The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD has announced significant enhancements to the Defective Concrete Block Scheme.
Minister O’Brien said the core issues raised in relation to the current Scheme, i.e. homeowner concerns relating to cost recovery and assurances regarding the remediated homes would be addressed through immediate actions while administrative, technical and scientific issues would be addressed through medium term legislative changes and critical longer-term research.
Key improvements to the Scheme include:
-The current 90% maximum grant will be increased to a 100% grant for all remediation options 1-5
-The maximum grant cap for option 1 (demolition and rebuild) will be increased to €420,000 from €247,500
- The grant calculation methodology will be based on the cost per square foot (psf) of rebuilding the existing home, with costings to be set by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in consultation with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland. An indicative rate of €145 per square foot for the first 1,000 sq foot based on SCSI methodology with a sliding scale thereafter.
- A revised application process will be introduced which will only require the homeowner to submit an initial ‘Building Condition Assessment’ at minimal cost recoupable on entry to the Scheme
- Alternative accommodation and storage costs to be included, subject to a maximum of €20,000
- In relation to works carried out under remediation options 2-5, a second grant option, will be available for such a home in the future if blockwork which was not removed as part of the initial remediation work subsequently proves defective in accordance with the IS;465 standard
- A new independent appeals process will be introduced
- The Scheme will be extended beyond the current scope of Principle Private Residences only, to also cover RTB registered rental properties, subject to the introduction of a clawback mechanism upon re-sale within a set time period depending on the remediation option used. Opportunities for the State to acquire such rental properties for social housing purposes will also be examined.
Minister O’Brien acknowledged the affected homeowners and thanked them for their involvement in the process saying, “Since establishing the working group just five months ago, affected homeowners have put a significant amount of time and effort into working with my Department and the Housing Agency on enhancements to the Scheme which will ultimately help them to rebuild their homes and rebuild their lives which have been so badly impacted by defective concrete blocks. In recognition of the extreme toll this has had on people’s mental health enhanced mental health supports will also be made available to defective concrete block homeowners in the affected counties in collaboration with the Department of Health.
“We are making a number of significant enhancements to the current scheme, removing the 10% contribution from homeowners and increasing the maximum grant cap to €420,000. We are removing upfront prohibitive costs, providing alternative accommodation costs, giving planning exemptions for like-for-like homes, and introducing a strengthened certification process for remediated homes. We want the affected homeowners to have confidence in this scheme and to know they are being supported by Government.
“Peoples’ safety has always been our immediate concern and I have requested that a fund be made available so that any costs associated with essential health and safety works, on foot of an engineer’s recommendation as part of the ‘Building Condition Assessment’ process will explicitly be an allowable cost, subject to a maximum of €5,000.
“It’s important to note there are potentially more than 7,500 affected homes, including social homes, and in recognition of the mammoth task which local authorities face, the Housing Agency will, in time, act as agents for each local authority in assessment, testing and categorisation of applications received. This will ensure an appropriate schedule of works will be done with the most damaged family homes remediated first.
“I do not underestimate the scale of works which will be carried out and the associated costs which will be incurred by the State. As such a levy on the construction industry will be put in place. It will be developed next year and will be introduced in Finance Bill 2022 to apply from 2023.
“Just as important as the changes to the scheme, we also need to ensure this type of crisis never happens again. To prevent future problems the government is also establishing a new Building Standards regulator, a Building Industry register and tasking the NSAI with reviewing concrete block standards to ensure the highest standards are complied with into the future.
“Let me be very clear in saying this Government will also explore all options in pursuing potentially liable wrongdoers and I will continue to work with the Attorney General in this regard.
“I have consistently said the State has a moral obligation to assist affected homeowners and that is what we are doing through this enhanced scheme,” he concluded.
Minister O’Brien informed colleagues of his intention to publish a new Housing First National Implementation Plan covering the period 2022 to 2026, to establish a new National Homeless Action Committee and to issue guidance on Local Authority Homelessness Action Plans.
The Minister said the recent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness was a serious concern for the Government and that his Department were acting accordingly in progressing a number of measures which will help to prevent entries into homelessness in the first instance and to assist those currently experiencing homelessness to successfully exit into safe and secure tenancies.
The new Housing First National Implementation Plan, which is due to be published in December, will provide for over 1,200 tenancies over the next five years. Under the current plan 663 Housing First tenancies were due to be delivered to the end of 2021. This target has been surpassed and as of September 2021 695 tenancies had been delivered under Housing First.
A new National Homeless Action Committee is being set up to oversee implementation of inter-agency measures committed to under Housing for All, including accelerating the delivery of new supports. The committee – which will comprise of Government departments, State agencies and key stakeholders – will achieve greater coherence and coordination of homeless services. The committee will oversee the interagency actions outlined in Housing for All, and Minister O’Brien will chair the committee.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is also drafting guidance that will require local authorities to have regard to Housing for All in drafting or amending their statutory Homelessness Action Plans. This requirement is aimed at ensuring greater coordination and alignment between actions locally and policy nationally. The drafting of the guidance is underway and will be issued before the end of the year.
Commenting after notifying Cabinet of the initiatives, Minister O’Brien said: “Yesterday I notified Government about a range of measures I am taking to tackle homelessness, key actions contained in Housing for All. Housing First is a vital response to ending long-term homelessness. It does this by providing those who are sleeping rough, and those who are long-term users of homeless accommodation, with their own permanent home whilst also addressing complex health and mental health needs. The current plan has been hugely successful, exceeding the targets set out in the plan with a high tenancy sustainment rate. I would like to thank our NGO partners who, with the support of Government, are implementing the Housing First initiative.
“The new National Homeless Action Committee which I am establishing and Chairing will bring together all the relevant support services, ensuring there is greater cooperation and coordination in tackling homelessness, while the new guidance on Homelessness Action Plans will make sure the key actions on homelessness, outlined in Housing for All, are at the forefront of how our local authorities design and deliver measures to prevent and reduce homelessness,” he concluded.
Minister O’Brien Calls for Expressions of Interest for Membership of Commission on Housing
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, has called for expressions of interest from members of the public to apply to be a member of the Commission on Housing, which is due to be established before the end of the year. At its meeting this morning, the Government approved the establishment of a Commission on Housing. The Commission will examine long-term housing policy, beyond 2030, and report to Government on how to build on policy changes committed to under Housing for All, the Government’s national plan on housing to 2030.
The establishment of the Commission will fulfil commitments made in the Programme for Government and in Housing for All. Minister O’Brien has already appointed John O’Connor, former Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Agency, as Chair-Designate of the Commission.
The Commission will be tasked with examining and reporting on:
Publishing the call for expressions of interest today, Minister O’Brien said: “The Government recognises the need for a long-term approach to housing policy, an enduring approach that transcends changes of government. That is why, as promised under Housing for All and the Programme for Government, I am establishing a Commission on Housing.
“The Commission will look at important issues like housing tenure, cost, quality and supply, the cost of private rental accommodation and social housing. It will be comprised of national and international experts, who will take a long-term view on how to create a sustainable housing system that will meet people’s housing needs into the future. I appeal to anyone with the relevant expertise and experience to put their name forward for consideration for this important work by December 10th.”
John O’Connor, Chair-Designate of the Commission, said: “The Commission on Housing can play a pivotal role in influencing the future shape of our housing system, in particular achieving quality, affordable homes for all. We need to build homes and communities as an integral part of a more sustainable society.”
“As Chair, I intend to work with all other Commission members in a collaborative and pragmatic way to provide solutions to how we create a sustainable housing system, delivering the homes that are needed, for the long-term. I have experience working with a range of interest groups, with a focus on finding solutions and delivering results. I look forward to working with those appointed once the Commission is established.”
Minister O’Brien is due to formally establish the Commission after the expressions of interest process is completed in December. It will have up to 12 members:
Local Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD has launched the Lusk Tidy Towns Committee Christmas Card and Calendar.
Minister O’Brien said he was delighted to be asked to launch the card by the secretary of the Committee, Pat Kelly and to be joined by the local Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) as well as students from Loreto Balbriggan.
Commenting he said, “It was my pleasure to join Lusk Tidy Towns committee members at the Square in Lusk for a their Christmas card and calendar launch.
“The committee have been producing these wonderful cards and calendars for 30 years now. They all feature a scene from Lusk, and have a global reach, being sent all across the globe for Christmas.
“Cards are available in local shops and are priced at €1 each so while helping the Tidy Towns Committee you’re also helping to shop local,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
- Ban on rent increases exceeding inflation under Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) will continue, subject to a new cap of 2% per annum on any rent increase in a Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ)
- Legislation also provides for tenancies of unlimited duration to enhance security of tenure for tenants
Tuesday 16 November 2021
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has welcomed the publication today of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2021. The legislation will cap rent increases at 2% per annum in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs). This new cap will only operate when general inflation is higher than 2%.
The Bill also provides for tenancies of unlimited duration, a key reform committed to under Housing for All, the Government’s recently published plan to create a sustainable housing system in Ireland. The Bill will be progressed to enactment as a matter of priority. The rent increase cap will apply immediately upon enactment.
The previous cap of 4% on annual rent increases was replaced on 16 July 2021, with rent increases in RPZs currently prohibited from exceeding general inflation as recorded in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP). The aim was to bring about far lower rent increases for the estimated 74% of all tenancies which are in RPZs. HICP averaged 0.73% over the three years to July 2021. Given the unexpectedly fast rise in inflation, a rent increase cap of 2% per annum will apply under this Bill when the HICP inflation rate is higher.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “When introducing the legislation to link any rent increases to HICP inflation in July, I was very clear on the need to carefully monitor inflation. At that time, HICP inflation averaged 0.73% per annum over the previous three years but had risen to 1.6% per annum in the year ending June 2021.
“Given the unexpectedly fast rise in HICP inflation, I quickly moved to engage with the office of the Attorney General and secured Government approval to introduce a 2% cap on rent increases in RPZs. This Bill respects the constitutionally protected property rights of landlords and aims to safeguard continued investment in the sector by existing and new landlords to deliver the requisite supply of high-quality rental accommodation.
“In addition to significantly reducing the level of rent increases in RPZs, the Bill also addresses long-term security of tenure by introducing tenancies of unlimited duration. This is a key commitment in Housing for All, our new housing Plan for Ireland.
“The early publication of this Bill and the clear focus on its early enactment demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to improving the situation for renters in Ireland. We are making strides in this regard. Affordability is one of the key challenges in the rental market and tackling this is one of the central plinths of Housing for All. This Bill will help and I look forward to debating the Bill this week in the Oireachtas. We now have tenants in situ in our first cost rental homes, availing of rents which are up to 50% below the open market rate.
“Applications for other schemes have recently closed and from seeing the volume of applications, we know that we need to significantly scale up cost rental accommodation in Ireland. Housing for All sets us on a path to delivering 18,000 cost rental homes between now and 2030 – an ambitious but achievable target,” he concluded.
The legislation proposes to provide enhanced tenancy protection by making a ‘Part 4’ tenancy one of unlimited duration after a tenant has been in place for six months and not subject to expiry at the end of a six-year term (at the discretion of the landlord).
It is intended that this would apply to new tenancies commencing six months or more after enactment of this Bill. In addition, where any existing tenancy is renewed after this time, it will become a tenancy of unlimited duration.
Government Approves Measure to Ensure Home Ownership as Tenure Type is Provided for in Local Authority Housing Strategies
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, has welcomed the Government’s approval for the drafting of a legislative amendment that will require local authorities to ensure home ownership as a tenure type is provided for and estimated in their Housing Strategies. The amendment will give further legislative effect to the provisions of Section 28 Guidelines for Planning Authorities ‘Regulation of Commercial Institutional Investment in Housing’, issued in May 2021. The guidelines are aimed at ensuring new ‘own-door’ houses and duplex units in housing developments are not bulk-purchased by commercial institutional investors in a manner that causes the displacement of individual purchasers and/or social and affordable housing (including Cost Rental housing).
The proposed amendment is an action in Housing for All, the Government’s national plan for housing, and is due to be implemented in Quarter 4 2021. Action 1.10 is: “Introduce a form of ‘owner occupier guarantee’, which will enable Local Authorities to designate a specified number of houses and duplexes in a development for owner occupiers.”
Housing strategies, which are prepared as part of a local authority’s Development Plan review process, consider and specify an area’s housing need requirements during a Development Plan’s lifetime.
Welcoming the Government decision, Minister O’Brien said: “This proposed change is one of many measures in Housing for All that aims to increase access to home ownership. It will ensure that all local authorities, through their Housing Strategies, estimate and include the housing need for individual purchasers (as well as social and affordable housing) as part of the overall tenure split projected for the local authority area.”
The proposed amendment to the Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 will introduce the principle of home ownership as a specific tenure type within a local authority’s housing strategy, with particular regard to developments comprising houses and duplexes.
The proportion of home ownership will be calculated by each local authority using the Housing Need and Demand Assessment, which projects future need of housing by tenure type. Projections are based on incomes, house prices and rents, structural demand for housing, existing need and projections for how these indicators will evolve over the coming years.
Last week, the Government approved the publication this month of the Residential Tenancies (No.3) Bill 2021. The Bill, if enacted, will put a cap on rent increases of more than 2% per annum in any Rent Pressure Zone when general inflation is higher than 2%. The Bill will also address long-term security of tenure by introducing tenancies of indefinite duration. This was a key commitment in Housing for All.
In September, the Government published Housing for All, the Government’s plan to boost the supply of housing to 2030, to increase availability and affordability of housing, and to create a sustainable housing system into the future. The plan contains a range of actions and measures to ensure over 300,000 new social, affordable, cost rental and private homes are built by 2030.The actions outlined in the Plan are backed by over €4 billion in annual guaranteed State investment in housing over the coming years, including through Exchequer funding, Land Development Agency and Housing Finance Agency investment.