The government published its long-awaited Housing for All Plan (Plan) on 2 September 2021. The Plan has 30 housing objectives and 213 actions, to be delivered in the period from now to 2025, with some, such as the delivery of over 10,000 social housing homes each year and the retrofitting of 500,000 homes to BER 2, stretching out to 2030.

Pathways

The Plan sets out four "pathways" to achieving housing for all:

  • Pathway to Supporting Homeownership and Increasing Affordability
  • Pathway to Eradicating Homelessness, Increasing Social Housing Delivery and Supporting Social Inclusion
  • Pathway to Increasing New Housing Supply
  • Pathway to Addressing Vacancy and Efficient Use of Existing Stock

The pathways contain actions and initiatives to be taken by government departments, local authorities, State agencies and others to deliver the housing objectives contained in the Plan. Some of the key actions are set out below.

Supporting Homeownership and Increasing Affordability

Many of the initiatives in the first pathway are already contained in the Affordable Housing Act 2021, which was passed in July 2021. These include:

  • A Local Authority Affordable Purchase scheme where local authorities will make homes available at a reduced price for first-time buyers
  • A shared equity scheme for the delivery of first homes by private developers - where the State will take an equity share in the property through a special purpose vehicle
  • The new form of cost rental tenure – where the tenant will pay rent that reflects the cost of providing, managing, and maintaining the property only
  • Developers to provide 20% (up from 10%) of zoned residential land to the State for social, affordable, and cost rental housing.

This pathway also provides for Project Tosaigh, under which the Land Development Authority (LDA) will be tasked with intervening to activate dormant planning permission and slow or stalled developments. The LDA will be enabled to enter into strategic partnerships with landowners in order to accelerate delivery.

Eradicating Homelessness, Increasing Social Housing Delivery and Supporting Social Inclusion

Under this pathway, the government have committed to work towards eradicating homelessness by 2030. Local Authorities must develop Housing Delivery Action Plans setting out details on how and when Local Authorities will deliver their housing targets. The Plan also sets out an objective to end long-term leasing of social housing by Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in favour of a focus on new-builds to provide social housing.

Increasing New Housing Supply

This pathway sets out actions to improve the supply of public and private housing with an ambitious focus on amending planning laws in various ways. The actions include:

  • Land Value Sharing (LVS) measures to ensure that the State gets a share of the increase in land values resulting from zoning decisions
  • A new planning process for Large-Scale Residential Developments, to replace the Strategic Housing Development process
  • Establishment of Urban Development Zones, to co-ordinate delivery of residential and urban development, particularly on brownfield sites
  • Review and consolidation of planning legislation
  • Reform of the Judicial Review process and introduction of a new Planning and Environmental division of High Court
  • Introduction of a new tax to activate vacant lands for residential purposes, to replace the Vacant Site Levy.
  • Provision of a new fund, Croí Cónaithe (Cities), to be made available to developers with planning permission for high-density apartment blocks in cities, to assist with completion of the building on the condition the benefit is passed on to owner-occupier buyers.

Addressing Vacancy and Efficient Use of Existing Stock

The Plan recognises the importance of using existing buildings in villages, towns and cities and envisages a Town Centre First approach to regenerate towns and villages and promote residential occupancy. To achieve this, various measures are proposed, including:

  • Support Local Authorities and AHBs to engage in targeted acquisitions of vacant and under-utilised buildings
  • Incentivise the refurbishment and extension of vacant properties in towns or villages through energy retrofit and other supports
  • Reform the ‘Fair Deal’ scheme to incentivise long-term care residents to rent or sell their homes
  • Revise controls on short-term lettings
  • Consider the implementation of sanctions for non-use of residential property (Vacant Property Tax)
  • Setting up a new Croí Cónaithe (Towns) fund for servicing sites for new homes in regional towns and villages and to support refurbishment of vacant houses.

Other Provisions

  • The government proposes measures to support the four pathways provided for in the Plan, including
  • Placing the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) on a statutory footing
  • Strengthening Local Authority delivery teams
  • Establishing a Commission on Housing and holding a referendum on housing
  • Investing €4.5bn in water infrastructure
  • Re-constituting the Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB) (abolished in 2012), consisting of construction industry stakeholders across private and the public sectors, to advise the Minister on matters relating to Building Regulations.

Comment

The Plan commits the government to spending €20 billion over the next 5 years and to delivering on average 33,000 homes per year to 2030. The key to delivering the Plan will be ensuring Local Authorities, AHBs and relevant State agencies are properly resourced as well as truly incentivising trades to build capacity in the construction industry.

There is little doubt that the Plan contains many ambitious policies and concepts to assist in solving the housing crisis but is it ambitious enough in terms of scale and delivery mechanisms? With so many different initiatives and funding avenues, as well as proposed legislative changes, what, if any, immediate changes are we likely to see?

Many questions remain around the detail of how the measures of the Plan will be practically implemented to really translate into life-time homes for those who urgently need them. Nonetheless, Beauchamps welcomes the Plan and looks forward to navigating our clients' through a new chapter in housing delivery for Ireland.