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MAY2014

Housing
POLICY
BARRY COWEN TD
Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government


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INTRODUCTION
Fianna Fil believes that every citizen has a right to a home. This means supporting and
developing a strong social and private housing sector. The spiralling waiting lists in social
housing and supply shortage in the private sphere is combining to deny more and more
people a suitable home. Ireland is falling way behind the estimated 25,000 units needed per
annum.
Despite the escalating demand due to demographic shifts and household fragmentation
private housing supply is under significant pressure due to the collapse of activity in the
construction sector. Employment levels in the field have plummeted while prices and rent
levels have escalated in Dublin forcing out many households.
Fianna Fil has serious concerns that the government has failed to put flesh on its lofty 2011
housing strategy. A vicious combination of harsh social welfare cuts and escalating rents in
Dublin has driven more and more onto social housing waiting lists and increased
homelessness levels. Over 100,000 households are on the social housing waiting list across
the country. The woefully slow pace of NAMA property transfers is testament to the failure of
the government to prioritise the issue and provide sufficient administrative and logistical
support to voluntary housing associations and local authorities.
As a party we are committed to tackling the social housing waiting list, revitalising the
construction sector on a sustainable footing to get construction workers back in long term
employment and re-asserting the fundamental right to housing for all citizens.
We believe that the constructive proposals we are advancing in this housing policy can make
a real contribution to addressing Irelands housing challenge.

Barry Cowen TD,
Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government.


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BUILDING NEW HOMES

Main Proposals
New Home Building Program
Retain Part V teams to ensure the 20% social dividend is fully realised in
future developments
National review of development levy scheme to avoid double taxation
through water charges
New High Quality Design Guidelines for Apartments
Tenant purchase schemes for both Local Authority and voluntary housing
associations
Vacant /Derelict Houses Refurbishment Scheme
Housing Adaption Grants
New credit faculties for Voluntary Housing Associations
NAMA Transfer unit in each LA to accelerate the transfer of social housing
units
Bedroom Density Levels to encourage construction
Vacant Site levy to penalise land hoarding in urban areas
Digitise the planning process to reduce costs and time delays
New National Planning Portal
Rogue Builder Name and Shame Database
New Apprenticeship Model to foster greater employment levels

The right to a home is a key part of Fianna Fails vision for the future of housing in Ireland.
One of the central tasks of Local authorities is the provision of social housing and laying out
development plans to facilitate sustainable construction. Social Housing waiting lists are
currently spiralling to almost 100,000 households while the construction industry has
grounded to a halt. The ERSI estimates that approximately 25,000 houses per annum must
be constructed to meet demographic growth in Ireland. The national Housing Agency report
forecasts a minimum required supply of 79,660 residential units in urban areas to support the
population between 2014 and 2018, an average equivalent of 15,932. The per annum
requirement across the country ranges from 9,526 units in 2014 to 20,853 units in 2018.
Despite the escalating demand due to demographic shifts and household fragmentation
private housing supply is under significant pressure due to the collapse of activity in the
construction sector. Employment levels in the field have plummeted while prices and rent
levels have escalated in Dublin forcing out many households.
Fianna Fil is committed to tackling the social housing waiting list, revitalising the
construction sector on a sustainable footing to get construction workers back in long term
employment and re-asserting the fundamental right to housing for all citizens.




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FIANNA FIL COUNCILLORS WILL WORK
TOWARDS THE FOLLOWING MEASURES:


A New Home Building Program
Fianna Fil will launch a new home building project across Ireland. This will directly supply
social housing via local authorities and will be financed through the National Pension
Reserve Fund. Building new homes to tackle the spiralling waiting lists is vital to achieving
the right to a home for all citizens. It will also address housing assistant recipients placing
further pressure on the private housing market.
The new housing building program will be drawn up by the Department of Environment in
consultation with each local authority based on demand. The housing program must reflect
the diversified nature of demand ranging from single member households to elderly couples.
An estimated

Part V Teams
Fianna Fil is a socially progressive party and it supports the principle of Part V as a major
source of future housing supply. Mixed tenure housing has an important role to play in
building sustainable communities. Local Authorities should have the power to decide the
appropriate nature of the mix based on local considerations but it should be kept to a
minimum of 20%. This should be done by creating Part V teams in each local authority
housing section.
They will be tasked with developing annual plans and targets, ensuring that contracts are
signed quickly, smoothing the expeditious transfer of units and drawing from development
plans to target their constructed in the right locations.
The teams will bring together developers and housing associations to ensure safe design,
location, timelines and transfer issues are acceptable.

Housing Associations Finance
Housing Associations are a key vehicle in delivering more units to meet social housing
demands. They are currently restricted by limited access to finance and a lack of economies
of scale. Fianna Fil will help promote the development housing association sector.
We will develop Housing Association Bonds to empower the associations to access financial
support independent of the state. These bonds will encourage bolder financial thinking by the
associations based on sound planning and future revenue streams. It will also alleviate the
immediate pressure on the state to fund all significant scale developments.
We will re-enforce and monitor the regulation of housing associations charged with the
delivery of social housing to maintain the highest standards of governance and
accountability.



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NAMA Transfer Units
The National Assets Management Agency has a specific role in providing a broader social
dividend to the state. Some 4,319 homes have identified by NAMA for transfer as social
housing units. These should be vigorously pursued to allow the transfer of properties to local
authorities to help meet the social housing waiting list. A special transfer unit will be set up in
each Local Authority to expedite the transition of homes from NAMA to Local Authorities and
housing associations.

Tenant Purchase Schemes
Fianna Fil has published and will work to implement legislation to enable Voluntary Housing
Association tenants the right to buy out and own their own home. Under Fianna Fil local
authorities will continue to provide and develop an accessible Tenant Purchase scheme that
empowers families to purchase their very own place.

Housing Adaption grants
Fianna Fil is committed to reintroducing this grant to allow older people and people with
disabilities to live independently in their homes. We will also set waiting time targets that will
be published on-line quarterly to ensure that delays will be kept to a minimum.

Vacant Home Refurbishment Scheme
The total available Local Authority housing stock has been eroded by the large number of
vacant homes across the country. Local Authorities should allow families on the waiting list to
move into these homes and refurbish them. The costs of refurbishment should be gradually
defrayed over time through reduced rents. This will open up greater levels of units to tackle
the waiting lists while simultaneously reduce the upfront costs to local authorities.

Development Plans
Development plans should only facilitate the construction of homes where sustainable
demand is confirmed. This demands a strong regional role in the creation of long term
housing policy. Density issues also have to be addressed. Fianna Fil will utilise clear
regional government to set out overall housing policy according to local need.

Density Levels
Housing construction should adhere to sustainable planning guidelines. Onerous unit density
criteria is having a prohibitive impact on construction levels and stoking up prices to the
exclusion of low to middle income earners. Fianna Fil will revise density levels and replace
them where appropriate with bed density criteria to inform future planning permissions.
Density Levels in city centres will be maintained to ensure that supply problems are


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addressed and urban sprawl limited. This is vital in combating unsustainable development
and overstretching resources.

High Quality Design
Ensuring that design quality and adequate space is achieved is vital for the future of
apartment living, particularly in urban area. A mixture of homes is necessary to reflect
changing demographics and the variety of homes that individuals and their families will live in
throughout their life. Revising the 2007 Guidelines is necessary to setting out a fresh vision
of the quality of place we expect in Apartments to make them feasible options for a variety of
households types.

Development Levies
Up to 50% of development levy money currently is spent on water supplies. This supply will
now be subject to charges from Irish Water under the governments new water charges
regime forming a type of double charge on the homeowner.
Fianna Fil will review all development levies across every Local Authority to re-assess
development levy rates based on a re-evaluation of cost levels following the removal of water
provision from local authorities.

High Building Standards
Issues at Priory Hall underline the pressing need to protect homeowners from rogue
developers who fail to build homes to the highest standards. A national database of rogue
developers who fail to meet their planning permission criteria will be established. This Rogue
Builder database will be used to inform planning permission decisions in the future and the
level of bonds required by local authorities.

Digitise the Planning Process
The current planning system demands reams of paper work through multiple copies of each
application. This drives up costs for home builders and administrative costs for local
authorities. Fianna Fil will move to digitise and simplify the planning process.

National Planning Portal
Accurate information is the cornerstone of an effective planning system. Fianna Fil supports
the establishment of a national planning portal containing information across every local
authority that all citizens can access. This will be a positive step towards providing full
information to inform the planning process, identifying trends and enabling Local authorities
to pinpoint future problems.



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Apprentice Labour Model
The dramatic decrease in construction activity has decimated apprenticeship numbers.
Skilled labour is vital to the future of the construction industry and a reliable employment
source for young people across the country. Local authorities should consult and plan with
Solas for the increased skills needed.









Barry Cowen TD
SPOKESPERSON ON ENVIRONMENT
AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Dil ireann,
Leinster House,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2.
LoCall: 1890 337 889
Constituency Ofce,
Patrick Street,
Tullamore,
Co. Ofaly.
057 932 1976
057 932 1910
* cowenconstituencyofce@gmail.com