Cautious welcome for ‘Housing for all’ strategy
Following the launch of the Housing For All Strategy today, Peter McVerry SJ, of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, welcomes the ambitious multi-annual housing strategy but cautions that the outcomes will be key, as the previous strategy devastated Ireland’s housing sector.
In a separate statement, Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, the national housing and homeless charity, said that “Housing for All is a progressive document that will move us closer to achieving a more sustainable housing system that works for all in society. There are a number of key areas where the Minister has taken on board our views and our proposals to help people impacted by homelessness.”
Read below Peter McVerry’s initial comments on the just-published strategy by the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien TD, and the full press release from the McVerry Trust.
Lessons only partially learned
“A housing strategy of this scale is to be welcomed and should be granted time to be implemented. After the abject failure of Rebuilding Ireland and of the private sector to meet housing needs, Housing For All is a chance to draw a line under the failed policies that have created our housing crises. The commitment to ‘work towards eradicating homelessness by 2030’ is welcome as Rebuilding Ireland did not contain any target on homelessness. We now have another housing strategy but we still await the doing.
While Housing for All includes encouraging new initiatives and the expansion of existing programmes like Housing First, it is a missed opportunity in relation to affordable homes. With the First Home scheme, the State plans to take shared equity in homes to increase affordability—which will further heat the housing market— but it does not address the fundamental issue of land speculation and the additional cost incurred on homes. While the ‘land value sharing’ will likely create a return for the Exchequer on zoned land, Housing For All was an opportunity to seriously revisit the recommendations of the Kenny Report to control property prices.”
Housing stock must be direct builds
“It is a positive development that the State plans to build 9,500 new social rented homes per year but the success of the Housing For All strategy depends on what role the State will take in providing social rented housing. While AHBs and housing co-operatives have a role, the bulk of social homes must be provided by local authorities.”
Not enough cost rental housing
“Changes to the qualifying criteria for cost rental housing will bring more households closer to being able to access this form of tenure, but the Housing for All strategy will simply not make a dent in the number of households paying unaffordable rents. With over 30,000 households paying half of their disposable income on housing, the annual average target of 2,000 cost rental homes is not on the scale required to help these households. Growing this tenure has the most potential to decisively heal the damage that has been done to the Irish housing sector over the last decade.”
Further alignment needed on housing and climate
“We welcome a number of new policy initiatives – such as the Town Centre First policy which should help to limit our reliance on private vehicles as well as ensure existing buildings are brought back into use. Thinking about housing as the frontline of the environmental crisis makes better homes and better sense. The commitment to retro-fit 36,500 Local Authority properties by 2030 is positive, alongside aims to improve the energy efficiency of private rental properties. But Housing for All lacks clearly outlined steps to address the challenging condition of private rental properties, which have some of the worst energy efficiency ratings of our entire housing stock.”
– Peter McVerry
Meanwhile the Peter McVerry Trust, the national housing and homeless charity, has also given a broad endorsement of the Housing for All strategy published by Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien TD. The charity has welcomed a range of initiatives within the strategy including increased delivery of social housing, higher targets under the Housing First programme, major emphasis on urban regeneration and the aim to end homelessness by 2030.
High Level Reaction
Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust said “Housing for All is a progressive document that will move us closer to achieving a more sustainable housing system that works for all in society. There are a number of key areas where the Minister has taken on board our views and our proposals to help people impacted by homelessness.”
“The ambition to deliver 90,000 social housing units, together with increased Housing First targets and growing the existing cross Government work on social inclusion are all hugely welcome.”
“The multi-annual funding certainty that comes with the launch of Housing for All, offers clarity and confidence to key actors within the housing system as to the future direction of housing delivery. This confidence is important if we want to achieve the scale of housing needed over the next decade.”
“We are delighted to see a target of 90,000 new social housing units under Housing for All. The availability of housing, and in particular one-bedroom homes will play a central role in tackling homelessness. To that end we warmly welcome the move to require all local authorities to set out how they will go about delivering one-bedroom social housing units as part of their social housing plans.”
Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, welcomed the major emphasis on Urban Regeneration within the plan “We are delighted to see greater emphasis being placed on urban regeneration and issues such as derelict sites, empty homes and over the shop living. If we want to deliver a more sustainable housing system, reusing existing buildings for social and affordable housing has to be a key part of that and I am particularly pleased to see the Repair and Lease scheme continue and target of 500 units per year being set.
“Peter McVerry Trust also welcomes the move to extend the period for converting vacant commercial buildings to social housing up to 2025 as well a move to enhance measures to reuse of over the shops spaces.”
“This emphasis on regeneration is also hugely important in terms of the climate emergency and the necessary shift to a more sustainable society. Reusing existing structures uses less carbon, avoids demolishing buildings and creating 30% of our landfill materials and also puts people back into the centre of our towns and cities.”
“We welcome the 18 distinct actions on homelessness set out in Housing for All. These measures which reflect the growing cross Government commitment to tackling homelessness will allow Peter McVerry Trust together with our partners in statutory agencies and local government the best possible opportunity to tackle the issue.”
“The increase in Housing First, and the expansion of the outreach programme together with greater emphasis and clarity on the delivery of one-bedroom homes in each local authority will all go a long way to achieving the target of ending homelessness by 2030.”
Mr Doyle said the charity particularly welcomed the continued growth and expansion of Housing First, a model designed to help people sleeping rough and the long-term users of hostels.
“Housing First is playing a key role in helping address the needs of people sleeping rough and others with complex support needs. In Housing for All we are delighted to see that over the next five years a target of 1,200 new Housing First tenancies has been set, and commitments made to mainstream the current criminal justice Housing First pilot project as well as establishing new outreach teams in all Housing First clusters across the country.
All these measures will reduce rough sleeping and also make sure that the most vulnerable people are housed.”