Government Unveils ‘Housing For All’ Blueprint

02 Sep 2021 | 06.30 pm

Government Unveils ‘Housing For All’ Blueprint

New tax on vacant property

02 Sep 2021 | 06.30 pm

The government’s Housing For All plan promises to invest €4 billion annually into housing and aims to deliver 300,000 homes, or approximately 33,000 per year, by the end of 2030.

The government says the measures in the plan will reduce many Dublin house prices to between €250,000 and €325,000. Opposition parties and some housing experts beg to differ.

Of the planned 300,000 new homes, 90,000 will be social hosuing, 36,000 will be affordable homes and 18,000 will be cost-rental homes.

The remaining 156,000 — more than half the total — will be private sector builds.

The plan also reforms the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme, which provides mortgages to first-time buyers, offering up to 90% of the market value of the property. It will now target single people who wish to buy and will offer them a loan of up to €65,000 in the Greater Dublin Area, Cork, and Galway up €15,000 on the current €50,000. The maximum amount for joint applications will remain at €75,000.

Taxes will be placed on vacant properties and sites including over-the-shop units in city and town centres, many of which have been vacant in recent years.

The plan includes a focus on homeless rough sleepers, with 1,200 Housing First tenancies to be opened up over the next five years, and an expansion in access to affordable homes to buy, through an enhanced Local Authority Home Loan Scheme, which will have an increased income ceiling for single people of €65,000 and lower loan rates.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “We are announcing the most ambitious programme of social and affordable housing delivery in the history of the state, with 90,000 social homes and 54,000 affordable homes to be provided by the end of 2030.

“We will also continue to support our most vulnerable by significantly increasing the number of tenancies for those experiencing homelessness and who have more complex needs. Housing for All will provide the basis for a long-term sustainable housing system for this and future generations.”

Vacant Property Tax

Housing minister Darragh O’Brien stated: “The plan will see a radical shift towards more affordable homeownership and secure renting. Our measures for affordable purchase, which include significant state investment, will provide opportunities for those who are losing all hope of ever owning their own home.

“Our changes to the rental sector, including the supply of 2,000 ‘Cost Rental’ homes, on average, every year, and new protections will make renting more affordable and secure for many.

“The planning changes we are announcing today, including the concept of the state sharing in the increase in value of land zoned for housing, mark a radical departure in how land earmarked for housing is managed, in line with the aspirations of the Kenny Report of several decades ago.”

Finance minister Paschal Donohoe added: “Tax reforms will play an important role in increasing housing supply. The new tax to activate vacant land should incentivise greater development.

“Data on vacancy levels will inform our work on introducing a new Vacant Property Tax so that empty properties are brought back into productive use.”

Critical Reaction

However, opposition parties have described the plan as “unambitious”. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the government had failed to grasp the depth of the housing crisis and how to tackle it.

McDonald said: “There is still the same old thinking that leaves people with rents that are excruciatingly high. This government, like the last one, is very, very good at citing big figures over long extended timelines and bamboozling people with this. The reality is, as in previous plan Rebuilding Ireland there were big figures and they didn’t get delivered.”

Labour housing spokeperson Rebecca Moynihan said the state should be providing at least 20,000 homes every year, which would involve a “more direct role in the system, as the private market has entirely different objectives on housing compared to the state”.

The Social Democrats joined the chorus, with spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan saying the government was failing to increase delivery of social housing, failing to introduce a vacant home levy, and was falling short with its proposed land value sharing measure.

“The minister’s determination to proceed with a shared equity scheme, and his decision to boost subsidies for developers even further, is more evidence of the developer-led approach to housing that has created and sustained this crisis,” he said.

Housing expert and social policy lecturer Rory Hearne said the plan “falls far short of what is needed”. 

“The starting claim that the government will deliver 33,000 homes a year is ambitious, but it is misleading because over half of these are due to come from the private market. The government has no control over this delivery. Furthermore, not once does the plan mention the aim of reducing housing prices. 

“Housing For all is about maintaining the market status quo. This is a plan that is overly oriented towards the interests of developers and investors rather than those in need of affordable homes. The plan does not properly define an affordable home.  

“Absent is a clear delivery of a very large supply of actually affordable homes on public land that might have some chance of bringing the price of houses down.”

Photo: Taoiseach Micheál Martin with ministers (l-r) Leo Varadkar, Eamon Ryan and Darragh O’Brien. (Pic: Maxwells / RollingNews.ie)

Comments are closed.