Tag Archives: Housing

From top: Building site, Dublin; Architect Mel Reynolds

Mel Reynolds writes:

In April, Minister Damian English suggested that 7,000 social homes were built last year. Subsequent official statements and reports clarified this figure down to 780 local authority builds.

Detailed analysis of the quarterly Rebuilding Ireland Construction Status Report 2017 confirms that just 394 local authority homes were built. The balance of 386 were ‘turnkey’ new homes purchased from private sector developments.

Eleven councils built none.

Readers will recall Madeira Oaks in Wexford, a passive scheme featured in issue 15 of Passive House Plus.

Eight new homes purchased by Wexford County Council in 2017 are recorded by the Department of Housing as council builds.

In eighteen months local authorities built 613 homes, plus a further 415 by approved housing bodies (AHBs). One thousand, two hundred and fifty six ‘turnkey’ private sector homes were purchased in the same period. Official figures conceal very low levels of local authority building.

What resources are available?

Finance and industry capacity need to be assessed, but land availability is critical.

Minister Eoghan Murphy has suggested enhanced land ‘compulsory purchase’ powers for councils and a new agency to manage and buy more land. Are these needed?

The state controls or owns more than one quarter of all zoned residential development land nationwide, enough land to accommodate 114,000 dwellings.

In Dublin City three out of every four vacant residential zoned sites is either owned by Dublin City Council or by a Nama debtor, enough to accommodate 71,000 dwellings.

Details of 700 sites and 1,700 hectares (ha) owned by councils and the Housing Agency were published in the Rebuilding Ireland Land Availability Survey last year. However, this is only a small part of the state-owned land.

Based on seven council returns, the extent of land owned by councils is 8,844 hectares (21,854 acres), five times greater.

In Fingal and South Dublin, the amount of council-owned land declared in Rebuilding Ireland is 132 hectares. The actual figure, including roads and parkland, is 6,761 hectares.

These two councils own 67.6 sq km, a land-bank bigger than San Marino, a small European country.

Even if a fraction of this land is suitable for future development, there is capacity to rezone to residential use for decades.

The proposed development in Cherrywood in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown is 360 hectares, half the size of Phoenix Park, and will accommodate eight thousand dwellings, a town centre and 350,000 sqm of commercial space.

Fingal and South Dublin own the equivalent of nineteen Cherrywood’s, yet built 83 homes between them last year. South Dublin County Council built none.

The National Economic & Social Council (NESC) has confirmed that public land has a central role in the supply of affordable housing and recommended that rather than selling, state land-banks should be actively managed and used to drive the provision of affordable housing.

What needs to be done (and when)?

Last year 17,900 households experienced rental distress and signed up for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). This is to increase in 2018 and up to €950m on various supported rental programmes will be spent this year. At current rates of increase more than €5bn will be spent on state rent assistance by 2021.

Two years ago, an all-party Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness recommended an annual target of 10,000 social homes for the next ten years. An additional 5,000 affordable homes are needed per annum.

These are not, and will not, be provided by the public sector. At least 35% of a typical sales price in County Dublin is land value and developer’s profit. Private sector building is sluggish, concentrated mainly in Dublin and aimed at the top 20% of earners.

So-called state LIHAF (local infrastructure housing activation fund) funding is aimed at large developments, providing infrastructure funding for privately-owned land banks in the expectation that a future sales discount will be applied.

No legal agreements or projected sales prices have been published by developers in receipt of funding to date. Remaining LIHAF funding should be exclusively aimed at unlocking public land and its development potential.

Does it matter that homes are purchased rather than built by the state? Some officials consider that there is no difference – a home is a home.

But it is much cheaper and quicker to build a local authority home; the state is in total control of the process, from planning to completion.

The average ‘all-in’ cost of a two-bedroom local authority home is less than €200,000.

According to the CSO, average new Dublin house prices range from €389,343 (South Dublin) to €649,295 (Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown).

Co-ops, in partnership with councils, can build affordable homes for sale for similar prices.

Only one such scheme of just 37 co-op homes is planned in partnership with Dublin City Council.

At least two local authority social and affordable homes can be built for the price of one purchased from the private sector in Dublin.

Two houses for the price of one (Mel Reynolds, Passive House Plus)

Members and supporters of the group Dublin Tenants Association holding a picket outside the headquarters of Ires REIT on Grand Canal Dock, Dublin in July 2017

In May 2017.

Fiona Reddan, in The Irish Times, reported that two-bed apartments in The Maple apartment complex in Sandyford, owned by Ires REIT, were set to be rented out for €2,750, setting a new rental price record in the area in the process.

Members and supporters of Dublin Tenants Association subsequently protested outside the offices of Ires REIT.

On Saturday, Craig Farrell, in The Irish Sun, reported that, due to a legal loophole, tenants of The Maple apartments were facing rental price hikes of up between 20 and 26 per cent – despite the apartments being situated in a Rent Pressure Zone where rent can only be increased by four per cent per year.

Last Friday, several tenants protested outside the Ires REIT offices after getting letters from Ires REIT about the pending rental increase.

Last night, Ms Reddan, of The Irish Times, reported Ires REIT has abandoned it’s plans to increase rent by 20 to 26 per cent and, instead, will increase the cost by four per cent.

Ms Reddan reported:

“The Maple was launched last summer, setting new rent highs for the area, coming on the market at €1,925 for a one-bed and €2,570 for a two-bed apartment. Some tenants of the development, which is at full occupancy, were told that their rents would rise to as much as €2,800 following the proposed rent hike, which was due to kick in on January 1st 2019.

“However, following a demonstration outside the offices of the landlord by affected tenants, and engagement with the property company, Ires will now apply a lower rate of rent increase, of 4 per cent, at the development.”

There you go now.

State’s biggest private landlord shelves 25% rent rise in Dublin (Fiona Reddan, The Irish Times)

Previously: IRES My Case

REIT It And Weep

This afternoon.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweets a video of himself speaking about what he says the Government is doing to tackle the housing crisis.

In the video, Mr Varadkar pretty much repeats what he told the Dáil on Wednesday – including  the line that there will be 20,000 new homes built this year.

Meanwhile…

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil on September 18 that about 30,000 or 35,000 homes are needed.

Via Namawinelake

Previously: “I Could Speak For Hours”

In Cork.

This afternoon.

President Michael D Higgins responds to journalists asking him about the homeless crisis.

Earlier: Ship Happens

Thanks John

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised the housing crisis and asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if he could explain “the absence of delivery [of housing] across the board” and if he accepted Ireland was in an “emergency”.

Mr Varadkar said he’s already on record as saying there’s an emergency and said he knows people across Ireland are frustrated with the pace of delivery of houses and that he’s frustrated, too.

He said he could “speak for hours” about all the things the Government is doing to fix the crisis but he said he’d mentioned the five main strands of the Government’s response to the crisis.

He said Ireland will undergo the “biggest social housing programme in decades in Ireland” with “over 100,000” social houses to be provided over the next ten years  and “8,000 this year alone”.

He said the Government is also “accelerating the supply of homes for people to buy” with 20,000 new houses and apartments to be built in Ireland this year and 25,000 next year.

Mr Varadkar also mentioned how the Government brought in rent caps in urban areas to “put a stop to the spiralling double digit rent increases”.

And he said “rough sleeping” is down by 40 per cent and “that didn’t happen by accident”.

He said: “It happened because we worked with NGOs and charities to get people off the streets.”

And, finally, he spoke about the recent launch of the Land Development Agency.

Further to this…

Dáil proceedings can be watched live here

Earlier: Rising Slowly

This morning.

Government news service Merrion Street tweetz:

The Minister for Housing and Minister for Health are launching the National Implementation Plan for Housing First at St. Agatha’s Court in Dublin this morning.

There you go now.

Earlier: Anne Marie McNally: Out Of Reach

.

From top: Minister for Housing, planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of the establishment of the Land Development Agency last week; Dr Michael Byrne

With Sinn Féin submitting a motion of no confidence and widespread revulsion at the eviction of the Take Back the City occupation in Dublin 1, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy finds himself once again scrambling to defend the Government’s response to the homelessness crisis.

Under these circumstances one would assume the government would take every opportunity to stem the tide of homelessness.

One such opportunity is to address the danger posed by the huge number of Buy-to-Let properties in arrears. But as has been the case with each aspect of this housing crisis, the government seems bent on ignoring the issue until it is too late.

The eviction of tenants from the private rental sector is central to the homelessness crisis.

In response to last week’s news that the numbers in emergency accommodation had reached almost 10,000, Focus CEO Pat Dennigan pointed out that the main reason families are becoming homeless is because they are evicted from the private rental sector when the homes they are living in are sold or repossessed.

And if the summer is anything to go by, this problem is going to get considerably worse as Irish banks offload their non-performing Buy-to-Let mortgage books.

In May, AIB sold a €1.1 bn loan portfolio, which included Buy-to-Let mortgages. In July, Permanent TSB agreed the sale of 10,700 mortgages, of which approximately 3,300 were reported to be Buy-to-Let loans, to an affiliate of Lone Star Funds.

This summer also saw Ulster Bank announce the disposal of 2,900 Buy-to-Let mortgages, while KBC offloaded €1.9bn, including Buy-to-Let loans, to Goldman Sachs.

The push to off load non-performing Buy-to-Let loans is in part a response to direction from the Single Supervisory Mechanism, an ECB institution responsible for ensuring the ‘safeness and soundness of the European Banking System’.

The SSM want Irish banks to bring the proportion of NPLS down to approximately 5% (at the end of 2017 the NPL ratios was just under 14%). This is an important goal as high levels of NPLs make the Irish financial system vulnerable to future shocks.

However, with Irish lenders aiming to hit the 5% target over the next few years, it is clear that thousands of tenants will find the properties they call home in the hands of vulture funds.

This can only mean eviction, and the risk of homelessness.

When it comes to vulture funds, politicians have focused their attention for the most part on so called family homes being sold to international funds. This an important issue.

But Buy-to-Let properties are family homes too – it’s just that in this case the families in question are renters.

Moreover, the impact of homeowner mortgages being off loaded remains somewhat unclear. In the Buy-to-Let sector, however, repossession always means eviction.

What makes this a scandal, rather than simply cause for concern, is that many of these lenders are in part state owned and have received massive government support in recent years. PSTB is 75% state owned and AIB is 71%.

The state, in a sense, is creating the very problem it is struggling to contain.

The good news is that there are immediate solutions, although they require careful consideration.

In 2015 (even then it was obvious this was a disaster waiting to happen) I proposed a NAMA-type intervention focused on non-performing Buy-to-Let loans. This would acquire loans and use rental income to cover the costs, keeping tenants in their home.

Similarly, the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness final report, published in 2016, recommended a ‘rent switch programme’ which would allow Housing Associations or Local Authorities to purchase rental properties from receivers or investors.

The same Committee also recommended the removal of ‘sale of property’ as grounds for terminating a tenancy, i.e. an eviction. Properties could still be sold, but without effecting the tenant.

Finally, a temporary moratorium on any evictions in the private rental sector could be introduced.

Some might say we should simply let the logic of the market play out, even if this means thousands of evictions, and that state intervention on this scale is unwarranted.

The reality, however, is that this is not the law of the market. Most of the institutions who are selling Buy-to-Let mortgages simply would not exist where it not for the largesse of the tax payer.

Bailing out lenders may have been justified to address the financial crisis. But on that basis, surely emergency measures are justified to address the current housing crisis?

Central Bank data for the first quarter of 2018 tells us that there are currently 22,545 Buy-to-Let mortgages in arrears (19% of the total). During this period, 314 such properties had receivers appointed to them – that’s more than three every single day.

This scale of this problem should be of clear concern. But whatever your view on how this issue should be tackled, what is most damning of all is the fact that there is no plan whatsoever.

Dr. Michael Byrne is a lecturer at the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, UCD and participates in the Dublin Tenants Association.

Rollingnews

 

Pauline Murphy tweetz:

The 19th century mud cabin at UCC – what our ancestors called home. In the next century a tent in Phoenix Park or a doorway on Patrick Street could be exhibited as such….

Outside 35, Summerhill Parade, Dublin 1, earlier this week

Today.

From 2pm to 4pm.

Outside 35, Summerhill Parade, Dublin 1, which has been occupied by housing activists since Tuesday evening…

Summerhill Occupation writes:

Join us for a fun-filled day of community spirit, solidarity and celebration outside our occupation in Summerhill.

We’ll have music, magic, face-painting, food and arts and crafts to keep people of all ages entertained.

We’ll also have information about housing, tenants’ rights and the occupation at our stall.

Summerhill Occupation (Facebook)

Pic: Richard Chambers

 


Houses

Houses
Are balloons now
They inflate
And conflate
Boom and burst

Houses
Are horses now
We speculate
And place our bets
A lifetime’s work
On coral haven estate
House no 2

Houses
Are flat pack now
Allen keys and spare screws
Starting lovers tiffs
Since 1998

Houses
Are everything now
But homes

Roberta Cappieri

 

Leah Farrell/Rollingnews