Closing Contribution on SF Private Members’ Bill

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal

Private Members’ Bill

Sinn Féin Eoin Ó Broin, T.D., and Kathleen Funchion, T.D.

 Residential Tenancies (Student Rents, Rights and Protections) Bill 2018

 Closing Contribution by Minister of State, Damien English, T.D

Tuesday, 29th May 2018

Ceann Comhairle,

  • On behalf of the Government, I wish to thank Deputies Ó Broin and Funchion for tabling their Private Members Bill to propose extending the protections of the Residential Tenancies Acts, which currently apply to dwellings under certain tenancies, to also apply to dwellings provided under a licence agreement for student accommodation.
  • While the Government cannot at this juncture endorse this specific legislation, as it is premature until such time as the legal considerations and implications are more thoroughly evaluated, we can readily acknowledge and welcome the broad spirit and objective of the Bill, as a genuine attempt to improve the situation for students at a time of under-supply in the residential rental sector.
  • It is in the interest of Government to ensure student accommodation is affordable, and not subject to excessive increases.
  • The existing Government financial support for students is finite in terms of taxpayers’ money. Do you propose cuts to the maintenance grant? Do you propose cuts to grants and funds for mature students in third level education? Or do you propose to cut the wages of our lecturers in the third level sector?.
  • Equally, parents’ or students’ own resources are hard earned and should not be swallowed up either. Students should not have to face entering the work-force with a massive debt to re-pay. We need affordable rents across the country and not just for students.
  • Unreasonable accommodation costs have the potential to prohibit individual students from pursuing studies in their preferred field because their choice of course might not be on offer close to where they live. Location comes into play and for some, an educational course in Dublin is becoming less attainable for financial reasons, predominantly because of high accommodation costs.
  • We need to provide certainty to students whose finances are tight and finite and help limit their financial burdens.
  • As Minister Mitchell O’Connor highlighted earlier, the Government published its National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS) to increase the supply of student accommodation and increase the take-up of digs accommodation. The Government has set a target to see an extra 7,000 bed spaces built by the end 2019 and a total of 21,000 additional beds by 2024. We are currently on track to exceed these targets.
  • A greater supply of student accommodation to meet demand has the potential to ease overall pressures on the rental market, including moderating rent increases, on the basis of increased competition and choice.

Sinn Féin’s Private Members Bill

  • However, I do not believe that Sinn Féin’s Private Members Bill will achieve the outcome of having all student accommodation subject to ongoing regulation. I do believe that this is the right outcome to seek, but this Bill won’t deliver that.
  • The Sinn Féin Bill proposes to apply the protections afforded to tenancies under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016 to students living in student specific accommodation under licence agreements.
  • The Bill focuses, in particular, on ensuring that the annual rent increase limit of 4%, as it applies to certain dwellings in Rent Pressure Zones, will also apply to student specific accommodation provided under licence.
  • However, a licensing framework might best suit the business model of student-specific accommodation providers, rather than trying to bring them in under the provisions of Residential Tenancies Acts which do not naturally fit with students, who generally occupy their accommodation for around 8 months of the years.
  • There is a risk that the expected supply of student accommodation coming on stream could be negatively affected by the proposed application of the Residential Tenancies Acts to student specific accommodation provided under licence agreement.
  • We need to explore how we can legally protect all students from high accommodation costs, whether they live in public or private accommodation and whether they have signed a tenancy or licence agreement.
  • We need to provide students with a choice on where they wish to live during their college life. Students should not be forced to take whatever accommodation they can get, come August. They should get value for money and reasonable accommodation that best suits their needs.
  • It’s also worth pointing out that the 4% RPZ limit, if applied to student accommodation, would not be retrospective and would not cover new properties.
  • The measures proposed by Sinn Féin cannot be supported at this juncture, on the basis that a more thorough analysis of the impacts by the Department of Education and Skills and the Minister’s Department, as to whether amending the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016 is the best approach to regulate student specific accommodation provided under licence.
  • It may well be that bespoke legislation, subject to further legal advice, might better achieve the intended purposes of the Bill, without adding significantly to the already very heavy workload of the Residential Tenancies Board.
  • The Department of Education and Skills (DES) is liaising with officials from my Department, including through the forum of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Student Accommodation which is convened by the DES, to examine the wide range of student accommodation types (and ancillary services) available with a view to considering how best to regulate pricing arrangements.
  • While Government is not in a position to support the Sinn Féin Bill at this stage, we do not oppose it. The Departments of Education and Skills and Housing, Planning and Local Government will consider the Bill’s proposals further.
  • In the event that it is considered that there is a policy-based case for legislation in this area, proposals will be brought forward, either in a standalone Bill or in the context of the second of two Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bills envisaged this year.

Thank you.

Seanad Housing Statement Wednesday 31st January 2018

Action Plan for Housing

Seanad Housing Statement Wednesday 31st January 2018

PLEASE CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY 

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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.

Speech to Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland in Maynooth

Action Plan for Housing, Action Plan for Jobs, Apprenticeships, Brexit, Budget 2017, Funding, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Speeches, Trim, Wesmeath

Address by Mr. Damien English, T.D. Minister of State

at the

Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland /SCSI National Conference 2017:

on

Friday, 31 March 2017 at 4:15 p.m. at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this afternoon at the SCSI National Conference 2017 to explore the many difficult and complex challenges facing the construction sector which are being dealt with by your profession.

As you will all be aware, the Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis and under ‘Rebuilding Ireland – Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’ we have set out a broadly based and comprehensive set of actions to do just that.

However we cannot implement this plan in isolation. We will need both collaboration and assistance from all of our partners involved in housing provision including industry professionals, such as SCSI members.

Shortage of critical Skills in the Construction Sector

To reach our Rebuilding Ireland objective to increase housing output to at least 25,000 homes per annum by 2021 – a doubling of 2015 output levels – requires the necessary skilled work force to be available.

It is crucuial that any new jobs created are available and accessible to those who are unemployed, and that their wealth of experience and talent can contribute to the recovery of the sector.

Significant work has been carried out under Rebuilding Ireland Department of Education; SOLAS; and the Apprenticeship Council with regard to improving skills and education in the sector and I would encourage continued consultation with the sector in that regard.

Affordability – Housing Delivery Costs

One of the challenges the Government faces is providing quality homes at a cost that is affordable. Under Rebuilding Ireland the Government committed to a broad range of measures to tackle, among other things, some of the costs associated with the provision of housing in the interests of reducing construction overheads.

This included a commitment to undertake a detailed analysis, in conjunction with the construction sector, to benchmark housing delivery input costs in Ireland, in order to facilitate an increased level of housing output into the future.

A working group, chaired by my Department, with a broad range of industry representatives was established late last year and has met several times. I am pleased to say that the group has benefited from positive contributions from industry including members of the SCSI.

Building Control Regulations – Reform

The aim of the building control regulatory framework is to ensure that a home or a building is designed and constructed in compliance with the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations.

Too many serious and unprecedented failures have affected our construction industry and economy over the past decade or so. Failures such as pyrite, defective blocks and fire safety which has given rise to difficulties and distress among the many affected homeowners.

The development of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 9 of 2014) was introduced to empower competence and professionalism on construction projects and establishing a chain of responsibility that begins the owner who must assign competent persons to design, build, inspect and certify the building works and who, in turn, must account for their contribution through the lodgement of compliance documentation, inspection plans and statutory certificates.

Social Housing – Getting the balance right

My Department’s policy is to achieve an appropriate and balanced mixture of tenures in new developments in order to avoid large mono tenure estates where difficulties have necessitated considerable public expenditure in regeneration.

My Department provides guidance on the scale of social housing which would be suitable in a particular context or area. This guidance is based on the size of the host town or city and the proportionate nature of the development to ensure good social integration and cohesion. For example a maximum size of 75 dwellings in any single mono tenure housing development applies in large urban areas with proportional reductions in size for smaller towns and villages.

Ideally all developments should provide for a mix of tenures and dwelling sizes to cater for all. Consistent with this policy, Part V of the Planning and Development Act is structured to deliver Social Housing in private housing developments.

 Conclusions

Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability which will benefit all of our citizens.

While there are many challenges currently facing the housing and the wider construction sectors, we remain fully committed to meeting these challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen thank you for inviting me here today and I wish you every success over the remainder of your conference.

Thank you

Minister English confirms Navan and Meath to benefit from new Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Action Plan for Housing, Action Plan for Jobs, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Johnstown, Meath, Navan, Rebuilding Ireland, Roads

Tuesday, 28th March 2017

€8,180,000 for projects to create 700 homes, with longterm potential
for 2,170 says Meath based Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal

Navan and Ratoath are to benefit from a new Government fund announced
today to help Meath County Council address significant public
infrastructure deficits, where the lack of enabling and accessing
infrastructure has been hindering the necessary development of
housing.

The following are the details of the 2 Meath based projects:

Farganstown, Navan
€5.68m
Access infrastructure to be provided – Distributor Road
No. of Houses to be provided: 400
Long term potential: 1800

Ratoath
€2.5m
Access infrastructure to be provided – Outer Relief Road
No. of Houses to be provided: 300
Long term potential: 370

Minister English said: “The Government is very serious about tackling
Meath and Ireland’s housing crisis. Today’s new fund shows it is a
priority. It represents joined up thinking, pooling of resources and
innovation between local and national Government and private partners
to achieve real results for local communities and for families who
need homes. Today’s announcement is not just about new homes for Navan
and Ratoath, it means that both of these  two communiities and our
County can grow and develop to their full potential in very respect,
economically as well as socially and sustainably.”

Local Fine Gael Councillor for the Navan Area, Cllr. Jim Holloway
said: “The development of the lands at Farganstown has long been a
priority for me as a local Councillor for Navan. I am delighted with
this news today which will mean 400 homes in the short term, with a
long term potential for 1,800 new homes. This development will allow
Navan to reach its full potential, consistent with its Local Area
Plan, the County Development Plan and Meath’s Economic Strategy.
Furthermore it means upwards of 1,800 families into the future have
the dignity and the comfort of a home to call their own, convenient to
where they work, are educated and can play.”

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

Ø €226million for strategic infrastructure to facilitate housing nationally

Ø 23,000 homes by 2021 is the target

Ø 34  projects across 15 Local Authority areas including Meath announced today

The Government has been aware for some time that the housing crisis
would need to be addressed in a number of different ways.  Pillar 3 of
Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness focuses
on increasing overall housing supply and seeks to address the severe
housing shortage in urban areas.  One of the main elements of the
Pillar is the establishment of a €200 million Local Infrastructure
Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), with €150 million to be provided from
Exchequer funding and matching funding of €50 million from Local
Authorities.

Local authorities were invited to submit proposals for investment in
public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and amenity spaces, with
the objective of relieving critical infrastructural blockages, which
would in turn enable the accelerated delivery of housing on key
development sites and improve the viability of new housing projects in
urban areas of high demand for housing. The call for proposals for the
€200 million fund was announced on 26 August 2016, with a closing date
of 14 October 2016.

Minister Damien English welcomes rollout of the Repair and Leasing Scheme for vacant houses in Meath

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Trim

The Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English TD,
today (10 March, 2017) welcomed the scheme that targets vacant
properties and secures them for social housing, by financing the cost
of repairs, as it was rolled out in Meath. This year nationally €32m
has been provided for the scheme. This means that up to 800 vacant
properties can be brought back into use nationally as new homes for
families on local authority waiting lists.

Minister English said, “The scheme is demand-led which means the more
leases the local authority secures the more funding they get.  This is
a great opportunity for owners of vacant houses with the local
authority financing of the cost of repairs.  In fact they don’t even
have to get involved in arranging the works – the local authority will
do that – and in return they get a secure and reliable income from
regular rental payments, without having to take on landlord
responsibilities. I want to see Meath County Council making the most
of this scheme and I want to see them maximising the benefits for the
people of Meath.”

The Department is currently working with local authorities to
implement the scheme on a local basis.  A range of Approved Housing
Bodies around the country have also expressed an interest in working
with local authorities to deliver new social homes using the scheme.
“I see these bodies having a significant role in its success – their
local knowledge, experience of managing refurbishment projects, as
well as being good landlords will be invaluable” said the Minister.

The scheme will be monitored very closely this year in order to ensure
that it works and is cost effective. This approach will also assist in
understanding the real potential of the scheme over the coming years.

The Repair and Leasing Scheme is one of a number of initiatives in
Rebuilding Ireland to address vacant properties around the country.
Other initiatives include the Buy and Renew Scheme which provides
funding for local authorities to purchase vacant properties and
remediate them and a new National Vacant Housing Re-Use Strategy which
is currently being finalised.

Property owners interested in the scheme should contact their local
authority directly and register their interest.

ENDS

Notes:

The scheme is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot
afford or access the funding required to bring them up to the standard
for rental property. Subject to the suitability of the property for
social housing, and the agreement of the property owner, the cost of
the necessary repairs will be met upfront by the local authority or an
approved housing body (AHB). This allows for the property owner to
sign-up to a lease arrangement for a length that is linked to the
value of the repairs, subject to a minimum of 10 years. The value of
the repairs will then be offset incrementally against the agreed
rental payment over a defined period within the lease.

A property owner can either choose to arrange a contractor to carry
out the repairs themselves, or the local authority or AHB can arrange
this instead. Property owners will not be required to take on landlord
responsibilities and the local authority or AHB will have on-going
management and maintenance responsibilities in respect of the
properties.

The local authority will determine the eligibility for the scheme
having regard to the location and the suitability of the property for
social housing and also taking into consideration the extent of the
repairs that may be required. The maximum costs of repairs allowable
under this initiative will be €40,000.

Between 2017 and 2021 it is anticipated that 3,500 units will be
secured for social housing through the scheme. A budget of €140m will
support this activity.

The success of the national pilot will determine the delivery
expectation in 2018 and future years and the financial requirements.

Speech at Launch of Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge

Action Plan for Housing, Active Retirement, Funding, Health, Housing and Urban Renewal, Innovation, Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Research, Speeches, Wesmeath

Address by Mr. Damien English, T.D.

Minister of State

at the Rebuilding Ireland – Launch of Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge

on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 10:40 a.m.

at the Department of the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Conference Room, Custom House, Dublin 1

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this morning to launch the Rebuilding Ireland – Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge. As many of you are aware I announced, last September, at the National Ploughing Championships, that I had provided €100,000 in prize money to support the Design Challenge and today’s launch is the culmination of many months of hard work by the Design Challenge Steering Group, which is chaired by my Department.

At the outset, 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.

As I have said before, 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. However we cannot implement this plan without the collaboration and assistance of our partners in industry, our NGO’s and the wider public sector. This Design Challenge is a strong example of that collaboration.

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.
  • Since taking up this Ministry, I have seen daily the negative impacts that the housing shortage is having on our 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 unlock the potential of key sites to deliver thousands of homes for the market.
  • The Government has set out ambitious targets for the delivery of social housing supports over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland. Last year, over 18,300 social housing supports were provided across a range of delivery programmes. Within this, preliminary data show that around 5,280 new social houses were either purchased, leased, remediated or built by local authorities and approved housing bodies across the country using a range of funding mechanisms and delivery programmes.

 Homes for Smart Ageing 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 older people 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 last year.

The National Positive Ageing Strategy (NPAS), published in 2013, also provides a framework for cooperation to address age-related policy and service delivery across Government and society in the years ahead. This Strategy is intended to promote older people’s health and well-being so that older people can continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and family life in their own communities for as long as possible, thereby representing a vision for an age-friendly society.

The Strategy also highlights that ageing is not just a health issue, but rather requires a whole of Government approach to address a range of social, economic and environmental factors that affect the health and wellbeing of our ageing citizens.

The ageing of our population represents one of the most significant demographic and societal developments that Ireland faces in the years ahead, with the number of people over the age of 65 expected to reach 1.4 million by 2041.

Across this same period, the number over the age of 80 is set to quadruple, from 128,000 in 2011 to some 480,000.

The implications for public policy in areas such as housing, health and urban and rural planning are considerable.

Government policy is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.

In terms of cost effectiveness, home care costs in Ireland are estimated to be consistently lower than hospitalisation. 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 among our older population.

Smart ageing is a broad concept that has been largely defined as using technology and innovation in both the public and private sectors to design and produce products, services, solutions, and systems to improve the quality of life of people ages 50 and over.

Adaptable and smart homes will be the future in the developed world with advantages from saving energy to creating homes suitable for a lifetime. This Design Challenge presents an opportunity to develop the know-how and commercialise the knowledge of smart ageing adaptation to support assisted living for older people in their homes.

In terms of housing there are collaborative approaches already underway involving local authorities; the HSE; the Department of Health and NGO’s (such as Age Friendly Ireland). For example, the Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme, which provides a local multi-agency collaborative structure in partnership with older people, with local authorities taking the lead on changing thinking about ageing, and how services are planned and delivered.

The Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge aims to stimulate and encourage the design and construction industries to be innovative in designing and delivering housing solutions for older people and implements Action 2.19 of Rebuilding Ireland.

This Design Challenge, focuses on three distinct areas: –

  • smart technologies in housing for older people;
  • adaptation of existing houses to meet the needs of older people; and
  • life-time communities.

As I mentioned earlier, my Department, established a steering group comprising the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design which is part of the National Disability Authority, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the Construction Industry Federation, Enterprise Ireland and Dublin City Council.

This steering group, in consultation with stakeholder groups and other interested parties, has developed a comprehensive Design Challenge brief for the competition

This brief sets out clearly how to participate, what is required of potential entrants, and of course details regarding the awarding of prize money amounting to €100,000 that I announced late last year to support this “Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge”.

Conclusion

Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability which will benefit all of our citizens irrespective of age, size or disability.

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.

The “Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge” is a small but key element of the Rebuilding Ireland solution.

I urge everyone involved in its implementation and those of you here today, to use your networks, contacts and organisations to promote and highlight the Design Challenge in order to elicit support and to invite entries from as many of our talented innovators as possible.

I call on anyone with a novel and inventive idea that can be further presented as a solution; that is feasible, cost effective and has the potential for mainstreaming into the future in support of smart ageing solutions to participate.

With this in mind, I hereby officially launch the “Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge” and would like to wish those who take part in the Challenge, every success. I also look forward to seeing the winning ideas and solutions incorporated into the future delivery of good quality housing to those who need it.

English says Meath will be evaluated in early 2017 as a Rental Pressure Zone under new legislation

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Johnstown, Meath, Navan, Trim

Tuesday, 20th December 2016

Local Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English T.D. has
today (Monday) stated that the new legislation for Rental Pressure
Zones, as part of the Government's new Rental Strategy, provides a
pathway for dealing with rent issues in parts of Meath.  This had not
been the case until the Government's new Rental Strategy launched last
week by Ministers English and Coveney.  Parts of Meath will be
examined once the final 2016 rental figures are available to the
Rental Tenancies Board.

"Until our new Rental Strategy, there was no pathway for dealing with
rental pressures in Meath.  This had to change, especially with its
proximity to the pressurised Dublin market.  By seeking to deal with
the Dublin market, and putting down in legislation a process for
commuter Counties like Meath, the Government is trying to help renters
in Meath and nationally" stated Minister English.

Minister English complimented all the stakeholders who took part in the
process of formulating this rental strategy. "In July of this year, given
the importance of striking the right balance for renters and landlords,
Government reached out and received hundreds of submissions by interested
parties to feed into the publication of out rental strategy and this important
legislation relating to its publication"

"Ultimately what we really want and need is a construction sector
building high quality homes in the places where they are needed for
people to buy.  That will be my priority locally and nationally as a
Meath T.D. and as a Minister working for all the country" concluded
Minister English.

Notes to Editor:

Ministers English and Coveney have instructed the Rental Tenancies
Board to accelerate its work so that it can put together the more
detailed picture of conditions in counties and urban areas at a
smaller geographical area that better captures pressures. With a more
detailed local area assessment, it is more likely that the real
pressure parts of counties around Dublin for example, will meet the
criteria sooner.

The following commuter areas and cities are being prioritised for assessment:

Meath,
Kildare,
Wicklow,
Louth,
Areas contiguous to Cork City,
Galway City,
Limerick City and
Waterford City.

The Director of the RTB will be requested to make it an absolute
priority to ensure that data on an area specific basis is available
for all of these areas by end February to allow the designation
process occur where the qualifying criteria have been met. Minister
Coveney has also instructed the RTB to progress this work on a rolling
basis so that where data is available for the first areas in January,
the process can get underway. The RTB will be given extra resources it
needs to get this done.

The Government has also agreed proposals to shorten the timeframe for
the overall designation process will help in ensuring that tenants in
pressure areas will get the benefit of protection from the rent
pressure zone designation without delay.

ENDS

50th Anniversary UCD Planning Seminar

Action Plan for Housing, Education, Housing and Urban Renewal, Speeches

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Address by Mr Damien English, T.D., Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal

On the occasion of the UCD Planning Seminar: “Reflections: The Past, Present and Future of Planning”

UCD, Dublin

 

 

Introduction

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon.

As Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal I am delighted to join you for the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of UCD’s Planning School.

On behalf of the Government, I wish to acknowledge the important contribution that the School has made to the development of the planning profession and to shaping the overall learning process of planning since 1966.

It is right that we celebrate that contribution and discuss how it might be expanded, developed and improved for the future.

The well-being and strength of our cities and towns has increasingly become the barometer for the health and strength of our economy, and of our wider society – all of which is possible through proper professional planning.

I would like to reiterate the sentiments of my colleague, Minister Simon Coveney;

I believe in the importance of having vibrant and dynamic urban and rural places. I believe in the need to plan for the longer term interests of both.

However, we must reflect on the present fact that just over 12,600 housing units were completed last year, almost half were “one off” houses.

We need to be building somewhere in the region of 25,000 units for the future.

These houses are principally needed in our key cities, our towns and our villages.

They are needed to meet future and evolving household formations, economic and demographic patterns.

Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness

‘Rebuilding Ireland – an Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’ sets out a holistic response to the overall housing system as a fundamental building block of our urban and rural policy.

The Plan provides over 80 practical and readily implementable solutions that aim to increase the annual housing supply to 25,000 units per annum by 2021.

The Plan will enhance the stock of social houses by 47,000 units in the same period.

To back this up, a massive €5.5 billion, yes €5.5billion, is available for future housing and infrastructure in Ireland.

Planning plays a major part in setting the conditions for housing delivery and accordingly Rebuilding Ireland aims to support and develop the planning process.

Urban Renewal and Regeneration

The impression might be that the Action Plan is all about building new houses.

But the Plan also has an emphasis on making the best use of our existing buildings and existing places.

To this end I am leading an Urban Renewal Working Group which

  • Will drive forward these and wider proposals;
  • It will complement the existing regeneration programme;
  • It will further develop projects under the Social Housing Capital and Social Programmes across local authorities.

Action 5.1 of the Plan also undertakes to develop a National Vacant Housing Re-Use Strategy by 2017.

The Housing Agency, will lead the responsibility for co-ordinating the development of the Strategy.

It has established a working group to inform the Strategy, and includes senior representatives from my Department and from the Local Authorities. Its first meeting was held in September and work is progressing.

My Department and the Housing Agency are liaising with Local Authorities and with the Central Statistics Office in order to obtain a better understanding of the numbers, characteristics and reasons why homes are vacant.

This understanding will also assist Government in:

  • Introducing a new Town and Village Renewal scheme; a similar scheme to the ‘Living City Initiative’ to regenerate urban centres and villages (Year 1 action)
  • Exempting the use of under-utilised or vacant areas over ground-floor premises in urban areas, from “change of use” requirements, for both residential and commercial use (Year 1 action)
  • Reforming the Derelict Sites Act to tackle the under-use and hoarding of derelict land by the State, semi-State and private sectors;
  • Commencing the new “Buy and Renew” initiative with an initial capital provision of €25 million in 2017, and
  • Rolling out the new Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) for which I have secured €140m over the next five years.

National Planning Framework

While our housing needs must get priority attention, I recognise the value of planning for the future.

This is why I, and my Department, are committed to the development of a new National Planning Framework (NPF) to succeed the National Spatial Strategy.

The National Planning Framework ‘Ireland 2040’ will be different from its predecessor in the following ways:

  • It will be a framework not in sole ownership of Government.
  • It will, as provided for under statutory legislation, and as recommended by the Mahon Tribunal, be approved by Dáil Éireann.
  • It will be the definitive statement on the future strategic development of our remarkable country.
  • The NPF will be more strategic and more concise than its predecessor.

There will be three new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies developed alongside the NPF.

They will be developed by the three Regional Assemblies representing the local government sector and co-ordinating their local economic development and planning functions.

I believe that the National Planning Framework will address the key aspects of planning for the future in Ireland. It needs to:

  • Identify where and how our housing needs are best met;
  • Identify our Regions key assets for economic development and job-creation;
  • Specify the location, delivery and funding of critical infrastructure;
  • Enhance the role of planning our sustainability, our greenness;

To achieve these we need to:

  • Find the right balance between the complementary but contrasting strengths of our regions; and
  • Strengthen the opportunities for an island approach to our development;
  • And integrate the marine and terrestrial planning processes.

We will have a realistic national conversation about the potential of our places, both urban and rural, recognising that a National Planning Framework will mean hard choices and avoiding the “one for everyone in the audience” approach.

In a globalised world, quality of ‘place’ really matters.

You as Planners know more about making a place work than any other profession.

So I look forward to working together with UCD Planning School in forming both policy and urban development practice so that we create better urban places for all.

Learning From The Past

As we all know, we had dark times in our recent planning past.

Let us not forget the enormous work undertaken and the huge financial cost associated with the Mahon Tribunal, its reports and recommendations.

I am happy that the implementation of the recommendations are ongoing, and includes legislation such as the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill presently at second stage in the Dáil.

As previous Ministers have stated and I certainly have no difficulty with re-stating today, abuses of the planning process are not acceptable and are not victim-less crimes.

By putting the wrong developments in the wrong places, at the wrong time, we are condemning future generations to live with the mistakes of the past.

That is why this Government is fully committed to the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) through the Planning and Development Bill.

Looking to the Future

To conclude, this evenings 50th anniversary celebrations will reflect on the past, present and future of Irish Planning.

I think we will all agree that while there are challenging times ahead for planning in Ireland. They will be interesting times, if you are a Planner I am sure they will be exciting times.

Times which will require a better vision, a better commitment and better technical skills of the Professional Planner to address the many challenges we face together.

Within my own Department, it is fitting that 50 years after the establishment of this School that for the first time, we have the word “Planning” in our title.

I am proud to be a Minister in the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government; one that reflects a newly re-constituted and expanded planning capability and function.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that, having come through the past, we are witnessing a new and golden era for planning and professional planners in Ireland.

We now know what didn’t work. We know what does work and with proper professional planning we know what will work.

There is now a remarkable opportunity to shape the future of our country through planning.

Ultimately, I believe that Planning is about bringing the future into the present so we can do something about it.

Or as Abraham Lincoln said – “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. Let us now do this together.

Finally, congratulations again to University College Dublin and to the Planning School.

I salute you for the past 50 years of your work; I look forward to working with you during the next 50 years as you play a dynamic part in the planning of Ireland’s future.

Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank You.

ENDS.

Visit to North & East Housing Association Housing Scheme, Ardmore, Bettystown, Meath

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath

Bettystown Bettystown with Resident and Cllrs Bettystown visit

I was delighted to be invited here today to the North & East Housing Association Housing Scheme, Ardmore, Bettystown, Meath to come on-site and walk around this wonderful development. At a time when social housing is at a critical point, the completion of the 29 apartments, duplexes and houses for social housing is no mean feat. I understand that 11 of these homes have been occupied for over a year now and the remaining 18 in phase 2 have just been tenanted. That represents 29 sets of families and couples who now have a place that they can call home.

This project is a great demonstration of what can happen when a number of stakeholders come together with a common purpose and vision.

All around Ireland we see evidence of the aftermath of the downturn in the construction and development sector. Unfinished housing estates are one of the saddest reminders of a very devastating time in the Irish economy. Indeed, I have seen photos of this site taken in 2012 before NAMA, the Council and North and East Housing Association began their collaboration and it is incredible to stand here today and see the difference. One particular image stood out to me and that was of the stairs leading to no-where. I suppose you could say that stairs was the metaphor for the entire estate.

Now today, I look around and see a very pleasant and welcoming estate, with homes in place of former semi-complete houses and apartments, well finished green areas and safe spaces to enjoy.

North and East Housing Association have been working in this area for almost 25 years, quietly building itself from a small scale voluntary organisation to the established and well respected Approved Housing Body that it now is.

The Housing Policy Statement 2011 and the Social Housing Strategy 2020 recognised the key contribution that AHBs had to make to the delivery of housing supports in Ireland, building on their track record in terms of both housing provision and management, and the Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness continues to recognise and support the central role of the AHB in the delivery of social housing.

The AHB sector has evolved in a short timeframe from the traditional grant-funded model to greater use of a loan finance approach, reflecting the prevailing arrangements in other jurisdictions. Working with the Housing Finance Agency, 15 AHBs with certified borrower status are currently progressing projects across the country. This is a significant contribution and the Government remains committed to enabling the sector to play a central role in the effort to meet social housing needs.

I congratulate North and East Housing Association, Meath County Council and NAMA for their work in demonstrating not only to locals, but to the country as a whole that the potential of these sites can be recognised, harnessed and delivered upon and I wish the tenants a very happy future in these wonderful homes.

Address by Minister of State English to Westmeath County Council

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Wesmeath

19th September 2016

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Cathaoirleach, Chief Executive, members of the Executive and Councillors.

Before I move into my main remarks about the Action Plan for Housing – Rebuilding Ireland, I want to say a few things on a personal level.

It is an honour to address Westmeath County Council as Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, but more importantly as a T.D. representing North Westmeath.

Your Chairman, Cllr. Frank McDermott, who invited me here on his first day in office, has been a good friend and support to me in my work for Westmeath over the years.

All of the Oireachtas Members who represent Westmeath are also a pleasure to work with, and are regularly raising issues of concern with me and with other Ministers on your behalf as a Council, and on behalf of your constituents.

They got a good grounding in this chamber and I know that time and that experience will serve them well as the years go on.

I know from my own experience representing North Westmeath since 2007, and from reading the local newspapers, that Westmeath County Council is forward thinking and progressive in how it does its business.

Much of the credit for that is down to you as Councillors, working locally on the ground, and working together here in the chamber with the Executive for the common good that sets a positive tone for the County.

I am optimistic that you will channel that same spirit and that same character in playing your part to help Re-Build Ireland, and help provide a quality home near to a quality job for all those who need it.

That is why I am here today. I want to have a conversation with you, as well as telling you our own plans. I want to hear your feedback, your ideas or indeed your concerns.

Housing Shortage

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 programme.

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 Westmeath County stood at 1,893 (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 was just over 200 homes, 70% (143) of which were individual one-off houses.

We are building considerably less new homes than we need and have done so for a number of years;

Almost 12% of housing stock in the County was reported as vacant in the 2016 Census and,

Meanwhile many families and individuals are in mortgage arrears or facing increasing rents.

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:

  • 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;
  • 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, particularly families in emergency accommodation;
  • Moderate the rental and purchase price inflation, particularly in urban areas;
  • 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.

A key feature of the Plan will be highlighting ‘pathfinder’ projects, innovative and effective solutions to problems and approaches to projects that can be replicated in other local authority areas. I would encourage Westmeath to come forward with an exemplar in this regard.

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 in October.

We have responded in particular to the calls for funding to address infrastructure blockages, through the establishment of a €200m Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund to support enabling infrastructure to release lands for housing development. A call for proposals for suitable projects issued from my Department on 26th August and proposals are due back on 14th October. We anticipate that this fund has the potential to release the delivery of at least 15,000 to 20,000 new homes, which would otherwise not be delivered.

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.

Urban Renewal

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.

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 programme.

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.

ENDS