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Unlocking Affordable Housing – Policy Document


Today Catherine Murphy, Co-leader of the Social Democrats and TD for Kildare North, launched the party’s detailed housing policy document entitled Unlocking Affordable Housing.


Speaking in advance of the launch Murphy – the long-time proponent of sustainable, responsible and coordinated development, and integrated land-use and transport planning – stated:

The current housing crisis did not come about by accident; it is the product of decades of inaction, poor to non-existent planning policy and disastrous over-reliance on private interests to produce housing for us.

She continued

We have to stop hoping for the best and move to an approach where we actively drive housing delivery to create vibrant, diverse and inclusive communities where people have access to the sort of housing they need, when they need it and at an affordable price.


Unlocking Affordable Housing includes proposals to consolidate housing policy under a single new government department and a new agency called Housing Ireland. In relation to this aspect of her party’s proposals, Murphy stated:

Housing policy is dispersed across a range of government departments at present and this is acting as a roadblock to coordinated housing delivery. Consolidating those functions under a single department and agency will make housing production more efficient and ensure affordability and supply into the future.

When asked how the party intends to address the present homelessness crisis and boost delivery of social housing, Murphy stated:

The presence of homelessness in a developed nation such as Ireland is simply unacceptable at the best of times, but the extent of our current homelessness crisis is truly shameful. We have to act now to address the needs of those at risk of homelessness and those presently experiencing homelessness, and we also need to adopt the Housing First policy approach to stamping out homelessness and the need to sleep rough into the future.




Information Note on Unlocking Affordable Housing


Tackling Ireland’s housing crisis is one of the Social Democrats’ highest priorities. We must address pressing short term housing need and institute reforms to bring about a long-term, sustainable approach to housing provision. It is our aim to: transform Ireland’s housing policy; harness the State’s vital co-ordinating role; and, build vibrant, sustainable, mixed-tenure communities so that every person and every family can access the right type of housing, in the right location at the right time of life. Critical to this is ensuring that all types of housing are affordable.

Short to medium term solutions

  • Increase Rent Supplement/Housing Assistance Payment.
  • Link the price of rents to the cost of living.
  • Deliver 10% social housing and 10% starter homes with all new developments.
  • Revitalise vacant units by introducing initiatives such as an Over-the-Shop tax incentive to encourage development of unused urban space.

Coordination and Community Focus

Housing policy is spread across too many departments and state agencies to be coherent and effective. We propose to:

  • Establish a Department of Housing, Planning and Communities
  • Reform and reconstitute Housing Agency as Housing Ireland. This new entity would coordinate the delivery of all housing stock, bundle housing delivery to save in construction costs, reduce housing waiting lists by 10,000 per annum, pursue sustainable development of State/NAMA land banks, halve vacancy rates within four years of establishment and engage in research, policy and reporting activities.
  • Embed sustainable community and citizen-focused planning in planning law and local development plans.
  • Resource local authorities to deliver maintain and develop vibrant communities, including resources and staff to perform effective planning enforcement.
  • Incentivise new home construction that features best-practice standards of insulation and energy-efficiency, including adoption of efficient heating systems, home microgeneration, and rainwater harvesting where appropriate.
  • Make city and town centres into liveable spaces again:
  • Use term-limited tax incentives to tackle high vacancy rates in urban centres.
  • Strengthen the Vacant Site Levy.
  • Remove height restrictions in certain high-density areas to free up space.

Social Housing

There are 140,000 people on local authority housing waiting lists; we aim to reduce this figure by 10,000 per annum, using the following measures to drive and fund this initiative:

  • Reinvigorate the Capital Assistance Scheme for Approved Housing Bodies, with funds earmarked for housing provision aimed at encouraging independence, participation, care and self-fulfilment[1] for older people, people with disabilities, people with special needs and those experiencing domestic violence.
  • Authorise local authorities to fund housing through ‘off-balance sheet’ measures, either through local authority trusts or other appropriate special purpose vehicles.
  • Empower and resource local authorities, through Housing Ireland, to become the primary producers of social housing in Ireland.
  • Incentivise approved housing bodies and the private sector (through Part V) to deliver social housing units as a supplement to that produced by local authorities.

Private Rental Sector Reform

No national policy strategy has ever been put in place for the private rented sector, we aim to change by developing a national rental sector strategy that would:

  • Robustly strengthen security of tenure and link future rent increases to the cost of living.
  • Reform HAP and Rent Supplement by linking rates to market rents, streamline the process for landlords and allow recipients to work while in receipt of payments.
  • Attract institutional investment into the rental market to build up a well-managed and stable rental sector that is affordable for all income levels.
  • Institute law reform to protect tenants rights during receiverships and repossessions.
  • Bring about fair treatment for ‘accidental’ landlords

Private Housing

  • Introduce Temporal Ownership arrangements where a property is transferred (by sale) from one owner to another for a specified period of time (five to twenty years).
  • Introduce 10% Part V requirement that 10% of newly developed homes are reserved as ‘starter homes’ for first time buyers.
  • Introduce the Vacant Site Levy before 2019 and close off loopholes to non-payment.
  • Reform the governance of management companies to favour the needs of unit owners.
  • Introduce new citizen safeguards to rein in unscrupulous builders and developers.
  • Legislate to prevent delays in local authorities taking estates in charge.


The profile of those who have become homeless has changed in recent years. Increases in numbers of homeless individuals and families and those at imminent risk of homelessness have been directly fuelled by the housing crisis. Services have also been cut or removed entirely for many experiencing problems more traditionally associated with homelessness.

The measures outlined in the above sections, if implemented, would drastically reduce the numbers of people who present as homeless, but this is not a solution by itself. We endorse the Housing First approach to tackling the present homelessness crisis and addressing the future needs of those at risk of homelessness and those experiencing homelessness.

[1] This approach is modelled on the 1991 UN Principles for Older Persons

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Posted by on February 12, 2016. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.