Speaking at the Joint Committee on Housing, Ms Áine Stapleton for the Department of Housing said that the Irish government plans to significantly increase the number of social housing acquisitions in 2023, from 200 to 1,500. This move comes in response to a rise in emergency accommodation demand and an increase in the number of termination notices, aiming to prevent homelessness and support tenants facing eviction.
Ms Stapleton explained, “The additional 1,300 acquisitions are to be focused on the purchase of properties where a HAP or RAS tenant has received a notice of termination due to the landlord’s intention to sell the property.” Local authorities will be given an initial allocation for the number of acquisitions to be funded in their area, and progress will be reviewed throughout 2023.
Under the Housing for All initiative, a core element of housing delivery, Ms Stapleton highlighted that “a target to deliver an average of 10,000 new-build social homes between 2022 and 2030” has been set. For 2023, she announced that “a total of 9,100 new-build social homes will be delivered.” This will be supported by changes to the capital advance leasing facility (CALF) funding scheme, ensuring approved housing bodies can deliver social housing in all local authority areas.
In addition to the new-build social homes, the government has introduced a targeted leasing initiative to provide an additional 1,000 homes. Ms Stapleton stated, “The Department expects that 600 of these homes can be delivered this year and the remainder in 2024.” Despite challenges in the rental market, she noted that “an average of over 160 HAP tenancies are being established each week,” with local authority HAP place finder officers supporting households in securing suitable tenancies in the private rented market.
Value for money remains a consideration for the Department, with delegated sanction issued to local authorities subject to acquisitions being within acquisition cost guidelines. Ms Stapleton emphasized that the Department has been working closely with the County and City Management Association (CCMA) to prioritize this initiative, focusing on the prevention of homelessness.
Ms Stapleton also pointed out that the acquisition of a property is just one of the supports offered to a tenant at risk of homelessness. She said, “Where a household presents to a local authority at risk of homelessness, the local authority will work with the household to identify an appropriate solution.” With the increase in social housing build output in 2022, over 5,000 homes have been added to the social housing stock.
Supporting households at risk of homelessness remains a key priority for the Irish Government. Ms Stapleton affirmed that “The Department will work closely with the local authorities to ensure that this programme of work is completed efficiently during 2023.” This significant increase in social housing acquisitions aims to provide much-needed support to tenants facing eviction and contribute to the prevention of homelessness in Ireland.