One year on from its introduction, local Minister of State for Planning and Local Government at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Peter Burke, has marked the first 12 months of the Government’s ambitious 'Housing for All' plan, citing the progress made in delivering housing for Westmeath.
“When we launched 'Housing for All' our aim was that everyone should have access to a home to purchase or rent at an affordable price, built to a high standard and in the right place. We backed that with a guaranteed over four billion euro a year in housing investment and a series of actions to deliver 300,000 new homes by 2030, including 90,000 social homes and 54,000 affordable homes. While there’s a lot of work still to do, we can see already, after the first 12 months that the plan is working in Westmeath and across the country,” Deputy Burke asserted.
Among the measures and impacts in Westmeath arising from Housing for All are:
248 new homes built in Westmeath in the 12 months to end of June 2022
Commencement Notices for 275 homes were received in Westmeath in the 12 months to the end of July 2022
Planning permissions for 964 homes in Westmeath to the end of Q1 2022 (a 13.5% increase on the previous 12 months )
Approval for seven new posts in Westmeath County Council for local authority housing delivery
Introduction of exemption from planning permission requirements for converting vacant Westmeath pubs into homes. The existing exemptions to converting vacant commercial premises into homes in Westmeath have been extended. Between 2018 and 2021, 41 residential units were provided in Westmeath, with 19 notifications of exempted developments received.
In 2021, the Government provided €41.02m in total funding for housing to Westmeath County Council, a 55% increase on 2020.
In 2021, 205 new social homes were delivered.
There was a 52% reduction in the number of households on the social housing waiting list in Westmeath at the end of 2021 compared to the first annual assessment conducted in September 2016.
Other key measures delivered through Housing for All that benefit the people Westmeath include:
A new expanded Local authority Home Loan
Launch of the First Home Scheme
Significant funding made available by Government to assist local authority affordable housing delivery, for purchase and rent, through the Affordable Housing Fund
A revised cap on any rent increase and legislation on tenancies of unlimited duration
Homes ring-fenced for individual buyers through planning changes, with 301 homes ring-fenced in County Westmeath between May 2021 and mid-May 2022
Introduction of a Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant (through Croí Cónaithe (Towns ) Fund ) to incentivise the refurbishment of vacant homes in Westmeath
Fair Deal Scheme reforms and Town Centre First policy to reduce vacancy
New National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability
Reformed planning process for large-scale developments in Westmeath and elsewhere – greater certainty, clarity and public participation
Tax to activate vacant land zoned for housing, commencing in 2024.
Measures to increase construction sector capacity in Westmeath, including greater investment to increase the availability of apprenticeships and training, international recruitment initiatives and the new 'Future Building' initiative to spearhead activation and recruitment for the sector
A number of significant measures to accelerate research and innovation in the sector, including Enterprise Ireland's new Built to Innovate Fund, a €5m investment for the establishment of a new Construction Technology Centre, and the turning the sod on a new Modern Methods of Construction Demonstration Park.
A new design manual and streamlined processes for the procurement of social housing for Westmeath County Council
Commenting on the role of local authorities in delivering housing in Westmeath, Minister Burke said that Westmeath County Council were playing a central role in delivering houses throughout Westmeath.
“Westmeath County Council is playing a central role in delivering housing in the county. Over the past 12 months the Government has provided resources and funding to the council to help it deliver for people in Westmeath. I’ve recently issued guidelines to Westmeath County Council on the making of their county development plan to ensure it takes into account projected housing need so that sufficient new homes can be built in key areas of housing demand. We have also streamlined the processes for the procurement of social housing," Deputy Burke remarked.
Minister Burke also commented on progress made in putting sustainability at the heart of housing.
“Compact growth has to be at the heart of housing provision and planning. Higher population densities will have upshots such as minimal transport demand and shorter travel distances. Since Housing for All was launched, we have made progress in developing legislation to introduce Land Value Sharing and a new concept, Urban Development Zones. These are key reforms in land management and planning, which will result in compact growth and curbs on land speculation," Deputy Burke concluded.