The Housing Alliance recently held an online political briefing for members of the Oireachtas, highlighting the key role Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) play in addressing the challenges facing the housing sector and delivering social and affordable homes for families and individuals who urgently need them. Oireachtas members from all political parties and groupings were invited to participate.
During the briefing, the Housing Alliance focused on four priority issues which the new Oireachtas needs to address to ensure social and affordable housing is delivered:
• A quick return to construction following the Covid-19 crisis (recognising the primary importance of public health concerns)
• Maintaining and increasing capital budgets, so that the impact of Covid-19 on the delivery of homes is limited
• The introduction of a National Intermediate (Affordable) Rental scheme
• A commitment from Government to a time-lined action plan to ensure the classification of AHBs as being on the Government’s Balance Sheet is reversed
Declan Dunne, Chair of the Housing Alliance and CEO of Respond, said: “It is critical we return to construction quickly following the Covid-19 crisis. By investing in social housing, rather than cutting back at this crucial time, we are more likely to recover quickly and to provide much-needed housing to those who need it. AHBs are ready, willing and equipped to play our part. We are passionate and committed to providing homes for people who need them.
“We are asking the new Oireachtas – and the next Government – to prioritise investment in social and affordable housing as long-term assets to reduce reliance on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and leasing. Offering lifetime social and affordable homes is the best way to address the significant housing need we face, and is more cost-effective for the State.
“We are also seeking the introduction of a National Intermediate Rental scheme. This scheme would provide a more affordable rental option for people who don’t qualify for social housing, but will never be able to afford to purchase a home.
“It is vital that the new Government also commits resources to the reversal of the classification of Approved Housing Bodies. In 2018, Eurostat and the CSO deemed 14 of the largest AHBs to be part of the General Government sector and, as a result, on the Government’s Balance Sheet. Failure to secure this reclassification will restrict funding available to AHBs, and impact on the output of more social and affordable homes. A time-lined action plan from Government is urgently required to restore AHBs to their former classification.”
Also commenting, Sharon Cosgrove, Vice-Chair of the Housing Alliance and CEO of Oaklee Housing, said: “Working closely with Government, local authorities and relevant agencies, AHBs are central to addressing Ireland’s social and affordable housing needs. AHBs provide additional supports to tenants to help sustain tenancies, improve quality of life and create communities. The Housing Alliance members have a strong track record of delivery, we meet targets and are responsible for approximately 22,000 social housing tenancies – two-thirds of total AHB housing stock.
“The current action plan on housing and homelessness (Rebuilding Ireland) sets a target for AHBs of delivering one-third of the 50,000 additional social homes committed up to 2021. AHBs are ready, willing and equipped to play our part in meeting this and any new targets to deliver homes for people who need them, but we will need strong support from the new Oireachtas and the next Government.”
The briefing paper from this event is available at: https://housingalliance.ie/documents/HA-Political_Asks-2020.pdf.
Denise Maguire Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine