The Government’s housing policy statement, published in June 2011, clearly identifies that the priority for Government will be to meet the most acute needs of households applying for social housing support. It also recognises the approved housing body sector as a key partner in the delivery of social housing solutions for low-income families and persons with specific categories of housing need.
Delivery of social housing will be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and leasing, but the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies (AHBs) for construction and acquisition. In this regard, the Housing Finance Agency has received eighteen applications from AHBs for Certified Borrower status and awarded such status to five bodies, with a number of others currently being assessed. The Agency has approved six applications for 128 social housing units in total (at a valuation of €11.6 million).
I am conscious that the move from capital funded programmes of construction and acquisition by AHBs to more revenue funded options presents challenges for them. I intend to develop an enabling regulatory framework for the sector that will provide support and assurance both to the sector itself and to its external partners as it takes on the expanded role envisaged for it by Government and to underline its status as a viable and attractive investment opportunity for financial institutions. My Department is actively working with the sector on the development of a voluntary code which I expect most bodies will endorse. This code, which should be finalised and agreed in the coming months, will serve as a learning opportunity for the sector and for my Department as we develop a longer-term statutory framework that will best support the enhanced role of AHBs.
Under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS), funding of up to 100% of the approved cost is available for the provision of accommodation to meet the needs of persons with specific categories of housing need including older people, people with an intellectual, physical or mental health disability, the homeless, returning emigrants and victims of domestic violence. My Department’s involvement with these voluntary and co-operative housing schemes relates primarily to the provision of funds for individual projects. The detailed administration of the schemes, and the certification that projects comply with the terms and conditions of the funding schemes, are the responsibility of the relevant local authority.
In early 2012, some €46 million in CAS funding was allocated to local authorities in respect of existing commitments on CAS projects then underway. In July I announced details of a €35 million programme of special needs housing provision which is intended to deliver some 377 housing units at 55 locations across the country. Approvals were based on local housing need and on the priority afforded to individual proposals by local authorities.
Projected levels of activity in 2013 will be subject to the financial provision for housing determined in the context of the 2013 Estimates.