Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (2953, 2986)

Robert Troy

Question:

2953. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the affordable housing scheme will be open to applicants. [33943/19]

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Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

2986. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of affordable houses built under an affordable housing scheme which would not include standard local authority housing, HAP or rent supplement in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019 by scheme. [34534/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2953 and 2986 together.

In June 2018, I commenced Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which now places affordable housing on a statutory basis.

The new affordable housing for purchase scheme replaces the time-limited claw-back which applied under the various previous affordable housing schemes. Under this scheme, a discount of up to 40% may be provided by the local authority to the prospective purchaser of an affordable home. The local authority will retain a charge equivalent to the discount, and the household must repay the charge at re-sale or during the charged period. The scheme applies to new homes on local authority land, and is targeted at low to middle-income households. The equity charge will be repaid by the purchaser into a new Affordable Dwellings Fund, which will be administered by the Housing Finance Agency and used to fund more affordable housing.

One of the mechanisms available to local authorities to help them deliver affordable housing options is the Serviced Site Fund (SSF). Under the SSF, €310 million is being made available over a three year period, from 2019 to 2021, to facilitate the delivery of infrastructure intended to support the delivery of approximately 6,000 affordable homes.

The first call for proposals under the SSF in June 2018 was targeted at 11 local authorities, where it was identified that the greatest affordability pressures exist. I issued approval in principle in December 2018 for funding for 10 infrastructure projects in Dublin and Cork with €43 million funding, which will support the delivery of 1,400 affordable homes. The overall cost and timing of delivery for these projects is contingent upon the completion of planning and procurement in the first instance, and local authorities are working to achieve delivery as quickly as possible.

Following the first call under the SSF, and in order to target affordable interventions, local authorities were asked to complete financial/economic assessments of each of their sites to assess whether the provision of affordable homes is economically viable. Local authorities were also asked to assess the broader housing affordability within their area.

A second call for proposals under the SSF issued to 19 local authorities based on the aforementioned economic assessments. The closing date for returns was 17 May 2019 and 31 submissions were received from 15 local authorities. These are currently being assessed by my Department and I intend to issue approvals under this second call in the coming weeks.

With regards to applying for affordable housing, information on individual schemes will be made available on the Rebuilding Ireland Website, http://rebuildingireland.ie/, as well as local authority websites, as the schemes are progressed.

In addition to the SSF, a key initiative of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF). LIHAF is primarily designed to fund the provision of public off-site infrastructure to relieve critical infrastructure blockages and enable housing developments to be built at scale and in key areas. Funding of €200m was allocated under LIHAF for 30 approved infrastructure projects to support the delivery of approximately 20,000 new homes, approximately 6,000 of which would be provided with a reduction on open market prices. The bulk of these homes should be delivered by end 2021. To date, a total of some €21.7m of the Exchequer element of LIHAF funding has been drawn-down by local authorities.

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.

Furthermore, a new Cost Rental initiative is currently being developed, where the rents charged are limited to covering the cost of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes. It aims to offer moderate-income households the choice of a more affordable and stable form of rental tenure. A Cost Rental Working Group has been convened to develop an overall national policy and approach to delivery. The European Investment Bank has been engaged on a research project to support my Department in its work and help identify the optimum operational and financial model for Cost Rental in Ireland. In addition, the Department is co-ordinating with a number of bodies to progress Cost Rental delivery, including the Land Development Agency (LDA), which is examining the potential to deliver Cost Rental homes at scale from its land portfolio and the broader State land bank. Two Cost Rental pilot projects are currently in development at Enniskerry Road, in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, and St. Michael’s Estate, in Inchicore, with construction commencing at the Enniskerry Road site at the end of June.

These schemes will complement other key Government affordability initiatives, such as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan and the Help to Buy Scheme, which have supported some 13,000 households.