Minister O’Brien announces plans to boost social housing delivery

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has announced plans to support the delivery of social housing stock in following a 14 week construction sector shut-down. The plan includes:

  • A voids programme which will target almost 3,000 vacant properties to be remediated for re-letting this year
  • An increased focus on Buy and Renew construction with a particular emphasis on rundown vacant properties that local authorities can repurpose as social housing units
  • A programme of targeted acquisitions by local authorities
  • Evaluation of local authority resources

Minister O’Brien welcomed the recent resumption of residential construction saying “the COVID-19 restrictions introduced by Government at the start of the year were necessary to curtail the movement of people and to protect public health.

“With the exception of limited social housing sites, residential construction has been stopped for three months and there will be a significant impact on output, with many projects delayed until 2022.

“I am working with local authorities and other stakeholders to maximise delivery this year and I have written to the Chief Executives of all Local Authorities today announcing a number of new measures.

“In the short term, we need to ensure that all existing local authority stock is available to allocate to households on the social housing waiting lists, including households in homeless emergency accommodation.  For this reason, I am providing funding to local authorities for the remediation of approximately 3,000 vacant social housing units this year.

“I also want to ensure that local authorities can quickly increase their stock and meet priority housing needs. I am providing increased flexibility for local authorities to undertake a programme of targeted acquisitions, primarily focused on one and four-bedroom units, which are in short supply and specific properties for those with a disabilities.  All acquisitions will be in line with my Department’s Acquisition Cost Guidelines and local authorities have also been instructed to avoid acquisitions which compete with private buyers (owner occupiers).

“I have also asked local authorities to examine opportunities for the delivery of new social housing by addressing vacancy and underutilised properties through Buy and Renew Construction and Repair and Leasing.  Repurposing vacant and under-utilised properties, including commercial properties, can deliver much needed social homes, while also supporting the regeneration of our towns and villages. Last year I made changes to the Repair and Lease scheme, increasing the maximum funding available from €40,000 to €60,000. At the time I signalled that I also wanted to examine changes to the Buy and Renew scheme to make it easier for local authorities to purchase private vacant properties for use as social housing. We will now give local authorities delegated sanction to complete units within certain parameters, meaning they can get to work quickly purchasing, refurbishing or converting properties for use as social housing.

“A key focus of this Government has been to get local authorities back building. Having visited a number of local authorities over the past eight months I am acutely aware of the pressures they are under in terms of capacity and resource requirements. My Department are working on an evaluation of existing resources and will develop proposals to strengthen capacity and address resource constraints. As well as that we will look at supports for local authorities to acquire land now which will provide a strong foundation for housing delivery in 2022 and 2023.

“These combined measures will help us to boost our supply of social housing as we get homebuilding back on track,” concluded Minister O’Brien.