The Irish Council for Social Housing has welcomed the long awaited strategy and in particular the enhanced role for housing associations which is stated ‘will be central to the Government’s vision for the provision of housing supports’. Importantly a multi-annual funded development programme, which the ICSH has sought for a number of years, has been agreed for housing associations.
There are three pillars, two phases and five work streams contained in the strategy, details of which are outlined below:
Pillar 1 – Provision of new social housing supply
Pillar 2 – Providing housing supports through the private rented sector
Pillar 3 – Reform: creating more flexible and responsive social housing supports
Delivery is planned in two phases:
Phase 1 – Target of 18,000 additional social housing units by the end of 2017
Phase 2 – Target of 17,000 additional social housing units by the end of 2020
There are five work streams which set out to ensure delivery of the components of the strategy.
Work stream 1 – Finance
Work stream 2 – Approved Housing Body Delivery and Operations
Work stream 3 – Local Authority Housing Delivery and Operations
Work stream 4 – Social Housing Reform
Work stream 5 – Private rental
The ICSH have already highlighted the cross cutting nature of the work streams where housing associations have developed considerable experience and the need to facilitate input across the work streams from the sector.
New Social Housing Provision – key information for housing associations
The first pillar of the strategy is increased provision of permanent social housing and the strategy commits to support the acquisition, building or leasing of 35,000 new units over the period to 2020.
It states that a significant proportion of the investment will be made in the early stages of the six year period and annual targets for both housing associations and local authorities will be agreed (in consultation). An expanded role for approved housing bodies is envisaged and a key factor to facilitate this is the development of a multi-annual funding programme for the sector.
Supply of social housing units (2015-2020)
The strategic approach to pillar one is:
- To front load a resumption of local authority and approved housing body housing, funded by the Exchequer and other measures to immediately increase supply;
- To work with the ICSH, NABCo and individual approved housing bodies to strengthen capacity of the sector;
- To create a Dublin Social Housing Delivery Taskforce to increase sustainable supply working closely with local authorities and approved housing bodies.
(i) Introduction of a multi-annual housing expenditure programme for approved housing bodies by quarter four 2015.
This will allow housing associations to have more advanced development programmes, based on identified housing need, and working with other funders to secure matched funding.
(ii) Funding will be prioritised for approved housing bodies based on criteria to be agreed with the sector during quarter three 2015
There will be a more strategic approach to investment in the approved housing body sector.
Funding will be prioritised where a housing association:
- agrees to develop or add a certain proportion to their stock each year;
- carry out a set number of starts over a three or five year period; or
- contribute to key policy commitments in areas such as housing for people with disabilities, deinstitutionalisation or homelessness.
(iii) A more streamlined funding process will be created through the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG).
The current system of funding will be reviewed, taking account of the views of various stakeholders, by quarter four 2015. The streamlined process will be designed to ensure that approved housing bodies are incentivised to seek finance from non-Government sources.
(iv) Promotion of collaboration at local and regional level between local authorities and approved housing bodies will be prioritised as a vehicle for strengthening cooperation between social housing providers.
The development of Regional Social Housing Forums to support more collaborative approaches to the provision of social housing will be facilitated.
(v) A statutory based Regulator for the approved housing body sector will be established by quarter two 2016.
Work will advance throughout 2015 on enhanced regulation of the sector which is an essential requirement to underpin the expanding and enhanced role of housing associations.
Pillar Two – Providing housing supports through the private rental sector
The second pillar of the strategy has two main components, the first is the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) which it states will have scope to provide accommodation for up to 75,000 households. The second aspect is innovative measures in the rental sector which includes measures to enhance capacity of the sector to contribute to social housing support .e.g. cost rental.
There is also a focus on the quality of rental accommodation and the need for secure, affordable occupancy.
The ICSH have highlighted the challenge in the longer term with reliance on the private landlord sector as there are already significant supply issues there and it is difficult to predict a guaranteed new supply of social housing.
Pillar Three – Reform: Creating flexible and responsive social housing supports
The reform agenda includes a range of actions to ensure social housing supports are responding to people’s needs. These actions include:
- A new framework for rents for local authority housing
- Introduction of a new tenant purchase scheme for local authority tenants
- Introduction of measures for local authorities on anti-social behaviour
- Progression of choice based lettings
What happens next?
The DECLG will be establishing the new governance structures and processes to facilitate the delivery of the actions within the strategy. The ICSH are represented on a number of these fora.
The ICSH would welcome any feedback from members on the social housing strategy which can be downloaded here.
For further information, please contact Karen Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01 6618334