Housing at the county level
22nd July 2020
Housing Shock
22nd July 2020

The Housing Alliance: Placing AHBs at the centre of social and affordable housing delivery

The Housing Alliance is a collaboration of six of Ireland’s largest Approved Housing Bodies: Circle Voluntary Housing; Clúid Housing; Co-operative Housing Ireland; Oaklee Housing; Respond; and Tuath Housing.

Approved housing bodies are not-for-profit organisations with a social purpose to provide for people’s housing needs. Working closely with government, local authorities and relevant agencies, Approved Housing Bodies are central, in partnership with local authorities, to addressing Ireland’s social and affordable housing needs. They also provide additional supports to tenants in housing to help sustain tenancies, improve the quality of life of tenants, and create communities.

The Housing Alliance was formed in 2016 to promote the delivery of social and affordable housing by larger Approved Housing Bodies, to address barriers and challenges to delivery, and to promote strong professional approaches to housing management. Collectively, the members of the Alliance are responsible for over 22,000 social homes nationwide, representing two-thirds of total Approved Housing Body housing stock in Ireland.

Housing priorities for the new government

As was so clearly evident in the 2020 general election campaign, the supply of social and affordable housing will be a major issue for the new Government and for all political parties over the lifetime of the 33rd Dáil.

Since the election, the Housing Alliance has been engaging with members of the new Oireachtas to ensure the need to invest in social and affordable housing remains a key issue for all politicians. In May, the Alliance held an online political briefing for Oireachtas members, highlighting the key role Approved Housing Bodies play in addressing the challenges facing the housing sector and in delivering social and affordable homes for families and individuals who urgently need them.

During the briefing, the Housing Alliance focused on four priority issues which the new Oireachtas needs to address to ensure social and affordable housing is delivered:

  1. a quick return to construction following the Covid-19 crisis;
  2. maintaining and increasing capital budgets;
  3. the introduction of a National Intermediate (Affordable) Rental scheme; and
  4. a commitment from government to a time-lined action plan to ensure the classification of Approved Housing Bodies as being on the government’s balance sheet is reversed.

Increasing the supply of affordable rental housing

The Housing Alliance urged those involved in negotiating a programme for government involved in the briefing to pursue the establishment of an affordable rental scheme. Such a scheme will increase the supply of much-needed rental housing for those who cannot afford to purchase a home but do not qualify for social housing. In other European countries, affordable rental housing acts to counter the ‘boom and bust’ cycles that have plagued the Irish housing market in recent decades.

New Appointments at the Housing Alliance
In addition to having a new Programme for Government and a new Oireachtas to work with this year, the Housing Alliance itself has made some new appointments in recent months.

Declan Dunne, Chairperson of the Housing Alliance.

Sharon Cosgrove, vice-Chairperson, the Housing Alliance.

Anne Marie McNally, Executive Director, the Housing Alliance.

In April 2020, Declan Dunne was re-elected for a second term as Chairperson of the Housing Alliance. Declan is the Chief Executive Officer of Respond. He has decades of experience working in the housing and community sector, having previously served as Chief Executive Officer with Sophia Housing Association, Director of the North Dublin Development Coalition, and Director of Ballymun Whitehall Enterprise Centre. He is actively interested in education and family services, and is an invited speaker at OECD and other international conferences. Sharon Cosgrove was elected as vice-Chairperson of the Housing Alliance in April 2020. Sharon has extensive experience in the housing and NGO sector. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Oaklee Housing. Previously, she served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Asthma Society of Ireland and the Sonas housing association. She is also a member of the Group Senior Management Team at Choice Housing Ireland. In June, the Alliance was delighted to announce the appointment of Anne-Marie McNally as Executive Director. Anne-Marie joins the Housing Alliance from her role as Political Communications Director for the Social Democrats. She is a former journalist, inner-city project worker and strategic political advisor. She has been to the forefront of social and economic policy issues in Ireland throughout her career.

Programme for Government commitments

The new Programme for Government contains a commitment to increase the supply of affordable housing, and specifically to “develop a cost rental model for the delivery of housing that creates affordability for tenants and a sustainable model for the construction and management of homes”.

The Housing Alliances looks forward to working with the new Government in developing this affordable rental model, whereby Approved Housing Bodies and local authorities will acquire and construct housing developments specifically for long-term affordable rental purposes. The housing, with long-term security of tenure, will be allocated to renters based on defined minimum and maximum household income eligibility limits.

In addition to this commitment to increasing the supply of affordable housing, the Programme for Government commits to making it easier for Approved Housing Bodies to access private finance to develop and manage housing schemes; and to increasing social housing stock by over 50,000 over the next five years.

The Housing Alliance looks forward to working with government on a time-lined action plan to restore Approved Housing Bodies to their former off-balance sheet classification, common to the majority of housing associations across Europe. Off-balance sheet status will mean approved housing bodies can access private finance without it being classified as public borrowing, thereby securing best value for the State.

Approved Housing Bodies ready to play their part

The Housing Alliance’s members are ready, willing, and able to play their part in helping to ensure Ireland meets its social and affordable housing needs.

The lack of a sufficient supply of social and affordable housing is arguably the biggest challenge facing our society. Never has the centrality of home been more acute and more poignant than during this Covid-19 crisis, with the call to action to ‘stay at home’. However, with the right polices and correct approach this challenge can be overcome.

In the months ahead, the Housing Alliance will continue to engage with the new Government and members of the opposition to keep important housing issues firmly on the political agenda. The Housing Alliance is committed to working with key stakeholders in the statutory sector to provide homes for people who need them.

E: info@housingalliance.ie
W: www.housingalliance.ie