Renewed Focus on the Housing Crisis

The former Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has now been renamed the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. According to the Department’s website, this change reflects the priority placed by the new Government on addressing housing issues. This follows the publication of the Action Plan for Housing & Homelessness “Rebuilding Ireland” by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Simon Coveney TD) on 19th July 2016.

The Action Plan reflects many of the Government’s key housing objectives, as set down in the Programme for a Partnership Government, to significantly increase the supply of social and private housing. In particular, the Plan seeks  to double the output of overall new housing from the current levels to at least 25,000 per annum by 2020 and to tackle homelessness.

The Plan sets out actions under five Pillars:

  • Address Homelessness,
  • Accelerate Social Housing,
  • Build More Homes,
  • Improve the Rental sector, and
  • Utilise Existing Housing.

A key aim of the Plan is to increase new housing supply across all tenures, including social housing. The Plan seeks to accelerate the rate of housebuilding to a target of 25,000 units per annum. According to Minister, the key priority is addressing the unacceptable level of homelessness by providing rapid housing delivery. It provides for a social housing programme of 47,000 units by 2021, supported by funding of €5.35 billion. Additional funding has also been announced for new infrastructure required to service housing land.

Another key aim of the Plan is to increase the level of private housebuilding. This is to be helped through a number of measures, including changes to planning legislation. In this regard, the Plan states that new legislation will enable large scale residential applications (100 houses or more) to be made directly to An Bord Pleanala, which will prioritise its decision-making process to fast-track these applications. The Plan also states that revised legislation will allow further extensions of duration of permissions that have already benefitted from such an extension.

There are no further details of the planning measures contained in the Action Plan at the moment. However, the Plan indicates a timeframe for action by the end of this year. We will keep readers posted of any changes in this regard.

Separately from the above, and still related to residential development, the Department also recently issued circulars in relation to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2015. The main provisions of the amendment Act related to adherence to ministerial planning guidelines, particularly the minimum apartment size guidelines, and strategic development zones. The new provisions state that planning applications for amendments to multiple unit housing schemes to meet updated apartment size guidelines should be assessed only on the proposed amendments and that the principle of development should not be reassessed. Similarly, there is no longer a third party right of appeal in such cases, unless there is a significant material change to the external appearance of the structure.

The Housing & Homelessness Action Plan and press release can be found on the Department’s website at: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/policy/launch-rebuilding-ireland-action-plan-housing-and-homelessness

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