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Statement by Eoghan Murphy following Second Housing Summit with Local Authority Chief Executives

Published on Monday, 22 Jan 2018
Minister Eoghan Murphy

Following the conclusion of our Second Housing Summit with the Chief Executives of each of the 31 Local Authorities today (22 January), I am announcing a number of key outcomes and further actions that were agreed to further accelerate and increase the delivery of social and affordable housing.  Homeless prevention measures, as well as supporting those who are experiencing homelessness, were also a key focus of the Summit.

This is not an exhaustive list of actions, but provides a context for the range of inter-linked commitments which will underpin an expanded programme of house building and support services.

Rebuilding Ireland is working – we are moving in the right direction. Summits like the one held today, and last September, are how we drive accelerated implementation of that plan.

Targets & Reporting

  • The target number of social houses to be delivered in each Local Authority area out to 2021 was confirmed to each Local Authority, with a particular focus on 2018 delivery and accelerating delivery across the country.

The targets for delivery in each Local Authority area are based on the Social Housing Needs Assessment and waiting lists, which were published last week.

The targets also take account of two changes in the latter half of last year: the move towards a greater percentage of build by Local Authorities; and the additional €500m secured in last year’s budget for the capital plan.

  • Each Local Authority Chief Executive is now required to furnish a report by mid-February, confirming and setting out how their Local Authority will deliver on its social housing targets over the coming years. The targets and details of the delivery programme of each Local Authority will then be published on an ongoing basis.

Through this level of detail and transparency we can help achieve greater accountability and drive delivery.

  • Each Local Authority has prepared Strategic Management Plans for their housing development sites; each local authority will be setting out how they will realise new homes from these lands as part of their comprehensive reports to be submitted in February.

Better coordination & support

  • The Department’s Housing Delivery Unit is now up and running and working on the ground with Local Authorities to support and accelerate delivery.

We do not need a new agency or quango to accelerate the building of homes – but we do need better coordination of resources. These Summits and their outcomes are a key part of that.

For example:

  • To support Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies, I am providing additional technical staffing resources within the Department’s Delivery Unit;
  • These teams will be supplemented with additional professional, technical and administrative resources in local authorities that need them, as well as funding, to again support delivery of targets.
  • Standard internal layout designs and general specifications will be developed for Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies to support and assist them in delivering on their targets efficiently. This is for internal design, and will also help the pace of delivery.
  • To accelerate the advancement of capital projects I have streamlined further the four-stage process for approving projects, reducing to 59 weeks the time from initial project conception through design, planning and procurement up to contractors going on site; this mirrors best practice in private housing delivery.
  • There is also a revised single-stage approval process now also available to Local Authorities and my Department will be working over the coming weeks to maximise the number of existing and new projects that can be moved through the single stage approval process immediately.
  • Dublin City Council, which has 600 volumetric rapid build homes planned, will work with other Local Authorities to support similar innovative delivery across the country. This is about using new build techniques to deliver apartments and needs to be a key part of our delivery.
  •  The need for social housing delivery to be consistent with housing need, means increasing the provision of one and two-bedroom dwellings, in many locations. My Department will work actively with local authorities and provide guidance to increase these types of dwellings on various projects. Our new guidelines for apartments will also help in this regard.
  •  A National turn-key campaign is being rolled out across the country, supported by my Department’s Housing Delivery Unit. We will make even greater use of this delivery stream which experience shows can deliver high quality and cost efficient housing at an accelerated pace.
  • There was general agreement that Approved Housing Bodies continue to be a key partner for Local Authorities in building new social homes. This reflects the contribution that Approved Housing Bodies have made over the last twelve months to the delivery of new social housing homes around the country. We also discussed the fact that access to suitable land will be a key enabler to facilitate greater AHB construction over the coming years.

New leasing Initiatives

  • Tackling vacancy continues to be a key focus and we have agreed a range of improvements to the existing Repair and Leasing Scheme, which has not been successful to date. Local Authorities welcomed the proposed new improvements.
  • I also outlined at today’s meeting details of an enhanced scheme for long-term leasing of private dwellings for social housing which Minister Damien English has been working on.  It aims to supply at least an additional 2,500 social housing homes by 2021.  The Scheme will allow the private sector to invest in providing housing which can then be leased to local authorities for up to 25 years for use as social housing. We will be publishing details of both schemes over the coming days.

Vacancy

  • On the issue of tackling vacant homes, there was extensive discussions around the local authorities’ vacancy action plans (two-thirds of LAs will have finalised their Plans by end-January), and the scope for using regulatory tools, such as CPO, and proactive actions such as targeting hotspots to bring more of the “liveable” properties back into use, either for social housing or private use.  The potential to use the dedicated  www.vacanthomes.ie website to mobilise citizen engagement and identify vacant properties that can be re-used was also emphasised. It continues to be apparent that the true level of vacancy in high demand areas is far lower than previously thought. Positive engagement on this matter continues with the CSO.
  • The Summit also discussed the challenges faced by some Local Authorities in including inactive development sites on their Vacant Site Register. I have asked each local authority to fully assess the scope to include sites on their registers as early as possible, and I’ve instructed my officials to arrange follow-up meetings with local authorities to share the experience and lessons learned.  There was strong endorsement of the Budget 2018 decision to increase the vacant site levy to 7% in the second and subsequent years.

Affordability

  • Today also marks the launch of the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, available from local authorities to support first-time buyers to purchase or build a home. You already have the details as released this morning. A dedicated website, www.rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie, is now up and running, setting out all the information that people need. The core element of the loan is the fixed interest rate for the lifetime of the loan.
  • We also discussed the details of the new Affordable Home Purchase scheme. This is about using State land to drive the supply and delivery of affordable to buy homes. The income thresholds for this are the same as for the home loan, and I will be finalising further qualifying criteria in the coming weeks with a view to then launching it. There is huge potential in this new scheme, with many of the sites identified for delivery; some commencing towards the end of this year. Details around possible cost-rental models were also discussed.
  • I informed the Chief Executives that we are now preparing to issue the next call for proposals to service and open up new tracts of housing lands under the €50m “LIHAF 2” fund. These lands will also deliver new affordable homes.

Housing First

  • Following an open competition, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive has appointed Mr. Bob Jordan as a new national Director of Housing First.  Using his specialist expertise, Housing First will be expanded to the other main urban areas and a Housing First National Implementation Plan will be put in place.
  • In tandem with the accelerated and national roll out of Housing First, I also signalled my commitment to continued investment in emergency bed provision in key urban areas, where necessary.

Prevention

  • We will be placing an enhanced emphasis on the role of local authority area offices in leading localised inter-agency responses to help households at risk of homelessness.  This will involve local authorities working together with local statutory agencies and NGOs in a structured partnership to deliver responses to at-risk tenancies, overcrowding, addiction, mental health, and family break-up, and using local knowledge to help provide solutions.
  • The Inter-Agency Group on Homelessness is now commencing its engagement with the NGO sector and will be providing me with a report next month, which will set out further homelessness prevention measures.  Prevention is a central focus in 2018.
  • Legislation will be passed as soon as possible in 2018 to make it an offence to implement rent increases that contravene the Rent Pressure Zone limits and the Residential Tenancies Board will be given the powers and resources to investigate and prosecute landlords who implement such increases.

Rapid Build Family Hubs

  • In relation to families in hotels and B&B’s I have asked local authorities to develop proposals for the development of more family hubs, including new rapid build hubs, and requested that local authorities locate these hubs close to the communities where families are experiencing homelessness. My Department will fund and work with local authorities in relation to the delivery of such family hubs. These will reduce the number of families in hotels and the time spent in hotels, while at the same time locating families close to their communities.
  • My Department and local authorities will also increase efforts to support individuals and families to exit homelessness.  These efforts will be influenced by better research and data on the barriers to exiting homelessness, which are not restricted wholly to the supply of accommodation.
  • Building on the cold weather arrangements in place at present, each local authority will be required to ensure that appropriate emergency responses continue to be in place to address cold and extreme weather conditions.

Our housing shortage and homelessness crisis remains the number one Government priority. I am committed to working with Local Authorities and all stakeholders to drive the increased delivery of new homes. This Second Housing Summit, together with the previous one held in September, is proving itself as an important mechanism in the implementation and acceleration of Rebuilding Ireland. In working together we can more efficiently tackle our crisis in homelessness, building new social, affordable and private homes in a sustainable way across the country.

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