HOUSING FOR ALL? An Overview of Ireland’s new housing plan


Our Paul McCutcheon (Partner) and David Mullins of the firm's Real Estate department provide an overview of the Ireland's new Housing Plan and its impact on Ireland's housing system.

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Paul McCutcheon & David Mullins

The 2nd of September 2021 saw the launch of “Housing for All – A New Housing Plan for Ireland” the Irish government’s housing plan for 2030. It is a multi-annual, multi-billion euro plan launched to improve Ireland's housing system and deliver more homes of all types for people with different housing needs. The government’s vision for the housing system over the longer terms is to achieve a steady supply of housing in the right locations with economic, social and environmental sustainability built into the system.

The previous year has seen a number of significant steps taken by the Irish government to address the housing issues facing the country. The government passed the first ever comprehensive Affordable Housing Act and reformed the Land and Development Agency’s remit by placing it on a statutory footing. The Help to Buy incentive for first time buyers was also extended and increased to €30,000.00 while Irelands first ever cost rental homes were opened at the Glenveagh Properties plc development at Taylor Hill, Balbriggan, County Dublin, a project that we were delighted to be centrally involved with. 

Ireland needs an average of 33,000 homes constructed per annum till 2030 to meet targets set out for additional households, as outlined in the National Planning Framework. To achieve this target, the Housing for All plan provides for four overarching “pathways” to achieve this goal:

  1. Supporting Homeownership and Increasing Affordability;
  2. Eradicating Homelessness, Increasing Social Housing Delivery and Supporting Social Infrastructure;
  3. Increasing New Housing Supply; and
  4. Addressing Vacancy and Efficient Use of Existing Stock.

 Each of the pathways contains a comprehensive suite of actions to achieve the housing policy objectives. The implementation of each action until 2030 will be led by a named government department, state agency or other body. An overarching governance structure will be established in the Department of An Taoiseach for implementation. Government departments, state agencies, local authorities, approved housing bodies (AHB’s) the Land Development Agency (LDA) and other delivery partners will work with the delivery office. A summary of each pathway, its main challenges and immediate actions is set out below.

1.Pathway to Supporting Homeownership and Increasing Affordability

 The government believes that homeownership is good for individuals, families and communities and this pathway has a number if significant issues aimed at people currently unable to meet their housing needs but who, with help, could purchase their own homes. It also looks at measures to address affordability for those who are renting. The first steps in this pathway are as follows:

  • Supply new housing up to an average of at least 33,000 homes per year to 2030.
  • An average of 6,000 affordable homes to be made available every year for purchase or rent by Local Authorities, AHB’s, the LAA and via a strategic partnership between the State and retail banks.
  • A new Local Authority led affordable purchase scheme.
  • A new, nationally available, affordable purchase shared-equity First Home scheme until 2025 for buyers of new-build homes in private developments.
  • The LDA will be a new and important source of affordable housing on public lands and will advance a new initiative, Project Tosaigh, to enhance the early delivery of new affordable homes.
  • The LDA will deliver a significant number of homes on State lands and in association with Local Authorities, in major mixed tenure developments.
  • Increase contribution by developers under Part V, up from 10% to 20% to include affordable housing and cost rental housing.
  • Launch a newly expanded Local Authority Home Loan
  • Extend Rent Pressure Zone protections to 2024 and rents linked to the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices.
  • Introduction indefinite tenures for rent leases.
  • Introduction of a new form of rental tenure called “Cost Rental” homes.

2. Pathway to Eradicating Homelessness, Increasing Social Housing Delivery and Supporting Social Inclusion. 

The government believes housing policy must address the needs of Irish society’s more vulnerable members. The prevalence of homelessness, increasing rents and the restricted options for older people and people with a disability are, they believe, among the most pressing issues in the regard. This Housing for All pathway hopes to provide comprehensive measures to support these and other vulnerable groups. The first steps in providing this pathway are set out as follows:

  • Provide more than 10,000 social homes each year with an average of 9,500 new build social homes to 2026.
  • Through an updated “Housing First National Implementation Plan”, provide 12,000 tenancies over the next 5 years for people with a history of rough sleeping or long-term use of emergency accommodation and who have complex needs.
  • End long term leasing of social housing by local authorities and AHB’s through phasing out new entrants and focussing on new-build to provide social homes.
  • Strengthening the Mortgage to Rent scheme to ensure it meets the needs of those in long-term mortgage arrears.
  • Making improvements to the quality and quantity of Traveller-specific accommodation.
  • Provide continued capital funding for housing for specific vulnerable cohorts such as housing for older people and people with a disability through the Capital Assistance Scheme and other social housing schemes.

3.Pathway to Increasing New Housing Supply

The government recognises the challenges caused by Covid 19 in every sector of the economy including the construction sector have been enormous. It recognises that increased housing output is needed in all sectors – private and social – to meet the needs of people in a wide variety of circumstances. Recent reports by the National Economic and Social Council highlighted the dysfunctional aspects in Ireland’s system of urban development, land management and housing and called for a “whole of system” approach to bridge the gap between supply and demand. The government believes the steps it will take on this pathway will create the environment and needs to create the supply of over 300,000 new homes by 2030. To achieve this, supply will need to increase quickly and the plan responds to that challenge through both new measure and necessary reforms as follows:

  • An average annual investment in excess of over €4 billion in housing, through an overall combination of €12 billion in direct Exchequer funding, €3.5 billion through the LDA and €5 billion through the Housing Finance Agency (HFA).
  • Over 10,000 new homes and 6,000 affordable homes for purchase or rent per annum.
  • State land bank to provide more land to the LDA to bring forward up to 15,000 homes and State to fund local authorities for land acquisition. 
  • In accordance with the National Planning Framework, focus on adequate supply of serviced, zoned land to meet housing needs at required density.
  • Introduce updated Kenny Report style powers to ensure sharing of the increase in land values resulting from zoning decisions and more community gain.
  • Introduce a new planning process for Large-Scale Residential Developments to replace the Strategic Housing Development Process.
  • Establish Urban Development Zones which will provide a coordinated approach to residential and urban development.
  • Overhaul and simplify planning legislation to ensure certainty and stability.
  • Bring forward reform of the Judicial Review process introduce a new division of High Court for Planning and Environmental cases to reduce planning delays.
  • Introduce a new tax to activate vacant lands for residential purposes, to replace the Vacant Site Levy.
  • Provide a new fund Croi Coneithe (Cities) to address acute viability challenges in urban areas that are curtailing home ownership.
  • Increase skills capacity to deliver an average of 33,000 homes per year.

4.Pathway to Addressing Vacancy and Efficient Use of Existing Stock. 

The government has indicated that maximizing the use of Ireland’s existing housing stock, especially in towns and cities, is a critical element of a sustainable housing policy. In addition to building new supply, an imperative is being placed on the use of existing houses and apartments. The steps on this pathway are as follows:

  • A new Croi Coneithe (Towns) Fund for servicing and sites for new homes in regional towns and villages and to support the refurbishment of vacant houses. Public infrastructure agencies such as Irish Water and local communities will work to provide services for housing. This will help attract people to build their own homes and live in small towns and villages.
  • Energy retrofit supports to refurbish older, vacant stock.
  • Support for Local Authorities to purchase and resell up to 2,500 of the identified vacant properties in their area. Compulsory Purchase Order powers will be used where necessary. Local Authorities will be supported by HFA funding
  • Reform the “Fair Deal” Scheme (the scheme the provides financial support to those in long-term nursing home care) to incentivise people in long term care to rent or sell their property.
  • Establish new controls on short term lettings.
  • Collect data on vacancies with a view to introducing a new Vacant Property Tax.
  • Planned management and maintenance of Local Authority housing stock.
  • Incentivise the refurbishment and extension of vacant properties in towns or villages, for example, through energy retrofit supports and the Urban Regeneration Development Fund/Rural Regeneration Development Fund and other mechanisms.

The four Pathways in the Housing for All plan do not exist in isolation but are intended by the government to sit on a wider context. Action against climate change is a government priority and the future environmental sustainability of the Nation’s housing stock, including low-carbon housing is an imperative. The actions in Housing for All have been developed to support the targets and objectives set out in the National Planning Framework and the Climate Action Plan as follows:

  • Invest €4.5 billion in water infrastructure including to help facilitate new home building.
  • Reduce the cost of construction through a coordinated Government approach to productivity in residential construction.
  • Embed compliance in the construction sector through Building Regulations and Building Control Regulations and assessment of building control structures. This will include establishing registers of competent builders by placing the Construction Industry Register Ireland on a statutory footing.
  • Strengthen delivery teams, including project management, for Local Authorities to drive housing delivery.
  • Establish a Commission on Housing and hold a referendum on housing.

By implementing Housing for All, the government believes that it can embed environmental, economic and social sustainability in the Irish housing system for future generations. The government maintains the Houses for All plan represents not just a landmark step in terms of State funding for housing but also the most ambitious attempt to ensure that the entire sector is reshaped to meet the needs of the people. Time will tell whether this has, or even can, be achieved. We will examine in more detail the individual pathways in the plan over the coming days and weeks. 

Please note that this article is not intended as legal advice. If you have any queries about the content, please contact either Paul McCutcheon or David Mullins whose contact details are set out below.

Paul McCutcheon, Partner
E: pmcutcheon@kanetuohy.ie
M: 087 632 2591

David Mullins, Senior Associate
E: dmullins@kanetuohy.ie
M: 087 400 7480

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