Speaking Points by Minister of State English at Monaghan County Council
Friday, 7th October, 2016
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A Chathaoirligh, elected Members, esteemed colleagues: good afternoon everyone.
Thank you for affording me this opportunity to address you today.
Homelessness and the acute shortage of homes available to those who need them is one of the greatest challenges facing this country today. It is having a profound effect on the daily lives of many individuals and families who feel they have been failed by the system and who urgently require homes.
The Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis and under Rebuilding Ireland we have set out a broadly-based and comprehensive set of action to do just that.
Shortly after its publication, my colleague, Minister Coveney wrote to all elected members and all Chief Executives in relation to the implementation of the Rebuilding Ireland
As I see it, local authorities are absolutely central to that implementation, given your role as the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level.
One of the biggest challenges we face is getting house building, and supply more generally, moving again. Planning powers, in particular, at the disposal of local authorities can be employed to encourage and facilitate good quality housing, at affordable prices, in high demand areas.
It is imperative that local authorities do all within their power to get all suitable potential sources of housing supply to be activated as quickly as possible.
Both Minister Coveney and I will be visiting as many local authorities as we can over the weeks ahead to outline what we need and expect to see in terms of implementation and to hear from you the specific challenges that are faced locally in delivering on the Plan.
So where are we now?
At the last summary of social housing assessments, the housing waiting list in – Monaghan County stood at – -696 (of course we’ll have updated figures when this year’s summary is published towards the end of the year);
In contrast to this the total number of new houses completed last year in the county was just 192 homes, over 70% of which were individual one-off houses. Only 85 new units have been completed in the first eight months of 2016.
We are building considerably less new homes than we need and have done so for a number of years;
Almost 13% of housing stock in the county was reported as vacant in the 2016 Census and,
Meanwhile thousands of families and individuals are in mortgage arrears or facing increasing rents.
Failure to address the housing challenges we face, threatens our future growth and prosperity.
It’s time to do something serious about this, that’s my mandate from Government, as Minister of State with responsibility for Housing and Urban Renewal, and that’s what we’re here to talk about to-day.
Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing & Homelessness
Rebuilding Ireland sets out a practical and readily implementable set of actions that will increase housing supply to create a functioning and sustainable housing system that is capable of:
- Producing a minimum of 25,000 housing units nation-wide every year by 2020;
- Performing post-2020 in response to contemporary housing needs
- Delivering more social housing, much faster, and putting in place financially sustainable mechanisms to meet current and future requirements for social housing supports.
Accelerating delivery to this level is essential if we are to –
- Address the unacceptable level of households wishing to avail of social housing support and those families in emergency accommodation;
- Address the growing affordability gap for many households wishing to purchase their own homes;
- Support the emergence of a rental sector which provides choice, mobility and quality accommodation in the right locations;
- Position the housing sector such that its contribution to the national economy is steady and supportive of sustainable economic growth; and,
- Ensure that measures intended to remedy the current supply difficulties also contribute to longstanding objectives in the housing sector, such as the need to support urban development and achieve sustainable communities.
Rebuilding Ireland balances delivery on these fronts with the necessary financial resources (€5.5bn investment by 2021) and structural reforms.
We know that to deliver more quickly we need to look at the States procedures and processes be they planning, approval of social housing or otherwise and we’re doing that.
In terms of improving the viability of construction, it is important to recognise the reforms already in place. These include
- Reduced development contributions;
- the vacant site levy;
- Part V;
- apartment guidelines;
- financing under Activate Capital, and,
- Planning and Strategic Development Zones.
It is estimated that such measures taken to reduce input costs have decreased the cost of building new residential units by between €20,000 and €40,000, depending on whether apartments or houses are being constructed.
The Minister for Finance has indicated that fiscal measures to support the Rebuilding Ireland programme, and importantly measures for first-time buyers, will be included in the Budget next week
A €200 million Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) will provide much-needed enabling infrastructure on key sites to open up lands for early development. There will be 3,000 new homes delivered on State lands as pathfinder mixed housing developments.
In terms of improving the functioning of the rental sector in the first instance we had to protect the most vulnerable and the increases in rent supplement and Housing Assistance Payment limits will do that.
In the longer term we need a really good and attractive rental option and the publication later this year of the comprehensive rental strategy currently being developed by the Department will chart a course to achieve a vibrant and attractive rental tenure option.
Rebuilding Ireland is a holistic Plan, an all-Ireland Plan, a plan that includes rural Ireland
Since taking up this Ministry, I have seen first-hand the negative effect the housing shortage is having on people and their families and how the whole system is struggling to cope and devise solutions.
Rebuilding Ireland is, I believe, a really good starting point to resolve these problems. Our commitment of €5.35 billion will go a long way to providing much needed social housing and the €200m infrastructure fund should encourage the production of thousands of homes for the market.
It’s a whole-of-Government initiative, and a national plan that needs to have an impact at all locations and all scales of development. Revitalising our rural towns and villages is as important as the plans for the main urban centres.
I lead the Urban Renewal Working Group, and I am committed to the re-building of our communities by addressing not just the physical environment but also by investing in social and economic development and in this context, we intend to introduce a new Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
Using the €30 million available to local authorities this year, the Scheme will seek to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of our towns and villages as places to live and work. My aim is use housing and community schemes in a collaborative way to improve city, town and village centres.
We will continue to work with colleagues in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to co-ordinate their schemes with ours and to bring forward joint demonstration projects, where we can.
My Department recently implemented a new Exchequer funding programme to support local authorities in remediating more seriously derelict social houses.
Funding is provided on the basis that the units are occupied immediately following works , and on the basis that no previous public funding has been provided in recent years for similar works on the units
In addition we have given the Housing Agency €70 million to acquire up to 1,600 vacant properties, in respect of which it is making great progress. The agency has been offered more than 700 properties and such units can be added to the stock of social housing.
The introduction of a Repair and Leasing Initiative (RLI) will enable local authorities, having identified appropriate vacant privately owned properties in their functional area, to enter into a long term lease arrangement with property owners.
The RLI will allow local authorities to provide up-front grant aid to prospective landlords to meet reasonable renovation works to upgrade the properties to current rental standards. On the provisio that the landlord enters into a leasing arrangement with the local authority under SHCEP.
So that’s my take on what needs to be done to fix our broken housing model.
I really want to hear your views to make sure we have all the facts and that we are heading in the right direction under the Rebuilding Ireland
Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability. Our engagement here today forms an essential element of this broader policy context.
While the Government is acting, the challenge does not stop there. It is vital that as the 84 actions to facilitate house build are implemented that local authorities, approved housing bodies, builders and developers proactively respond to the housing supply challenge.
I know from talking to you and other Councils around the country that you are up for that challenge and will not be found wanting.