Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Ceisteanna (87)

Catherine Murphy


87. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which he plans to improve the supply of newly built local authority social and affordable housing; the reason for the low output from this sector in recent years; the targets he is now working to for this sector; and the way in which such homes will be delivered. [19840/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland, together with initiatives announced on foot of the targeted review of progress which was undertaken last year, as well as additional measures announced under Budget 2018, provides a robust framework for addressing the housing and homelessness challenges we face.

One of the key outcomes of the second Housing Summit with local authority Chief Executives held earlier this year was a commitment to drive greater transparency and accountability at individual local authority level on the delivery of the targets under Rebuilding Ireland. On foot of a detailed process of engagement since then between my Department and individual local authorities, I have now advised local authorities of the social housing targets for 2018 and also for the multi-annual period to 2021.

Under the targets announced, a minimum of 40,700 homes will be delivered during the 4 year period to end-2021, including over 7,800 this year alone. Taking account of the progress already made in 2016 and 2017, this will ensure that the 50,000 social housing home target under Rebuilding Ireland will be met. In addition, the Housing Assistance Payment and Rental Accommodation Schemes will continue to play an important part in meeting social housing needs, with approximately 18,000 households targeted for support under these schemes in 2018.

My Department's focus, and that of all delivery agents, will remain on implementation and delivery to ensure that the range of objectives and targets set are achieved. A wide range of delivery mechanisms and a funding commitment of €6 billion over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland have been put in place to support the achievement of these targets.

While it is recognised that the pace of delivery, particularly under build activity, may vary from local authority to local authority, the range of delivery options available provide the necessary resources for local authorities and I expect all stakeholders to be fully mobilised towards meeting the target for 2018, and subsequent years.

Notwithstanding the genuine challenges that arise with construction projects of all types, we need to ensure that progress is made to ensure delivery as quickly as possible and we are also keen to harness appropriate opportunities to deliver on additional build units in 2018, including through turnkey schemes.

In direct response to the housing challenge and in order to support housing authorities deliver on their responsibilities and obligations, a number of dedicated structures have been put in place to support Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) and Local Authorities to maximise their delivery potential and to harness the best that is available in their functional areas, including for example:

- A dedicated Housing Delivery Office established within my Department to support local authorities, AHBs and all stakeholders involved in the delivery of key elements of the ambitious private and social housing targets in Rebuilding Ireland; and

- The AHB Services Unit, established in the Housing Agency, to support and facilitate AHBs by co-ordinating on a number of key areas.

In addition, my Department has worked with local authorities to review the processes and procedures for the approval of social housing construction projects and has agreed an overall target programme of 59 weeks for progressing typical social housing construction projects from initial project conception through design, planning and procurement up to contractors going on site.

More detailed guidelines have been prepared in relation to submissions to be made to my Department. The single-stage approval process for projects under €2 million has been revised and my Department is working with local authorities to increase take-up. Rapid build approaches are also increasingly being used, which can save time in relation to design, procurement and construction of new social housing.

My Department also has continuous contact with local authorities around all forms of housing delivery, including regular technical meetings to review progress in respect of social housing projects and to clear any blockages, as swiftly as possible.

The delivery of more affordable homes, to buy or rent, is a major priority for Government, focusing in particular on the cities of Dublin, Galway and Cork, where people are facing the greatest affordability challenge. New measures announced in January 2018 are specifically targeted at delivering more affordable homes and have the potential to deliver more than 3,000 new affordable homes to buy or rent initially, with a target delivery of at least 10,000 new affordable homes in the medium to longer term. The emphasis initially will be on delivering affordable homes from the public land bank in urban areas where affordability issues are greatest. Recognising that there are enabling infrastructure requirements on some sites, I am also providing Exchequer funding of €25 million, over 2018 and 2019, as a key contribution towards the delivery of more affordable housing from local authority land.

In terms of affordable purchase, the new Scheme will be based on the relevant provisions of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which will be commenced shortly, and enabling regulations which are in preparation. At that point, the elected members of each local authority will be responsible for determining the order of priority to be accorded to eligible households, in line with the national scheme's framework. In the meantime, Dublin City Council has a number of major ready-to-go sites being advanced through procurement. The elected members of the City Council have determined that 20% of the homes on sites at Infirmary Road and Oscar Traynor Road will be made available to eligible households for affordable purchase. Proposals are also advancing for the redevelopment of the St. Michael's Estate site in Inchicore.

In addition, against the background of the affordability pressures which currently exist in the rental market, the Government is determined to make cost rental a major part of the Irish housing system, similar to the role it plays in many other European countries. Under this approach, 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. A pilot project is currently being progressed by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, at Enniskerry Road in Dundrum, in conjunction with the Housing Agency and Approved Housing Bodies, using land owned by the Agency.

Learning from the initial experiences in the pilot scheme, my Department is working with the European Investment Bank and other key stakeholders with a view to developing the first major cost rental project in Dublin city. Initial feasibility analysis is underway with a view to identifying a major project for immediate progression, with a broader programme of cost rental projects across Dublin and other cities to follow.

While the development of any residential land in housing authority ownership is in the first instance a matter for the local authority concerned, including its elected members, I want to see local authorities realise new social and affordable homes from their lands without delay, with particular emphasis on prioritising those sites with the greatest potential to deliver housing at scale, in the short to medium term.