Launch of Pillar 2 – ‘Accelerate Social Housing’
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney formally launched Pillar 2 of ‘Rebuilding Ireland – Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness‘ today; this follows the publication of the strategy in July (see rebuildingireland.ie).
The press release highlights that Government is seeking to bring a wide range of solutions and actors to the housing crisis, as they continue to grapple with a system that is failing to deliver homes in sufficient numbers. However, the pillar is not simply a public housing construction plan.
The Department has clearly been working hard to find capacity and opportunities across the full spectrum of housing delivery mechanisms. They have focused on underused and vacant stock as an area where they can have a big impact in a short timeframe and with real value for money.
The new Repair and Leasing Scheme, and Buy and Renew Initiatives are designed to give private property owners access to affordable capital to increase the volume of viable stock. From an urban planning perspective this has great potential to bring much-needed cash to declining property in our town centres, and support urban renewal.
The private sector is fundamental to implementing this plan and cashflow is the key. The Department is trying to find financial formulas to make it easier for developers to assemble equity and finance and get them on site. Developers are struggling to assemble affordable financing packages. So the initiative to provide up-front funding to acquire Part V units is a very practical one.
In recent years procurement has dragged at the coat-tails of many a housing initiative. Spending €5.3 billion is a difficult thing to do! Hence the emphasis on mechanism and process. The proposed establishment of a dedicated Housing Delivery Office and Housing Procurement Unit could therefore have its biggest impact in enabling local authorities and agencies to spend the money.
The Minister’s visit to Maxwell Road in Rathmines this morning not only highlights the enduring appeal of hardhats for politicians. The scheme is also symptomatic of the challenge ahead. Delivering only nine units, the block is a token impact on housing need in the city. Based on a 2008 planning permission, it started in 2014 and was originally due to be completed in 2015.