The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 introduced new temporary streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHD) - i.e. developments of 100 housing units or more or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more - to be made directly to An Bord Pleanala for determination instead of having to be submitted in the first instance to the local planning authority with the possibility of subsequent appeal to the Board. These arrangements came into operation on 3 July 2017.
The primary purpose of the SHD arrangements is to speed up the planning decision-making process, thereby providing greater planning certainty for developers in terms of the timelines within which proposals for such developments can be determined, while simultaneously fully respecting the statutory requirements for public consultation in respect of such proposals.
Since the new SHD arrangements came into operation up until 28 February 2019, the Board had received 65 SHD applications and had decided 43 cases, 22 of which related to development projects in Dublin. The Dublin SHD projects in respect of which planning permission has been granted amount to a total of 4,120 houses and apartments (1,226 houses, 2,894 apartments) and 3,636 student accommodation bed spaces.
With regard to affordability, one of the Government’s key priorities is to address issues of housing affordability, including for low to middle-income households and workers. A multi-stranded approach is being taken to support such households in achieving home ownership, particularly those households earning annual gross incomes up to €50,000 for single applicants and €75,000 for dual applicants.
In terms of affordable purchase, I commenced the relevant provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 to provide a statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase. I also made regulations last month on foot of which local authorities are now moving ahead to develop schemes of priority for the allocation of affordable housing in due course.
The new scheme will be set in the context of moderating growth in house prices and rental levels in the market and will complement other key Government affordability initiatives. These include the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, which has seen 720 loans to a total value of some €127.5m drawn down, and the Help to Buy scheme, under which some 10,500 applications, to a value of some €153m, have been approved.
In order to support the affordable housing programmes of local authorities, the Government has committed €310 million, over the three years 2019 to 2021, under the Serviced Sites Fund to support the provision of 6,200 affordable homes to purchase or rent. An initial 10 projects, with the potential for 1,400 affordable homes, have already been approved with an allocation of €43 million under the first call for proposals and a second call for further projects has now issued to 19 local authorities where economic assessments have been carried out by the local authorities concerned and affordability issues have been identified.
In addition, approximately 2,350 affordable homes will be delivered on mainly publicly owned lands supported through the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, while 5,600 further homes will benefit from a LIHAF-related cost reduction, some of which are already coming to market. The work of the Land Development Agency will also be of crucial importance in terms of delivering more affordable housing. The initial portfolio of sites that the Agency has access to will have the potential, over the short to medium term, to deliver 3,000 affordable homes in line with the Government policy of achieving 30% affordable housing on State lands generally.
In parallel, the Dublin local authorities continue to progress a number of other significant housing projects on publicly owned lands, including the redevelopment of O'Devaney Gardens and a site at Oscar Traynor Road in Dublin City, yielding approximately 280 affordable homes. In addition, 380 cost rental homes will be delivered between projects at the former St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore and at Enniskerry Road in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown.