The social housing strategy 20/20 launched today by Ministers Kelly and Coffee represents a new and very welcome departure in Irish housing.
The strategy which is aimed at accommodating everybody on the housing waiting list by 2020 (at 90,000 households) will be achieved by delivering 35,000 additional social homes and 75,000 more through a more secure and affordable private rented sector using the housing assistance payment and rental accommodation scheme.
It has been shown, that the current strategy of relying on private provision to deal with the needs of Irish families who need assistance is flawed. Of the 90,000 households now on the housing waiting list, the vast majority are living in private rented accommodation they cannot afford with little security and rapidly rising rents. Through additional social housing and the Housing Assistance Payment scheme this will change.
The current private rental sector is not fit for the long term needs of the almost one third of Irish people who need assistance with their housing. The new strategy announced today will see the state playing a key role in the supply of social housing using innovative funding models which will provide secure and stable homes.
The state in the past has played a key role through local authorities in providing housing for Irish people, however, from the 1990’s onwards that has changed and local authorities were discouraged from playing their traditional role.
The new strategy sees local authorities back on central stage which is where I believe they ought to be. Aside from meeting the needs of those on the current waiting list the social housing strategy will move the Irish economy away from the bust and boom cycle that we have seen in recent decades. A strong vibrant housing sector will act as a moderator on the overall housing market in the future.
I particularly welcome the creation of the Dublin social housing delivery task force to respond to the particular needs in the Dublin area which is most evident by the 180 homelessness families living in hotels, a situation which cannot be tolerated in a civilised society.
While the strategy today is to be welcomed, more needs to be done for those people renting privately facing rent increases and I hope the Minister will seriously consider taking a robust stand on limiting rent increases which are literally driving people into homelessness services.