Allocations for National Housing Programmes 2008 announced

Mr. Batt O’Keeffe, T.D., Minister for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, has announced the details of the main elements of the 2008 National Housing Programme for the provision of social, affordable, voluntary and co-operative and traveller-specific accommodation to households experiencing housing need.

The Minister also released details of the Quarter 4, Housing Statistics Bulletin - part of a quarterly series which track progress by local authorities in the delivery of social and affordable housing. In addition, the Bulletin includes statistics on affordable housing output, house prices and lending activity in 2007.

In his remarks, the Minister highlighted his commitment to the delivery of better management and maintenance of local authority estates and the need to re-invest in problem areas through improvement works and regeneration programmes.

Referring to the recent media interest in the Limerick Regeneration, Minister O’Keefe was pleased to announce an overall increase of 28% in the capital allocation for regeneration programmes across the country.

The 2008 Housing Allocations will fund the following programmes -

Local Authority Social Housing €1,016,000
Regeneration & Improvement Works    €199,000
Voluntary & Co-operative Housing Supports    €290,000
Traveller Accommodation & Support    €40,000

Emphasising the strong performance of last year, which saw the delivery of 9,469 social and 3,567 affordable housing units, the Minister reflected that - “my Department, working closely with the local authorities, is committed to maintaining this high level of performance in the coming years to ensure that we achieve the ambitious targets outlined in Towards 2016 and the current National Development Plan”. 

While the numbers demonstrate strong performance in social housing delivery, the Minister suggested that this does not adequately describe the recent paradigm shift in the Department’s social housing policy. Social housing - once synonymous with sprawling estates on the edge of urban areas - he noted, has been replaced with projects that seek to deliver sustainable social and tenure mix within strong local communities.

The National Housing Policy - Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities - sets out as the key objective for any social housing project, the need to have regard to the physical, economic and social environment, in building a sustainable community.

As the resources available for the delivery of the main local authority social housing programme are set to break the one billion euro mark this year, the Minister emphasised that all allocations to local authorities were made on the basis of housing need, to better deliver our social objectives and to ensure maximum value for money for the public purse. The latest statutory Housing Needs Assessment - which will inform the allocation of resources into the future - is currently underway, with a first report expected later this year.

In line with the National Housing Policy, the Department’s housing programme has increased investment for regeneration projects, improvement to the housing stock and environmental works, with a 28% increase to the €121 million allocated for the regeneration programme.  

Focusing on the growing interest in the area of regeneration, Minister O’Keefe said - “Our agenda for these projects is the delivery of total physical, environmental, economic and social regeneration. These projects go beyond a simple upgrading of the housing stock and all activities are centred on the delivery of sustainable communities over the long-term.”

While significant funding is again being made available to the Ballymun Regeneration (€65 million), the 2008 programme includes increased investment in the Limerick Regeneration (€13 million), Sligo Borough Council’s Cranmore Regeneration (€7.5 million) and to Knocknaheeny and the Glen in Cork (€15 million).

In referring to the need for on-going management and maintenance of local authority estates, the Minister emphasised the importance of strategic thinking by local authorities in determining how best to use their internal capital receipts. Local authorities have been delegated responsibility to use their own resources from the sale of local authority housing, to ensure that planned maintenance of social housing and improvement works to estates are undertaken.

Local authorities continued to perform strongly in the delivery of affordable housing to low-income households, with an 10% increase to 3,539 units in 2007. Referring to the provision of €74 million for affordable housing in 2008, the Minister said - “the continued operation of the various affordable housing schemes is vital to ensure that lower-income households are in a position to purchase their own homes and, particularly so, given current market conditions.”

The Minister also referred to the important role of the voluntary and co-operative sector in responding to housing needs, which delivered an unprecedented 2,200 new housing starts in 2007. These projects are supported through generous capital funding schemes from the Department, which provide up to 100% of the approved cost of permanent accommodation for low-income families and groups with special needs.

The Minister announced - “In response to this greatly increased level of output, I am making available a record €290 million for spending in 2008.”  Within this provision there is an allocation of €190 million under Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme, of which €160 million is expected to be used this year. This scheme focuses on family-type accommodation with units often being sourced through the Part V process. In addition, grants of over €200 million have been approved under the Capital Assistance Scheme for elderly and special needs housing, which is expected to result in a draw-down in the region of €130 million in the current year. 

The close links between the Department and the voluntary and co-operative housing sector were again emphasised in the Minister’s comments on the Rental Accommodation Scheme. This scheme currently provides long-term rented accommodation to some 11,000 households, with a further target of 5,000 households to be accommodated in 2008. 

The households provided for under this scheme are those with an identified long-term housing need - mainly in the private rented sector and in receipt of rent supplementation. The scheme offers significant benefits to these individuals - offering greater security of tenure, high quality accommodation and the facility to return to work. €51 million has been provided in 2008 to ensure the continued operation of the scheme and to meet this ambitious target - representing an increase of €24 million on the previous year.

The Minister announced the distribution of the overall allocation of €40 million for the delivery of traveller-specific accommodation in 2008 through group housing, halting sites and grants for house or caravan purchases.  He also highlighted - “the significant investment by my Department in both time and resources dedicated to meeting the particular housing needs of this group in a sensitive and appropriate manner”.

To download - Quarter 4, Housing Statistics Bulletin - Click Here

To download - Social Housing Allocations 2008 - Click Here