Social housing providers battle to revive their housing programmes

Housing associations from across the country came together at the Irish Council for Social Housing AGM today (Thurs) to discuss the future of social housing provision for the sector.

Housing associations from across the country came together at the Irish Council for Social Housing AGM today (Thurs) to discuss the future of social housing provision for the sector.

Between 2008 and 2011, there was a 75% increase in housing need, from 56,000 to 98,000 households however at the same time, from 2009, housing output for the non-profit housing sector has fallen from 2,011 homes to 745 homes in 2011 as a direct result of the cuts in state capital funding for social housing says the Federation which represents almost 300 non-profit housing associations. Leasing activity has increased with around 1,000 units delivered through this mechanism in 2011; however this is only part of the solution.

The Government has stated that it is placing housing associations at the heart of the future provision of social housing however this sector faces a major funding shortfall. The planned cuts to capital funding will have reduced it by over 95% in 2015 from its peak in 2008. The Government policy statement also said that the enhanced role for housing associations in future social housing provision will include new funding arrangements.

According to Mr Donal McManus, “Housing associations are severely challenged to bridge the funding gap and raise capital funding for construction and acquisitions from private financial institutions. In the current environment, many private financial institutions are trying to reduce their loan books and current proposals include acceptance of greater commercial risk for housing associations - it is crucial that financial institutions see financing of social housing as a low risk opportunity and do not impose onerous conditions.”

He added, “Demand for social housing is growing and ensuring social housing providers have access to the capital funding from financial institutions they need to meet the demand for homes is a critical issue.”

President of the ICSH and CEO of Cluid Housing Association, Mr Brian O’Gorman addressed Members and noted, “in this environment the culture of housing associations has proved to be a precious resource. This culture takes what exists and create something unique for the benefit of and in service to communities.”

Mr McManus concluded, “the housing association sector should be accorded a status similar to SMEs by Government to ensure there are adequate levels of lending for social housing. This will have a significant multiplier effect and assist in creating and sustaining employment in addition to creating communities.

“Housing associations who are members of the ICSH also heard at the AGM that changes to rent allowance for vulnerable groups, such as those with disabilities, will prevent vulnerable groups in housing need moving into purpose built accommodation in their community. Donal McManus said ‘this has become a nationwide problem which affects the most vulnerable and flies against government policy to allow people with disabilities to live in their community, close to friends and family.”