Penrose outlines vision for social housing
Willie Penrose T.D., Minister for Housing and Planning, today (28 September 2011) outlined his vision for transformation of the social housing sector in the coming years. Addressing the Irish Council of Social Housing conference in Galway , Minister Penrose criticised the failed policies of the previous Government that contributed to the inflation of the housing bubble by prioritising home ownership over all other tenure options.
Describing the government’s Housing Policy Framework, launched in June, as “the most radical departure in housing policy in Ireland since the foundation of the State”, he emphasised that many households may neither wish to own their own home nor be in a position to do so and that the focus of the Government is on providing choices to households based on their need and on their circumstances.
This policy is built upon a tenure-neutral approach. As the Minister put it, “We will not prioritise one form of housing over another, or stampede people into housing solutions that do not match their personal or financial circumstances”. The June 2011 National Housing Policy statement commits the Government to action across a range of areas to ensure that the housing market will be one aspect – and one aspect only, of economic performance – and not the driver of that performance.
In practical terms, action will be taken on a wide range of fronts, such as:
• addressing, across Government, the regulatory failures that allowed the unhindered expansion of the housing bubble;
• comprehensive review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000;
• standing down all existing affordable housing programmes;
• transfer of the rent supplement system from the Department of Social Protection to the local authority structure.
Minister Penrose outlined how approved housing bodies will play a central role in the development of “a better, more equitable, more sustainable system of social housing that is based on choice, fairness, equity across tenures and on delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested”.
The approved housing bodies (AHBs) in the voluntary and cooperative housing sector will be at the heart of future social housing provision. With greatly reduced Exchequer capital, the need to access alternative sources of funding from private financial institutions becomes ever more important. Already, a number of AHBs have received certification as suitable borrowers from the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) and individual AHBs have attracted some financing from private institutions. However, the Minister said that better regulation was required to make the sector a viable and attractive focus for sustained private financing.
Minister Penrose indicated that, in the short term, he hopes to develop a Voluntary Code in partnership with the sector, as the longer-term regulatory framework is prepared.
The Minister said that “this Code will not impose a ‘one size fits all’ approach as I fully understand the very diverse shape and size of approved housing bodies. Instead, I would hope that individual bodies will opt-in to the appropriate level of oversight that matches their size and level of ambitions”.
In concluding, Minister Penrose said “above all, we must remember what it is we are all about – providing homes for people where they can live and grow old in comfort, where they can raise their families in secure, safe neighbourhoods. Beyond the financial pressures, and the technical difficulties, our business is providing those homes. Equity, security, opportunity, and fairness must be our watchwords.”
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