Changes to planning laws approved by Cabinet could see more than 1,000 social or affordable homes delivered more rapidly next year, according to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.
The Fianna Fáil TD got the sign-off for amendment to the Planning and Development Foreshore Bill that brings in temporary measures to allow for the accelerated delivery of social and affordable housing on zoned, local authority-owned or State-owned land.
He will bring the amendment to the Dáil next week with the intention of the measure being in place before Christmas.
Mr O’Brien said part of the plan to expedite social and affordable housing will be to use off-site or modular construction methods.
He said the proposed change to the law is time-bound and brings in planning exemptions for social and affordable housing.
The measure is focused on land identified by local authorities that is either owned by them or another State agency and is already zoned for residential use.
Mr O’Brien said assessments have already been carried out on sites and there is a focus on debt-laden “encumbered sites” that may have been bought by local authorities as much as 20 years ago.
He said the Government is bringing in a €100 million activation fund to write down the debt associated with the sites on the basis that the local authorities move forward with housing development next year “or at the very latest in 2024”.
Mr O’Brien said the number of homes that could be delivered next year initially is “upwards of over 1,000″ while adding: “we’ve got to complete the full assessment so there’s a health warning with that”.
Separately, Mr O’Brien responded to new data from housing charity Threshold which suggests that more than half of private tenants who contacted it last year were deemed at risk of entering homelessness.
Its annual report says a total of 19,947 households were assisted by the charity in 2021, of which 10,729 were considered to be at risk of homelessness.
Mr O’Brien said he works with Threshold on a weekly basis, it is represented on the National Homeless Action Committee and it plays “a really important role”. He said the Government supports Thresholds campaigns financially and praised their work on helping people to avoid homelessness.
Mr O’Brien added: “We’re all aware of the challenge... the main priority for us is to see the numbers in homelessness reducing but also preventing further people from going into homelessness.”
He said that housing supply is the fundamental issue and said a delivery target of 24,600 new properties for this year will be “exceeded quite substantially”.
Critics of the Government have pointed out that the 2022 targets for social and affordable homes are set to be missed.
Mr O’Brien said there is a “good pipeline” of new homes expected next year but also cautioned “we live in a high-cost environment” and inflation is having an impact.
He said Government measures around land activation and plans to ramp up modular and off-site construction will deliver of more social and affordable homes.