‘Radical’ plan to provide 1,400 social houses

UP to 1,400 homes could be opened to people who need them under a scheme proposed by the Irish Council for Social Housing yesterday.

In its pre-budget submission the ICSH said the plan, under which housing associations would borrow money from financial institutions to buy homes on the market, would make houses available to the poor and unemployed.

The scheme would cost around €14 million per year, with the Government providing an equity stake up front and entering into a long-term lease agreement with the housing association for the units.

That lease payment would then help the housing association to repay the mortgage, with the rent collected from tenants used to manage and maintain the properties.

The money borrowed by the housing associations for the scheme would not fall under Exchequer spending and marked a “radical change” in housing policy, the association said.

Donal McManus, its executive director, told the body’s annual general meeting yesterday that the scheme needed to be considered as the traditional capital investment programme for providing social housing was no longer available.

“Housing associations are making a unique offer to Government by proposing that we take on private borrowing to provide vital public services.

“This is a real radical change in Irish public policy and demonstrates that housing charities are ready to play our part in a national recovery.

“We recognise the reality that public money is in short supply and are making innovative proposals rather than just seeking to protect existing budgets.

“Investing in social housing provides a real economic and social return to the state through providing employment, utilising vacant homes and taking people off waiting lists.”

Other suggestions in the submission included granting access to up to 10,000 properties currently in the NAMA portfolio, as well as a €150m allocation for the Capital Assistance Scheme to deliver 1,100 homes for the homeless, the elderly and those with disabilities.


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