My contribution Re: Housing Crisis to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe; Given the scale of the challenge I really doubt the funding provided to address the housing crisis will have an impact.
1. Additional funding for the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme may help recipients of the payment to meet rental costs but tenants are finding it difficult to find landlords who will actually take the HAP. Moreover, the scheme will not provide the additional housing that is needed.
2. Various housing reports recommended using a special purpose vehicle which would meet EUROSTAT conditions for an acceptable off-balance sheet initiative. Home Building Finance Ireland, HBFI, is a welcome initiative for smaller developments but where does social housing fit into it? The alarm bells ring when one learns that HBFI will draw on the skills and expertise of the National Asset Management Agency given what happened to some of NAMA’s projects and the vulture funds.
3. I indicated previously that the proposals in respect of a vacant site levy were inadequate and the levy was not being introduced soon enough. Landlords and owners of vacant sites have been sitting on them for years. While the budgetary provisions on a vacant site levy are welcome, I wish they would come into force sooner. Many landlords and owners are sitting on vacant houses and apartments. A levy should have been imposed on houses and apartments that have been left idle for a specific period without a valid reason.
4. The scale of the housing challenge is vast but the budget did not set out the radical measures needed to address it. The shortage of social housing and the requirement for affordable housing will not be met by the marketplace. Planning and special status for social and affordable housing must be fast-tracked and treated with the same urgency as student accommodation when it was fast-tracked in Dublin city.
5. High standards are needed for social housing and front-line staff working with people in supported accommodation who have a mental health issue and others in recovery from substance abuse. No one wants the recovery of such persons to be jeopardised by having them placed in unsuitable or harmful accommodation.