I propose to take Questions Nos. 334 to 336, inclusive, together.
The Government’s 2011 Housing Policy Statement clearly outlines that the priority for Government is to meet the most acute needs of households applying for social housing support. The Government is responding to these needs through a variety of mechanisms and more flexible funding models. To maximise the social housing gain from constrained resources, the social housing leasing initiative and the Rental Accommodation Scheme each play their part and I am fully committed to capturing social housing gain from private developments. Alongside expanding the role of the Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in terms of acquisitions and construction, other mechanisms will include options to purchase within the leasing model and build to lease.
The Housing Agency is developing a strategy, in collaboration with my Department, for the utilisation of lands in its ownership which will support Government policies in developing sustainable communities. This will involve consultation with the relevant local authority and other appropriate parties. The proper management of all State land is critical; accordingly, both lands that have been transferred to the Housing Agency and local authority held lands suitable for development will be the first sites considered in any targeted social housing building programme developed in the years ahead.
This year, it is intended that in the region of 5,000 new social housing units will be delivered across all social housing supply routes including local authority and voluntary housing construction programmes, the Rental Accommodation Scheme and the Social Housing Leasing initiative. Earlier this year, I announced some 1,000 new social housing construction starts over the 2014-2015 period. Earlier today, I announced details of a €68 million investment in new construction projects which will see some 449 new houses constructed at 56 locations around the country over the next two years. I intend to announce details of a new €35 million voluntary housing construction programme early in Quarter 2 which will see some 250 special needs housing units commencing construction over the next two years. Under the national Regeneration Programme, some €70 million is being invested this year in the refurbishment of houses and the construction of replacement homes. Around 350 new housing starts are anticipated up to end 2015.
In 2014, funding for housing, at over €587m, is effectively maintained at 2013 levels. This includes a €50 million capital stimulus to support construction and related programmes, primarily in the housing area, including €30 million to recommence a State house building programme; €10 million for an unfinished housing estate resolution project; and €10 million for housing adaptation grants. In addition, a special investment of €15 million for the retrofitting of boarded-up local authority houses is intended to bring 400 homes back into productive use.
The Homelessness Oversight Group, which I established in 2013 to review progress on our Homelessness Policy Statement, has submitted its first report to me, and this is available on my Department's website. The report considered the supply and access to housing units throughout the country, and the Government has approved the establishment of a Homelessness Policy Implementation Team and an implementation unit tasked with delivery of its recommendations. I remain committed to continuing to develop innovative and sustainable approaches to the provision of social housing.