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Approved Housing Bodies

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 9 September 2020

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Questions (129)

Eoin Ó Broin


129. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of his plans to secure the reclassification of approved housing bodies as off-balance sheet. [22823/20]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In April 2018 the Department of Finance published the Stability Programme Update for 2018 which was the first set of fiscal projections produced by that Department to incorporate the CSO decision to reclassify the majority of Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) as part of the local government sector. This was an important first step in the Government's assessment as to the impact of the Eurostat decision. The Department of Finance undertook an analysis of the implications for General Government Expenditure and General Government Debt and concluded that there are no direct Exchequer implications and the projections do not present any particular issue in the context of the fiscal rules.

In addition, my Department engaged with AHB sector representative bodies (namely, the Irish Council for Social Housing and the Housing Alliance) to examine proposals, including proposals which were presented by those bodies, as a possible means to achieve reclassification. The proposals are complex as they cut across a wide range of social housing policy issues and require extensive analysis.

An important part of this exercise is to examine the feasibility of measures which can be taken to develop the AHB sector in such as way so that it could be reclassified as being 'off-balance sheet', without undermining the foundations of social housing policy. In this context, it must be accepted that this will more likely be a more longer term objective.

Constructive discussions took place with AHB representative bodies on a number of occasions and these informed a pathway for dealing with the issues involved. It was agreed that a working group would be established to consider these issues further.

The first meeting of the AHB Classification Working Group took place on 24 June 2020. The group comprises representatives from:

- My Department;

- Department of Finance;

- The Housing Agency;

- The Housing Finance Agency;

- Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH); and

- The Housing Alliance

The group is tasked with examining and making recommendations in relation to the following:

- Clarify the impact of the CSO’s classification decision on General Government Debt and General Government Expenditure;

- Assess the impact of the classification decision on the AHB sector (administrative, reporting, Tiers of AHBs, etc.) and assess the impact on delivery of housing under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan; and

- Examine the detailed sectoral proposals to achieve reclassification in the context of social housing policy more generally.

The group is committed to working constructively to address this complex issue, in line with the commitment set out in the Programme for Government Our Shared Future.

Notwithstanding the decision by Eurostat, the Government continues to see a central role for the voluntary housing sector in contributing to the delivery of social housing. It is committed to using all mechanisms and schemes, including through the AHB sector, to ensure that momentum is maintained towards meeting the ambitious 50,000 social housing target. This statistical classification will not affect these ambitious plans.