The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has announced the publication of a new housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities.
Launching the document in the Civic Offices in Ballymun, Minister Roche sought to define sustainable communities – the key concept at the core of the policy document:
"Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They are sensitive to their environment and contribute to a high quality of life. Such communities are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run. They offer equality of opportunity and good services for all".
While acknowledging the ambitious scope of the statement, the Minister insisted that such a vision was achievable.
"In Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities we are setting out the actions ensure the vision for sustainable communities is achieved. In part, it is a policy agenda. But we are also investing substantial additional resources in housing services over the period of NDP 2007-2013".
The last decade has seen phenomenal demand for housing and record levels of housing output to meet that demand. However, it has been estimated that a further 600,000 homes will be required over the next nine years. The scale of these requirements presents a challenge and an opportunity to deliver new development to the highest physical and environmental quality. Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities provides a strategic reference to help deliver on this challenge.
The Minister said: -
"Building energy efficient and environmentally friendly housing is particularly important in the context of the pressing challenges of climate change. Providing infrastructure to support the delivery of the required levels of housing will remain at the heart of Government housing policy. The planning framework to deliver on this agenda is in place. We must ensure that connections are made between different elements of physical and social infrastructure if we are to build sustainable communities.
The challenge is to provide an integrated strategy to meet the growing and diverse needs of our population in a high quality way. In 2004, NESC commented on the complementary goals of adequate quantity and quality of sustainable development. I am confident that with the comprehensive range of actions set out in Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities we can achieve this".
Elaborating on the detail of the statement, Minister Ahern focussed on the targets to be achieved: -
"NDP 2007-2013 provides €18 billion in resources for housing programmes. This will be used to meet the housing needs of some 140,000 new households including 60,000 social and 40,000 affordable homes. Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities sets the policy context to ensure best outcomes from this investment".
In terms of specific actions, Minister Ahern announced the introduction of new schemes: -
To support social housing tenants seeking home-ownership – the incremental purchase scheme and the sale of flats; and a reformed grant schemes to adapt housing to meet the needs of older people and people with a disability.
The Minister added: "We will issue guidance to local authorities to support the building of sustainable communities and we are providing resources through a Sustainable Communities Fund to support regeneration and tackle anti-social behaviour. New legislation will be introduced to support the social housing reform programme and we are also stressing the importance of maintaining the quality of social housing by:
- Spending almost €2 billion on housing renewal;
- Sustainable Community proofing new housing projects; and
- Conducting an quality audit of social housing in over the coming two years.
Minister Ahern concluded: -
"Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities outlines an ambitious but realisable vision to guide the development of the Irish housing sector over the coming decade. We will be delivering more and better quality housing responses. We will be doing this in a more strategic way focussed on the building of sustainable communities".
New Affordable Housing Initiative
Both Ministers were also pleased to announce the launch of a new initiative to increase the supply of affordable housing. Under the first phase of this initiative, an additional 500 affordable homes are being provided in the Greater Dublin Area, where affordability pressures are greatest. An advertising campaign inviting applications from interested purchasers meeting the eligibility criteria is being launched later this week and the vast bulk of the 500 homes will be available this year, commencing in April.
Read document at: http://www.environ.ie/DOEI/doeipub.nsf/0/6d8583fb4883dd5480257283003d7bb3/$FILE/Executive%20Summary%20English.pdf