Minister Murphy’s Statement Following the Third Housing Summit with Local Authority CEOs

Minister Murphy welcomes all 31 Local Authority CEOs to the third Housing Summit

Summary Outcomes

Delivery against the national target of supporting 25,500 additional households through the range of social housing programmes in 2018 is on track.

In addition to today’s (03 July 2018) Summit there will be further engagement with Directors of Housing and senior executive and technical staff from Local Authorities on July 11th to discuss today’s outcomes in detail.

  1. Homeless
    • 70 new emergency beds will be in place in September and further bed spaces will be identified for the winter.
    • A National Implementation Plan for Housing First will be published later this month.
    • Following on from issues identified with families in emergency accommodation being unwilling to consider HAP we will carry out a review of current Schemes of Letting Priorities, including an examination of transfer list arrangements and the potential for increased ‘choice-based letting’.
    • A new national Housing Assistance Payment Scheme promotion campaign, outlining the benefits of the scheme for both landlords and tenants, will be launched to address some of the concerns identified in recent reports.
    • A strengthened Research Team in the Dublin Region Homeless Executive will have responsibility for developing homelessness research nationally, as well as improvements in reporting.
    • Two pilot temporary family hubs will be rolled out in Louth and Galway, in conjunction with the Peter McVerry Trust. This will involve the provision of temporary prefabricated individual units in clusters which will be operated as a homeless hub. These high quality units will have the required supports in place so that families and individuals can exit to more permanent accommodation.
  1. Social House Building
    • A new fast track apartment scheme (1,000+) across several Dublin sites and other city and town locations across the country is to be progressed.
    • Banks, financial institutions and private equity funds are being targeted for 1,000 units as part of vacancy and acquisition delivery in addition to existing programmes.
    • The first dedicated AHB Housing Summit will take place in September to progress AHB delivery in tandem with Local Authorities.
  2. Affordability
    • Call for bids for €75m Serviced Sites Fund for Affordable Housing now issued.
    • Housing Delivery Office has identified Local Authority and Housing Agency lands with potential capacity to deliver over 10,000 homes (subject to planning etc) of which a significant number will be affordable. In addition they have identified additional sites which are capable of delivering a further significant number of new homes, once enabling infrastructure and viability issues are resolved.
  3. National Planning Framework
    • Call for proposals issued for new €2bn Urban Regeneration and Development Fund to support compact growth and sustainable development of Ireland’s five cities, regional drivers and other large urban centres.
    • A detailed information session on the Fund being held for LA teams in Portlaoise next Monday (9th July). Deadline for applications is 12 noon on the 28th September 2018. €100M available from 1st January for shovel ready projects.

Statement in Full

Following the conclusion of our Third Housing Summit with the Chief Executives of each of the 31 Local Authorities today (3 July 2018), I am announcing a number of key outcomes and actions that were agreed to further accelerate and increase the delivery of social and affordable housing.

Preventing homelessness, as well as ensuring that those who are experiencing homelessness have every support they need, were also a key focus of the Summit. In particular, the need to exit families and individuals from hotel and B&B accommodation into tenancies supported through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme or into family hubs, where a range of important supports are in place, was also re-emphasised as a key priority.

The role of the Approved Housing Body (AHB) sector, partnering with local authorities, is critical in terms of delivery. Of the 50,000 social housing homes to be delivered from 2016 to 2021 under Rebuilding Ireland, the AHB sector will deliver a third of these.  Building on engagements that take place with the sector in a range of settings, the first dedicated AHB Housing Summit will take place in September.

Social Housing Delivery

  • The target number of social houses to be delivered in each Local Authority area out to 2021 was reviewed and each Local Authority confirmed that good progress is being made on both early delivery and the development of pipelines of projects to meet their targets in the coming years. It was confirmed that the targets set were minimum targets and where any local authority could accelerate and build more homes, these would be supported.
  • In terms of achieving greater accountability and driving delivery, details of progress made by each Local Authority against their delivery targets will be published shortly. In addition, Local Authorities have been asked to update their own websites with their targets and to provide a link to the progress reports which will be published by my Department.
  • Overall, delivery against the national target of supporting 25,500 additional households through the range of social housing programmes in 2018 is on track. Local Authorities were reminded of the critical focus on new-build output and the need to ensure that all projects are kept on-time and that slippage is addressed and mitigated. Local Authorities were encouraged to actively consider any additionality that might be available in their functional areas, including AHB projects, and to engage early with my Department in that regard. Local Authorities were also reminded of the need to be innovative in their approach to achieving both short and long term targets and to harness maximum capacity across delivery streams, including phasing of projects as necessary.
  • Funding is in place to support the delivery over 1,000 fast-track apartments and plans for these are currently being advanced across a number Dublin sites and other city and town locations across the country .
  • The importance of aligning social housing delivery with housing need means that there will need to be an increased provision of one and two-bedroom homes in many locations. My Department will continue work with local authorities and AHBs to ensure that these types of dwellings are planned for and delivered at the scale required.
  • The need to ensure delivery of housing for older people and the need to support downsizing where individuals wish to do so will be further explored and my Department will publish a policy statement on this shortly.
  • In terms of tackling vacancy and also accelerating the delivery of social housing homes, the Department is working with the Housing Agency in relation to boosting this year’s targeted acquisition and delivery of homes which are in the possession of banks and other financial institutions, including private equity funds, to 1,000 units.
  • The Department’s Housing Delivery Office continues to engage directly with Local Authorities to support and accelerate both social housing and affordable housing delivery, including a focus on timely delivery of projects in existing pipelines and exploring additional vehicles for delivery.

Tackling Homelessness

  • The reports and recommendations of the Inter-Agency Group and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive were discussed. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive report highlighted family circumstances, including family breakdown and overcrowding, as one of the major drivers of homelessness in the Dublin Region.  It agreed that additional resources will be allocated to this area by the local authorities, with supports also provided by the other relevant State Agencies.  The aim is to provide additional supports to families in such circumstances, to avoid situations where individuals and families have to present to emergency accommodation. Where appropriate, the household will be linked with the Placefinder service and be supported to identify a HAP tenancy.
  • It was agreed that local authorities will appoint additional outreach officers to accelerate and deepen cooperation with local statutory agencies and NGOs, with co-operation essential to deliver swift and effective responses to at-risk tenancies, overcrowding, addiction, mental health, and family break-up issues, using local knowledge to help provide solutions.
  • In this context, several key amendments proposed in a new Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2018 will strengthen and reinforce the rent predictability measures and reforms already introduced under the Rental Strategy to protect and give more certainty to both tenants and landlords and thus should help to prevent homelessness in certain cases. The Bill will, inter alia, extend the notice periods for tenancy terminations, allow the RTB to initiate an investigation without the need for a complaint to be made and also investigate and prosecute landlords who seek rent increases that contravene the law around rent limits (4% per annum) in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) – all of these measures should provide further protections and recourse to tenants who may be at risk of requiring emergency accommodation.

Rough Sleepers and Housing First

  • While the last rough sleeping count showed a welcome significant reduction, tackling rough sleeping remains a key priority. An additional 70 emergency beds will be in place in September and further bed spaces will be identified for the winter. It remains the Government position that anybody who wants a bed or shelter should have it.
  • However, we must recognise that emergency beds are for short-term use only and a national Implementation Plan for Housing First will be published later this month, to greatly expand the programme. The Plan will set ambitious targets to create tenancies for rough sleepers and long-term users of emergency accommodation. Based on research commissioned by my Department and the DRHE, the Implementation Plan will set targets for each local authority for the creation of Housing First tenancies. The implementation of the Plan will be overseen by the National Director, with the delivery of the targets coordinated by the regional structures in place for the delivery of homeless services.  The Housing First Programme will be a partnership between my own Department, the Department of Health, Local Authorities and the Health Services Executive.

HAP

  • My Department is continuing to work closely with local authorities to address issues relating to the acceptance of HAP by households experiencing homelessness.
  • Enhanced placefinder services will be put in place and additional placefinder staff provided where required. My Department will work with and support Local Authorities to maximise the impact of the placefinder service at a local level, particularly through increased engagement with families that are self-accommodating, to ensure that their period in emergency accommodation is minimised.
  • The Department will explore opportunities with Local Authorities and AHBs for the establishment of a supply of “floating” rental stock.
  • A review of the impact of current Schemes of Letting Priorities in place will be carried out by my Department, in conjunction with the County and City Management Association, to consider concerns held by households in relation to the acceptance of HAP and to ensure households can have confidence in the capacity of the allocations schemes to provide for access to local authority tenancies, where this is the preferred choice of a household. This will include an examination of the transfer arrangements in place and the potential for increased ‘choice-based letting’. A new national Housing Assistance Payment Scheme promotion campaign, outlining the benefits of the scheme for both landlords and tenants, will be launched.

Enhanced Reporting & Research

  • To get a greater understanding of trends and so as to interrogate to a greater extent the causes and types of homelessness arising, increased resources will be provided for research. A strengthened Research Team in the Dublin Region Homeless Executive will have responsibility for developing homelessness research nationally.

Temporary Homes Pilot

  • Two pilot temporary family hubs will be rolled out in Louth and Galway, in conjunction with the Peter McVerry Trust. This will involve the provision of temporary prefabricated individual units in clusters which will be operated as a homeless hub. These high quality units will have the required supports in place so that families and individuals can exit to more permanent accommodation.

Affordability, Land Use and Mixed Tenure Development

We are making excellent progress on the delivery of social housing and we now have a strong and growing new-build programme across the local authority land bank of 1,700 hectares.  Recognising that in certain areas, many households who do not qualify for social housing supports are also stretched in terms of buying a home or renting, our discussions today also focused on the need to ensure that there is a supply of affordable homes from the public land bank in key target areas. This will also help to ensure that we have the right tenure mix to build thriving sustainable communities.

  • I commenced the relevant provisions of the 2009 Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act last month to bring affordable housing back on a statutory footing. Homes will be delivered from appropriate State/housing authority land. I am also providing targeted funding of €75m under the new Serviced Sites Fund for enabling infrastructure to help reduce the servicing costs of providing affordable homes to buy or rent on local authority lands. The call for bids for that fund has now issued.
  • We have a number of innovative cost rental pilots being progressed and the plan is to develop a substantial cost rental sector in our major cities to make a sustainable impact on housing affordability and improve the quality of life for households, by facilitating people to live closer to where they work in vibrant, mixed-tenure communities.
  • There is agreement with local authorities that their land bank can and should be developed to deliver more than just social housing alone. Larger sites, particularly those capable of delivering 100+ new homes, often require a different, mixed-tenure approach, and initiatives like affordable purchase and cost rental provide the opportunity and tools to deliver affordable homes from these sites.
  • After the last summit in January, initial estimates by local authorities, in key target locations, identified the potential for delivery of around 4,000 affordable homes from local authority sites. Working with local authorities, my Department’s Housing Delivery Office has identified lands capable of delivering over 10,000 homes (subject to planning etc.) of which a significant number will be affordable in those key target areas where the affordability pressures are most acute (including Dublin; GDA; Cork and Galway cities) and additional lands that potentially have capacity to deliver further significant new housing, once enabling infrastructure and viability issues are resolved.
  • I have asked all Chief Executives to explore actively such opportunities from their own land bank (and other strategically-located public lands in their area) and consider how these sites can be brought forward for mixed-tenure development “at scale” without delay, using tools and templates developed by my Department to ensure a streamlined and consistent approach.

Implementation of National Planning Framework and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies

Taking account of this week’s call for proposals to local authorities and other public bodies for the new Urban Regeneration and Development Fund to support compact growth and sustainable development of Ireland’s five cities, regional drivers and other large urban centres, I also highlighted in today’s discussions the importance for all local authorities to engage actively with the relevant Regional Assembly teams to translate national objectives in the NPF into ambitious visions and actions for planned and coordinated growth of each region and county area.  Together with the complementary Rural Regeneration and Development Fund being overseen by Minister Ring’s Department, the new Urban Fund can act as a catalyst to transform and revitalise our urban spaces, and all local authorities need to identify suitable proposals to be able to access this €2bn fund over the next 10 years.

Building on today’s discussions, a more detailed information session on the Fund will be held in Portlaoise next Monday (9th July) to elaborate on the types of projects expected to apply for this competitive Fund, and my Department team are available to provide further general advice between now and when the initial call closes at the end of September.