In terms of social housing delivery, we are continuing to build on the significant progress made between 2016 and 2018 in terms of supporting new households into homes. As of the third quarter of 2019, more than 90,000 additional households across Ireland have received social housing support under Rebuilding Ireland. Looking at this in another way, when we set out with the plan, there were 92,000 households on local authority waiting lists. By the middle of the fourth year of the plan, an equivalent number of households have been assisted.
Of course, we always knew that the number in need of social housing was not a static number and that additional demand would likely arise as our population grows. That is why we planned to deliver almost 140,000 social homes overall. We are on track not only to deliver that number, but most likely to exceed it. Building on a strong pace of delivery in 2018, in the first nine months of this year, just under 18,000 families and individuals were helped into a social housing support across Ireland. This includes almost 4,400 additional social homes provided by local authorities and approved housing bodies under build, acquisition and leasing programmes and a further 13,600 households accommodated under the housing assistance payment, HAP, and the rental accommodation scheme, RAS. This is having an impact. The social housing waiting list has reduced by over 25%, or 22,907 households, compared with the assessment conducted in September 2016.
I stated earlier that creating additional supply is at the core of a successful action plan. Our attention in terms of social housing delivery continues to be firmly placed on accelerating new builds. My Department is in constant contact with local authorities and approved housing bodies to achieve maximum output in this regard. This year we have held a housing summit with local authority chief executives and seven regional events with local authority housing delivery teams. I met with all chief executives again in September in respect of delivery matters following our last committee update.
Last year, while delivering 6% above the overall target, we achieved 97% of the national target for new build activity. It is important to note that this progress has been delivered by a local authority sector which had effectively built no new social homes during the worst years of the financial crisis and which had been stripped of necessary expertise. This year’s targets are even higher. Delivering well against those ambitions is important. The targets are deliberately high because the local authority sector, my Department and I understand the urgency and extent of the challenge. The Department and I have provided the necessary resources to allow the local authority sector to deliver. I have been clear with local authorities that risks of slippage, delay and non-delivery must be mitigated. Projects need to secure early agreement at council and must come forward to my Department for approval on a continuous basis and get on site without delay. Crucially, projects must be carefully managed to completion so we can deliver the homes people need.
Delivery of homes is a complex issue and local authorities need expertise and support. That is why I have agreed with the County and City Managers Association that the housing delivery office, initially launched within my Department, should transition to the Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, to become a resource embedded in the sector dedicated to supporting local authorities achieve maximum potential. Local authorities have also increased staffing numbers in their housing departments to deliver on increased demands. Since 2016, an additional 764 posts have been sanctioned by my Department including 217 in this year alone. There are now almost 3,800 people working to deliver homes in our city and county councils.
Our social housing delivery in 2020 will be aided by the completion of the first homes under the social housing public private partnership programme. Homes in the first bundle of sites will begin to become available from the second quarter, at locations such as Dunleer in County Louth and Naas in County Kildare. Just last month, we signed the contract for the second bundle of eight sites under this programme. Construction has already commenced on these additional 465 homes across counties Cork, Clare, Galway, Kildare, Roscommon and Waterford. Under this model of delivery, a private partner designs, builds and manages each social housing development for 25 years; the land remains with the relevant local authority and all the homes revert to council ownership at the end of the contract.
In the 12 months to the end of September 2019, 23,554 new homes became available for use, an increase of 15% on the previous 12 months. Taking account of leading indicators of activity, such as commencement notices and planning permissions, as well as data on economic activity in the residential sector, we remain on track to reach our targets. The latest data for the number of new homes granted planning permission are also very encouraging. In the year to the end of June 2019, permission was granted for almost 32,000 new homes. In addition, our fast-track planning process is working well. Last week, I signed an order extending the strategic housing development arrangements until the end of 2021, and my officials are working on legislation to implement a use it or lose it provision, under which planning permission will lapse if substantial construction works do not get under way within 18 months of permission being granted. To date, 20,242 houses and apartments and 7,890 student bed spaces have been approved under this process.
The Government is committed to ensuring that the new homes are more accessible and affordable. The target is for the delivery of at least 10,000 affordable homes to buy or rent via local authorities over the medium term. Affordable homes to buy or rent are aimed specifically at lower to middle-income earners who are first-time buyers. In terms of more affordable purchase properties being made available, the primary legislation has been enacted and the arrangements for the affordable dwelling purchase scheme are currently being drafted. To date, I have approved 23 local authority schemes of priority and my Department is working with the remaining local authorities to bring this process to conclusion.
Importantly, new measures introduced under Rebuilding Ireland, including the €310 million serviced sites fund, SSF, are specifically targeted at supporting local authorities to deliver more affordable homes. Thus far I have approved funding of €127 million overall to enable the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes for purchase under the scheme across 14 local authority areas. I expect infrastructure works on these projects to begin as soon as possible and delivery of affordable homes from next year onwards. I am glad to say that one of the first sites that is benefitting from SSF investment is at Enniskerry Road in Dublin, where it is supporting the development of 50 homes under a cost-rental model. Builders went on site in this project in August and I have seen for myself that good progress is being made. The grant support provided by Government, combined with the co-operation of many organisations, means that homes in Enniskerry Road will be made available at significantly below market prices for the area. Lessons learned from this development and other pathfinder cost-rental pilot sites will inform the future development of cost rental in Ireland.
More recently, the sod was turned on the second SSF scheme, and the first that will deliver affordable homes to purchase, at Boherboy, Mayfield, Cork city, where 116 new energy-efficient two and three-bedroom homes will be delivered in five phases. The first phase will be delivered next year and homes will range in price from €198,000 to €223,000. It should be noted that, in addition to new homes being made available under the terms of the affordable purchase scheme and cost rental at prices which represent a significant discount on market norms, households have also been supported through other key Government affordability initiatives. These include the Rebuilding Ireland home loan and the help-to-buy scheme which have helped addressed the housing needs of more than 16,500 households.
I would also like to take this opportunity to inform the committee of progress with regard to legislative developments in this sphere. The Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Bill 2019 was passed by the Dáil last week and is progressing through the Seanad. I acknowledge the positive and co-operative engagement from members of this committee with this important legislation. It will strengthen governance and the financial viability of the approved housing body sector. It will safeguard the significant public investment being made in the delivery of social housing by approved housing bodies and provide assurance to tenants, the public and potential investors that the sector is well regulated.
With regard to the rental sector, the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 was passed earlier this year. The majority of provisions have come into operation, with the remaining provisions requiring the annual registration of tenancies to commence in early 2020. Following commencement of the relevant provisions, on the 4 June 2019, I designated a further 21 new local electoral areas across 12 counties using the revised rent pressure zone, RPZ, criteria. With these designations, an estimated 68.4% of tenancies are now in RPZs. It should be noted that it is my intention to advance a second rental Bill shortly, which will further enhance tenancies protections, including in the context of receivership situations.
In terms of Brexit, like all public bodies, my Department will continue to work with our partners across Government and the wider sector to ensure that the necessary arrangements will be in place to deal with issues that may arise. As I mentioned in my last engagement with the committee, we have been working with the construction sector, particularly in the area of construction products and the need to have notified bodies located in the European Union for products that are subject to construction products regulation. We will continue our preparations and work with the key stakeholders on issues arising in terms of housing provision and delivery in the context of Brexit.
I thank the committee for the invitation today. I will, of course, be happy to address any questions that members may have.