European Investment Bank Workshop
Seminar on Social and Affordable Housing Finance

Welcome

I am delighted to be here to welcome you to this workshop seminar, which we are co-hosting with the European Investment Bank.

We had an early start and we have a comprehensive programme, so I would like to thank you for your commitment in being here.

The focus this morning is on the financing of social and affordable housing.  Gathered here in this room we have a group who, individually and collectively, have the most direct and detailed knowledge of social housing policy and delivery in Ireland.

We are joined by a range of speakers from the European Investment Bank who have specific expertise in financing socially-beneficial projects.  We will hear from contributors who have experience in harnessing EIB funding to provide social housing.

While we have a full agenda, the format of the event is intended to stimulate engagement and ideas.   We are here to listen, discuss and to hopefully unlock new investment opportunities.  Questions and dialogue are therefore encouraged.

Purpose of the Event

This workshop affords us the opportunity to learn more about the funding opportunities which the European Investment Bank can bring, as we continue to scale up our commitments for the delivery of social and affordable housing.

We can look forward to gaining insights into how some of our European neighbours have combined policy innovation with EIB funding to meet their social housing challenges.

At this critical time, it is vital that we seize upon new ways to utilise innovative funding mechanisms.

EIB’s Role and Ireland’s Social Housing Need:

I want to acknowledge the commitment of the European Investment Bank in giving today’s workshop such priority.  I think that this is reflected in the calibre and the number of contributors.

I also want to specifically note the role of EIB Vice-President Andrew McDowell in making today’s initiative happen, and for his work in further developing the mutually beneficial relationship that exists between the Ireland and the European Investment Bank.

The EIB, as you will be aware, is the long-term lending institution of the European Union.  It is owned by the EU’s Member States, including Ireland.

Since 1973, the EIB has provided more than 15 billion euro for investment to improve public services and key infrastructure.  It has unlocked new funding opportunities.

I welcome the recent opening of the EIB’s new offices in Dublin, and the increased engagement by the EIB with Government Departments and key stakeholders in Ireland.  This is strengthening support for crucial investment across our country.

There is therefore a strong current match between Ireland’s need to invest in social housing, and the EIB’s willingness to support socially-minded infrastructure projects.

Benefits of EIB Finance

I am aware of the positive impact that European Investment Bank finance can have.  Earlier this month I saw first-hand at Thornwood in north Dublin the fruits of the EIB’s first ever support for social housing in Ireland.

This was in the form of a €300 million fund which the EIB, together with the Housing Finance Agency, put in place in 2015.

This fund has been harnessed by eight Approved Housing Bodies to deliver over 1,300 homes and improve the energy efficiency for a further 550 units.

Such was its success that we recently launched a second €405 million tranche of funding.  Empowered by such long-term, low-interest finance, we hope that this will see delivery of further housing projects from our AHB sector.

The loan finance which the EIB offers can effectively reduce the risk associated with social housing projects and encouraging additional investment.  This enables new developments to take place.

Action Plan

Our Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, Rebuilding Ireland, prioritises the mobilisation of all sources of funding to increase the supply of social housing.

Rebuilding Ireland sets out both ambitious measures and ambitious targets for the scaling up of housing output.  This is particularly so in respect of social housing.  The aim of delivering 47,000 units by the end of 2020 requires the best efforts and contributions of all stakeholders.

Rebuilding Ireland challenges us all – including my Department, the Housing Finance Agency, local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies – to increase their social housing output through the availability of affordable finance.  We are supported in this work by the National Treasury Management Agency and the National Development Finance Agency who are also present today.

While the Government is investing unprecedented levels of capital funding in social housing, we need to be open to other sources of finance.  We need to look at bringing increased off-balance sheet funding into the social housing sector.

One example is through Public Private Partnership.  We have a social housing PPP programme, which is also backed by the availability of EIB funding.  Through this programme we are enabling investors to back the large-scale construction of social housing in Ireland for the first time.  This is helping us to deliver increased output when it is most needed.

We also need to look to other opportunities.

It is my hope that, buoyed by this initiative today, more new funding mechanisms will emerge that can benefit from the EIB’s increased focus on Ireland.

At this critical time it is vital that we deliver innovative and cost-effective funding in order to meet to our shared social housing challenge.

I wish you every success today and would like to assure you of the Government’s commitment to social housing delivery and my openness to your ideas and active participation in achieving our collective ambitions.

Thank you.

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