Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (102)

Catherine Connolly


102. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the analysis his Department has carried out into the effectiveness of the strategic housing development process in the provision of social and affordable housing; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the strategic housing development process would result in the proliferation of student beds and co-living rather than housing that meets local need; if not, the reason therefore; if so, the reason the policy was progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38366/20]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act, 2016 introduced new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for Strategic Housing 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 Pleanála for determination.

Under planning legislation, the decision as to whether to grant permission on a strategic housing development planning application, with or without conditions, is a matter for the Board. In making decisions on a planning application the Board must consider the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, having regard to the provisions of the development plan, any submissions or observations received from the public and the statutory consultees, and any relevant Ministerial or Government policies, including any guidelines issued by my Department.

Under Section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the 2000 Act), I, as Minister, am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or the Board is or may be concerned.

Since the new SHD arrangements came into operation up until end October 2020, the Board had received 265 SHD applications and had decided 230 cases. The Board had granted permission in 168 cases in respect of a total of 44,042 housing units (comprising 12,229 houses, 24,839 apartments and 6,974 build to rent), as well as 195 shared accommodation units and 11,934 student bed spaces under the SHD arrangements. Student accommodation, for which there is a pressing need, accounts for just 21% of housing units and bed spaces granted permission with the vast majority of permissions granted relating to housing units.

Strategic Housing Developments are subject to the social housing obligations as required under section 96 the 2000 Act.

In relation to housing affordability generally, the total funding being made available for the delivery of housing programmes was €3.3 billion in Budget 2021. From this sum, €468 million has been specifically provided to support housing affordability measures. This includes the Serviced Sites Fund, the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan and the Land Development Agency (LDA).

In addition to these programmes, and to deliver on our Programme for Government commitments to provide measures for good-quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price, €110 million has been ring-fenced for a new national Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme and a new Cost Rental Equity Loan facility to help deliver Cost Rental homes both of which will begin in 2021.

€75 million will be allocated to the affordable purchase shared equity scheme. I intend to target the scheme at first time buyers, who are seeking to buy a new home but who cannot quite secure the full mortgage amount to do so at the present time. Subject to the final qualifying criteria, the scheme would see the State take a limited equity stake in a property, in order to help more people meet the cost of buying a new home with their available mortgage.

To this end, significant preparatory work has already been carried out by my Department working primarily with the Housing Agency and the Department of Finance. Intensive engagement continues with key stakeholders informing the final detailed parameters of the scheme, as well as with home builders to seek to increase the output of new homes in response to the new scheme.

In addition, €35m has been allocated to the new Cost Rental Equity Loan (CREL) facility to support Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to deliver Cost Rental housing at scale from next year. Added to the 50 Cost Rental homes that it is projected will be delivered in Enniskerry Road, Stepaside in Q3 2021, it will accelerate delivery in this new sector in advance of the Land Development Agency's planned future output and the work of local authorities. This scheme will leverage the proven expertise and capacity of the AHBs, demonstrated in their development and management of social housing units.

The CREL scheme will see financing made available to AHBs on favourable terms to cover 30% of the costs for Cost Rental homes. CREL funding will be provided on similar terms to the existing Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF) model which is extensively used by AHBs for social housing. In terms of the remaining 70% of capital costs, subject to appropriate conditions, it is anticipated that long term competitive financing will be made available to the AHBs by the Housing Finance Agency. This will allow cost-covering rents to be set a lower level and so making them more affordable for tenants. Further details on the scheme will be announced in due course.

It is intended to bring forward any necessary provisions to underpin these schemes in a forthcoming Affordable Housing Bill.