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Social housing body says state land urgently needed to 'maximise' development capacity

Housing bodies urgently need state land to “maximise” development capacity, according to the Irish Council for Social Housing.

The ICSH has called for the immediate publication of the bill to establish the Land Development Agency launched by the Government last September to develop state lands for housing development and regeneration.

"The agency will have a commercial remit like Nama, so it is really important that the legislation is open to public scrutiny as soon as possible," said ICSH chief executive, Dr Donal McManus.

The ICSH is also calling for the agency - which will be a commercial state-sponsored body - to ring-fence at least 30% of housing on state lands for social housing and 20% for affordable housing.

It believes state land should be used extensively for the provision of social housing.

Dr McManus said the supply of land for social and affordable housing was crucial so both local authorities and housing associations could deliver at the scale required.

“We don't have a large land bank. We are dependent on others. In the past, we had a lot of land from donated sources but in recent years we relied on local authority sites,” said Dr McManus.

Delivery of long-term social housing by the housing association sector has increased almost tenfold in the past five years.

The ICSH provided 3,219 social homes last year, 38% of the national total and took over 4,000 households off the social housing waiting list.

Over half (54%) of the new homes provided were new build social homes, 33% were acquisitions and 13% were leased, according to the Housing Association Activity Report 2018.

Dr McManus said they were confident that they would reach their 2012 target of 15,000 social homes and believed they could exceed it.

“Our current pipeline is almost 5,000 homes, but we need to ensure that any obstacle to delivering on this is removed,” he said.

Dr McManus said part of the sector is keen on providing affordable rental housing for people who may not qualify for social housing or who are unable to get a mortgage.

Housing bodies have increased their output from 1,312 homes in 2015 to 3,219 homes in 2018 and provided 6,697 homes under Rebuilding Ireland since 2016.

The ICSH is also calling for support in reversing the CSO/Eurostat decision that placed housing associations on the Government's balance sheet.

Donal Mc Manus, CEO, Irish Council for Social Housing(ICSH), Tina Donaghy, Head of Development, Fold Ireland and Pat Doyle, CEO, Peter Mc Verry Trust and Chair of the ICSH at the Irish Council For Social Housing Activity Report 2018 launch.

The council believes it can provide more homes in the coming years if it is not constrained by the State's capital spending limits.

About two-thirds of all homes provided last year were concentrated in nine local authority areas, reflecting the higher demand for social housing in urban locations.

The ICSH is the national federation for non-profit housing associations, representing around 270 member organisations that provide social housing.

The sector manages over 35,000 homes for families on a low income, older people, people with disabilities and households experiencing homelessness.

The Housing Association Performance Management 2018 report, also published by the ICSH, shows that members collected €67.28m in rent last year, described as “an excellent result.”

There was €3.36m in rent arrears in 2018, about 5% of the total receivable rent. 64% of arrears were due from current tenants and 36% from former tenants that are still being pursued.

There were 57 notices to terminate a tenancy issued last year, half the number served the previous year and representing just 0.25% of the total housing stock.

The notices were issued for rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, overholding, non-occupation, sub-letting or were done so in agreement with the tenant where the housing was no longer suitable to the tenant's needs.