Thursday, September 02, 2021

The housing issue has blighted consecutive governments, with none managing to come up with a solution to adequately meet the rising demand for homes in the State.

The latest attempt, the Housing for All plan, has been unveiled by the Government this afternoon — but what’s in the plan, and is it up to the monstrous task of tackling the housing crisis?

What’s in the plan?

The new plan hopes to address some of the key issues surrounding housing, namely cost and supply.

Last year, research by the National Economic and Social Council found the current housing model to be “dysfunctional”, adding changes must be made to bridge supply and affordability gaps “by actively managing land and locational value for public good” and by “engineering-in permanent affordability”.

Under the plan, there are “four pathways” to tackling the housing crisis, which the Government says will lead to a more “sustainable” housing system. These are:

  • Supporting home ownership and increase affordability;
  • Eradicating homelessness and increasing social housing delivery;
  • Increasing new housing supply;
  • Addressing vacancy and making efficient use of existing stock.

So with the view to increase supply – how many homes will be built?

The Government is promising the delivery of more than 300,000 homes by the end of 2030, across the four categories of social, affordable and cost rental, private rental and private ownership.

On average, the Government intends for over 33,000 homes be built each year, rising to 40,000 by 2030, with a focus on the “largest ever social housing building programme”.

The number of social homes delivered each year is to rise from 9,000 in 2022 to 10,200 in 2030, bringing a total of over 90,000 social homes by the end of the decade.

The plan also targets 54,000 affordable homes by the end of the decade, aiming to provide 2,000 cost rental homes and 4,000 local authority affordable homes each year.

Privately purchased and rented properties are meanwhile to increase from 11,500 in 2022 to 24,000 by the end of the decade.

How will the issue of affordability be tackled?

The Government is pledging €4 billion per year in guaranteed State funding, which it says is the “highest ever level of Government investment in building social and affordable housing.”

There will be an expansion in access to affordable homes to buy under the plan through an enhanced Local Authority Home Loan Scheme, which will have an increased income ceiling for single people of €65,000 and lower loan interest rates.

There are also to be measures to reduce construction costs and support.

What about addressing vacancy?

Measures to use vacant lands for residential housing will be introduced under the plan, such as a new tax to replace the existing Vacant Site Levy.

Local authorities are also to purchase and resell up to 2,500 vacant properties in their areas.

The provision of State land to the Land Development Agency will allow for the delivery of up to 15,000 residential units, which the Government says will help to revitalise urban centres.

What about homelessness?

The plan puts a focus on people with a history of rough sleeping or long-term use of emergency accommodation through 1,200 new Housing First tenancies over the next five years.

How has the Government’s approach changed?

The plan puts a huge emphasis on social and affordable housing and recognises the impact rising costs are having on people wishing to build their own homes.

The planning process will also be addressed in an effort to speed up the provision of housing, with a new Large Scale Residential Development (LSRD) planning process being established to set strict time limits for the approval process. This is also due to be accompanied by new legislation which will speed up the timeframe of judicial reviews for planning decisions.

What criticisms have been made of the plan so far?

The plan’s equity loan scheme is one area which faced considerable criticism ahead of its publication.

The scheme would see the State paying a percentage of the cost of the new home in return for a stake in the property. However, the Central Bank said there was “little detail around the contractual obligations on those that might receive this financing”, according to The Irish Times.

Also, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said there will be a zero interest charge on the equity for the first five years, and 1.75 per cent between years six and 15, but critics have suggested equity charges would be like a double mortgage and the scheme will drive prices up.

The ESRI and the Housing Agency have cited studies showing similar schemes in London led to six per cent inflation, but the Minister, citing different reports, claimed the move will result in a 14 per cent increase in supply with only one per cent inflation.

Contact Newsdesk: 045 432147

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