Claire Byrne Radio Show 15th Oct. 2016

Action Plan for Housing, Budget 2017, Education, Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Wesmeath

Last Saturday I represented the Government on the Claire Byrne Radio Show panel along with Peadar Toibin, Sinn Fein TD Meath West, Richard Boyd-Barrett, People Before Profit TD for Dun Laoghaire, Patricia King, ICTU General Secretary & Dan O’Brien Columnist with The Sunday Independent & The Irish Independent & Chief Economist at the IIEA.

Issues discussed included Budget 2017, public sector pay and the ASTI dispute.

You can listen back on the link below:

https://www.rte.ie/radio1/saturday-with-claire-byrne/programmes/2016/1015/824351-saturday-with-claire-byrne-saturday-15-october-2016/?clipid=2308716#2308716

Opening Address to National Disability Annual Conference 2016 – Designing Smart Homes for our Future Communities.

Action Plan for Housing, Health, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 at 10:10 a.m.

at the Croke Park Conference Centre, Hogan Mezzanine Suite, Jones Road, Dublin 3.

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Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this morning to address the National Disability Authority’s Annual Conference 2016. At the outset, I would like to thank the National Disability Authority and for giving me the opportunity to be with you here today to highlight the important work being carried out by my Department, among the many others, to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis.

It is important to reiterate that 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 actions to do just that.

Housing in Ireland and Rebuilding Ireland as a solution to the challenges

As you may be aware “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: –

Providing homes for families in emergency accommodation;

Tackling the underlying causes, addiction and otherwise, of people living on our streets;

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

Responding post-2020 to meet future 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.

Key actions to accelerate Social Housing under Pillar 2

I would like to outline the range of initiatives being progressed under the Social Housing Pillar of Rebuilding Ireland, which are of particular interest to all of us here today.

Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People / People with a Disability (Private Houses)

It is incredibly important that we provide appropriate and suitable housing that meets the needs of all our citizens, including older people and people with a disability.

Funding for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability was increased this year by 10%, to give overall funding of over €56 million. I am very aware of the social benefit these grants bring, by supporting the continued independent occupancy in their own homes by older people and people with a disability.

Something we have also worked on in recent times with this scheme is connecting the Councils and the hospitals, so that somebody scheduled for hospital discharge has their adaptation works prioritised by the Council.

The additional 2016 funding will see around 8,000 homes benefitting from the scheme by the end of this year, up from the 7,600 of last year.

For 2017, I am confident that we can secure funding in the budget for an even greater increase in the number of households to benefit. I hope to target adaptations and upgrades for up to 10,000 homes in 2017, in line with the Rebuilding Ireland commitment.

Increased overall funding for these Housing Adaptation Grants to private houses is an important benefit to people with a disability, given the support it provides of up to €30,000 to make a house more suitable in terms of accessibility; including works ranging from extensions to access ramps; stair-lifts; downstairs toilet facilities; etc.; all of which can really improve quality of life of the occupants.

Housing for People with Disabilities

More broadly, when it comes to the delivery of housing for people with disabilities through mainstream housing options, the Action Plan reinforces the centrality of the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability 2011-2016.

This strategic housing policy for people with disabilities sets out the framework for the delivery of housing for people with disabilities through mainstream housing policy.

The Housing Agency is central to how we drive this agenda, working as it does with the HSE, local authorities, the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) and disability representative organisations.

This cross-representative group, which includes representative organisations and the NDA, is an excellent example of the collaborative working arrangements that are needed to deliver good quality and accessible housing that meets the specific needs of an individual with a disability.

Furthermore, the partnership approach adopted under the Housing Disability Strategy recognises that the provision of suitable housing is only one element in supporting people with disabilities to live fully inclusive lives.

We’re working on the extension of the current Strategy beyond its original timeframe of 2016 and we envisage the development of local Strategic Plans to address the housing needs of people with a disability over the next 5 years.

Another important action for us here is in relation to the Government’s de-institutionalisation policy. We’ve provided ring-fenced funding of €10m in 2016 under the Capital Assistance Scheme specifically for accommodation for people with disabilities transitioning from congregated settings and we’ll continue to respond on this front in 2017 and 2018.

I am aware that the HSE has also allocated €20m this year to accommodate individuals transitioning from priority institutions identified by the HSE. It is important to say, however, that Capital Assistance Scheme funding will also be available to provide housing for people with disabilities in the community more generally that is not specifically targeted at deinstitutionalisation. My Department will continue to work with the Department of Health, the HSE, local authorities and the disability sector on all issues.

Older People

None of us are getting any younger! By 2045, it is projected that there will be double the number of 65-year-olds in this country, and we need to make sure that we plan for and cater for our ageing population.

Following a housing summit in late 2015, an inter-agency Housing Working Group led by Age Friendly Ireland set out to explore the options to better accommodate older people within their community rather than in residential care. Following research, workshops with older persons, and active collaboration between stakeholders including the Irish Council for Social Housing, the HSE, the Department of Health, Dublin City Council and my own Department, the Housing Working Group produced its report last month.

The report, titled “Housing with Supports”, was launched by my colleague Minister Coveney only last week.

Among the recommendations is the development of a pilot project of 50 to 60 dwellings suitable for the elderly. A steering committee has already been established to oversee progress and Dublin City Council has identified a potential site and an application for approval in principle for funding is currently being prepared. Minister Coveney and I are keen that this project advances as soon as possible. Age Friendly Ireland and Dublin City Council will seek to procure an approved housing body with suitable experience to deliver this project.

Homes for Smart Ageing – A universal design challenge

In addition to the actions aimed at the accelerated delivery of quality housing and a more responsive housing market, Pillar 2 of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, contains specific commitments to meet the housing needs of the vulnerable, which includes our older people.

As with many of the themes within Rebuilding Ireland, addressing the needs of the elderly will require cross-Departmental and inter-agency co-operation and collaboration. In this regard, the commitments in the Action Plan are complementary to the objectives of the Programme for Actions for Smart Ageing published by the Department of the Taoiseach in April of this year.

As you know, Government policy is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. For many, living in adapted or specialist housing reduces reliance on health and social care services and can result in measurably improved health status and lower rates of hospital admissions, while also contributing to a greater sense of well-being.

“Smart ageing” iS a broad concept that has been defined as ‘using technology and innovation in both the public and private sectors to produce products, services, solutions, and systems to improve the quality of life of people aged 50 and over’. Adaptable and smart homes are the future with advantages from saving energy to creating homes suitable for a lifetime.

I had the pleasure of recently announcing, at the 85th National Ploughing Championships last month, that I was providing €100,000 in prize money to support a Smart Ageing design challenge to demonstrate innovation in the design and delivery of housing solutions for older people, focussing on three distinct areas:

smart technologies in housing for older people;

adapting existing houses to meet the needs of older people; and

life-time communities.

In this regard, the Homes for Smart Ageing: A Universal Design Challenge will be open to anyone with an idea which is feasible, cost effective and has potential for mainstreaming into the future. It is intended that the competition will be open to applicants early in the New Year.

My Department, has recently established a steering group comprising the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and the Construction Industry Federation, Dublin City Council to oversee the development of the brief for the Homes for Smart Ageing: A Universal Design Challenge.

As part of the brief’s development, the steering group, which held its inaugural meeting, only last week, will consult with stakeholder groups and other interested parties.

The overarching objective of the design challenge will be to stimulate and encourage the design, construction and technology industries to be innovative in designing and delivering housing solutions for older people.

I wish everyone involved in its implementation and indeed those who take part in the challenge, every success.

I eagerly await seeing the innovation approaches that this will generate and I look forward to seeing the winning ideas and solutions utilised in the delivery of good quality housing to those who need it.

I take note of the workshops planned for the afternoon session of your conference which follow a similar theme to the Homes for Smart Ageing: A Universal Design Challenge and I am sure that innovative ideas will emerge from these collaborative sessions.

Conclusion

Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability.

While the Government is acting, the challenge does not stop there. It is vital that, as the 84 actions to facilitate house building are implemented, local authorities, approved housing bodies, voluntary bodies, builders and developers proactively respond to the housing supply challenge so that together we can deliver good quality housing to those who need it.

Budget 2017 will assist first time buyers to get on the property ladder & will increase housing supply

Action Plan for Housing, Budget 2017, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Wesmeath

Fine Gael Meath West TD, and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal, Damien English, has said that Budget 2017 will assist first time buyers to get on the property ladder with a new measure designed to increase housing supply.

“Budget 2017 allocates significant funding of €1.2 billion for the Government’s housing action plan entitled, Rebuilding Ireland – an Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’.

“An innovative measure in this plan, announced today as part of Budget 2017, is the help to buy scheme for first time buyers. This initiative is designed to help first time buyers get on the property ladder and to increase the supply of housing.

“The initiative will be available to first time buyers from 19th July 2016 to the end of 2019 and is designed to encourage the building of new houses in that time frame. It will involve a 5% tax rebate for first time buyers on new builds up to €400,000.  A maximum rebate of €20,000 will apply to properties from €400,000 to €600,000, and no rebate will be available for properties above €600,000.

“In order to ensure that this initiative increases supply without overheating the market, it must be limited to those buying newly built homes. In this way it will stimulate construction and increase supply, which should make housing more affordable for everyone. Fianna Fáil, in an effort to find something to criticise, assert that this initiative should not be restricted to new builds. It’s the same old Fianna Fáil with their reckless approach to housing and the economy. Extending such a tax relief to second hand housing, would only serve to push up prices, overheat the market and lead to another disastrous housing bubble.

“A number of other initiatives announced today will also help to increase housing supply. For example, the Living City Initiative will be expanded by removing the maximum floor area restriction and removing the requirement for properties to have been previously used as residential dwellings to avail of support. Qualification thresholds are also being changed to expand the initiative. The income ceiling on the Rent a Room scheme will increase, allowing home owners to rent out additional rooms while remaining within the scope of the scheme. It is thought this will help to increase the numbers of rooms available to third level students.

“The Repair and Leasing Initiative will allow local authorities to provide financial assistance to property owners to bring vacant properties up to standard which can then be leased for social housing.  Capital provision of €6 million in 2017 will deliver 150 units under this new initiative. The Buy and Renew initiative will support local authorities and approved housing bodies to purchase private housing units in need of remediation, renew them and make them available for social housing use.  An initial capital provision of €25 million will be available for this initiative in 2017. 800 vacant Local Authority units will also be brought back into use in 2017.

“According to Minister Coveney, the investment provided by the Exchequer and by local authorities will allow us to meet the housing needs of 21,050 families in 2017. In addition, local authorities will fund a range of housing services to the value of €92 million from surplus Local Property Tax receipts, bringing the total housing provision in 2017 to almost €1.3 billion.  We are also providing an increase of €28 million in funding for homeless services. This is an increase of 40% on last year, and includes the provision of emergency supports for rough sleepers and ending reliance on the use of hotels for homeless families by mid-2017.

“Budget 2017 is another stepping stone in Fine Gael’s plan to use a strong economy to help make people’s lives better.  Thanks to the careful economic management of recent years we now have the resources to target investments in key public services that will make a real difference to people’s lives. Meeting the housing needs of our people is a major part of this plan.”

ENDS

 

English welcomes halving of unemployment since 2008

Action Plan for Housing, Action Plan for Jobs, Apprenticeships, Business, I.T., Innovation, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Research and Innovation, Skills, Startups

Monday, 10th October 2016

Local Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal and Fine Gael T.D. for
Meath West Damien English has welcomed the recent news from the CSO
that unemployment has effectively halved since the financial crisis
hit Ireland in 2008.

However he said continued effort was needed locally in Meath and
nationally to reach full employment with a constant focus on skills,
innovation and the importance of local SMEs as well as FDI.

“In Meath our native agri-food sector, Boyne Valley Food Series, Boyne
Valley Food Hub and Tourism sector are all strong local assets for
more local and sustainable jobs” Minister English stated.

“Now standing at 286,490, the unadjusted Live Register has dropped
below 300,000 for the first time since 2008. This is a year on year
decrease of 13.92%. It’s further evidence that good progress is being
made in tackling joblessness and helping people back into work.

Three major milestones have now been passed since Fine Gael entered
Government in 2011:  1) the Live Register falling below 300,000 2)
unemployment falling from its peak of 15% to below 8%, and 3) the
number of people employed exceeding two million, all for the first
time in eight years” Minister English stated.

“To reach full employment we must continue one-to-one engagements with
jobseekers; we must keep talking to business people about the barriers
in creating jobs, making work pay through sustainable wage increases
and finally tax reductions that also make work pay and welfare less
attractive. Developing new policies, investment and infrastructure
across the whole of Government in education, training, housing and
childcare all depends on reaching full employment” concluded Minister
English.

ENDS

Visit to Monaghan County Council

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Rebuilding Ireland

Speaking Points  by Minister of State English  at Monaghan County Council

Friday, 7th October, 2016

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Monaghan Co. Cllrs.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Speech to Simon Community Seminar: Housing, Homelessness and Rights

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland, Speeches

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Speech to  Simon Community Seminar

Housing, Homelessness and Rights

Monday, 26th September 2016

Good morning.

As we all know, we have a national housing crisis. The broken housing market has led to consistent under-supply of homes since 2009.

Rebuilding Ireland – The Government’s Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness is about fixing the range of individual, but totally inter-dependent factors, crucial to a proper functioning market. It is solution focused. It is well resourced. Implementation is underway.

To remind ourselves of where we’re at in terms of homelessness:

During a single week in August, 4,248 adult individuals and 2,363 children used emergency accommodation. That’s 6,611 people. The children are part of 1,151 families in emergency accommodation.

Almost 90% of these families are in the Dublin Region, where just over 650 of them are accommodated in hotels any given night.

While Rebuilding Ireland kicks in and social housing supply increases, actions on homelessness can’t wait. That’s why Pillar 1 focuses on how to move people out of homelessness and also prevent people falling into homelessness.

Response to Date and why Rebuilding Ireland is Different

Homelessness is not easy to solve and requires a response across multiple Government Departments and Agencies. Pillar 1, as launched last Thursday, like the rest of the Plan, brings together the actors needed to make it happen. It has buy-in and support across the relevant Government Departments and Agencies to make actions happen.

Key Actions for Exiting Homelessness

Let me tell you about some of the key initiatives which will help move people out of homelessness, and where we’re at on them.

Out of Hotels

The Plan commits to ensuring that by mid-2017, hotels will only be used as emergency accommodation in limited circumstances. For that to happen we have 3 key actions and targets.

Firstly, at least 1,500 rapid-build homes will be delivered by end-2018. We will have more than 320 homes either complete or under construction on site by end-2016. Sites for a further 200 have already been identified and work is ongoing to identify sites for a further 500 homes to be constructed in 2017.

It is important to emphasise that Rapid build is just part of a broader social housing construction programme. Efforts to significantly ramp up social housing construction nationally are taking effect. In 2015, only 74 units were constructed by local authorities. In 2016, more than 1,500 units across 100 sites will be completed or under construction. In 2017, more 2,300 additional units will be completed or under construction. Before year end these figures will increase further.

Secondly, we’re expanding the Homeless HAP scheme in the Dublin Region to create 1,750 tenancies by end-2017; 550 this year and 1,200 next year.

We’ve created 450 tenancies so far this year, so we’re well on target. Also, 70% of these are families with children.

Including the Dublin scheme, some 715 homeless households have been homed nationally through HAP to date

Thirdly, the Housing Agency has been given a rotating fund of €70m to acquire 1,600 units from banks and investment companies for social housing by 2020.

Already, 737 properties have been referred to the Agency for potential acquisition, with expressions of interest made in respect of 686 of these. Thus far, the Agency has made bids for 96 of these properties, of which 49 have been accepted. Some work done but a lot more to be done.

It’s important to note the on-going and good work done in housing authorities and housing services in moving people out of homelessness. In 2015, 2,315 people were assisted in moving out of homelessness. In 2016, to end-June, over 1,350 sustainable exits have been achieved.

Housing First

Housing First is an approach that puts appropriate housing in place first and then provides the wrap around supports in terms for health and other support that people need.

Rebuilding Ireland commits to tripling the target for housing for rough sleepers provided by the Housing First Teams from the current 100 to 300 by end-2017. Housing first Teams are a consortium of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Focus Ireland and McVerry Trust.

54 individuals have been homed to date under the current programme. Cork City Council is considering arrangements for a similar housing-led initiative. Also, the Department of Housing is considering arrangements to establish a ring-fenced fund for housing-led initiatives across the country in 2017.

Supports for Those in Emergency Accommodation

Families

We are committed to ending the use of hotels for emergency accommodation. In the meantime, we are going to ensure that services and supports for families, and particularly children, are far better.

The Minister for Children and Youth affairs is committed to helping with additional supports to get families out of emergency accommodation including the funding of additional support works.

Other supports being put in place by the Minister for Children include access to Early Year Services, School Completion Programmes, access to free public transport for family travel and school journeys. Practical supports and advice for good nutrition for those with access to cooking facilities.

Individuals/Rough Sleepers

It’s important to ensure that there is sufficient emergency accommodation in the system, particularly as we head into the winter period.

We have requested and received proposals for additional emergency accommodation from Dublin Region Homeless Executive to ensure that no one needs to sleep outdoors this winter.

On Thursday, Minister Coveney announced that 210-230 additional spaces for single homeless adults will be provided over the period November – January in Dublin and he is committed to making funding of up to €4 million available for this purpose.

This emergency accommodation will be city-based in safe, appropriate and good quality facilities which can be brought into use on a temporary basis.

Also, the Action Plan commits to reviewing emergency accommodation capacity nationally to ensure that the facilities and bed-spaces are adequate for demand.

Along with the provision of stable housing, healthcare services have a particular role to play in supporting homeless people, each of whom has a unique personal history, their own story and experiences, which have culminated in becoming homeless and needing support.

While housing supply and accommodation are obviously major elements of the Government’s action plan, accommodation alone will not address some of the more complex needs related to homelessness like addiction and mental health issues.

As part of the Action Plan, the Department of Health has demonstrated its commitment to providing additional healthcare support services for homeless people through an additional €2 million in funding for the HSE for these services in 2016 and a commitment that this will treble to €6 million during 2017 and 2018.

This additional funding in 2016 will ensure that individuals and couples with high support needs can access the range of health services and supports they require while living in supported temporary accommodation or long-term accommodation.

Because of the strong inter-relationship between drug addiction and homelessness, the development of the National Drugs Strategy will also contribute to the goals of the Action Plan. It will include specific actions to address the rehabilitation needs of homeless people with addiction problems.

In 2017, the €6 million in additional funding will continue to support the voluntary and community sector in providing homeless services.

This will include supporting those availing of the “Housing First” scheme as this scheme grows and expands, and expanding the in-reach GP and nursing services in supported temporary accommodation where visiting health professionals visit to treat and care for homeless people.

There will also be a focus on the provision of longer term accommodation for homeless people with chronic and enduring health needs.

The Department of Health is developing Community Mental Health Teams, including additional Mental Health Nurses and counselling services to support homeless people and those at risk of homelessness will also be a priority.

Funding has also been committed for an intermediate healthcare step-down facility and the development of an addiction treatment unit by Dublin Simon at Usher’s Island in Dublin 8.

In 2016 the HSE will spend just over €30m to improve the health and quality of life of homeless people with approximately 90% of this funding going to the community and voluntary sector.

Prevention

We must ensure that as many people as possible are assisted to avoid them falling into homelessness.

Over 9,000 Rent Supplement tenancies have been protected since 2014 because of case-by-case rent supplement increases from the Department of Social Protection. Also, 2,500 existing HAP tenancies have received increased payments. That’s about 11,500 tenancies protected.

An awareness and information campaign is being put in place to raise awareness for tenants about their rights and the services available to them.

The DRHE are putting in a place a One-Stop Shop assessment centre for families presenting as homeless. This will have multi-agency participation including housing authorities, Tenancy Protection Services, Tusla, Family Mediation Services, Social Protection and NGOs. The intention is every effort will be made to keep families in their homes if they present as homeless or at risk of homelessness. This will be ready by the end of the year.

Addressing mortgage arrears is critical to support people to remain in their homes. The Plan provides that people in arrears will have access to independent legal and financial advice.

The Department of Finance and the Central Bank will ensure that the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears provides a strong framework for borrowers who are struggling.

My Department is exploring how to improve the Mortgage-to-Rent Scheme to facilitate more households, including long-term leasing arrangements.

It is the co-ordinated delivery of housing, health and social care supports that is the key to resolving homelessness for rough sleepers and the long term users of emergency accommodation. The 21 actions in Pillar 1 of Rebuilding Ireland reflect this multi-faceted approach.

A whole of Government commitment to addressing homelessness is now in train. I believe it will have a measurable and sustained impact on reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough. It will also mean that more homeless people than ever before will have a permanent home with appropriate wraparound health supports, after years spent in and out of emergency hostels and shelters.

ENDS

UCD Student Accommodation – Official Opening of Ashfield

Action Plan for Housing, Education, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland, School extension

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Belfield Campus

23 August 2016

Speech by Minister Damian English, T.D., Minister of State for Housing & Planning 

President, elected representatives, other guests.

I’m glad to be here today to mark this very important launch for UCD and for the surrounding area and community, as we open the new residences and see the university’s strategic vision for on-campus development in the period ahead mapped out in the new masterplan.

It’s perhaps easy to overlook just how important UCD is in economic terms to the wider Dublin area. But it is worth noting that every day some 31,000 students, staff and visitors attend UCD’s Belfield campus. With the on-campus residences now expanded to over 3,000, this means that 28,000 people commute to campus every day.

So Belfield has the same day-time population as Bray, Navan, Ennis or Kilkenny.  This size of population, living and working in such a defined area, really needs to have very clear, and very good urban planning.

The origin of the Belfield campus dates back to the 18th century with the development of a number of estate houses and their associated lands.  In the 1930s the purchase of lands at Belfield provided sports facilities for the university and the President of UCD, Michael Tierney spearheaded a strategic acquisition of lands over the coming decades so that the expanding university could develop this beautiful campus we see today.

The first education buildings for the science faculty were constructed in the 1960s.  This centre has in recent years undergone a massive transformation.  Phases 1 and 2 of the science centre have now been completed, providing facilities for 2,000 students and researchers and I know the President has prioritised the development of Phase 3 in the current campus plan.

As we walked through the Newman Building today President Deeks outlined UCD’s plans to strengthen and consolidate the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.  These academic disciplines provide a stream of evidence-based research, particularly in the areas of societal and public health needs, for policy makers and Government.  As a national institution and a public university, UCD has always contributed to public policy and I welcome the President’s commitment to continuing that role.

I am also encouraged by the University’s ambition to transform the Newman Arts building and the James Joyce Library into a more public space where cultural activities and public exhibitions can take place.  We have seen how the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Lexicon Library has had a transformational impact in terms of creating a place of discovery, education and entertainment for the community.  I know the library staff at UCD were very involved in the planning for the Lexicon and welcome the University’s plans to open up UCD’s cultural resources to the general public.

The wider public also has a stake in the opening of the Ashfield Residences.   The timing of their completion is most welcome as the shortage of housing continues to affect not just students but families.

As Minister Coveney has already outlined, living on campus can bring a lot of benefits for students.

  • By prioritising first years, UCD has recognised that many students leaving home for the first time do not have a social network and providing on-campus residence lets them settle in to university as well as removing anxiety for worried parents.
  • On-campus residence takes pressure off the private rental sector and means that families in particular don’t have to compete with students for much sought-after houses.
  • On-campus residences are generally more affordable to students as they only pay for 38 weeks rather than having to take 12-month leases.   The cost of accommodation on campus compares favourably with the private sector, especially when costs such as light, heat, waste, transport, and high speed wifi are included.  UCD ring fences the rental from residences so that it is channelled back into maintenance and new construction for the students.  UCD on-campus accommodation rates for the academic year range from €5,721 – €7,929 (€10,305 catered), all including utilities.  Ashfield is set at €7,929.
  • On-campus residences are built and maintained to a set high standard.  No grotty bedsits with mould on the ceiling and grubby carpets here!

Looking to the future, it’s heartening to see that the university is already well advanced on planning for the future development of the campus. Good urban planning should always incorporate the ideals of sustainability and the UCD campus is an exemplar of sustainable development.

The University’s focus on sustainability can be seen in the O’Brien Centre for Science, which achieved a BREEAM Excellent design award in sustainability, in the Roebuck Castle Student Residences which are certified to Passivhaus standard, and  here in the new Ashfield Residences which incorporate low-energy design, a significant solar energy installation, rainwater harvesting and features a “green” roof.

I want to wish the university every continued success, to wish returning and new students good luck for the coming academic year and a particular good luck and welcome to the first students to take up residence here in Ashfield. I’m sure it will make a fantastic new home for you, and with these great laundry facilities there’s no excuse for bringing home the bags of washing!

Response to Daft.ie’s Rent Review today Tuesday, 23rd August 2016

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Wesmeath

Response to Daft.ie’s Rent Review today Tuesday, 23rd August 2016:

The quarterly Daft.ie review of rents is a useful piece of research
from one of the leading Irish property websites.  Certainly it further
highlights and diagnoses the problems that have led this new
Partnership Government, my senior Minister Simon Coveney T.D. and
myself to work on and launch the Action Plan for Housing before the
Dáil recess. It is an ambitious plan with key buy in from various
stake holders. There is the political will in all parties for it to
succeed and for us to solve the housing crisis. Now over the coming
weeks and months it is our job in Government, along with stake
holders, to implement it and ensure future reports from Daft.ie, and
other commentators, positively reflect that implementation.  The
housing crisis is a consequence of the crash and burn economics of a
different political era.  In fostering the recovery our key priority
has been, and will be, to ensure it is a fair and regionally balanced
recovery, about real people, and not just about economic statistics.

English congratulates Meath West students on CAO 1st round offers

Action Plan for Housing, Apprenticeships, CAO, College, Education, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland, Skills

Monday, 22nd August 2016

Housing Minister highlights efforts to help students with accommodation

The Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal and Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English has congratulated Meath West based students on their 1st round CAO offers today Monday 22nd August.

“I really hope that Meath West based students achieved the results that they were aiming for last June.  I urge them to draw on all the resources available to them today and over the coming days in making informed choices if they fell short in points.  Talk to your parents, to your older siblings, to those in the industries and sectors who hope to work in, to your school guidance counsellor, online resources like www.careersportal.ie, or avail of the helplines on offer” stated Minister English.

Local ETBs

“Local ETBs, formerly the VECs, run many exciting jobs focused PLC and other courses. There are also many good courses in ETBs in neighbouring Counties as well.  I urge students to examine these options, as well as paid traineeships and apprenticeships which are rapidly expanding into new non traditional areas like IT, Insurance and Finance” he said.

UCD on campus student accommodation

“On Tuesday 23rd August i will be officially opening 350 new student
residences at UCD for the coming year, bringing the on campus
accommodation on that campus up to 3,000 residences.  This will
benefit all students including students from Meath West, whether they
attend at UCD or not. With the Action Plan for Housing we will be
working to increase the overall supply of housing, which will benefit
students. But we do not want or need students to be competing with
better resourced professionals in the housing market either.  That is
why later this year we will be publishing a specific Action Plan for
Student Housing. Developments like UCD’s and other private
developments ongoing in Dublin will feed into that model and that work
too” stated Minister English.

USI Digs Capaign

“I was delighted along with Minsiter Coveney to give some financial
support to the USI #homesforstudents campaign earlier this month. It
is encouraging people to offer their homes as digs and linking
students up with appropriate accommodation.  I urge Meath West based
students to avail of this service at: http://homes.usi.ie/ as soon as
possible” concluded Minister English.

ENDS

Dáil Statements on the Housing Strategy

Funding, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Meath, Navan, Rebuilding Ireland, Wesmeath

Wednesday, 20th July

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Closing Statement by Minister of State Damien English

I want to thank everyone for your contributions today and yesterday on the new Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness – Rebuilding Ireland. Judging from the feedback here in the House, and from what I have seen and heard in the media and elsewhere, the Plan has been broadly welcomed. It is regarded as an ambitious and comprehensive starting point in the Government’s efforts and resolve to really deal with both housing and homelessness.

I must say that I have found the debate around housing and homelessness to be very well informed. I think members of this House, from all parties and none, have rightly prioritised these linked issues as the number one societal challenge facing the country. The setting up of the Special Oireachtas Committee, its sessions and its Report has helped to inform the debate.

 

Minister Coveney and I have also met with a very broad group of stakeholders in these areas. We hosted two very-well attended stakeholder forums, both of which generated constructive debate and feedback. This process has greatly added to our understanding of the housing system and how its difficulties are leading to homelessness for many people.

The housing system is a broad and inter-connected set of markets and sectors. Importantly, each sector and market impacts on a different group in society. In developing the Action Plan, Minister Coveney and I were acutely aware of the need to deal with each part of the housing system individually, but also to address the inter-connectivity and cross-dependencies as part of shaping the overall solution – to build more homes. In taking this approach, we have the dual objective of repairing the broad housing system, while at the same time providing real solutions for people.

 

For this reason, I was most pleased with the responses to the Plan that referenced the fact that, for the first time, Government was looking at housing in its entirety. That is really at the heart of this Plan. To really restore the housing system to a sustainable level, you need to deal with all the component parts. We looked under the bonnet of each sector and market of housing, and came up with key actions to help repair what is broken or what can be done more effectively in each.

It was through this analysis that we arrived at the five key Pillars:

  1. Addressing Homelessness;
  2. Accelerating Social Housing Delivery;
  3. Building More Homes for the wider housing market;
  4. Improving the Rental Sector; and
  5. Making the best use of the housing we have.

 Homelessness:

On homelessness, we have set a very clear target to have no families in hotels by mid- 2017, except in very limited circumstances. Long-term hotel accommodation for families is not acceptable and we will end it. The challenge here is to provide alternatives and trebling the Rapid Build programme to 1,500 homes is the key action.

 

In the meantime, we are going to ensure that services for families, and particularly children, in hotels and other emergency accommodation is far better including:

  • Enhanced liaison on family support, child welfare and child protection, including Family Resource Centres;
  • Access to early-years services;
  • School Completion Programmes;
  • Enhanced locally available practical supports for daily family life;
  • Access to free public transport for family travel and for school journeys; and
  • Practical supports and advice for good nutrition for those without access to cooking facilities.
  • The other side of homelessness is rough sleeping which is often compounded and tied in with mental health and addiction issues. This is a complex area that really requires close co-operation with both the Department of Health and the HSE. For that reason, we are trebling the funding for mental health and primary care services for homeless persons from €2 million to €6 million in Budget 2017.

In examining the social failing that is homelessness, one point was made again and again – that prevention is far better than cure. We are therefore targeting families and individuals worried about, or at risk of, homelessness with a new awareness campaign. For the families and individuals in mortgage arrears, we are providing more and better services, including free expert legal and financial advice and supports.

 Social Housing:

The link between a lack of sufficient social housing and homelessness is clear. The lack of social housing options is also putting pressure on the rental sector, with a third of renters now supported by the State. Again, the target here is very clear – 47,000 new social housing homes by 2021 at a cost of €5.35 billion. It’s worth clarifying these figures once and for all:

On the money side, the Social Housing Strategy 2020, published in November 2014, committed to the delivery of some 35,600 social housing units in the period 2015 to 2020, supported by investment of some €3.8 billion.  The social housing element of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan proposes a significantly increased level of ambition, aiming for the delivery of 47,000 social housing units, through build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing, over the 2016 to 2021 period, supported by Exchequer investment of some €5.35 billion; a further €200 million is being provided for the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund.

The €5.35bn investment proposed for the social housing area over the 2016-2021 period comprises some €4.5 billion in capital funding and €844 million in support of programmes funded from current expenditure.  In terms of capital funding, the €4.5 billion being provided, represents a very significant assignment of resources towards addressing housing needs.

In summary, Minister Coveney has secured €2.2 billion of the available €5 billion capital fiscal space over the 2017 to 2021 period, €2 billion of this funding is being assigned to support the delivery of the 47,000 social housing units as set out in the Action Plan; and €200 million is for the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) which will provide much-needed enabling infrastructure on key sites to open up lands for early development.

This reflects a very clear demonstration on the part of the Government of the high priority that it assigns to tackling, in a comprehensive manner, the range of interlinked housing issues outlined in the Action Plan.

In relation to the output numbers

Of the 47,000 units, over 26,000 units will be built exclusively for Social housing, 11,000 will be acquired from the market, a portion of which will be newly built units and approximately 10,000 units will be leased by LAs and AHBs.

Building More Homes:

When the housing market is working well, there is a good supply of a range of new and second-hand homes for purchase, which cater for the entire span of the market from starter homes upwards. At the moment, we are producing half the 25,000 houses a year we need. Similarly, due to this shortage of new homes, the second-hand market is half what would normally be seen. The key graph on output is on page 30 of the Plan. It shows output predictions with the various elements of the Plan implemented versus the “business as usual” without these measures. If we don’t act decisively, we predict a continued scraping along the bottom in terms of output, or making small increases as the market slowly recovers. All the while, pent-up demand and our growing population is flying ahead.

We must get production of housing for starter homes and trade-ups back on track. At the moment, the landscape facing potential first-time buyers and expanding families looking for a bigger home is really challenging. A significant amount of analysis has been undertaken on the housing market, and the Plan addresses three key elements:

  1. Land,
  2. Costs, and
  3. Realisable demand.

In terms of land, the State has to be more active, at both central and local levels, in terms of deciding where our new houses are going to be. We also have to work to keep the cost of land down, as it will impact on the eventual sales price and the affordability of these homes. In the Plan, we are going to champion the best use of State lands for housing. We will take immediate action to boost supply, as well as taking the more strategic view under the new National Planning Framework.

However, contrary to some views expressed across the floor, we are not “giving away” publicly-owned lands to private developers to make exorbidant profits on – we are looking to extract the maximum value for the State in terms of securing social units at a reduced rate, tying in developers to provide a minimum percentage of homes at affordable prices, as well as balancing these mixed-tenure developments with other private housing.

We have very good data on local authority sites and we are going to work with them to help bring housing on stream quickly. And we’re also in discussions with other State agencies and entities about the potential of their lands, many of which are in prime locations that are already well serviced. This will also create opportunities for builders and land owners. This is an area where a key link with social housing exists. How do you create truly integrated communities? You plan and build them like that.

Using incentives such as the €200m infrastructure fund and the new affordable rental model, we are going to run competitions for the best new developments. These will be attractive places to live and at affordable prices and rents. Private, rental and social housing will be designed and built together. We are going to challenge local authorities, land owners and developers to be innovative and to deliver quality product, at affordable prices and at scale.

After land, construction, finance and taxation are the significant costs of delivering a house. We are dealing with part of these costs through the €200m Infrastructure Fund, which should help to reduce some of the up-front costs for builders and have a knock-on impact on the price levels they’ll be setting. The NTMA and ISIF will also prepare an offer for developers to facilitate on–site costs. This is separate but complementary to the €200m Infrastructure Fund. Again, given the cost reductions, housing at more affordable prices should be achievable.

We will also reduce costs by taking some time and risk out of the planning process. Housing development proposals of over 100 units will go straight to An Bord Pleanála for priority decision within the 18-week statutory period. This is not, like some have said, to silence or dismiss local views and input in considering these applications – indeed, all developments will need thorough pre-application consultations with the relevant local authority to understand how this proposal will fit within the wider strategic context of local plans, and individuals will of course be able to submit observations on any applications to the Board, just as they can do under strategic infrastructure planning applications.

We are very focussed on supply but realisable demand is a key component of the equation. In our extensive engagement with stakeholders, the ability of people to secure the funding to buy homes and the length of time this takes was raised again and again. Simply put, the increased uncertainty around buyers, particularly, first-time buyers, leads to house builders being more cautious in terms of the amount of product they build and sell at any time.

 

In order to incentivise supply of starter homes at scale, the Government will bring forward in Budget 2017 a Scheme to help first-time buyers. It will be back-dated to the announcement yesterday and therefore builders and buyers can factor it in now – there is no need or value in stalling plans to build or buy – decisions that people take today will be able to reap the benefits of these measures from the Plan launch date (19th July).

I’m personally very committed to growing jobs in construction and encouraging young people to get an education in construction skills and disciplines. We are going to work very closely with SOLAS to this end. There are great opportunities and we need to ensure that the system can adapt and accommodate the likely increased demands for these professions. I’d also be very hopeful that people that had to emigrate might be encouraged to come home, once we get building at scale again.

Rental Sector

As Minister Coveney said yesterday, there wasn’t time to develop a full rental strategy in this Plan, so it will follow later in the year. We will bring early actions through to ensure where sales of large-scale single developments take place, tenants will have the right to stay in their homes. We’ll also ensure that the resolution service is fair and balanced between tenants and landlords.

As I mentioned earlier, we are also going to deliver a new affordable rental scheme as an early action. The Scheme will help low-income families and individuals with rental costs and will also help boost supply. The use of affordable rental on multi-tenure sites will be encouraged as part of the bid process for the €200m Infrastructure Fund.

 

When we examined the rental market, the link to student demand for accommodation was raised. Where there is an unmet demand for student accommodation, it displaces into the rental market which is already creaking in places. We are targeting the production of an addition 7,000 student places by 2019, in partnership with the Department of Education and the Higher Education Institutes, and other stakeholders.

Vacant Housing:

Another consistent message we received from stakeholders was that the Plan needed to tackle vacant properties. These vacant properties are having a very negative effect in urban and rural locations around the country. This was one area where there was broad agreement that vacant properties, particularly, in our cities, towns and villages need to be tackled.

 

Again, we are going for a two-pronged approach of immediate action to boost housing supply and a longer-term strategic approach. In the short-term, we are going to provide the Housing Agency with €70 million in ring-fenced funding to initially buy 400 vacant distressed properties from bank and investment portfolios. The Agency will then sell on the properties to local authorities or approved housing bodies and use the funding to buy more homes. We are targeting the provision of 1,600 by 2020.

We are also introducing a new Repair and Leasing Initiative. This will allow local authorities to provide grant funding to property owners to bring vacant properties up to standard. The local authority can then lease the properties for social housing. The grant being offset against lease costs.

 

Importantly, a lot of the problem vacant units are not houses but commercial properties. To deal with these, we are going to look at the Planning Code to see if we can make turning these units into residential simpler and faster.

I have a particular interest in urban and village renewal, given my areas of responsibility. I will lead an Urban Renewal Working Group to bring forward plans to use housing and community schemes in a collaborative way to improve city, town and village centres. We’ll also 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.

 Conclusion

While the Plan was broadly welcomed, there was also a consistent message that implementation is the key. I agree with that, as does Minister Coveney. As we were developing the Plan, we had already started on implementation.

We are putting in place a new Housing Delivery Office. This Office will support and assist the excellent staff in my own Department who have been working tirelessly to put together this comprehensive Plan and who will be central in delivering the key aspects across all five Pillars. There is a huge challenge ahead for all of us and I want to make sure that we have the system and supports in place in my Department, in local authorities and in the various agencies and bodies to ensure that projects and programmes are delivered.

 

What people want to see most flowing from this Action Plan is increased delivery of housing on the ground. The Action Plan for Jobs is a very successful model where time-bound and clearly assigned actions were a key feature. The Actions in this Plan are equally time-bound and assigned. Progress will be reported in monthly and quarterly Reports on progress under each of the 80+ actions, as well as progress on the pathfinder projects to test and demonstrate the Action Plan’s effectiveness. The reports and key statistics on progress will be available on the dedicated website www.rebuildingireland.ie

 

Thank you.