Address to the National Housing Conference 2017:

Action Plan for Housing, Rebuilding Ireland, Speeches
Address by Mr. Damien English, T.D.
Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal 
at the National Housing Conference 2017:

Rebuilding Ireland – Delivering a Sustainable Housing Recovery 


Monday, 13 February 2017 at 2:20 p.m.


Main Conference Room, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, as Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, I am delighted to be here this afternoon to open the National Housing Conference 2017

  • I wish to thank you for taking the time to travel to Dublin this afternoon to attend and take part in the conference.


  • I look forward to listening to you and to hearing your views on‘Rebuilding Ireland – Delivering a Sustainable Housing Recovery’.

  • I wish to thank the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and my own Department for organising this biennial event.  


  • I understand that as far back as 1969, long before I was born, that our two organisations identified the importance of promoting quality housing in Ireland.  


  • To that end, a joint committee was formed to arrange this biennial event – a forum where the latest developments in housing, both public and private, could be presented and discussed by those involved with their design and delivery.

  • With this in mind, it is important to reiterate that 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 ultimately need homes.

  • As you will all be aware, the Government, my Department, Minister Coveney and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing crisis.


  • Rebuilding Ireland’ is our Action Plan which sets out to resolve this societal and economic problem.


  • I am delighted that many of the core themes in our Action Plan will feature strongly in your deliberations over the next two days.


  • Because ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ cannot be implemented in isolation.


  •  Collaboration and assistance is required.


  • They are required from you here today – our partners.  They are required from everyone involved in housing provision:


  • RIAI members
  • Academics
  • Policy makers
  • Planners
  • Local Authorities
  • Approved Housing Bodies
  • Financial Institutions
  • Landowners
  • Site Owners
  • The list is endless

    Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan

  • “Rebuilding Ireland” sets out a practical and readily implementable group of actions that will increase housing supply in support of creating a functioning and sustainable housing system that is capable of: –

  • providing homes for families in emergency accommodation;

  • tackling the underlying causes of people living on our streets;

  • producing a minimum of 25,000 housing units nation-wide every year by 2020;

  • responding to meet future housing needs post-2020; and

  • delivering more social housing, much faster, in tandem with putting in place financially sustainable mechanisms to meet current and future requirements for social housing supports.
  • Since taking up my role as Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, I have seen daily the impacts that the housing shortage is having on our people and their families.  I have seen how the system is struggling to cope with, and devise solutions to, our housing problems.

  • “Rebuilding Ireland” is, I believe, an enabling plan that will resolve the housing problems and will solve our housing shortage in Ireland.  


  • The plan is backed up by a commitment of funding.  We have set out €5.35 billion to make a massive impact in providing much needed social housing.


  • We have provisions for a €200m infrastructure fund that will unlock the potential of key sites to deliver thousands of homes to the market.

    2016 Delivery

  • To concentrate on the challenge of delivering more social housing, in a faster manner – I believe that we have made a good start since “Rebuilding Ireland” was first published in July 2016.

  • Last year, over 18,300 social housing supports were provided across a range of delivery programmes.  


  • Preliminary data shows that around 5,280 new social houses were either purchased, leased, remediated or built by local authorities and approved housing bodies.


  • The acquisition of around 1,500 houses and apartments as part of this number, gives early delivery to meet social housing need.  


  • There are still areas in the country where it is still more affordable to buy than to build – and we support such acquisitions where this makes sense.
  • We also continued to remediate vacant social housing in 2016, with around 2,000 brought back to use.

  • The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme delivered 12,000 homes for those on the housing waiting lists in 2016.  HAP is, and will remain, an important element in supporting the provision of housing for those in acute social need.

    Reuse Strategy

  • A central element in “Rebuilding Ireland” is the development of a ‘National Vacant Houses Reuse Strategy’.  Work on this is progressing well.

  • Preliminary results from Census 2016 show 200,000 dwellings (excluding holiday homes and derelict houses) are vacant, some 9.8% of overall housing stock.  By comparison, the Netherlands has a 2.5% vacancy rate.

  • The ‘National Vacant Houses Reuse Strategy’ will be supplemented by a range of other measures including:


  • The development of new urban renewal measures
  • Projects under the Social Housing Capital Programme
  • And the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

  • I am especially pleased to see that opportunities for reuse of partially vacant premises, by delivering housing over the shop in Irish town and City centres, will be presented here tomorrow.

    Rapid Build

  • In terms of accelerating delivery, we have looked hard at the rapid delivery programme.  We now have a panel of rapid build contractors selected under the new ‘Office of Government Procurement’ contract framework.

  • Using this framework will save time on
    • design
    • procurement and
    • on the construction of social housing

  • At the end of 2016, 350 rapid build units were advancing through various stages of delivery.  Of these, 22 units are being lived in at Poppintree, Ballymun.

  • A further 650 units will be advanced in 2017, with 500 being targeted for delivery in 2018.


  • I note with interest the presentation later today on the topic of‘Off Site fabrication to assist rapid delivery’.

    Quality Housing

  • While innovation in housing design and the mechanisms to support accelerated delivery are to be welcomed, as we return to a more significant scale of housing provision, we must not lose sight of the fundamental principles of quality and sustainability.
  • The quality of our built environment profoundly affects the quality of people’s everyday lives.  In very broad terms, good quality housing, both public and private, in sustainable communities needs to be: –

  • socially & environmentally suitable in terms of density, type, affordability and mix of tenure;

  • appropriate in terms of architectural design and accessibility;

  • adaptable, durable and resource efficient;

  • located in safe, secure and integrated neighbourhoods.

  • I understand there will a number of sessions at conference tomorrow which will closely examine these themes. I will have a particular interest in hearing about your thoughts on ‘Promoting town and city centre regeneration’ in this context.

  • Vince Lombardi, the famous American footballer and coach once said “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”.

  • And excellence is what is needed in terms of quality for Irelands housing sector.  


  • Public tolerance for poor building quality has been well and truly exhausted; the mistakes of the past will be avoided.  Together we can ensure that quality and sustainability becomes the watchwords in all we do in Housing for decades to come.


1. Ladies and gentlemen; returning to a sustainable and normal housing and construction sector is critical to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability.

    • While the Government is acting, the challenge does not stop there.  
    • To conclude, I have one ask of you today.  

    • It is vital that, as the actions set out in “Rebuilding Ireland” are implemented, that you


  • The local authorities,
  • The approved housing bodies,
  • The architects,
  • The construction professionals,
  • The planners,
  • The builders and developers of Ireland

  • proactively respond to the housing supply challenge we face.  I have no doubt that together we will succeed.

  • I now look forward to listening to you, to what promises to be a stimulating conference.


  • I wish you every success over the course of the next two days and for your future in the Housing in Ireland.


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