I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 to 309, inclusive, 311, 312 and 345 together.
I refer to the reply to Question No. 83 on today's Order Paper, which outlines the position with regard to the development of an affordable rental scheme, to be based on a cost rental model.
In addition, the policy aim in relation to affordable rental is to enable local authorities, in urban areas of high demand, to facilitate long-term affordable residential accommodation for low- to moderate-income households. Through releasing the value of their land, the cost of providing rental units can be reduced by lowering the initial investment and development costs for providers. These providers could be Approved Housing Bodies or private entities.
One of the main objectives of the Affordable Rental Scheme is to enhance the capacity of the rented sector to provide quality and affordable accommodation for households currently paying a disproportionate amount of disposable income on rent. Cost rental has similar objectives but is much broader in scope, with the model based on rents that reflect the cost of delivery of a home, rather than based on the prevailing market rent. Rents are set at levels to recover the construction costs and to facilitate the management and administration of developments, but with only a minimal profit margin included. This provides greater certainty around the rent, regardless of what is happening in the market.
The piloting of the Affordable Rental Scheme, by the Housing Agency and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council at Enniskerry Road, provides an opportunity to prove some of the key concepts underpinning cost rental more broadly, constituting a vital step in the longer-term objective of developing a cost rental option for the wider rental sector. The cost rental sector can provide accommodation in mixed-tenure developments for social tenants, who receive rent support, and other tenants who pay the full cost rent.
I expect local authorities to be proactive in developing and bringing forward innovative concepts regarding the use of their land for the delivery of both affordable homes for purchase and rent. Therefore, I have asked each local authority to furnish a report to me by mid-February, setting out their plans for delivery, especially those in main urban centres.
In terms of the timeline for delivery, like all publicly funded construction projects, the development of local authority sites for cost rental homes must comply with the Government’s Capital Works Management Framework and procurement rules, the objectives of which are to ensure greater cost certainty, better value for money and financial accountability.