Housing Assistance Payment expansion
1st August 2018
The role of strategic housing development
1st August 2018

AHBs: The future of the housing sector

Co-operative Housing Ireland is an Approved Housing Body (AHB), working closely with various stakeholders in the housing sector, including Local Authorities, Government, aspiring home owners, tenants and developers, to provide high quality social-rented and home ownership co-operative homes across the country.

Kieron Brennan, CEO of Co-operative Housing Ireland.

Since our foundation in 1973, we have provided over 5,500 homes through home-ownership, shared ownership and social rented co-operatives. With our membership of democratically controlled local co-operatives, we manage more than 2,200 homes throughout Ireland. We also provide a network of childcare services, embedded within our communities.

We are unique in the sense that each of our tenants is a member of a local co-operative, allowing for active participation in the development of their own communities, and the power to decide what matters to them. Members also have the opportunity to sit on our national board, ultimately shaping the overall direction of our organisation.

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Co-operative Housing Ireland has a track record of providing quality, sustainable housing across Ireland. Currently, we are constructing a 72-unit development in Cherry Orchard, Dublin 10, comprising 3-bedroom family homes, in partnership with Dublin City Council. Nominated social housing tenants will be welcomed to the development later in the summer.

Towards the end of the year, we will complete another development on Richmond Road in Drumcondra, in association with Dublin City Council. The development will include a range of 39 one, two and three-bedroomed homes, with a large green open space to the rear of the properties, forming p­­art of a future riverside walkway, proposed by Dublin City Council.

Also in the pipeline for Co-operative Housing Ireland is a 10-unit development on Amien Street, a 33-unit development in Clonsilla, as well as a new build on North King Street. It is hoped that completion on these projects will be achieved within the next 12 to 18 months.

Though we continue to be actively engaged in construction and acquisition of developments across the country, the current housing crisis, with 85,000 households on the social housing waiting list, over 9,000 homeless, and thousands at risk of eviction, can, at times, seem insurmountable. As we all know, following the crash in the construction sector, as a result of the economic crisis, both private and social housing supply has failed to keep pace with demand. With a rapidly growing and ageing population and changes in household sizes, housing demand is set only to increase.

Approved Housing Bodies, having provided housing in Ireland for over a century, have only truly taken their place at the forefront of housing delivery in Ireland within the last number of years. Indeed, in 2011, the government, in their Housing Policy Statement placed the sector ‘at the heart of the Government’s vision for housing provision’. Indeed, AHBs are well positioned to provide high-quality housing at affordable rents, with decent security of tenure, often catering for specific needs. Co-operative Housing Ireland has worked alongside other AHBs in the sector to make this vision a reality.

Indeed, current Government policy reflects the importance of the AHB sector in terms of social housing provision in Ireland, with over a third of social housing provision up to 2020 due to be provided by AHBs. Such a commitment is evident, on a day-to-basis, in the work of AHBs with Local Authorities across the country. The retention of this collaborative approach is essential if we are to seek to meet these targets and ensure we are responding adequately to rising demand.

However, it is equally important that barriers to the effective delivery of housing by the sector are removed. The recent ajudication by Eurostat with respect to the reclassification of AHB financing is of great concern to the sector. The impact of the reclassification, which will essentially place AHB income and expenditure ‘on the books’ of Government or ‘on-balance sheet’, would potentially be such that would limit the financial support available to AHBs. Greater clarity as to the possible long-term consequences of this decision is urgently required. Interestingly, a similar reclassification process occurred in the UK in 2015, but, on the basis of specific alterations in terms of the structure and activity of housing bodies, was successfully rolled back in late 2017. It will be vital for the AHB sector and the Department of Housing to closely examine the manner by which this rollback played out, to understand if it is possible for us to learn from this approach. That said, it is equally important that any potential changes to the AHB sector, related to this, would align with our key voluntary/non-profit purposes.

As well as this, it is essential that AHBs are supported adequately in accessing suitable land for our developments. As non-profit housing providers, our core objective is to ensure that housing remains as affordable as possible. Speculation is not our game. However, the situation, as it currently stands, means that we are often in a position only to purchase sites that have already been rendered far more costly as a result of land speculation. As well as the implementation of measures to combat land speculation, including the introduction of the vacant site levy in 2019, access to affordable Local Authority land will be vital to us in terms of delivering on our responsibilities in housing provision. Lower land costs, more closely connected to intrinsic, tangible value, will ultimately result in the production of more affordable housing units.

It will take the efforts of the entire AHB sector and government to resolve our housing crisis. Recent interest, from a range of quarters, in concepts including cost-rental and affordable housing is very welcome, and comes at a time when it is most needed. That said, it is vital that we ensure that the AHB sector is appropriately supported to deliver on our promises, to continue to build thriving, vibrant communities across Ireland, working together to turn this crisis into an opportunity for change.

Email: admin@cooperativehousing.ie
Phone: 01 661 2877
Website: www.cooperativehousing.ie