Skip to main content

Housing Report Proposes Important Interventions for AHBs as Pivotal Public Housing Providers


23 May 2024

The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) welcomes the publication of the Report of the Housing Commission. This comprehensive report documents the shortcomings of the current housing system. Crucially however, it also proposes a set of structures and responses that will assist housing associations (AHBs) and housing providers more broadly to tackle the current housing undersupply.

Commenting on the report, ICSH CEO Donal McManus said, “As the membership body for approved housing bodies (AHBs), the Housing Commission’s proposals for a strategy for the AHB sector that responds to the capacity of both our larger and smaller members is essential. The recommendations further support our sector’s mandate to increase and safeguard our affordable rental housing stock. It also references the need for AHBs to access alternative and off-balance financing to scale-up and accelerate our public housing delivery. The report highlights that for a well-functioning housing system, the state must ensure that 20% of overall housing stock is social and cost rental homes that remain public in perpetuity. This is a radical departure from existing policy and practice where there has been a long tradition of selling public housing with large discounts. In addition, one of the significant proposals is that new social housing in future would be financed and provided on a cost recovery basis to ensure the management and maintenance of social housing is kept to a high standard over its lifetime.”

The AHB sector succeeded in delivering almost 6,000 homes and increasing our public housing stock to more than 61,500 social rented homes in ownership and management in 2023. With the right support, we can significantly scale-up delivery, providing an even wider spread of housing options for changing households by 2030. The proposals in the report which seek to reposition the housing sector over the long-term build on work that has been evolving over recent years. This includes a more central role in housing delivery for the housing association/AHB sector, a sector that has grown from providing 20% of new social housing 20 years ago, to almost 50% in 2023.

The five recommendations that are specific to AHBs note the recent growth of a sector that is ‘pivotal in expanding the availability of affordable housing options’. It further identifies the need for greater support for collaboration and mergers within our AHB members to achieve efficiencies and economies of scale (a programme that is already underway with targeted funding from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to the ICSH). It proposes an innovative partnership model with new Local Authority Housing Organisations that have a specific housing mandate, and it recognises that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not work for the AHB sector.

The report provides welcome analysis of the AHB sector that differentiates between the size and capacity of our members. It identifies the concentration of risk in the overreliance on the largest AHBs and calls for additional supports to scale-up mid-sized AHBs to mitigate this risk, as well as a specific plan for our smaller members providing housing and supports in communities throughout Ireland. The ICSH is also pleased to note the recommendation for targeted funding to upgrade properties delivered under the Capital Assistance Scheme, given the inadequate current revenue funding available to maintain these properties, many of which are in the ownership of very small AHBs with limited development capacity.

Mr McManus added, “Collectively, the recommendations in this report are Housing Milestone 1. The ICSH is grateful for the work of the Commission and the particular attention the report has given to the AHB sector. The ICSH and our member organisations will examine the recommendations in this, a very detailed and forward-looking analysis of Ireland’s housing model”.