The Government’s Action Plan on housing and homelessness entitled “Rebuilding Ireland” was launched on 19 July 2016.
Its principal aim is to accelerate housing provision through delivery of 47,000 additional social housing units by 2021 and the construction of over 25,000 units per annum on average over the period of the Plan from 2017 – 2021.
The government is to provide a state fund to buy distressed properties from banks and also plans to develop ‘mixed tenure’ housing on public land, while backdated financial incentives for first-time buyers are promised in Budget 2017.
The Action Plan consists of five pillars:
Pillar 1 – Address Homelessness
Early solutions are required to address the numbers of families in emergency accommodation and this pillar identifies the following solutions: a Rapid Build Housing programme to provide 1,500 units to move families out of emergency accommodation, a Housing Agency initiative to acquire 1,600 vacant houses and a number of state supports to keep people in their homes.
Pillar 2 – Accelerate Social Housing
For pillar 2, the focus is increasing the level and speed of delivery of social housing and other state-supported housing. The first action is delivery of 47,000 social housing units by 2021 at a cost of €5.35 billion. This will include an National Treasury Management Agency / Private Sector Housing Fund to increase housing supply and mixed tenure development on state and other lands as well as legislative changes for rapid planning processes to streamline Part 8 projects progressed by a local authority.
Pillar 3 – Build More Homes
Pillar 3 centres on building new homes and increasing the output of private housing to meet demand at affordable prices. It aims to achieve this by delivering over 25,000 units per annum on average between 2017 and 2021.This includes a €200 million Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund and the fast tracking of large scale residential development planning applications directly to An Bord Pleanala.
Pillar 4 – Improve the Rental Sector
This pillar looks to address the obstacles to greater private rented sector delivery in order to improve the supply of units at affordable rents. The actions include developing a strategy for a viable and sustainable rental sector, encouraging “build to rent” and developing a national student accommodation strategy in 2017.
Pillar 5 – Utilise Existing Housing
Finally, pillar 5 concentrates on ensuring existing housing stock is used to the maximum degree possible. It identifies measures to use vacant stock to renew urban and rural areas, including rapid re-letting of vacant social housing units, Housing Agency purchase of vacant houses held by banks and introduction of a Vacant Housing Repair and Leasing Initiative, as well as a Living City and Urban and Rural Renewal Initiatives.
The Action Plan has been welcomed for the most part, but many interested parties are sceptical about the level of funding required, while others feel the plan is not ambitious enough.
Progress on the implementation of the Action Plan will need to be closely monitored to ensure all the stakeholders are playing their part, but there is no doubt that this action plan is a welcome start in tackling the housing crisis.