the reformed local authority home loan.
The affordability measures provided for in this plan will set us on a path to reversing the current trend, which has seen homeownership rates fall to historic lows. I believe in homeownership. Housing for All supports it. It is an honest and just aspiration that should be and is supported by the State. It is supported in this plan.
I recognise that it is cheaper to buy a home than to rent one in several Irish cities. That is how broken our system is right now. Affordability is increasingly challenging for renters who aspire to purchase and who must save a significant deposit while simultaneously paying relatively high rents.
Housing for All lays the foundation for an entirely new housing tenure in Ireland, cost rental, which will be a game changer for rent affordability. Some 10,000 new cost rental homes will be delivered in the period to 2026, with at least 18,000 in total over the course of the plan. The LDA will have a key role in delivery, with targets of rents being at least 25% below market level. The delivery of cost rental at scale will have a stabilising effect on the wider rental market. We have started this already. Our first cost rental tenants are in their homes now.
Leasing is being phased out, and we are empowering local authorities to get back building again. With their approved housing body, AHB, partners, they will deliver an average of 10,000 social homes each year. Local authorities are being funded to acquire land so that they can deliver social and affordable homes at scale. I have already made changes to the reimbursement process for our local authorities. Meath County Council was the first to avail of the new procedural change.
I have assured local authority chief executives and directors of services at the recent housing summits that I hosted that the resources and supports they need, both human and financial, will be provided, particularly to bolster their housing and planning teams to deliver on this ambitious programme.
To ensure a sufficient supply of homes across the country, each local authority has been given housing supply targets. These, together with updated planning guidance, will ensure sufficient land is zoned for housing. The Government will support this by providing additional State lands to the LDA, capable of delivering a further 15,000 homes under Housing for All. In addition, Housing for All tasks the LDA, through Project Tosaigh, with intervening in slow or stalled developments on non-State lands, through an open and transparent process designed to ascertain the potential for it to enter into strategic partnerships with landowners to unlock and accelerate the delivery of affordable homes.
Under Housing for All, the strategic housing development process will be replaced – I am winding it up early – with new planning arrangements for large-scale residential developments. Planning arrangements will go back to the local authorities. Such reforms will make decision-making on these developments more efficient.
The plan also includes modern Kenny report-style powers to ensure the State gets a fairer share of the increase in the value of land resulting from rezoning decisions, and that the community benefits as a result. This will reduce the speculative value of land, which is badly needed. The judicial review process will also be reformed, and planning legislation will be reviewed to ensure the planning system is plan led, has greater public acceptance and reflects the needs of existing and new populations.
In the shorter term, I want to see non-activated planning permissions activated where possible. The estimated "uncommenced" figure in Dublin is around 40,000, representing about four years' housing supply in the capital. That is untenable. I am establishing the Croí Cónaithe cities fund to tackle the affordability and viability barriers to stimulate such activation for apartment developments of four floors or more, above certain densities. These apartments will be for sale to owner-occupiers in our cities at lower price points.
Rural communities will be given greater certainty over building homes in their areas. The measures are targeted, radical and necessary to respond to the challenges we have.
At a time of high housing need, when people are homeless and living in unsuitable accommodation, it is vital that existing vacant homes be brought back into productive use. Housing for All sets out several key actions in this regard, including the establishment of the Croí Cónaithe towns fund for servicing sites to attract people to build their own homes in towns and villages and also to refurbish vacant properties in regional towns and villages. The Government is firmly committed to a town-centre-first approach, which will build upon the ambition set out in Our Rural Future, to support the regeneration, repopulation and development of rural towns and villages across the country. While programmes such as the urban regeneration development fund, URDF, and the rural regeneration development fund, RRDF, are primarily intended to support wider town regeneration, they also facilitate the optimal use and reuse of existing properties.
Only yesterday I was in Navan visiting the Flower Hill quarter, which has received funding just short of €8 million to regenerate it. The funding is part of the €1.3 billion the Government is investing in regional towns and cities, in addition to inner-city Dublin, to generate growth and to bring about redevelopment and regeneration. In this regard, Housing for All commits that further calls for the urban and rural regeneration and development funds will include specific criteria to encourage activation, particularly in respect of vacant properties, and bring stock back into use. This funding will be integrated with proposals on retrofitting and existing supports, such as the Better Energy Homes grant, to ensure the architectural heritage of towns is preserved.
I will also review and extend regulations that exempt certain vacant property premises, such as over-the-shop-type spaces, from requiring planning permission for a change of use for residential purposes right up to 2025. Many areas of towns and villages of all sizes have vacant residential and commercial properties that could and, indeed, should be used. If brought back into use, these properties could provide much-needed homes and add vibrancy to our towns and villages. Promoting residential occupancy in our rural towns and villages is at the heart of our town-centre-first approach and Housing for All.
The delivery of 33,000 homes per year, on average, requires an expansion of the current workforce. Through the actions laid out in Housing for All, the industry will be supported in returning existing workers to full employment, and there will be proactive engagement with international labour where a supply is unavailable locally. There will be a ramp-up in education and training opportunities, including commitments regarding programmes on apprenticeships and the delivery of new courses.
Housing for All focuses on supply-side solutions by freeing up State lands for the delivery of affordable homes, by removing barriers and intervening in slow or stalled developments on non-State lands to unlock and accelerate delivery via the LDA, and by making the construction sector more productive through the construction sector group and the Construction Technology Centre to drive innovation and productivity and reduce residential construction costs.
Despite the pandemic, Government has been focused on progressing major reforms that will accelerate and increase the supply of public, affordable and private housing. We got to work straight away last year, while at the same time developing this plan. We passed the first ever comprehensive Affordable Housing Act and reformed the LDA, giving it a legislative backing and adding to its powers. Just recently, we opened Ireland's first cost-rental homes. We reformed Part V and increased the contribution by developers from 10% to 20% to include affordable housing and cost rental housing; signed the Lisbon Declaration, committing to ending homelessness by 2030; increased grant funding to assist older people and people with disabilities; extended rent pressure zones, RPZs, and limited rent increases to general inflation; introduced five separate tenancy Bills to protect renters through the pandemic; brought 3,600 vacant social homes back into productive use; increased Irish Water funding by more than €100 million; and banned co-living. These actions demonstrate the Government's commitment to fixing our housing system. Housing for All takes that commitment a step further on the pathway to a sustainable housing system by clearly setting out how we plan to address the serious short-, medium- and long-term challenges to 2030.
The good news is that the sector is already responding positively. Commencement notices show that in month of August 2021, we had 2,162 dwellings under way, which is a 38% increase on the same month in 2020. For the 12 months to August 2021, the number of dwellings commenced was 29,565, which was a year-on-year increase of 34%. We need to build on that momentum.
We need to use all tools at our disposal to get to grips with the housing crisis. This means using both public and private sector to deliver homes. Some in the Opposition, however, seem intent on tying one hand behind our back in the biggest fight the State faces. In reality, we need to use every weapon we have. It is too easy to just oppose for opposition's sake but that is what we have. Sinn Féin opposed the LDA and the help-to-buy incentive. It opposes any private land initiatives and has opposed more than 5,000 homes in Dublin city alone. I cannot particularly think of anything the Social Democrats have not opposed in this period.
We need to be ambitious, honest and committed to delivery. That is at the heart of Housing for All. We cannot let one party's perfect be the enemy of the common good or put ideology above pragmatism. We will not get out of the housing crisis by driving into an ideological cul-de-sac. That approach would suffocate building and will only see sites lay idle, waiting lists grow and dreams of ownership die.
This is a plan for the squeezed middle, to give those people the opportunity to buy their own home, while ensuring we have the kind of society that helps those who need it. The breadth of ambition in the plan will help to stop and reverse the decline in homeownership and break the rent trap in which so many people are caught. It will ramp up State building of social homes to help eliminate homelessness and address waiting lists.
The housing system is complex. The scale of the crisis is international. There is no silver bullet and I cannot tell Members that it will be fixed overnight. We have the solutions, ability, drive and determination to make a real impact, however, and we have a plan that is fully financed. The Opposition parties need to reflect on what they are offering beyond sound bites, hypocrisy and ideological dead-ends. As I said, now we have a radical plan that is fully financed, and we need to get on and deliver it. The plan will make a real difference for our people and we are determined, as a Government, to make it work. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.