Speech at Launch of Advanced Leasing Arrangements, Mont Clare Hotel

Action Plan for Housing



Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here this morning to officially launch the new enhanced arrangements for long term leasing of private property, to provide additional social housing homes. This important initiative is just one of a large number of actions being taken to implement Rebuilding Ireland, the Government’s Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness.

As I am sure you are aware, Rebuilding Ireland is the Government’s Plan to deal with the housing shortage in this country. Taken together, it comprises a €6 billion, multi-annual action plan, which seeks to increase the overall supply of new homes to 25,000 per annum by 2020; deliver an additional 50,000 social housing units in the period to 2021; and meet the housing needs of some 87,000 households through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.

Strong progress on the implementation of this plan is already being made. On the social housing construction front, we have a programme of works on 770 sites that will deliver over 12,300 new homes, with the number of schemes in the programme continuing to grow on a weekly basis.

Clearly, we want to see a greater emphasis on direct building of social housing than was envisaged originally under Rebuilding Ireland. In this regard, we will see almost 5,000 new social homes built in 2018, including 3,800 by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs).

In addition to the established Local Authority and AHB direct-build programme, activity continues apace across a range of other measures. These include social housing homes through local authorities and AHBs; the Housing Assistance Payment scheme; and the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Recognising that measures introduced to date are beginning to have an impact, and will have a greater impact in time, on 22 January my colleague Minister Murphy announced a further package of initiatives to help alleviate affordability pressures faced by households, particularly in areas of high housing demand and high accommodation costs. This included the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, along with an Affordable Purchase Scheme, and an Affordable Rental Scheme.

Background to Enhanced Leasing Scheme

It is among these broader efforts that the Enhanced Long Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme must be viewed. As the latest element of Rebuilding Ireland housing policy, I am delighted to launch the scheme this morning.

The enhancements made to the Leasing programme represent a strategic policy approach, signalled in Rebuilding Ireland, to harness the capacity of institutional investment, and the increasing activity in the wider construction market, in order to achieve the delivery of high quality social housing homes, in places where people want to live.

Over the course of Rebuilding Ireland, 10,000 new social homes are targeted for delivery using a leasing model. We don’t expect all of the 10,000 new units to be delivered using the new leasing arrangements but the Government is committed to providing the resources necessary to achieve our ambition in that context.

The existing Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP), administered by my Department, already provides a means whereby properties can be leased by Local Authorities from private providers. However, we would all acknowledge that there are limitations to the scheme as it currently exists, particularly if we are looking at targeted new build units and delivery at scale. It is for this reason that we been working on improvements to make the leasing scheme more attractive to private investors, who can provide social housing for leasing to local authorities on a larger scale. A core necessity as part of the development of these new arrangements is to ensure that the contracts that underpin the security of these units do not have a negative impact on the General Government Balance. In other words, that we are actively benefitting from the institutional investment in such a way that does not limit our ability to continue to invest in our local authority and approved housing body building programmes.

Officials from my Department, together with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), the Housing Agency, representatives of the local authorities, and their legal advisors Eversheds Sutherland Solicitors, have worked closely to finalise the details of the scheme. Through their work in bringing the initiative to the market and undertaking the market testing of outline provisions of the lease, the NDFA has established that there is a demand among potential investors for what is being proposed.

Objectives & Operation of the Scheme

The main objective of this scheme is to have about 2,500 units leased for social housing by the end of 2021.

It will mainly target newly built or yet to be built houses and apartments for leasing. Private or institutional investors will finance 100% of the cost of purchasing or constructing residential units and they will retain ownership of the property during and after the term of the lease. The lease will be for a period of 25 years.

The scheme will be governed by my Department and operated by Local Authorities. It will be funded through the Department’s Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP), which provides financial support to local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies for the long-term leasing of houses and apartments from private owners and developers. The Department will recoup to local authorities the cost of meeting the contractual costs of each leased unit. Properties made available under the scheme will be used to accommodate households from local authority waiting lists on a long term basis.

The Housing Agency will administer the scheme on behalf of the Department. It will assess proposals from prospective providers and their capacity to deliver the required number of properties. Following the assessment, the Agency will act as the point of contact between the provider and the local authorities. The Local Authorities will determine the suitability of the proposed properties, having regard to the standard of the properties, the requirement for social housing in the area, and the criteria set out in each authority’s Development Plans.

Providers will be invited to indicate their capacity to fund the purchase or construction of a minimum of 20 properties in a Local Authority area for the purposes of scheme. Alternatively, they may propose vacant properties in their existing portfolio if these units are either new to the housing market, or have not been leased or rented in the previous two years.

The Local Authority will retain their important role as landlord to the tenants, an area in which they have decades of experience. Tenants will be nominated by the appropriate Local Authority in accordance with their accepted allocation scheme.

The provider will be required to assist the Local Authority in managing the tenancy, and they may engage a property management company or Approved Housing Body to provide facilities management services to the tenants on their behalf.


The delivery of this project has involved the cooperation of a range of State bodies and agencies. The role of the NDFA as financial advisor to my Department in this work has been an important one. The Housing Agency has also had a major input into developing the scheme, in consultation with the local authorities. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their involvement and expertise in this process, as well as Eversheds Sutherland, and also my Department’s officials, for their work in bringing this scheme to fruition.

I believe that the changes being unveiled today in this Enhanced Leasing scheme will allow potential investors from the private sector to assist in the delivery of housing services and supports. The details of the scheme are now on the Housing Agency’s website which contains the Call for Proposals and the related legal documents. Jim Baneham, who is here today on behalf of the Agency, will give you the details in his presentation.

This initiative is another important policy instrument that will help us to meet our ambitious goals for improving the delivery of social housing as set out in Rebuilding Ireland.

Combined with other recently announced initiatives; the additional measures announced under Budget 2018; and those announced just last week; Rebuilding Ireland continues to provide a robust framework to address the housing and homelessness challenges we face.

Our focus will remain firmly on implementation and delivery to ensure that the range of objectives and targets set are achieved.

Once again, thank you all for coming, and I hope you find the material presented at this morning’s event informative.

Seanad Housing Statement Wednesday 31st January 2018

Action Plan for Housing

Seanad Housing Statement Wednesday 31st January 2018



A Chathaoirleach, I’d like to thank you and the members of the Seanad for the opportunity to update the House on the Government’s progress in responding to the housing challenges and highlight the actions we have taken and are taking to increase the social housing stock, meet the needs of those on the waiting lists and those at risk of becoming homeless, as well as drive the increased supply of new housing across all tenure and maximise our existing housing stock to meet current and future needs.

I want in the first instance to acknowledge the delivery of almost 26,000 social housing supports, by local authorities and approved housing bodies and other housing stakeholders, to those who needed support and help in 2017. We have over-achieved most of our targets, but need to maintain and build on this progress in 2018 and beyond.

I also want to acknowledge the hard work across the country in terms tackling homelessness. It was encouraging to see the reduction in homeless numbers in December. We must, however, do more and especially advance additional preventative measures.

2017 outcomes

I’d like to briefly highlight some key outcomes from the range of actions that we have taken under Rebuilding Ireland:

  • 25,892 is the number of new households that had their housing need met in 2017. To put it another way, 100 new households had their social housing need met each working day of the week last year.
  • The Government exceeded its overall target for new social housing supports last year by 23%. That’s more than 4,800 additional tenancies.
  • Comparing with 2016, last year we increased our social housing supports by 36% or 6,847 more households supported.
  • Over 7,000 new homes were brought into the active social housing stock through build, acquisitions, voids and leasing programmes in 2017. This is a 40% increase (almost 2,000 new homes) on what was planned for the year; and it’s a 24% increase over what was achieved in 2016.
  • We came in slightly shy on our LA and AHB Build target for the year, but hitting 92% or our target – 2,245 newly built homes – is still a very positive result.  In fact, it’s over three times the level in 2016.
  • Furthermore, when we look at the combined delivery for both built and acquired social housing homes in 2017, the delivery was 4,511 new homes. That’s 22% (or 827 additional homes) more than had been originally planned.
  • We have changed the delivery mix for 2018 though, meaning we will be aiming to do more on the build side and less on the acquisitions side. But where buying makes sense, and where it’s not competing with young families or couples in the market, Local Authorities will continue to do it.
  • Construction figures from September of 2017 show 3,700 new social housing homes being built across 190 sites. These are being added to on a weekly basis.
  • Activity under Part V in 2017 reflects the overall increase in activity in the wider residential construction sector. The 388 homes delivered represent an almost six-fold increase on the number of new social homes delivered using this mechanism in 2016.
  • The target for HAP of 15,000 was exceeded by nearly 3,000, with 17,916 new HAP tenancies established in 2017.
  • Overall, some 4,000 exits from homelessness were achieved in 2017; this is 33% higher than in 2016.

Looking across the residential sector more generally:

  • In 2017, over 17,500 new homes commenced construction. This is an increase of 33% on 2016.
  • Last year, we saw over 9,500 registrations in larger developments, a level not seen since March 2009.
  • Over 19,000 homes were connected to the ESB network. This is an increase of more than 29% on 2016. This number includes newly built homes and those lying empty more than 2 years.
  • In the year to the end of September 2017, planning permissions were granted for more than 18,000 new homes.
  • As of 31st December, 2017, An Bord Pleanála had received 13 applications for large scale developments under the new fast track process which I signed in to law six months ago, including 1,900 houses, 1,750 apartments and over 4,000 student bed spaces, all due for decision in 2018.
  • And we’ve recently had the first positive decision under this scheme, which is welcome news.

Of course in recognising these positive developments in 2017, that’s not to say that our work is finished – not by a long shot.

And I’m not saying that all is now well with our housing system and that further interventions will not be needed to continue to repair our recently broken housing system. There is more that we need to do and both Minister Murphy and I know that.

It’s also important to note that Rebuilding Ireland is a 5-year plan, and we are only about 18 months into that plan.

These figures tell us that Rebuilding Ireland is working, that we are moving in the right direction – and we are moving there more quickly than had originally been planned.

People can have confidence in the work that we are doing to repair a recently broken housing system and to get tens of thousands of new homes built.

I’ll continue to drive that work, because it needs to be driven, and further interventions will need to be made, over the coming months and years, until Rebuilding Ireland is completed.

As a Government we are fixing our housing problems – as quickly as they can be fixed; and we are doing it in a sustainable way that won’t expose us to the risks and mistakes of the past.

There is more work to do, clearly. We have even greater ambitions for 2018, particularly on the build side.

Housing Summit with LA CEs

Minister Murphy and I hosted a valuable all-day Housing Summit with all 31 Local Authority Chief Executives last week, and discussed how each authority will implement the target number of social houses to be delivered in each Local Authority area out to 2021, 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 earlier this month.

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, with this transparency helping to achieve greater accountability and drive delivery.

Better coordination & support

In terms of improving coordination and sharing of best practice across the local government sector, my 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, and ensure that the right people with the right skills are in place within my Department and across local authorities to deliver on these ambitious targets.

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. There is also progress at local level in developing Vacant Homes Actions Plans and targeting vacancy hot-spot areas is advancing, especially in our cities and urban areas.

I also outlined at the LA Housing Summit details of an enhanced scheme for long-term leasing of private dwellings for social housing.  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. This leasing initiative was launched earlier today and I expect to see a lot of interest to deliver new homes quickly and cost-effectively.

Affordable Housing

There was an extensive discussion in the Dáil last night around the challenge of affordability and what actions are being progressed. As tens of thousands of new homes are built across the country over the coming years, we must ensure that they are affordable.

Given that our residential construction was on its knees following the crash, we first needed to remove costs and obstacles for builders to make projects viable, so they can deliver more affordable homes.

To achieve this, we have taken action by:

  • streamlining planning with a new fast-track process for large developments;
  • a dedicated €200m infrastructure fund;
  • new apartment guidelines to remove unnecessary costs; and,
  • Home Building Finance Ireland HBFI, a new State-funded bank to provide competitive loans for builders,

These actions and others have resuscitated the residential construction industry and facilitated the construction of thousands of new homes at more affordable prices. The Help-to-Buy Scheme is also great help to many in securing a deposit, with nearly 5,000 approvals so far.

Still, as a Government we are going to do more on housing affordability.

As Minister Murphy announced on 22 January and reiterated last night, initially we are doing this in three ways:

  • The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan;
  • An Affordable Purchase Scheme, and
  • An Affordable Rental Scheme.
  • The measures are targeted at households with low to moderate incomes with a maximum of €50,000 for a single applicant or €75,000 for joint applicants.


We have made strong progress across a wide range of areas during 2017 – we are not there yet but the signs and data trends are very promising.

Rebuilding Ireland is working.

Social housing provision is ahead of target.

The Government is committed to delivering on the new affordable housing schemes.

Myself, Minister Murphy, our Department and our delivery partners will continue to do all in our power to drive on that delivery.

Full statement to the Meath Chronicle on North South Inter-connector

Innovation, Meath, North Meath, Pylons

Please see below my full statement to the Meath Chronicle this week on Eirgrid:

“The North South Interconnector is a contentious issue. There has been much local concern surrounding the use of pylons in areas like Kilmessan, Bective, Dunderry and my own parish of Bohermeen.

In opposition or Government, I have maintained that the winning of the undergrounding argument is to prove it is the best use, and long-term value, of taxpayer’s money to do so.

Since Fianna Fáil gave the green light to the North South Interconnector in 2007 I questioned the cost of undergrounding that Eirgrid put forward, and the assertion it has to be done solely with pylons.

I have repeatedly called for international exerts, independent of Eirgrid, to assess the North South project and compare it a similar project internationally; as each of the planned grid projects in Ireland are so different. The high voltage underground interconnector between Belgium and Germany, ALEGrO, is one such project internationally that I am aware of.

Both the technology available and the costs associated with that technology have changed and improved over the years. These changes have demanded further study. As a result, Minister Denis Naughten agreed to commission an independent study to examine the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the North South Interconnector.

This is due out in the near future. I hope it provides the evidence that undergrounding is both a technically feasible and cost-effective option for the North South Interconnector.

Some in Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have put forward a simplistic view that the project can be undergrounded at the whim of the Government. If this is the case, why then did Fianna Fáil sanction the use of pylons in the first place for the North South Interconnector and hold this view for years in Government? Why did Sinn Féin, a party in a power sharing Government for the first ten years of this project fail to stop the use of pylons for the Northern Ireland section of this project?

Coming from Bohermeen I am biased against the use of pylons. But this will not win the argument to put them underground. Evidence and facts will win the case. A reasonable person would accept we should do all we can to avoid the use of pylons if possible. That is my job as a local TD; to do all I can to avoid using them. I will continue in my work to prove we can avoid their use”

English urges Meath farmers and public to be part of CAP 2020 Consultation Process


Thursday, 25th January 2018

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD,
has announced his intention to launch a public consultation process on
the future of the CAP post 2020, and local Meath West Fine Gael T.D.
and Minister, Damien English, has urged all Meath farmers snd
interested members of the public to get involved and have their say.
Minister English noted that the Agri Food sector in Meath is worth
nearly half a Billion Euro to the local and national economy, and its
future must be safe guarded, especially in a post BREXIT European

A consultation meeting will take place in the Newgrange Hotel on
Tuesday, 13th February, which will be attended by Ministers Creed and
English, and Meath farmers are urged to attend that night between 8pm
and 10pm and have their say on the future of CAP. There will be public
meetings like Navan in other parts of the country also during February

The public meetings are part of a wider consultation process which
will be open for an eight week period from Friday 26th January 2018 to
Friday 23rd March 2018.

This consultation comes against the background of the launch of the
European Commission’s Communication on the future of food and farming
last November 2017. With legislative proposals underpinning the future
CAP expected in June 2018, Irish citizens and farmers will now have an
opportunity to have an input.

Written submissions should be sent by email to
cap_post2020@agriculture.gov.ie or by post to EU Division, Department
of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Floor 6 Centre, Agriculture
House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 marked “Submission on CAP post 2020”.
The deadline for receipt of submissions is 23rd March 2018.

A consultation document and blank submission form will be available on
the Department’s website [from the 26th January 2018] at the following


They will also be available on request from EU Division, telephone
number 01 6072183 or email to cap_post2020@agriculture.gov.ie


Minister English announces new social housing scheme for Navan 

Action Plan for Housing, Funding, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath, Navan

8th January 2018

Damien English, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government today (Monday) announced approval to the construction of over 40 units in Farganstown, Navan, Co. Meath. Funding of €11.2 million is being provided by the Department for this project, which is part of a wider development. 

Meath County Council have received approval for funding of €4.26 million under Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), also from the Department, for the provision of an access road for Farganstown which will enable the delivery of these social housing units and a further 360 private housing units.  The grant agreement for the LIHAF project was signed by the Minister in December 2017.

Minister English welcomed the project which, importantly, will advance in tandem with the LIHAF infrastructure works. 

Rebuilding Ireland, Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness has put in place the necessary funding to accelerate the delivery of social housing, with a greater emphasis now being placed on direct build activity for local authorities and approved housing bodies. 

Minister English acknowledged progress nationally with the construction status report to Quarter 3 2017 showing significant growth in the area of new build activity with over 770 schemes, which will deliver some 12,300 associated units in the pipeline. 

In Meath in particular he said “there are already 14 projects in the construction pipeline, which will deliver in excess of 243 units at an estimated cost of €50 million, which along with this project will bring Meath County Council’s current pipeline to over 280 units”. Local Authorities have been asked to continue to add to their pipeline of construction projects.

In Budget 2018, €1.9 billion has been secured for housing programmes, representing a 46% increase over 2017.  This investment will ensure that the housing needs of 25,500 households will be met next year, 4,420 more households than in 2017. 

“My Department and I will be continuing to engage proactively with all local authorities including Meath County Council and with approved housing bodies to expand further the programme of projects in the weeks and months ahead” concluded Minister English.


€30,000 for 4 Meath based Animal Welfare groups

Funding, Meath

Damien English, Meath West Fine Gael T.D. and Minister for Housing and Urban Development, has welcomed funding awards of €30,000 for four Meath based animal welfare organisations recently.

According to Minister English, these local organisations provide a vital service throughout the County in protecting animal welfare. The organisations that will benefit from the Government announcement include: Dogs in Distress Ltd, Ash Hill, Dunboyne, (€11,000), Last Hope Animal Charity, Navan, (€10,000), Leinster Horse & Pony Rescue, Navan Road, Trim, (€4,000), and Mollies Animal Rescue, Duleek (€5,000). The payments will be made with immediate effect, meaning a positive start for animal welfare in Co. Meath in the New Year.

Minister English stated: “These local organisations contribute greatly to protecting animals in Meath, by providing sanctuary for in many instances surrendered, abandoned and at risk animals and the funding being awarded is evidence of Fine Gael in Government’s on-going commitment in the area of animal welfare and is a recognition of the important role played by these organisations in safeguarding animals particularly pet and companion animals.”

He continued: “I join with my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in acknowledging the work of the welfare organisations locally and nationally. I take this opportunity to thank their staff and volunteers, especially over the Christmas and New Year period when many of them will have to work especially hard.”