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Policy issues concerning Housing

Ireland has signed up to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and is committed to legally binding climate commitments in 2020 and 2030.  We have a national commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 yet we spend up to €4 billion every year on potentially environmentally damaging subsidies.

The ongoing confusion regarding the funding of applications to the SEAI Deep Retrofitting pilot is disappointing, particularly as one of the headline policies in the Climate Action Plan 2019 to ensure Ireland transitions to a low carbon future is increased retrofitting.  Will Budget 2020 deliver the resources required to establish a comprehensive and ambitious retrofitting programme?

A Site Value Tax would be a fairer and more efficient way to generate additional government revenue than the current Local Property Tax, and it would also incentivise better use of land at a time when Ireland faces a significant housing and accommodation crisis.

To achieve the objectives of providing adequate and appropriate accommodation in sufficient numbers, reducing social housing waiting lists and eliminating homelessness, Government must pursue the following four proposals in Budget 2020.

It is widely acknowledged that the availability of credit, coupled with ‘light touch’ financial regulation and Government policy contributed to the housing boom and bust which saw spiralling mortgage arrears, social housing waiting lists and homelessness.  Why then, are we so eager to recreate the mistakes of the past?

There are 2,700 properties to rent on the market, according to the latest Daft Rent Report, the lowest number of available rentals since the Report was first published in 2006.  The average asking rent is €1,366 – a year on year increase of 8.3%.  Notwithstanding inflation at a 6-year low, Dublin continues to see the highest rents, ranging from an average of €1,671 in the North County to €2,190 in the South.  Meanwhile rent inflation in Munster has reached an all time high of 12%, with rates in Connaught and Ulster also remaining high.  Government subsidies to private landlords have also increased in last number of years but how sustainable are these, and what are the alternatives?

Local government has the potential to transform our communities but that potential is not being realised.  It is time to harness this potential and deliver more power locally.

In 2017, the Government introduced Family Hubs as an alternative to hotels and B&Bs and described as a “first step” for families experiencing homelessness.  Later that year, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) warned of the risks associated with Family Hubs, of institutionalising families and normalising family homelessness.  This warning was ignored, with Minister Murphy urging local authorities to build more rapid build Family Hubs at the Second Housing Summit in January 2018, and increased funding for Family Hubs provided in Budget 2019. 

A report published by the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) this week (18 April 2019) shows just how prescient IHREC’s warnings were, as children as young as 10 describe their living conditions as being “like a prison”.

There are over 67,000 tenants paying market rent spending more than 40% of their disposable income on housing costs.  Clearly more affordable, sustainable housing is needed. When added to the almost 72,000 households on the social housing waiting list, and the 54,000 households in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), the true scale of the housing crisis becomes clear.

According to the latest data released by the Central Bank of Ireland (the Central Bank), non-bank entities held 84,658 home mortgages up to the end of 2018, of which 25,469 are held by unregulated loan owners.  While a larger percentage of these loans are in late stage mortgage arrears than those held by banks, an increasing proportion are not in arrears.  Borrowers who made the decision to enter into one of the most major contracts of their lives, the mortgage on their home, may not be aware of who owns that mortgage and what, if any, protections they have if they get into difficulty making payments.  The Oireachtas is currently considering the No Consent, No Sale Bill 2019 which aims to curb mortgage transfers without the consent of the borrower, with some saying it’s a step too far and will damage the banking industry.  But what about the borrowers?  In terms of consumer protection, does it go far enough?

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