Housing action plan: Government’s ambitious plan comprises five main pillars

The Focus Ireland Centre in Temple Bar, Dublin

The Government’s housing plan is set out in five specific pillars.

The first pillar is to address homelessness, the second pillar is to accelerate social housing, the building of more homes is pillar three, improving the rental sector is pillar four, and utilising existing housing is the fifth and final pillar.

Under each pillar comes specific actions, objectives, the timeline for delivery and what government agency or department is responsible for seeing the aim through to fruition.

Broadly speaking, the two main aims of the plan are to build 25,000 homes a year by 2020 and to fund 47,000 new social housing units by 2021, at a total cost of €5.35bn.

In terms of the first pillar, addressing homelessness, the plans sets out 21 key actions.

One of these actions is to provide 1,500 new units to move the existing group of families out of emergency accommodation in hotels as quickly as possible.

The Government aims to have 200 new units made available to homeless families by the end of 2016, 800 in 2017 and a further 500 in 2018.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive will be involved in carrying out this objective.

Another action sees the additional provision of emergency refuge accommodation for victims of domestic abuse. A new facility will also be created to accommodate pregnant women who are homeless.

The mental health of homeless people is also being addressed in the plan, with an addiction management service being rolled out and a total allocation of €6m in the next Budget. This step is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

A man begging on the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin.
A man begging on the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin.

For pillar two, the acceleration of social housing, the plan has 24 actions to be carried out.

The first action is to deliver 47,000 homes by 2021 with the €5.35bn of funding. This will be focused on new direct-build projects by local authorities.

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) are involved in another action to deliver 5,000 social houses over a five-year period. This objective sees the NTMA work with the private sector to create a funding vehicle to deliver social and private housing by acquiring properties for long term leasing and by activating new residential construction.

A major action under this pillar relates to legislation changes for rapid planning procedures.

The Government says it will legislate to streamline Part 8 (where a project is being progressed by a local authority) processes. This will “expedite the commencement and delivery” of the planned housing projects, reads the report.

Pillar three, which aims to build new homes, has 12 actions.

Housing action plan: Government’s ambitious plan comprises five main pillars

The Government said it is going to establish a €200m Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund to deliver housing of up to 20,000 units by 2020.

A major objective, which relates to the construction sector, is working with the NTMA to develop a proposal to provide commercial funding to developers for large development sites.

Another major aim is the fast-tracking of large scale residential development planning applications. The Government says it will legislate to allow for larger housing development applications (100+ units). These applications will be made directly to An Bord Pleanala.

An Bord Pleanala is also set to prioritise the determination of all planning appeals for large scale developments. This is to be done within an 18 to 20-week period. The roll-out of e-planning is also being looked at.

In terms of pillar four and improving the rental sector, there are 13 actions. The number one action here is to increase supply and support a stable rental sector. This pillar also extends to students who are renting, whereby a national policy for appropriate on and off-campus accommodation will be developed.

The final pillar aims to utilise existing housing through 14 definitive actions.

A National Vacant Housing Re-Use strategy will be developed, according to the data gathered from the Census 2016, with a register of vacant units being compiled nationally.

The Housing Agency will be funded to the tune of €70m to acquire suitable portfolios of vacant properties under this pillar.

Finally, planning legislation to allow for the change of use of a vacant commercial units to a residential unit, will be reviewed.

Implementation

- Noel Baker

Homeless support organisations and charities have backed the new Housing Action Plan but warned that implementation is key to its success.

Simon Communities of Ireland spokeswoman Niamh Randall said the plan is welcome but more detail is needed and that the promise to increase Housing Assistance Payment for homeless households urgently needs to be extended nationally.

Niamh Randall
Niamh Randall

Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said the Government plans are “a broad framework for action rather than a detailed action plan”.

“It is positive that the plan provides direction but the litmus test will be when we see roofs over people’s heads — be this through bricks and mortar by building social housing or by taking the urgent steps required to provide a better private rented sector,” he said.

Homeless charity Depaul welcomed the plan, with CEO Kerry Anthony pinpointing the commitment to sufficient emergency beds to cater for people who are at risk of sleeping rough and the measures to improve outcomes for homeless children and families in emergency accommodation by facilitating access to cooking and washing facilities and childcare.

Kerry Anthony
Kerry Anthony

National housing charity Threshold also lent support. Chairwoman Aideen Hayden said: “These measures should not be put on the long finger and should be prioritised as a matter of urgency.”

Aideen Hayden
Aideen Hayden

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