The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) has been developed to assist private property owners and local authorities or Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to harness the accommodation potential that exists in certain vacant dwellings across Ireland. The RLS was established on a pilot basis in Waterford and Carlow local authorities in October 2016 and expanded nationwide from 23 February 2017.
The scheme is targeted at owners of vacant dwellings, who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their dwellings up to the required standard for rental property. Subject to the suitability of the dwelling for social housing, and the agreement of the property owner, the cost of the necessary repairs will be met upfront by the local authority or an approved housing body (AHB).
I can confirm that at the end of 2017, a total of 820 applications had been received under the scheme. Local authorities were engaging with the property owners in relation to 573 properties, 31 agreements for lease had been signed and 9 homes had been delivered and tenanted. A detailed breakdown of the RLS scheme data up to end Q4 2017 is available on my Department’s website at the following link:
It is clear from end 2017 output, that RLS has not yet delivered the level of new social housing homes envisaged. I have reviewed the operation of the scheme, as part of the review of Rebuilding Ireland, and I have concluded that the scheme has significant potential but there are areas where it can be improved to make it more attractive and effective. At the Housing Summit held on 22 January 2018, local authority Chief Executives were advised that, from 1 February 2018, a number of key changes were being made to the scheme. These include:
- a reduction in the minimum lease term required from 10 to 5 years;
- increasing the proportion of market rent available to property owners where they take on more responsibilities under the tenancy, meaning that up to 92% of market rent will be available; and
- provision of additional funding for property owners, over and above the current €40,000 limit, where the dwelling is a bedsit type dwelling being brought into compliance with the Standards for Rented Houses Regulations and made available for social housing.
Funding of €32m is available for RLS for 2018 with an overall target of 800 dwellings. The target number of social houses to be delivered across all delivery mechanisms in each Local Authority area out to 2021 was confirmed to each Local Authority on 5 January 2018, with a particular focus on 2018 delivery. Each Local Authority Chief Executive is now required to furnish a report confirming and setting out how their Local Authority will deliver on its social housing target over the coming years. The targets and details of the delivery programme of each Local Authority will then be published.