The Government has set out an ambitious set of targets for the delivery of social housing to the period to 2021 in its multi-faceted plan Rebuilding Ireland. A commitment to deliver 50,000 new social housing units through a range of delivery mechanisms has been supported by a multi-annual Exchequer commitment totalling €6.5 billion over the period. These targets will be achieved using a combination of building, purchasing and leasing high quality properties to meet the needs of households on local authority waiting lists around the country.
10,000 of these units will be leased by local authorities and approved housing bodies (AHBs) under leasing arrangements from a range of different sources. 3,500 are targeted to be achieved using the Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) which harnesses the potential of existing vacant stock and brings it back into use for social housing. The remaining 6,500 properties to be leased are intended to be secured under long-term lease arrangements from a variety of sources which will include existing housing stock and newly built units.
Rental payments in respect of leases are either guaranteed to the owner by the local authority or by the AHB. In addition, where the property is leased from the owner by an AHB, and made available to the local authority for social housing, the payments are guaranteed to the AHB by the relevant local authority under a Payment and Availability (P&A) Agreement. In both cases, the local authority is committed to contractual lease payments to the owner regardless of vacancy periods.
In all cases, the relevant local authority makes payments to the property owner in accordance with the terms of the lease, or to the AHB in accordance with the P&A agreement, with the full costs being recouped to the local authority, in advance, from my Department on a quarterly basis. My Department has committed to these payments on an ongoing basis to allow local authorities and AHBs to enter long-term leases with private landlords.
Local authorities are statutory bodies under the Local Government Act 2001 and other enactments; all leases and P&A agreements entered into by local authorities are either approved by my Department or entered into with delegated authority from my Department, and central Government supports local authorities in meeting their obligations.
Funding for my Department's leasing programme, including the Enhanced Lease, is provided to local authorities via the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP). The State’s expenditure is made up of Voted and Non-Voted Current and Capital expenditure. The SHCEP scheme is part of my Department’s Voted Current expenditure. An allocation of €115 million, which includes €83.4 million in respect of continuing contractual commitments, has been secured for SHCEP in 2018. This is an increase of €31 million compared to 2017. It should be noted that the SHCEP scheme has been in place since 2009 and the State has never defaulted on current expenditure requirements by failing to make the necessary appropriation in any given year. Existing liabilities will continue to have first call in the annual allocation of budgets.