Congress Housing Campaign
The release of Census 2016 housing data has, once again, highlighted the scale of Ireland’s housing emergency. The total housing stock increased by just 8,800 (0.4 per cent), from 1,994,900 to 2,003,600, between 2011 and 2016. This is at a time when over 90,000 households were on social housing waiting lists, rents have risen by over 50 per cent since 2011 and are now (May 2017) 10 per cent above their pre-crisis peak, and homelessness reached its highest ever levels.
Almost 7,500 people, including over 1,200 families, are now living in totally unsuitable temporary accommodation such as in hotels, B&Bs and hostels etc., with very significant adverse and potentially long-term impacts on their health and wellbeing. The number of homeless children has risen from 750 to 2,560 (240 per cent) between mid-2014 and March 2017. This crisis did not happen overnight. In essence, it can be traced back to the withdrawal of local authorities from direct social housing provision and the increasing reliance on the private sector to provide social housing since the late 1980s.
The housing emergency is complex but not intractable. It requires action on multiple fronts all at the same time. This discussion paper focuses on what we believe to be a key element of the solution – a local authority led emergency response to the housing crisis, as initially proposed by the One Cork project, to under take a major social housing programme, as par t of a wider housing strategy that encompasses the transition to a cost-rental model. As such, it does not aim or purport to be a comprehensive response to the housing crisis. However, we believe it covers the key requirements to deal with the current housing emergency.
Declare an Emergency
The housing situation should be declared as an emergency and the Government should urgently endorse the range of measures outlined in this document.
A Local Authority Led Response
The Government should develop a local authority led emergency response to the housing crisis across multiple local authorities to draw together and co-ordinate both internal and external expertise to (better) manage both the existing social housing portfolio, including addressing the issue of voids and the refurbishment of existing units and to meet social housing targets.
10,000 Units Per Annum
Public policy should aim to increase the output of social housing to an annual rate of 10,000 units per annum by late 2018/early 2019 (i.e. up from the existing target of 5,000 units per annum by 2021) at an estimated cost of € 1.8 billion per annum and ensure that at least three-quarters of these are provided by local authorities.
Achieving this spend of € 1.8 billion needed to provide 10,000 homes per annum by late 2018/early 2019 would entail additional capital expenditure of € 1,150 million in 2018 on top of 2017’s planned capital expenditure of € 655 million. This additional investment should be provided from the fiscal space available for 2018, from additional tax measures such as the fast-tracking of the vacant site levy and by borrowing. If necessar y, the Government should seek greater flexibility as regards the application of EU fiscal rules for this investment.
This target should be pursued as part of an integrated strategy of well-planned mixed income housing, with an equal third going to social, affordable rental, and affordable purchase provided by the local authorities on publicly owned land.
Campaign at EU Level
The Government should step up its campaign at European level to achieve greater flexibility for public investment, including for social housing, under EU rules.
Reduce Payments to Private Landlords
The emergency response should aim to reduce social housing payments to private sector landlords (‘quasi-social housing’), from an estimated 1.5 per cent of GDP (in 2014), to the European average of around 0.5 per cent of GDP over the medium to long-term.
Develop Cost Rental Model
The Government should expedite its work on the development of a cost rental model as a matter of urgency, and give serious consideration to NERI’s March 2017 proposals for a European cost rental model in this regard.
Five Areas of Greatest Need
The local authority led emergency response to the housing crisis should initially be rolled out in the five areas of greatest social housing need - in and around Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
Use Local Authority Land
Land zoned for housing that is owned by local authorities should be used primarily to provide social housing by local authorities, instead of being made available to private developers to build mostly for private rental, as set out in the Government’s rental strategy.
Decent Working Conditions
A public-led social housing programme should lead the way towards decent working conditions in the provision of social and affordable housing and across the entire residential sector.
The emergency housing programme should be socially inclusive and anticipate and prepare for the adoption of higher European energy efficiency standards for social housing (i.e. towards passive housing).
Congress believes that the Housing and Homeless Crisis should be treated as a National Emergency and requires a fundamental policy shift on the part of government.
We have established a Housing Campaign Group press for urgent action and policy change in this key area, along the line of the recommendations contained in our report. Our aim is to meet with government, all political parties and groupings, key local authorities and civil society bodies and to press the case for change.
The Housing Campaign Group is chaired by the Congress President, Sheila Nunan.
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