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Housing Conference Says Greater Social Housing Investment Builds Homes and Protects Jobs

ICSH Virtual Social Housing Conference 7th-9th October

“There is no better way to protect Irish society and the economy at this time, than with substantial investment in social and affordable housing”. So says Dr. Donal McManus, CEO of the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH), at their National Social Housing conference on 7th-9th October, sponsored by AIB.

“The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both the construction sector and the broader economy requires a call-to-arms for enhanced investment and innovative thinking around social and affordable housing. The financial and policy landscape is changing quickly and we are beginning to see a move towards a counter cyclical approach to investment in housing, as well as a growing awareness that social and affordable housing needs to be viewed as essential infrastructure, rather than a welfare service. The Budget 2021 proposed plan for 9,000 direct build social homes by local authorities and approved housing bodies is a welcome move in this direction. However, it is important to maximise all social and affordable housing delivery channels at this time. Economists and housing professionals in Ireland have been making the case for focused investment in social housing during the pandemic and in Australia, currently in recession, the very same advice is being put to Government. Despite the current challenges, the AHB sector is still actively working with the Government and local authorities to progress the targets under Rebuilding Ireland, a commitment of €6billion to support the delivery of 50,000 new social homes by the end of 2021. If we can view our social housing stock as a public asset, as we did in the past, then the path for enhanced investment is clear”, Dr McManus added.

Among the international speakers is Caitlin McDowell, Head of Policy, Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA), New South Wales, Australia, who will speak about the impact of regulation on the community housing sector, as well the ongoing challenges for social housing delivery in Australia. The Australian approach is to invest in social housing and retrofitting as a kick-start to the economy, providing much needed homes and building climate resilience. This reflects the ICSH call for counter-cyclical investment. For every €1m spent on housing construction there are 12 FTE jobs created.

At the conference, we will also hear from a range of speakers on financial solutions to housing delivery, development opportunities and targets as well as the new regulatory environment for AHBs. Models for Housing Affordability, a key issue in the new Programme for Government, will be explored as well as housing options for older people, in particular given the impact of Covid-19 on nursing homes and congregated settings. Patricia Gruits, Senior Principal with MASS Design Group, Massachusetts, USA will speak about her work on Designing Senior Housing for Safe Interaction in the Age of COVID-19. That is, looking at models that can guide housing developers and operators as they adapt existing buildings to balance infection control and social interaction.

Cathy Bryce, Head of Corporate & Institutional Banking with AIB said: ” We are delighted to sponsor the ICSH Virtual Finance & Development Conference 2020. For a number of years social housing has been an integral part of AIB’s business and the work we have done to date is now yielding significant results, with new homes coming on stream. We understand the issues facing our society when it comes to housing and we are committed to playing our part in finding solutions. Getting families into homes and helping to create sustainable communities is an integral part of those solutions and we are driven to do more to help achieve this. The new homes being constructed are ‘A’ rated, which aligns with AIB’s focus on green lending, a focus which has been underscored by our recent issuing of the first Green Bond in Irish banking.”

Mr Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, will open the three-day conference, supported by AIB, which brings together more than 400 delegates. As we emerge from a period of restriction, disruption and uncertainty, the ICSH National Social Housing Conference 2019 – Resilience, Recovery & Delivery will look to a new normal, where innovation and new financial approaches underpin the sector and offer hope for the future of housing delivery.