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Housing for All starts with Budget 2022
The provision of adequate and appropriate accommodation must be a key element of delivering a Fairer Recovery. As the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis continues, it is becoming more and more apparent that Ireland’s housing crisis is still with us and the last few years have delivered very little real progress in providing suitable, secure, stable and above all, affordable housing. If Rebuilding Ireland had been underpinned by progressive polices, the five pillars would have delivered on key areas of housing need. The anticipated Housing for All strategy must deliver exactly that. To achieve this goal, Government must:
Address Housing Data Deficits
It is impossible to make realistic progress against targets that are not based in reality. The current data collection does not accurately capture the numbers of people who have a housing need. By not including those who are reliant on family, friends or the local authority for temporary accommodation, those in refuges and shelters, those at risk of losing their homes due to mortgage arrears and those in receipt of precarious social housing supports, there is a serious underestimation of the real number of builds required. Housing strategy going forward must be evidence based. Setting and then failing to meet targets that seriously fall short of need will not solve the problem. We can only hope to meet the needs of citizens once their need has been recognised. We can begin this process by ensuring accurate data capture on homelessness.
Align data collection on homelessness to the ETHOS typology to avoid further obfuscation and provide the necessary administration and ICT supports to do so at an initial cost of €3m in Budget 2022.
Tackle long term mortgage arrears cases
One of the key pillars of the Rebuilding Ireland strategy was the prevention of homelessness. Among the households most at risk are those in mortgage arrears. As of 31st March 2021, there were 29,429 mortgages in long term arrears of one year or more. It is clear that a sustainable long term solution must be found. Most at risk, are the 5,416 accounts that have been in arrears for more than ten years. We can ill afford another 30,000 households either being added to social housing waiting lists or being made homeless. To prevent this, Government must acquire an equity stake in properties in mortgage distress leaving families in situ and increasing the State’s social housing stock. Beginning with those mortgages in arrears of more than 10 years, at a cost of €1.25bn.
Build more social and affordable housing
An increase in social housing stock is needed to sustain this sector and reduce house and rent prices into the future. Other European countries which we would like to emulate have a social housing stock that is 20 per cent of their overall housing stock compared to 9 per cent in Ireland. As well as under reporting homelessness figures, the real need for social housing is also under reported as those in HAP tenancies, DSGBV refuges, Direct Provision and many at risk of losing their home due to mortgage arrears are not included. The Government must be much more ambitious and realistic in both setting and reaching social housing targets. As of 31st December 2019, there are 173,459 social housing dwellings in the ownership of either the Local Authorities or Approved Housing Bodies. This number needs to a least double by 2030 to meet demand. To achieve the target build, Government must build 14,341,social homes each year for the next 10 years at an annual cost of €3.3bn. This investment will require a skilled workforce. Inclusion of a new construction apprenticeship programme whereby one in every fifteen is required to be an apprentice earning at least the Living Wage must form part of any rebuilding scheme.
The process of addressing housing affordability on the supply side rather should begin as soon as possible with the establishment of a construction procurement working group and the winding down of demand side schemes that artificially maintain high house prices. The removal of the Help to Buy Scheme would save the Exchequer €144m in 2022.
Ensure Social housing stock and land remain social
In order to deliver cost effective social and affordable homes and keep costs at a minimum, the land costs must be kept as low as possible. Building on land already owned by the State makes this feasible. According to a 2014 Residential Land Availability Survey, there was sufficient land in the ownership of the State to provide for the construction of 414,000 dwellings. Using less than half of this land would meet the 20 per cent target we propose. Once the houses are built, it is vital that they remain social.
Government should adopt legislation to prohibit the sale of State lands suitable for residential development and use this land to build social housing.
Legislation should also be introduced to ensure that Approved Housing Bodies retain their social housing stock as social housing and prohibit its sale on the private market.
To ensure the sustainability of social lettings, the services and infrastructure communities require must be in place. Community health networks, social care supports, community policing, safe spaces should be a priority. This regeneration would require an initial investment of €100m in Budget 2022.
Develop a functioning Private Rented Sector
When it comes to landlord and tenant rights in Ireland, these rights are weighed heavily in favour of the landlord whose Constitutionally-protected property rights take precedence over the human right of the tenant to live in adequate, safe and sustainable accommodation. Security of tenure must be a vital component of a private rental market that households are accessing for longer periods of time. The rate of Local Authority inspections of private rented property has been consistently low, while the rate of non-compliance with basic health and safety regulations among those properties that are inspected has been high. Regulation of the private rented market must reflect its increasing importance as a housing provider, as reliance on the private rented sector increases across all socio-demographic profiles. To do this, Government must invest in increased rental property inspections, doubling the budget to €11.2m and implement the Deposit Protection Scheme set out in legislation in 2015.
Read the full text of our Budget Choices 2022 Policy Briefing - Delivering a Fair Recovery - HERE.