Minister Coveney plans to meet county councillors

Housing Action Plan

Minister Coveney plans to meet county councillors
Gene Yore gene.yore@dundalkdemocrat.ieTwitter: @dundalkdemocrat

The Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has written to Louth County Council asking how mechanisms within the planning process might be best used to speed up the housing supply in the county.

The minister has written to all local authorities and county councillors telling them of the urgency to deliver on the Government’s Action Plan for housing and homelessness called Rebuilding Ireland.

He has also stated that he intends to meet councillors.

“Both Minister of State, Damien English and myself will be visiting as many local authorities as we can over the weeks ahead to outline what we need and expect to see in terms of implementation and to hear from you the specific challenges that are faced locally in delivering on the Plan,” he said.

In the letter to councillors in Louth, the minister said the current housing supply shortage is one of the most urgent challenges facing the country.

He said local authorities are central to that implementation of the plan and the main challenge is getting house building, and supply more generally, moving again.

“There is an immediate and pressing need for all suitable potential sources of housing supply

to be activated as quickly as possible,” the minister said.

Mr Coveney said that in a circular, which has also been sent to councils, the Government provides details on how the planning powers at the disposal of local authorities can be employed to encourage and facilitate good quality housing at affordable prices in high demand areas.

“I would urge you to support the implementation of “Rebuilding Ireland” locally and to actively work through the council to get the homes people need delivered as quickly as possible,” the minister states in his letter.

“In order to drive implementation around the country, a series of regional events are being organised in collaboration with local authorities. Both Minister of State, Damien English and myself will be visiting as many local authorities as we can over the weeks ahead to outline what we need and expect to see in terms of implementation and to hear from you the specific challenges that are faced locally in delivering on the plan.”

The Government’s Housing Action Plan sets out to bring the number of houses built each year to 25,000 and deliver 47,000 social houses by 2021.

It also plans to make better use of existing housing stock and create ‘a more vibrant and responsive private rented sector’.

It hopes to address the number of households, particularly families, affected by rental and purchase price inflation, particularly in urban areas.

This is because fewer people can afford to buy their own home and the current rental schemes do not offer enough security.

The main points of the housing plan are:

Provide early solutions to address the unacceptable level of families in emergency accommodation.

Deliver inter-agency supports for people who are currently homeless, with a particular emphasis on minimising the incidence of rough sleeping, and enhance state supports to keep people in their own homes.

Increase the level and speed of delivery of social housing and other state supported housing, with funding of €5.35 billion to deliver 47,000 units by 2021.

Increase the output of private housing to meet demand at affordable prices.

Set up an Infrastructure Fund of €200m to open up large sites in areas where people need homes.

Address the obstacles to greater private rented sector delivery, to improve the supply of units at affordable rents.

Ensure that existing housing stock is used to the maximum degree.

The plan also includes planning reforms. This includes large housing development applications to go directly to An Bord Pleanala and a new streamlined Part 8 process.

In his letter to councillors the minister states:

“The Part 8 process provides an open, transparent process for citizen participation in the planning process for local authority projects and must play a key role in accelerating the delivery of social housing. Specific requirements are set out in the legislation in relation to site notices, newspaper advertisements, making plans available for inspection or purchase, public consultation, sending notice to prescribed bodies etc.

“Notwithstanding this, the Part 8 processes are currently being reviewed by the Department with a view to further streamlining, particularly as regards timescales for the final decision- making stages and the possibility of using the process in relation to certain classes of housing projects in conjunction with local authorities.”