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IR E LAND A journal for Irish Housing Professionals

    WINTER 2017. ISSUE 11                                   



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info@campbelltickell.com | @campbelltickel1 | +44 (0) 20 8830 6777 | www.campbelltickell.com Housing Ireland | Spring 2015

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017







    JUSTIN CARTWRIGHT                                   

    STEVE STAIKOS                                     

The government published its strategy for the rental sector to a political row in December, with a headline action being to cap rent increases at four per cent per annum in areas where prices are spiralling out of control. One of my first tasks at CIH was to write a review of private rented sector (PRS) policy across Ireland and the UK. At a casual 9,000 words – more than half the length of this journal – this was something of a baptism of fire into PRS policy, but a worthwhile baptism nonetheless. One thing that stuck with me is the similar profile and trends of the sector across countries, and the similar narratives we hear around how to respond to the issues, including rising rents. In the simplest sense, PRS policy is a balancing act. A balancing act of regulation, to ensure good quality and professionally managed housing for tenants, without burdening landlords with any ungainly requirements. And a balancing act of rent policy, to ensure private rented homes are affordable for people on lower incomes, while not reducing investment levels in the upkeep of homes or driving landlords from the market. Indeed, this is a key theme that runs through the proposals for changes to Northern Ireland’s PRS, which were incidentally published

today as I write, and are therefore covered in this journal under what’s happening? – a regular piece that flies over housing policy developments outside of Ireland. To mark the Irish government’s PRS strategy the experts, including DIT’s Tom Dunne, give both the strategy itself and the state of the sector a good look in inside this edition. Given the balancing act of PRS policy, it is important to take a full mix of views and experiences in the sector. This includes both the providers of private rented accommodation and the users – to this end, institutional landlords and private landlord bodies were invited to contribute to this edition giving their views around the government’s PRS changes, but none were in a position to do so. While the private rented sector is a vital piece of the puzzle, work under the remaining four pillars of Rebuilding Ireland trundles on, and CIH’s Dublin-based manager Cathy Etchingham gives us an update on work commenced under the strategy. Meanwhile housing practitioners continue to think outside of the box to deliver good housing on the ground – Catherine Kelly discusses how Cork City Council’s choice based lettings scheme is proving to be more than just an allocation method for ‘hard to let’ properties.

David Duffy in his new role as director of Property Industry Ireland tells us about the organisation and its work, and we hear from Roslyn Molloy and Anne Connolly from the Housing Agency and ISAX respectively as co-commissioners of the housing for older people – thinking ahead report. This issue’s international piece is on the state of social housing in Victoria, Australia, by Steve Staikos of the Community Housing Federation of Victoria, and we chat with Sunbeam House Services managing director John Hannigan about his experience becoming a char tered housing professional. EDITORIAL PANEL: Simon Brooke, Clúid Housing Lisa Clifford, Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Caren Gallagher, Irish Council for Social Housing Niamh Randall, Simon Communities of Ireland David Silke, Housing Agency Dr Lorcan Sirr, Dublin Institute of Technology

Justin Cartwright Editor

Steve Staikos Policy and public affairs officer, Community Housing Federation of Victoria

report identifies “victims end up in ad hoc emergency accommodation such as motels, caravans, rooming houses and, in some areas even tents”.

Just before Christmas, the lord mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle announced that his local laws officers and the Victoria Police would be cracking down on the homeless in the central city area. The homeless population of Melbourne has exploded in the past few years1; however this is simply a more noticeable symptom of the housing crisis in Australia, a crisis that has hit Sydney and Melbourne considerably. The Community Housing Federation of Victoria – the peak body for the not for profit social housing organisations in the state – is located just one block down from the Parliament of Victoria and one block up from the Town Hall. There are people camping out on footpaths, in the lane ways and on the river banks of the city. Melbourne’s reputation as the “most livable city in the world2“ and a tourist friendly destination is being eroded.

This growing homelessness crisis is being compounded by the ballooning social housing waiting list. The Victorian Housing Register is the combined ‘register of interest’ for public and community housing in the state. There are 39,500 3 households registered in total – 13,000 in the priority category with the rest facing an almost indefinite wait since supply is limited and vacancies are rare. Th e s t ate L a b o r g ove r n m e nt was elected in 2014 with a major commitment to conduct a royal commission into family violence. The commission found that the existing supply of public, community and affordable housing will not be able to meet current or future demand. This leaves many women experiencing family violence to either remain living with perpetrators or resort to marginal forms of housing; as the

Melbourne’s population is growing at an extraordinary rate, and social housing supply is not keeping up. Between 1962 and 1995 Victoria provided 36,000 additional social housing dwellings which is a rate of 1,100 per year. However, over the last two decades, stock additions have been minimal. This is happening at the same time as a program of ‘de-institutionalisation’ where people with various levels of physical and psychological support needs would no longer be accommodated in state run care facilities, but be supported into mainstream housing thus increasing demand on an already stressed social housing system. If Victoria were a country we would be one of worst performers among developed countries in providing social housing as a proportion of all dwellings. Victoria sits at 3.5 per cent, similar to the supply in the United States. Ireland sits at approximately nine per cent, and Northern Ireland at around 15 per cent.

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017


In 2015, there were 77,093 long term social housing units in Victoria with a waiting list of 34,464 households. However, 76,043 households are eligible to register for social housing and paying 30 per cent or more of their income on rent and, of these, 40,318 households are eligible for priority housing4. How did Victoria end up in this mess? Social housing in Victoria was initially a response to a post Second World War housing shortage. Large estates located close to employment zones were established to house low income workers and their families. Tens of thousands of dwellings were constructed as part of this program. The estates were also the place where waves of immigrants set up their new lives in Australia. The public housing authority was a well-funded function of the state gover nment, and the federal government made generous financial contributions in the form of low interest loans. This all changed with the election of the neo-conservative federal government in 1996 led by John Howard. Funding was frozen, and housing subsidies shifted to first home buyer grants. The focus on housing low income families carried the social housing system through to the mid-1990s after which a new trend emerged that changed the course of social housing in this country. Today, the social housing system mostly accommodates people who are reliant on welfare as their main – and in most cases, only – source of income, and the system of income-based rents highly constrains rent revenue that can be derived. Tenants pay between 25 and 30 per cent of their income as rent, while community housing tenants also pay a housing subsidy to their landlord (rent assistance is available from the federal government for low income people who rent non state-run housing).

HOUSING VICTORIANS IN AUSTRALIA 65,000 properties are managed directly by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and 19,200 properties are managed by the not-for-profit sector. There are nine housing associations and over 30 housing providers in the state regulated by the Registrar of Housing Agencies, delivering many diverse housing products and support services. There has effectively been no longterm vision for housing in the state since 2008. This was noted in a special report prepared by the Victorian Auditor General’s Office that outlined emerging trends from the management of the public housing system. Most alarmingly, the public housing system is selling properties and not undertaking long term maintenance to cover operational deficits. In the past several years the state government has recognised the role of community housing organisations as the growth vehicles for social housing in the state. Much of the new social housing delivered is either owned or managed by the sector. This ensures the operational cost burden to the state isn’t increased and also ensures the properties and tenancies are managed sustainably. In the past year the state government has invested over $600 million (€417 million) for social housing and homelessness since the royal commission. This interim measure includes funding for family violence housing, homelessness support, public housing estate renewal and private rental brokerage and assistance. O t h e r Au s t ra l i a n s t ate s h ave undertaken large scale transfers to the not for profit sector. Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia have successfully transferred thousands of public housing dwellings to community housing organisations to undertake estate and community renewal projects. Victorian providers are waiting for this to be rolled out here.


The Victorian sector is looking forward to a number of key policy decisions from the state government in 2017: 1. The release of Plan Melbourne Refresh – this policy will guide urban planning in the city for the next 30 years and must address housing supply and affordability. 2. The government’s response to the independent recommendations put forward by Infrastructure Victoria that the government must prioritise social housing, and work to meet the shortfall of 30,000 dwellings. 3. The Affordable Housing Statement to be released by the treasurer of Victoria that will seek to provide a whole-of-government response to housing affordability. 4. Announcements from the minister for housing that there will be a reform of the social housing system in the state, including estate renewal and stock transfers. ______________________________ ______________________________ 1. A street count revealed a 74 per cent surge in people sleeping on the street from 142 in 2014 to 247 earlier this year. 2. Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city for a sixth consecutive year, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 3. Total applications under the Register in September 2016 - 39,528 4. http://www.chfv.org.au/uploads/ CHFV-Housing-Needs-Estimates.pdf

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



The aims decided upon were:


Catherine Kelly Senior executive officer, Cork City Council

    CATHERINE KELLY                                    Choice based lettings (CBL) is not an unfamiliar concept to many housing practitioners at this stage. The statute that enabled it in Ireland is the Social Housing Allocation Regulations of 2011. Yet it is the application of this allocation method with clear aims that is the proof of its worth. In order to assess that, you need to know key operational metrics of the allocations system you seek to improve as well as an understanding of those that use it. You could say in housing authorities that we don’t have customers as we don’t sell a product. However we do provide services so I’ll refer to those that avail of those services as clients. In the context of the allocation of social housing supports, clients availing of the application, assessment and allocation process of social housing support are in a queued system dependent on the availability of social housing supply. By virtue of its nature, this involves waiting periods until the housing authority contacts the client to offer social housing. Up until recently statute required a three yearly review of files. This will now move to an annual review which makes sense to keep track of demand.

Communication with clients is important for a variety of reasons but the management of expectations, and the provision of information on the allocations system and why there’s a queue are probably the most important reasons to communicate. Experience shows that in the absence of the proactive provision of information, the service is contacted quite regularly either by public counter or telephone. An analysis of this contact in Cork City Council, a housing authority with a social housing waiting list of under 5,000 (see chart 1), showed that the main queries posed are when a property would be offered, and requests to be considered for a particular property. Under the legislation, when submitting an application for social housing, a maximum of three areas of choice can be chosen. In Cork city, there were 30 areas of choice to reflect the different geographic spread of the city. This meant that where applicants chose their maximum three areas, this represented ten per cent of the total selection. Coupled with an unpredictable system with regard to forecasted supply, in many cases this meant significant queues. Social housing becomes available

when tenants vacate properties and that stock is returned for repair and re-let. Unless the housing authority is constructing or leasing, this channel of supply is difficult to forecast. Housing authorities will be familiar with the concept of ‘hard to lets’ in less popular areas and it was for this purpose many considered the introduction of CBL schemes. However, refusal rates were high in a general sense in Cork City as the five year analysis below shows (chart 2). The main reason for the refusal provided by clients was that the property offered was not in their preferred location, although the offer was generated in their ‘area of choice’. What was clear from the analysis was that clients of the service wanted a say in where they lived. The thinking developed was rather than the housing authority trying to get the ‘fit’ right and having time wasted in refusals (some properties were refused on several occasions), why not let the client decide if they are interested in being considered for the property? This led to the discussion about the aims of introducing a CBL scheme in Cork City Council.

to improve transparency around supply to help inform applicants about supply/demand and therefore manage expectations

to reduce the time taken to let properties that were ready

to achieve a ‘better’ fit and thereby reduce refusal rates

to utilise applicant engagement in a better way, and

to create a total of three areas of choice overall to expand available choice.

CBL was introduced by Cork City Council on 4 November 2015. Most properties are advertised on the website excluding those specially adapted properties for the category of physical disability, elderly properties and the withholding of some properties for particular household circumstances. The queuing system is a fluctuating statistic as new applications join and other applications are closed e.g. applicant has moved away, applicants have been allocated a house; files have lapsed due to non reply to a review or their circumstances change.

A word to the wise is that you need to process map and measure the current allocation system before the introduction of the CBL scheme to monitor its impact. These workflow processes are important for the success of any allocation scheme and even more so when a service is placed online. Making it clear that only the successful applicant is contacted, the length of time they are likely to wait before hearing from the housing authority, and regular updates around the demand on each property to inform clients around demand/supply are very important for the success of the scheme. It is also important to explain that each applicant is vetted before they can take up an offer of social housing. To meet the requirements of good estate management principles, prospective tenants are interviewed and a Garda check is carried out. If the vetting process is not passed, their file is deferred for a period of time and this needs to be related to the client so that they understand the process.


In Cork City, from 4 November 2015 to 29 November 2016, there have been 293 properties advertised on the CBL website with 56,433 expressions of interest and 372,392 views. There is therefore an average of 192 expressions of interest per property. The interest ranges varies per property. The login statistic for November 2016 was 45 per cent. Also it’s important to note that CBL is not about the number or rate of supply but transparency around that supply. In summary, CBL provides more opportunity that just an allocation method for ‘hard to let’ properties. It provides transparency around supply, information around the level of demand for that supply, client engagement, and useful statistics for trend analysis. Better information provision leads to better engagement between the housing practitioners and the client. However, it is crucial that there is ongoing monitoring and review to ensure that it continues to be fit for purpose.

Following a survey in Cork City in June 2016, six months after the CBL was introduced, it was decided to not only record the level of expressions of interest around properties but to also monitor the login rate.

Chart 1 - Housing list 2015 & 2016

Chart 2 - Refusal rate trend

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017




P ROPERTY INDUSTRY IRELAND     DR. DAVID DUFFY                                    Property Industry Ireland (PII) was established in 2011 in response to the impact of the great recession. One of the reasons for establishing the organisation was to have an independent and inclusive representative organisation for all sub-sectors of the Irish property industry. The property market is complex, given the length of time it takes to deliver buildings and the large sums of money involved in getting construction completed. There are also many different stakeholders involved in the delivery of property, from professionals who design and plan development, and construction experts who build property, to funding bodies such as banks and investors, and agents who sell and manage properties, to developers who have a vision and guide all these actors through the process. PII membership is open to all professional firms across the property industry, and now totals almost 90 firms. Members include developers and contractors, engineers, architects and planners, surveyors and project managers, professional service firms, including legal and consultancy experts, auctioneers and property advisory firms, financiers, including stockbrokers and banks, building materials companies and businesses with a significant property portfolio. Since the start of 2015 PII is a sectoral association of Ibec.

The Irish property sector has witnessed much volatility over the past 20 years. Having experienced one of the strongest house price booms internationally since data was first collected in the early 1970s, Ireland then, post 2007, experienced one of the deepest house price busts. Other indicators also show the extent of the crash. Residential construction peaked at approximately 90,000 units in 2006. The great recession saw this fall dramatically to a low of 8,301 units in 2013. Although there has been some recovery in completion levels, we are still building well below the estimated level of annual new household formation of 25,000. In 2016, the number of completions was under 12,000 units up to October. While there has been much focus on the impact of the recession on the housing market it is also the case that the domestic commercial property market suffered as severe an impact. In 2012, office rents were 50 per cent lower than their peak in 2007. As a result of the downturn in the commercial property market, the level of stock under construction fell dramatically between 2008 and 2010 and there was no office space construction activity in the Dublin market between 2011 and 2013. The crash has also had severe social consequences. For example, Central Bank data show us that the

number of mortgage accounts for principal dwelling houses (PDH) in arrears totalled 82,092 (11 per cent) of accounts at end-Q2 2016. The Central Bank also record 120,614 PDH mortgage accounts as restructured at end-June. At endJune 2016, there were 134,993 buyto-let mortgages held in the Republic of Ireland. Some 27,042 (20 per cent) of these accounts were in arrears. While economic activity continues to show signs of improvement and unemployment declining, recovery in construction activity has lagged behind. As a consequence many of the issues we currently face in the property market reflect legacies from the crash and an imbalance between supply and demand. There are many public bodies involved in the process of property delivery, from local authorities who draw up city and county development plans and central government who set out the main policy aims, and even the European Union who sets standards such as for construction products. Government is also central to delivering key infrastructure in facilitating property development, from roads and water to broadband and public transport. PII is actively engaged in discussions with government, decision-makers, agencies including NAMA and investors to help put in place solutions to any barriers that prevent the property sector from addressing these imbalances.

Property Industry Ireland’s work is guided by its four pillar policy committees. Each of these committees act as a forum to exchange ideas across the industry on different issues of concern to the industry. • Information is important to adequately plan, resource and fund new property development. The market supply and demand committee monitors future trends in supply and demand and analyses any gaps between the two to propose possible policy solutions. • Property delivery is regulated through the planning system, including where new homes and offices can be built, and in what circumstances. The planning and development committee reviews existing legislation including international best practice in this area. • There are a number of different factors which impact on the physical delivery of property. The construction and technical issues committee identifies these issues and makes policy proposals for removing any blockages to property delivery as well as identifying new innovations in construction. • Access to suitable and sustainable finance is an important part of property development. Funding initiatives committee exists to review, monitor and advise members and inform stakeholders on facilitating

financing arrangements and financial barriers to property delivery. PII research and submissions to government have covered a variety of topics and issues, from proposed reforms to the planning system, setting out a national spatial and development strategy for Ireland, to a submission to the new minister for housing on policy reform to increase the delivery of new housing. More recently, PII made a submission on and responded to the strategy for the rental sector. In the view of PII the new strategy contains a number of important initiatives, but there is a need for more detail before its impact can be fully assessed. PII has some concerns that the introduction of further rent regulation will create uncertainty, undermining confidence in the market. This will ultimately deter investment in the rental sector, decreasing much needed supply. The property market faces a number of challenges already in 2017. The need to increase supply continues, so further work addressing any blockages must be a high priority. Brexit could represent both an opportunity, but also a challenge. Ireland could benefit from higher foreign direct investment flows, but to be able to avail of this opportunity we need to have the capacity to absorb additional inflows, particularly capacity in infrastructure and housing.

In addition, the property market tends to move in line with the overall economy, weaker economic growth as a result of Brexit could mean weaker growth in the sector. The sector needs to deal with emerging skills shortages and there is a need to entice emigrants back as well as demonstrating a sustainable industry to students. Property is the built environment around us. We all need homes to live in, places to go to work. From office buildings and factories, to shops and homes, we all interact with property on a daily basis. Buildings last many years and even centuries and for this reason it is important to have an overall national strategy for property to meet the needs of the state and its citizens.

David Duffy Director, Property Industry Ireland

W H AT ’ S H A P P E N I N G


WHAT’S HAPPENING?     AROUND THE UK                                      ENGLAND HOUSING AND PLANNING ACT 2016. The Housing and Planning Act completed its passage through parliament earlier this year, however implementation of several of the measures contained within it has now been delayed or cancelled entirely: • ‘pay to stay’, which would have seen to higher earning council tenants charged higher rents, will not now be implemented • the extension of the right to buy to housing associations will now initially be piloted in one region prior to a national rollout, the timetable for which is not yet clear • plans to require stock retaining councils to sell higher value homes as they become vacant have been delayed and will not now be implemented before 2018-19 at the earliest • plans to require stock retaining councils to issue new tenants with a tenancy for a fixed term, usually of between two and ten years, are still expected to proceed. The government is currently working with a group of local authorities to refine the details of this policy, however a timetable for implementing it has not yet been confirmed. CIH MEMBER BRIEFING: http://bit.ly/2icD51v HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION BILL. The Homelessness Reduction Bill is continuing its progress through parliament and is currently at committee stage. The bill would place similar duties upon local authorities to those that are already in place in Wales. This would include requiring them to take reasonable steps to try to prevent any household from becoming homeless, regardless of intentionality or priority need. CIH MEMBER BRIEFING: http://bit.ly/2icNOsJ

REGENERATION. Earlier this year government announced its intention to kick-start the transformation of 100 estates in England. In order to do this: •

a £140m loan fund and £32m worth of grant funding is now being made available to help meet up front costs associated with getting regeneration schemes off the ground, and an advisory committee led by Lord Heseltine has recently published good practice guidance on regeneration.

CIH has been broadly supportive of the government’s renewed focus of regeneration, although we consider that the level of funding that has so far been made available is not sufficient. CIH RESEARCH: http://bit.ly/2ifeso9 GOOD PRACTICE: http://bit.ly/2icJiKW

SCOTLAND CREATING A FAIRER SCOTLAND. The Scottish Government has set out an overarching ambition to create a Fairer Scotland by 2030. The mechanisms by which this ambition is to be achieved were discussed at length through a series of consultation events and activities culminating in a Fairer Scotland Action Plan published in October 2016. The plan covers a wide range of issues, many of which relate to the housing sector and ongoing Scottish Government commitments and work streams including plans to use devolved powers to create a new social security system underpinned by the principles of dignity and respect. We expect a Social Security Bill to be introduced in 2017. ACTION PLAN: http://bit.ly/2dOMsCV CIH REPORT: http://bit.ly/1nICzez CIH SUBMISSION: http://bit.ly/2eN9fze

MORE NEW HOMES. The Scottish Government has committed to delivering 50,000 new affordable homes over the course of this parliament, 35,000 of which will be for social rent. While the increased target has been welcomed by the housing sector, there are still issues which need to be addressed if the ambition is to be met. After funding, the most frequently cited barriers to development are access to land and issues with planning and infrastructure. The Scottish Government has responded to these concerns by allocating £3 billion for affordable housing over five years, introducing a Land Reform Act and appointing an independent panel to conduct a planning review. These are promising steps but factors such as skills and capacity, Brexit, welfare reform and continuing austerity will ensure that delivery will remain challenging for the foreseeable future. LAND REFORM ACT: http://bit.ly/2j4nPbE PLANNING REVIEW: http://bit.ly/1jRquln FOCUS ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY. November 2016 marked a significant milestone in the Scottish Government’s energy efficiency strategy – missing the target to eradicate fuel poverty. Just over 30 per cent of households in Scotland are still living in fuel poverty. But the future looks bright as energy efficiency issues received cross party support in the run up to the Scottish government elections. Energy efficiency has now been designated a national infrastructure priority; the Scottish Government will be consulting on the introduction of minimum standards in the private sector in 2017 and we expect a Warm Homes Bill to be introduced in 2018.

WALES NEW APPROACH TO REDUCING HOMELESSNESS. Under part two of the Housing (Wales) Act a number of changes were introduced aimed at alleviating and reducing homelessness in Wales. These included: • a new duty to help anyone threatened with homelessness within the next 56 days • a duty to provide help to any homeless person to help them secure a home • a power rather than a duty to apply the intentionality test • new powers for local authorities to discharge their homelessness duties through finding accommodation in the private rented sector stronger duties on housing associations to support local authorities in carrying out


their homelessness duties. In August 2016, the first statistical release demonstrated the impact of the legislation, reflecting that: • • •

During 2015-16 for 4,599 households (65 per cent) homelessness was successfully prevented for at least six months 3,108 households (45 per cent) were successfully relieved of their homelessness and helped to secure accommodation that was likely to last for six months 1,245 (80 per cent) households were positively discharged and accepted an offer of permanent accommodation

MORE INFORMATION: http://bit.ly/1Ow7dxS RENT SMART WALES. Rent Smart Wales has been established to help raise standards in the private rented sector in Wales. It is raising awareness by landlords, agents and tenants of their respective rights and responsibilities. All private landlords are required to register themselves and their properties. If a landlord wants to manage property themselves, they must be licensed, demonstrate that they are ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence and successfully complete approved training. To become licensed, landlords managing property and letting agents need to • complete a simple application process • pay a fee • pass a ‘fit and proper person check’ • complete approved training MORE: http://bit.ly/1Oe9MZJ

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



NORTHERN IRELAND PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR – PROPOSALS FOR CHANGE. The Department for Communities’ (DfC) private rented branch has published proposals to help make private rented housing more attractive as a housing option. This follows the review of the sector whose aim was to identify where improvements could be made including to regulation. The proposals include an independent housing panel to deal with disputes between private tenants and landlords, and sample checks on property conditions by councils. CONSULTATION: http://bit.ly/2jzK0aj CIH COMMENT: http://bit.ly/2i9Kp2T CIH BLOG: http://bit.ly/2k9wCJs PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT. DfC recently consulted on its housing delivery plan 2016-21. The headline commitment is 9,600 social homes and 3,750 shared ownership homes over the five years, and the plan also focuses on removing blockages in land access and the planning system. DELIVERY PLAN: http://bit.ly/2jeTkQL CIH RESPONSE http://bit.ly/2iFu3hB

RECLASSIFICATION OF RHAS, AND THE RIGHT TO BUY The Office for National Statistics reached a decision to re-classify NI registered housing associations (RHAs) as public bodies for the purpose of national accounts, with the effect of bringing all RHA debt onto the public balance sheet. The decision was made due to the level of public sector control available over RHAs. The Department for Communities is therefore consulting on proposals to seek a reversal of the reclassification, including by relinquishing powers over board appointments and land disposal, as well as an effective end to a tenant’s right to buy their home from an RHA. PROPOSALS: http://bit.ly/2j8ogy3 HOMELESSNESS STRATEGY The Housing Executive is consulting on its draft Homelessness Strategy 2017-22 which prioritises homelessness prevention. Over the lifetime of the previous strategy, the number of households presenting as homeless decreased. However the number who qualified for full assistance increased, due to the ageing population and instances of complex needs. Improved outcomes for homeless people were achieved but stakeholders identified lingering issues in delivering effective coordination of services, informing the new strategy going forward.

REBUILDING IRELAND - THE RENTAL SECTOR    FEATURE                                    

DRAFT STRATEGY: http://bit.ly/2ifhRkF










Professional development manager, Chartered Institute of Housing

Head of school School of Surveying and Construction Management, DIT


Director of research, Savills

Co-director, Trinity Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, TCD

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017




Catherine Etchingham Professional development manager, Chartered Institute of Housing

    CATHERINE ETCHINGHAM                                     The first performance report for Rebuilding Ireland, the government’s ac tion plan for housing and homelessness, reached our desks in early November and while there was a measured assessment of progress and definite movement in the right direction, there is still a long way to go. Areas where progress was below expected performance were highlighted, with a commitment that the action would be progressed by the next quarter. However, in saying that, for an extremely ambitious plan that was only published in July, the progress made to date is impressive and involves new structures and enhanced inter-agency working. Early successes Already there have been a number of notable successes resulting from the action plan, including the following: •

stemming the rise of homelessness via the housing assistance payment (HAP) for homelessness scheme

allowing local authorities to approve market rent for suitable applicants

advice for those in mortgage arrears

the commencement of the purchasing of vacant homes from institutions, and

attempts to streamline the processes within government and local authorities to speed-up housing delivery.

In addition, the action plan recognises the need to expand student housing and make better use of vacancies arising from within existing social housing stock, with choice-based lettings systems or similar to be provided by all local authorities. Establishment of ongoing oversight group A further encouraging move has been the establishment of an ongoing oversight group, reporting to minister Coveney, for the purpose of addressing blockages at an early stage as the action plan progresses:

Pillar one which addresses homelessness, was successful in delivering initiatives such as HAP. However, the underlying need for new homes and the unfortunate experience that was rapid build homes remains a shadow over this area and is likely to be focused on by the media. Pillar two which is designed to accelerate social housing, is a more long-term element. This will be measured against the actions which will enable future funding approvals and delivery. The exceptions are initiatives which support the leasing of / purchasing of existing stock via Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 which was revised in 2015 to reduce from 20 to 10 per cent the proportion of dwellings that must be set aside for social and affordable housing. Pillar three is simply focused on building more homes. On the land supply side, the streamlining of planning processes, provision of competitive private finance, and identification of key sites in highdemand areas is highly encouraging. This should upscale delivery, when looked at in conjunction with other elements of the delivery plan. In summary, there is reason to believe

that with close ongoing monitoring, development will proceed into the future at a pace that is far in excess of previous delivery levels.

nothing to increase overall supply, and at this point in time have had no meaningful impact on the housing that is available to each of these groups.

Pillar four focuses on improving the rented sector, with the rental strategy – published in December 2016 and analysed in the following articles in this edition of Housing Ireland – eagerly anticipated given the national rental crisis in the form of ever-spiralling rents.

There is no doubt that whilst an impressive number of objectives have been achieved within a short period of time, it is also fair to say that up to now, the impact felt by housing clients has been limited. In addition, it is also hard to judge whether all the interagency coordination can be smoothly implemented within the tight timeframes set out.

Pillar five is focused on making best use of existing stock. The notable progress in this area has been the requirement on local authorities to introduce a choice based lettings scheme or similar by end of 2016 to ensure speedy allocations of housing and shine a light on hard to let homes. This will undoubtedly lead to performance improvements in letting processes which are excessively lengthy. It will in time consider vacant sites and homes, and provide funding for the taking in charge of estates by local authorities. In addition, though the development of student housing and affordable rental schemes are further welcome additions to the suite of housing strategies, the fact is that these do

Finally, whilst the minister is resolute in his determination to deliver on the many key objectives and targets set out by his action plan, the fact is that many historically unwieldy institutions are still key to the success of the plan. As a result, these institutions will have to display previously unseen flexibility and determination to move forward at a faster pace, if the many promised objectives are to be realised. The next quarterly report is due in early February and will be a more significant assessment of real progress.

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



P R I VATE RE N TED SEC TOR ST RATEGY     TOM DUNNE                                     Tom Dunne says the new rental sector act gives rise to tactics, not solutions required to address our rental tribulations. The interesting question about the amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act (2004) in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 is whether it is a political patch in a time of crisis, or whether it contributes positively to reforming the rental sector. Regulating the rental sector is a matter of growing importance. In recent years home ownership in Ireland has declined substantially and it will decrease further, with more families renting and ever more people likely to spend their entire lives in the sector. Getting this sector right is of mounting significance and will become progressively more important to politicians as the proportion of voters who are tenants rises. Heretofore the rental sector has not been structured for the long term needs of established households and being a lifelong tenant has implications which need to be thought through. Take as an illustrative example a couple in their late thirties or early forties with an annual income of say €80,000 who may be in steady but precarious

employment and who have not been able to buy their accommodation and are renting. If they do not manage to buy say by the age of 45 they will most likely be tenants for the rest of their lives and subject to the three perils of renting. First they will have no security of tenure and could have to move at their landlord’s discretion. Second they lack rental security and are vulnerable to excessive rental increases and economic eviction. Third, should they need to adapt their accommodation to their living arrangements as family life changes, they have to seek permission from their landlord who for their own very good reasons may not be in a position to agree.

and develop a strategy to provide a coherent structure for the private rental sector. Any such strategy requires a diagnosis of the housing system of which private renting is only a part, but a part that is intricately integrated and interrelated. What is needed is a coherent programme for coordinated action and this is what is intended by Rebuilding Ireland which has informed the government’s strategy for the rental sector, one of the pillars of the policy which has manifested itself legislatively in this new act.

Should they be lucky enough to have found a landlord willing to leave them in their accommodation for years the loss of income on retirement will mean that they will have to move home, leaving an area they have contributed to and with which they may have important social connections and reduce their accommodation standards commensurate with what they will then be able to afford. In contrast to an owner-occupier, their pension will have to cover their rent as well as provide for their livelihood and given problems with pensions, their future could be very uncertain.

It is certainly important that a Fine Gael led government has brought forward a measure of rent certainty, albeit temporary. But therein is the real insight. Rather than deal permanently with the frailties of the rental system as experienced by tenants, the rent certainty measures in the act are time limited.

At a time of crisis there is a need to look beyond the immediate problems

As with all policy responses and legislation, time will expose flaws. But let me suggest two problems.

The problem here is that market behaviour is shaped by expectations. Many traditional landlords will fear that the temporary measures are the thin edge of a dreaded wedge bringing back rent control. At best they might think that the new measures could become permanent or morph into some further restrictions, particularly if

the balance of political power changes with the growing number of voters who are tenants. The history of rent control is instructive. The 1960 Rent Restrictions Act consolidated the various temporary laws intended to deal with problems in the rental sector since WW1. These acts resulted in the private rented sector becoming increasingly unattractive for both landlords and tenants. The act was found unconstitutional in the 1980s. O’ Higgins CJ, the judge in the case that found the act unconstitutional, pointed out that the 1960s act was the first measure dealing with rent restriction which was not expressed as having a temporary duration. Legislation will change behaviour, but getting it right can be very difficult and undesirable unintended effects will arise. Indeed the very reason we have a rental market based on fully furnished lettings, even including cutlery, was a landlord response to provisions of the initial Rent Restrictions Act which applied to unfurnished accommodation. This was intended to distinguish that class of renting from other arrangements close to boarding house arrangements which were meant to be exempted. New legislation creates new letting conditions and the market will respond, but often in ways that are unintended. When the new act was going through the Oireachtas a landlord representative body, the IPOA, a vanguard of irredentist landlordism, set out possible responses designed to overcome the restriction on the ability to increase rents. Many of these would be undesirable in a properly functioning market but would be legal. Looking at the new legislation the specific measure restricting rent increases in effect disadvantages the very many compassionate landlords who did not rack rent their properties in recent years. They cannot now obtain the market rent and are only allowed to increase the existing rent by four per cent. Rack renting landlords who availed of every increase in market rents to revise rents upwards will


suffer less. The lesson? Increase rents at every available opportunity. Also it can be readily seen that the means available to a landlord to regain possession have been restricted and are more complex than before, probably requiring legal advice to execute successfully. An accidental landlord who needs to rent out their home for a year on foot of some temporary assignment abroad might well consider that the risks and costs involved are too onerous and leave the property vacant. Effects such as this could well reduce the supply of accommodation coming to the market, creating the conditions for further increases for new tenants. Property memories are deep and long and inform market expectations and investment. Investing in the private rental sector has been profitable in recent years mainly because of the capital gains available from selling vacant houses into the owner occupied market. The provisions of the new act providing security of tenure and rental security to tenants, inhibits this. The new act is likely therefore to negatively influence attitudes to investing in the sector. While the act is a well-intentioned attempt to deal with what appears to the government as a temporary difficulty while the market sorts the problem, the basic underlying inadequacies in the structure of the rental sector remain. The guiding policy approach set out in the rental strategy places too great a faith in market solutions braced by minimum interventions to deal with short run deficiencies. The resulting act gives effect to a set of tactics to respond to a sort term crisis rather than improving the legislative framework for the rental sector.

Tom Dunne Head of school School of Surveying and Construction Management, DIT

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



WHAT THE SECTOR SAYS...    VARIOUS                                    

CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF HOUSING Following a surprisingly shor t consultation period, the rental strategy is now in the public domain. As expected, it covers the main areas of security, supply, standards and services – albeit to differing degrees. It is clear from the strategy that government is backing the private rented sector (PRS) as a major player in meeting housing need, both in terms of sustaining tenancies and providing new homes for rent. To be fair, getting it right in the residential tenancy sector is like tightrope walking. Tenant advocates on one hand call for rent control and greater security, while landlords on the other claim that further regulation will lead to exodus from the market. Having been involved in many private working groups in the North I’m fully aware of this dilemma which normally results in compromise. Security The big story is the introduction of rent predictability in certain pressure zones. This will provide security for some, depending on location and, of course, on affordability in the first place. Capping rent increases is a sensible measure in the short term where rent inflation is out of control, but it is unlikely to be sustainable longer term.

Of equal importance are measures to prevent homelessness including restrictions on sale as a reason for tenancy termination, and new measures to sustain buy-to-let mortgages thereby keeping people in homes. Allowing buy-to-let tenants to remain in occupation during and after possession proceedings would be a sensible move.

rent. This model is well developed in parts of the UK, where the term affordable housing is used to mean rent is around 80 per cent of market value. Housing associations have a critical role to play in this form of renting and while CIH supports their involvement in the rental sector, this should never be at the expense of their core work of social housing provision.

Encouraging longer leases by allowing unfurnished tenancies and moving part four tenancies to six years with a view to indefinite duration are all welcome actions, balanced of course with fast track evictions for non payment of rent.

Build-to-rent is also encouraged as well as bringing empty homes back into use. Incentives to promote living over shops and to bring former commercial premises in towns back into domestic use could be considered.


Standards and services

Maintaining and extending supply is essential to a healthy rental sector. Tax incentives for private landlords provide the carrot and acknowledge that landlords are important stakeholders in delivering housing supply.

The quality of accommodation in the rental sector is extremely important if it is to become a viable housing option for more people – quality of both physical conditions and of tenancy management. New standards focusing on safety along with an increased inspection regime are very welcome.

One way of increasing new supply quickly in areas of pressure is to provide public land to lever in land value for delivery – a solid proposal and workable, provided it is not at the expense of social housing or mixed tenure provision. Such developments will be aimed at middle income groups with the idea that they would be below market value, thereby negating the need for ongoing rental subsidy. There are plans to develop cost rental for lower income families where housing providers raise the finance to provide the housing at below market

Having a one stop shop for the rental sector to improve access to information for tenants and landlords is both wise and commendable. Simplifying the law relating to residential tenancies is key to the smooth operation of tenancies, and the education of landlords on legal obligations is essential. Our experience in providing an accredited CIH qualification to landlords and letting agents in Northern Ireland is extremely positive. As part of a threeyear project we have commissioned an independent evaluation to analyse its impact.

Full deposit protection has been on the cards for some time and it is good to see the rental strategy committing to implementing it in 2017. Finally, accelerating dispute resolution timeframes will allow for a more effective way to deal with issues such as outstanding rent or repairs, and it should benefit both parties. Nicola McCrudden Director

THRESHOLD December 2016 saw both the passing of the Planning & Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 and the publication of the long-awaited strategy for the rental sector by government after months of speculation. Broadly speaking Threshold has welcomed the strategy, particularly the implementation of rent certainty measures, the extension of security of tenure and the adoption of the so-called Tyrellstown amendment to protect tenants in situations where large numbers of properties are sold by institutional investors, all of which are included in the 2016 Act. Threshold also welcomes the commitment to introduce new minimum standards measures by early July 2017 and supply side initiatives such as further examination of the cost rental model. There are some very significant missed opportunities in the strategy, such as a commitment to enact the deposit protection scheme, previously provided for by legislation enacted in 2015. This has been subjected to a review in light of ‘changed circumstances’ though it is unclear what those changed circumstances are. In 2016 Threshold received nearly 900 calls relating to deposit retention and it is our experience that this has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable tenants as deposits often represent the full extent of their savings. Threshold will closely monitor any measures recommended by the review group to ensure the strongest protection for tenants. Threshold will

also be reminding government of its previous commitments in this area. The strategy was also a missed opportunity to strengthen protection for tenants in relation to buy-to-let repossessions and cases where a receiver has been appointed over indebted rental property. Tenants should not lose their rights because a landlord is in financial difficulty. Threshold has regularly advocated for a simple change to the law to ensure that both receivers appointed to mortgaged properties and lenders who have initiated repossession proceedings, are regarded as the landlord in relation to existing tenancies. Threshold has campaigned for a more secure and sustainable rented sector for many years. Rent certainty measures are central to this and we welcome the designation of rent pressure zones (RPZs) as an important first step in a long term national solution. As we have seen through our tenancy protection service (TPS), which focuses on homelessness prevention, rent increases have been a defining factor in economic evictions in the last number of years. We have argued strongly for the immediate extension of the rent measures to those areas where we can establish from our frontline services they are required, namely the commuter counties to Dublin and areas close to Cork City together with Galway, Limerick and Waterford. We will not only be monitoring closely the effectiveness of the new measures in the already designated RPZs but also tracking how rent levels compare in the rest of the country where the measures do not exist yet. We welcome the announcement in December that in line with the strategy Threshold’s TPS is to be extended nationwide. To date this service has protected over 8,550 people from losing their homes. While a number of important measures set out in the strategy have been acted upon, we await further action in a number of other critical areas. Ultimately we will judge the success of the strategy on its impact on our clients, many of whom face significant


difficulty living in a rented sector that does not provide them with a decent home. Dr Aideen Hayden Chairperson

DUBLIN TENANTS ASSOCIATION Dublin Tenants Association ran a campaign for rent controls and security of tenure to coincide with our submission to the national rental strategy group, from which the much anticipated strategy for the rental sector was announced in December 2016. The PRS is at the epicentre of the housing and homelessness crisis in Ireland. Particularly acute in cities such as Dublin, rents have shot up to obscene levels, economic evictions are common, and tenants continue to endure appalling standards coupled with the inability to meet exorbitant rent increases. Too many of us are foregoing other necessities of life such as savings or providing for health and pension provision. With a staggering increase in the numbers becoming homeless, it’s no surprise most of them are coming from the PRS.1 Rent controls were urgently needed to stop the rent inflation and gouging by November 2015. Instead the government were swayed by heavily vested interest lobby groups such as US firm Kennedy Wilson who warned of ‘unintended consequences’. 2 Kennedy Wilson is now one of the biggest landlords in Ireland, their one beds in Dublin rent from €1600€2000pm, meaning only well off couples with no children can afford their rents. As CEO of Ireland’s largest landlord – Ires Reit, David Ehrlich said ‘I feel truly bad for the Irish people’…. ‘We have never seen rental yields like it in any jurisdiction’.3

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017


Dublin Tenants Association also campaigned for increased regulation of the sector including proper security of tenure measures that are critical to the success of rent controls. Tenants’ quality of lives and futures literally depend on the rental strategy to deliver what it promised… ‘a strong, viable and attractive rental sector that delivers affordable and high quality accommodation for tenants’. Like much of the published strategy, it contained a lot of similarly nice statements full of vague promises, many ‘action points’ long since announced before, deliberate lack of detail and an actual rowing back on reforms promised in the 2015 amendment. The only ray of light initially was the creation of RPZs and a limiting of rent increases to a maximum of four per cent annually. At first glance this seemed to offer a respite from the staggering increases – 40 to 60 per cent not being uncommon rent rises endured by tenants. However, on closer scrutiny this does not provide ‘rent predictability in areas of unsustainable rent inflation.’ The setting of rents by the ‘market rate’ was not challenged despite admitting the establishment of RPZs are because of market failure. The setting of rents within ‘market rates’ still allows unscrupulous landlords and agents to flood the letting websites with similar over-priced rentals, and thereby establishing the ‘market rate’. Within these RPZs there is now a four per cent annual limit on rent increases. Not however, if the property is new to the market, or has not been let within the preceding two years, or has undergone refurbishment. Crucial detail on the exact nature of what refurbishment would entail was missing. However, these limits are only in place for a maximum temporary period of three years. For tenants who are already struggling to pay previous rent increases, this does nothing to address the already unaffordable rents.


Increasing duration of tenure from four to six years does not improve security of tenure. For many of us tenants facing economic evictions (which are already supposed to be illegal), we find that unless the landlord has worded the notice of termination incorrectly, or not included a statutory declaration, it is almost impossible to bring a case against a landlord to the Residential Tenancies Board. There were more wishy–washy vague words around ‘exploring’ rights of tenants in receivership cases by ‘examining scope’ by Q4 2017. This is meaningless and useless for tenants who have already found themselves with no rights under the legislation, just because their landlord was in debt. The standards section was breathtaking. There are already some basic minimum standards criteria in the existing act, but the major problem is again enforcement. Since when did checking for the safety of electricity and gas become a new regulation?

______________________________ ______________________________ 1. Focus Ireland ‘Why are so many becoming homeless’.2016. http://bit. ly/2fZks5b Accessed 8 January 2016. 2. Kennedy, Emma , ‘Documents Reveal Heavy Lobbying on Rent Control’, Sunday Business Post, 27 December 2015. http://bit.ly/2icVJGH Accessed 8 January 2016. 3. Reddin, Fiona, ‘Ireland’s biggest landlord: I feel bad for the Irish people.’ The Irish Times, 18 November 2016. http://bit.ly/2g20pPZ

Did you know CIH helps hundreds of housing organisations like yours to achieve their objectives with a tailored package of services to meet your business needs?

‘Strategy for the Rental Sector’. Rebuilding Ireland: Action plan for housing and homelessness. Gov publication December 2016.

There was an actual rowing back on the setting up of the critical deposit scheme that had been announced in the 2015 amendment. The legislation has not been published yet and it remains to be seen what will be the exact details, however what is clear is that Simon Coveney’s rental strategy is more than a lost opportunity to reform the poorly regulated sector. All tenants want are secure, affordable homes in a properly regulated sector, and what we got was some half measures dressed up in previous announcements and spin. Tenants deserve better. Norma Jean Kenny

Find out more by contacting our Dublin-based professional development manager to discuss your business requirements: Cathy Etchingham, professional development manager 01 656 4160 Learn with us. Improve with us. Influence with us. www.cih.org Housing Ireland | Winter 2017




Components of Change in the PRS Stock Q1 2011 – Q3 2016

S AVI L L S: P R I VAT E R ENT ED SE C T O R     DR. JOHN MCCARTNEY                                      Latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures underline the strength of demand for privately rented property. In Dublin alone 3,400 net additional households were formed between June and September 2016. Over the same period there was a 2,400 increase in the number of households renting privately. Therefore renters accounted for 71 per cent of the total net increase. Indeed this is not a new phenomenon – the number of households in rented accommodation has risen by 40 per cent since 2007, while in Dublin that number has risen by 49 per cent. The reasons for burgeoning rental demand are pretty obvious. On one hand the recession inflicted lasting damage on the balance sheets of many households meaning that homeownership is no longer an achievable objective for them. Inevitably this has diverted people into the private rented sector (PRS). The recession’s impact on our public finances has also fuelled demand for private rented housing. Pressure on local authority capital budgets, combined with a social housing model that relies heavily on private sector development, has led to an acute shortage of social housing. Facilitated by schemes such as rent allowance and the housing assistance payment, this has diverted households which would previously have been council tenants into the private tenure.

Paradoxically, although the economy is now recovering strongly, the demand for rented accommodation hasn’t let up. Partly this is because house prices have been rising faster than wages, making owner occupation less affordable. Average property prices have increased by 47 per cent since their low point in March 2013, yet gross earnings are up only 1.2 per cent. Compounding this, tighter mortgage lending has also made it harder for people to buy their own homes. While increased demand is a necessary condition for expansion of the PRS it is not, in itself, sufficient. For the sector to grow, supply must also be there to meet this demand. Logically, the rapid growth we have seen in the number of privately renting households can only have been accommodated in two ways – an increase in the total stock of rental units and/or a reduction in the number of existing rental units lying vacant. Assuming one household per dwelling then the number of occupied rental units can be inferred from the number of privately renting households. This number has risen by 35,000 nationally since Q1 2011 and now stands at around 307,000. In Dublin the number has increased by 48,700 and now stands at 124,200 (18.1 per cent of all Dublin households).

The number of vacant units can be derived from Daft.ie data. Making some allowance for the fact that Daft. ie does not capture every available rental property, the estimated number of vacant units has fallen by 79 per cent since Q1 2011 and now stands at just under 4,300. In Dublin the number has fallen by over 3,300 units in the same period and currently stands at 1,642. Adding the number of PRS households (our proxy for the occupied stock) to the estimated number of vacant units reveals the total number of dwelling units in the PRS. This number has risen very strongly in Dublin since Q1 2011 – by over 45,000 units. Nationally the figure has grown by 18,400, contradicting claims that landlords have been fleeing the market en masse. Outside Dublin, however, the number of units in the system has contracted. The divergent trends between Dublin and the rest of the country are not difficult to explain. Dublin’s population is currently rising almost twice as fast as that elsewhere in the country, and this is creating a general demand for housing in the capital. Within this, and for the reasons discussed above, there has been an ongoing tenure shift from owner-occupation to private renting. In the face of subdued construction activity this has contributed to a supply/demand imbalance which has



Ex. Dublin

PRS Households




Vacant PRS Units




PRS Stock




driven rents to record highs. This in turn has led to elevated yields. According to Daft.ie average gross yields on residential property currently exceed five per cent in 19 of 25 areas within Dublin. Even when we net out landlords’ expenses this represents a very attractive return for cash investors relative to deposit rates. Moreover, with house price inflation accelerating in Dublin, capital growth adds to even higher total returns. Outside Dublin the market is less compelling for investors. Latest Residential Tenancies Board figures show average rents are just 56 per cent of those in the capital. Meanwhile average yields are no higher than those in Dublin despite the increased risk of voids in regional locations where there is less pressure on demand from population growth. This, and the fact that owner-occupied housing is more affordable outside Dublin, explains why some units that were previously rentals have been converted back to owner-occupation. Breaking down the total rental stock into its vacant and occupied components allows us, for the first time, to derive a vacancy rate for the Irish PRS. Nationally vacancy peaked at just over ten per cent of rental properties in Q2 2009 and has fallen steadily to 1.4 per cent since then. In Dublin the vacancy rate has fallen from a high of around nine percent during the crisis to a razor thin 1.3 per cent currently.

the vacancy rate and movements in real rents. This can be used to forward-cast rental growth, conditional on assumed future vacancy rates. Back in October this model predicted compound rental growth of 23 – 26 per cent over the ten quarters Q3 2016 – Q4 2018 inclusive. Rental data for the third quarter show that this forecast is well on track. However subsequent developments could yet alter the path of rental growth. Helpto-buy, combined with the relaxation of mortgage lending restrictions for first time buyers, may divert heat from the rental sector back to the owneroccupier market. And, of course, any ‘rent predictability’ measures that might be introduced by government have the potential to curtail sharp rental increases that otherwise look likely.

Dr. John McCartney Director of research, Savills

Having this data over a long time period opens up econometric modelling opportunities that were previously unavailable. Last October I developed a simple model to quantify the (very strong) long-term mathematical relationship between movements in

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



points to the inequity associated with tenant purchase schemes which provide a huge financial advantage to a particular group of tenants.

RE N TI N G IN IRELAND     PROFESSOR P.J. DRUDY                                    

In instances where tenants did not wish to purchase, the custom of household members succeeding to a tenancy was also given official recognition, thus further constraining the stock. With limited funding from central government, local authorities inevitably showed scant interest in the provision of social housing. If a serious revival of local authority provision is to occur, a significant change of philosophy and approach, including a move to “cost-rental”, will be essential in the future. In the light of the dramatic reduction in the construction of both private sector homes for sale and those for rent by local authorities and housing associations, it was inevitable that large numbers would have to reluctantly rely on scarce, expensive, insecure and often sub-standard private rented accommodation.

Professor P.J. Drudy reviews Renting in Ireland: The Social, Voluntary and Private Sectors, edited by Lorcan Sirr, Institute of Public Administration, Dublin, 2014, 288 pp. Renting in Ireland is a comprehensive and valuable examination of the social, voluntary and private rental sectors. As Lorcan Sirr, the editor points out in the opening chapter, about 90 per cent of Irish people rented their accommodation (often in poor condition) in the early 1900s. However, the recent history of Ireland has been about the “struggle to own property to escape from and to avoid the need to rent”. He illustrates how successive governments encouraged home ownership with preferential tax treatment and other incentives over many years. As a result of the perceived benefits of ownership and the poor image of renting from private landlords, renting

as a tenure of choice found it difficult to gain an “ideological foothold” in Irish life. The “almost total absence of regulation” in the private rented sector also contributed to its decline. By 1991 the census recorded that home ownership had reached almost 80 per cent of the total compared to only eight per cent in the private rented and ten per cent in local authority homes. Escalating house prices since the mid-1990s means that purchasing a home has become an impossible dream for many. House prices fell for a few years after the 2008 crash but they are now close to their 2007 peak again. This is due largely to “market failure” – despite increased demand, private sector construction and supply fell from 75,400 homes in 2006 to 12,200 in 2015. While home ownership is still the preferred tenure, the most recent census showed that the proportion owning has fallen to 71 per cent. In contrast, the private rented sector showed remarkable resurgence

since 1991 – increasing to 18.8 per cent at the last census. However, the proportion in local authority and housing association homes (as high as 50 per cent during the 1950s) has showed little change due to the significant decline in construction over recent years – only 465 homes were built in 2015. Aideen Hayden examines the decline in local authority housing provision between 1966 and 1988. She sees this period as “a turning point” in the shift from strong expansion of social housing since the 1930s to an equally strong movement to sell off as much as possible to tenants. Influenced heavily by the political mobilisation of social housing tenants in relation to rents and tenant purchase, the inevitable result was the eventual residualisation of the social housing system. Tenant purchase, still available at significant discounts, resulted in a relatively static stock, despite new construction. Simon Brooke also

Furthermore, the government since 2004 has turned to private landlords to provide much-needed social housing. The most recent housing strategy proposes that 75,000 homes will be provided in this way for those on the growing waiting lists. Finnerty and O’Connell rightly bemoan the fact that this “casualisation” of social housing has occurred and continues. These authors see this as a failure to provide “security, control, expression of identity and residential stability” which is normally provided in the traditional local authority model. Declan Redmond also carefully outlines the escalation of claimants (including long-term) and expenditure on rent supplement in order to house poorer tenants. During the last 16 years alone, over €6 billion has been allocated in rent supplement by the government to Irish and multinational landlords for this purpose – a questionable use of scarce public resources. Redmond concludes that reliance on the private rented sector is “problematic” and argues for a return to direct provision of social housing by local authorities.

Complementing these chapters, Rory Hearne, together with Padraic Kenna and Julian Del Ceno, raise the fundamental question as to what is the role of housing in Irish society and what philosophy is most approriate for this urgent requirement, including housing as a right. Hearne provides a detailed account of the “tenant experience” of social housing. He argues for a shift away from the consistent priority given to the private property market towards a housing system which performs a valuable public service like health and education. Michelle Norris provides a comprehensive outline of regulations and incentives to the private rented sector over an extended period. The “retreat” until recently of private renting, mentioned above, was due largely to the move to home ownership. Second, landlords were deterred by the introduction of regulations on standards and quality of rented dwellings, referred to aptly by Jim O’Connor as a “hit and miss” approach. The problem of standards persist to this day where some 47 per cent of privately rented accommodation fails to conform to minimalist standards. The introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act in 2004 and the establishment of the Residential Tenancies Board were also unpopular among many landlords. Third, the fixing or “control” of rents and the restriction of future rent increases, introduced during the First World War and in place for an extended period, protected tenants but were unfair and unreasonable to landlords. It was therefore judged to be unconstitutional in 1981 and no longer exists. The new second and third generation “rent regulation”, now prevalent throughout Europe and introduced in Ireland in December 2016, is quite different. This allows annual rent increases in line with inflation or with some other reasonable percentage to allow for improvements to the accommodation. In Ireland an annual increase of four per cent will be allowed over the next three years. This should help to avoid the monopolistic-type rent increases which have been evident over recent years.


system in Northern Ireland. This is a particularly interesting chapter which outlines the key role the Housing Executive has played and continues to play in social housing provision. The Housing Executive has an extensive remit, including assessment of the need for and allocation of social housing, managing the development programme, advising on and dealing with homelessness, administration and payment of housing benefit, promoting energy efficiency and provision of grants. It also plays a key role in capacity building, dealing with antisocial behaviour and facilitating good relations. Despite this good work, the author concludes that social housing is “highly residualised”. Like the Republic, many low-income tenants are reluctantly turning to the private rented sector with the assistance of housing benefit. While this sector has become an important alternative to social housing in meeting housing need, the author expresses concern that it will become unaffordable for those on low incomes. It is impossible in a short review to cover all the topics covered in this book, including rental trends, the increasing and controversial role of institutional investors and the housing problems of travellers and immigrants. However, Renting in Ireland is a most useful and informative addition to the literature. It will be most helpful to students, academics, housing practitioners and policy makers.

Professor P.J. Drudy Co-director, Trinity Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, TCD

The final chapter in this book by Jennifer Donald examines the housing Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



C O U N TI NG IR ELA N D’S H O U SI NG ST OC K     BRENDAN MURPHY                                    In April 2016 census enumerators could be found walking the length and breadth of the country knocking on every door in Ireland. There were stories of enumerators encountering everything from feral dogs to firearms, cups of tea and even an unsolicited wedding proposal.

Each enumerator was given a list and map of dwellings in their assigned area based on the GeoDirectory. In addition to this the enumerator completed a full visual enumeration of the area they were assigned.

The census of population for 2016 was held on Sunday 24 April 2016. The census consisted of a ten-week field campaign, five weeks delivering and five weeks collecting census forms. The country was divided up in to 4,500 areas and each was assigned to an enumerator – the person who goes door to door delivering and collecting the forms. In total 5,000 temporary staff were hired to conduct the field campaign.

If a house was occupied the enumerator would have explained the procedure to the householder, handed them a census form and collected the completed form after census night.

It takes six months to process the two million census forms that were collected. Processing the forms includes batching, guillotining, scanning and validating over 45 million pages of data. The GeoDirectory is Ireland’s national address database and contains precise geographic coordinates for each building in Ireland. The GeoDirectory was used in the census for the first time in 2011 and again in 2016 to identify two million residential properties for enumeration. This administrative dataset was of huge benefit and greatly improved the efficiency of the census field operation.

Occupied housing

Unoccupied housing Enumerators were provided with detailed instructions on how to identify and classify a property that was unoccupied. In cases where the householder was away temporarily on census night they completed a declaration to that effect. To classify a house or apartment as vacant the enumerator was instructed to check that the house was fit for habitation with a roof, walls and windows installed. This would have included looking for signs that the house was empty such as junk mail accumulating, an overgrown garden or no car parked outside. The enumerator was instructed to visit the house at least three times and consult with neighbours to confirm the occupancy status.

In some cases a dwelling may have been used only as a holiday home and may have been unoccupied on census night. Usually these dwellings would be found in coastal areas but could also be in a city such as a weekend apartment. In such instances the enumerator was instructed to consult with neighbours and visit after census night to verify nobody spent the night there.

Census preliminary results 2016 The preliminary results showed that the population of Ireland grew by 3.7 per cent in the intercensal period from 2011 to 2016. The strongest population growth was seen in and around the major cities of Dublin and Cork and in Galway City as can be seen in map 1. In these areas population growth was in the order of 4 to 6 per cent over the last five years apart from in Fingal where population growth was strongest at 8.1 per cent. However in rural areas in some of the midlands, west and particularly in the north-west the population remained within one or two per cent of what it was in 2011.

Map 3 – Percentage of dwellings vacant in each Electoral Division, 2016

Map 1 – Population change by county, 2011 to 2016

The growth in population was 3.7 per cent over five years compared to the growth in households which was three per cent. This is an early indication that the average household size increased in the last five years reversing a long running trend of smaller households. The housing stock grew by less than one per cent to 2.02 million dwellings in the five-year period from 2011 to 2016. Occupied households increased by nearly 50,000 from 1.67 to 1.72 million. The total housing stock increased by 19,000 units and the number of vacant dwellings (excluding holiday homes) decreased by over 30,000.

Accounting for every dwelling In addition to occupied and vacant dwellings, enumerators found that some buildings on their dwelling list were not suitable for habitation. These buildings were not included in the census housing stock figures. For example houses that were in the process of being built and missing walls, a roof, doors or windows, were classified as ‘under construction’. Dilapidated buildings missing a roof or with boarded up windows were classified as ‘derelict’. If a building was solely used for business purposes, such as a crèche or office it was to be classified as ‘commercial only’. Occasionally enumerators had dwellings on their list that had been recently demolished. In some cases enumerators found that a group of flats or bedsits listed as part of a converted house had been converted back in to a single dwelling. Enumerators classified these listings as ‘do not exist’.

Map 2 – Net migration by county, 2011 to 2016


Population change is affected by the number of births minus the number of deaths (the natural increase) and inward migrants minus outward migrants (net migration). These factors can help explain how housing demand may differ across the country. The strong population growth in Cork City, Dublin City and Dun LaoghaireRathdown was driven mainly by inward migration as seen in map 2. In areas with younger populations such as Fingal, South Dublin, Meath and Kildare the growth was driven by a high number of births.

Even though there was a reduction in vacant housing stock of 14 per cent, the overall vacancy rate in Ireland was just under ten per cent excluding holiday homes. This equates to nearly 200,000 vacant dwellings. When broken down geographically, as can be seen in map 3, vacancy rates were highest in the upper Shannon region where tax relief and incentives resulted in a rapid increase in property construction during the boom. Vacancy rates were lowest in the east and around Cork, Galway and Limerick Cities.

The 2016 census preliminar y results are available to view on the Central Statistics Office’s website www.cso.ie/en/census. Data on the housing stock, occupied households, vacant dwellings, unoccupied holiday homes is available down to electoral divisions. Final census data will be released in a series of reports throughout 2017. The first publication, Census 2016 summary results – part one, will be launched on 6 April. A dedicated profile entitled Housing in Ireland will be released on 20 April 2017.

Brendan Murphy Statistician, Central Statistics Office

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



ACQUISITION AND ADAPTATION     DR. CATHY DALTON                                      Ireland has a housing crisis, of which the homelessness crisis is but the cutting edge. Every day brings fresh coverage of the ‘homelessness issue’ in TV, newspapers and social media, so that public awareness is very high. At the same time, Ireland has close to 200,000 unoccupied housing units, according to the latest CSO report. The disjoint is staggering. The crisis would seem then to be more one of housing management, which will not be solved by thoughtless incentivisation of newbuild construction, nor by pointless reduction in unit size, or emergency housing provision with prefabricated units. Greater Dublin has over 20,000 empty houses and apartments, according to the 2016 census, the vast majority of which are fit for occupation. The housing problem in Dublin and elsewhere may well be solvable through acquisition and adaptation. The solution to one problem may well lie within another. Current social housing policy relies too heavily on provision of social housing via the private rental sector. As so many houses remain empty, amid protest about rent increases, this policy is clearly failing. Rental accommodation scheme/housing assistance payment schemes do not provide security to tenants, but may be equally unattractive to owners of single

properties, because of maintenance costs and administration. At the same time, newspapers report on local authorities turning down offers of housing stock from NAMA, but we are provided with little detail on why were they rejected. If they are substandard, to what degree are they substandard? If they are in ‘bad locations’ (generally taken to be rural locations), might they serve the needs of other users who are not on local authority housing lists? Are local authorities being offered only the least saleable properties? Are they forced by lack of funding to consider current rather than future housing need in their decision-making? Does non-compliance with building energy ratings (BER) militate against the uptake of older houses on the part of local authorities? And most of all, to whom do these properties belong? How can we use them to tackle housing needs? The recent Oireachtas report on housing and homelessness made a concise critical evaluation of the causes leading to the current situation, including a sharp decrease in provision of social housing by local authorities since 2008. It also sets about making recommendations for tackling the crisis, the most significant recommendation being the setting up of a new housing procurement agency, which should be empowered to make policy decisions across departments

that support housing procurement. One might therefore suggest that its remit should extend beyond the agencies currently envisaged as stakeholders, given the nature and scale of the housing problem and its current and future social impacts. An inventory of housing stock, as has been mooted on foot of the report, is the very first step in efficiently matching housing need with existing housing stock on a large scale. It needs to identify location, type condition, and perhaps critically, ownership. The next step is a comprehensive survey of the ‘market’ for social housing, not just in the short term, but over the next 10-15 years. Who are they? Where are they? What are their needs? This will need to take into account not only people who are currently seeking social housing, but also those who are likely to do so in the future. These include divorced or separated people, especially men, and middle-aged people with jobs and rental properties, but who lost ownership of their homes during the recession. Their housing needs differ substantially from the traditional threebed semi-detached house. These are the largely unseen and unreported housing users who now populate TDs’ clinics. Research can help uncover that unreported need, as a first step in addressing it. Among those whose future needs must be addressed are the ageing population, which are the subject

of the ISAX/Housing Agency report launched in November last and covered in the following article in this edition of Housing Ireland. The ISAX report reveals a surprising lack of differences in the concerns of urban and rural dwellers, with one very significant difference: urban-dwellers did not list transport as a concern, whereas older people in rural areas inevitably did. Anecdotally, it is being reported that retired people are buying properties in rural areas, certainly in the southeast. Instead of incentivising the construction of new homes, why not incentivise adaptation of existing housing stock, together with the provision of regular rural bus services, with a requirement to connect not only to provincial towns, but also to existing rail and bus services? If transport is made available, more housing becomes usable, and not only to older people. Outside urban areas, existing housing stock is older, and more traditional. The requirements for adaptation, subdivision and re-use need to be carefully examined, but may provide a part of the answer to declining rural populations. In many rural areas, rental housing is in equally short supply, though other houses are often under-occupied or empty – the same problems exist in cities. There is also a largely unresearched aspiration to downsize on the part of older (50 years +) people, perhaps as a result of their own struggles to deal with ageing parents who live at a distance, and taking a long view of their own likely futures. There is furthermore an identified need for age-specific housing, yet there is an absence of joined-up thinking on policy or fiscal provision.

Excellent architectural models exist, both for subdivision and adaptation of properties, and of co-housing with a mixture of users. The government’s ageing-in-place policy, which aims to support people remaining in their lifetime homes, must be re-examined. It requires a panoply of personal supports, provided by an overstretched health service, in order to be effective; these have been subjected to cuts in recent years. Local authority housing adaptation grants are split between those for disability and those for older people. The latter have also been reduced in recent years, flying in the face of demographic change, but are also not fully geared towards providing accessibility. For example, they are intended to cover the installation of a level shower, but not a downstairs bathroom. This is a lamentable and short-sighted distinction, as the connection between falls in elderly people, ensuing hospitalisation, disability, and mortality in the following year is well-researched, and widely known. There is much awareness in the healthcare sector about the impact of falls on elderly people, which can be catastrophic in their consequences. However, a 2008 HSE report on falls prevention completely omits any consideration of the person’s home environment, and its level of accessibility. The HSE is involved in provision of nursing home care, which is effectively provision of living-accommodation for elderly people, though arguably not always in the desired format. They should therefore be involved in dialogue with the mooted housing procurement agency. But nursing home care has policy and fiscal support through the Fair Deal scheme. This puts housing associations, and others who wish to provide age-specific


housing, at an effective disadvantage. The provision of adequate funding for anticipatory housing adaptation for accessibility, with the effect of transforming it functionally into agespecific housing, might indefinitely defer a move to nursing home care, through avoidance of falls. Adaptation should also allow for provision of internet connectivity in readiness for inclusion of embedded sensing, personal alarms, and to support online healthcare applications, but most of all as defence against loneliness, which is associated with increased mortality. A bed in a nursing home costs between €700 and €1,400 per week, or €36,400 and €73,000 per annum. By contrast, the average figure for a housing adaptation grant (for an elderly person) is €3,995, but there are restrictions to the type and scale of work that it is intended to cover. The typical grant awarded for adaptation or extension for a disabled person is about €10,000, or one-third of the maximum €30,000 available. The larger adaptation grant should be made available to people over 60 to enable more comprehensive adaptation in anticipation of future need, means-tested as it is currently. It seems as if the provision for nursing home care in the absence of proper support for full housing adaptation is a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, and all for the want of horseshoe nail. Delaying or avoiding the need for a move to nursing care can be served by increasing home adaptation to provide greater accessibility. Current policy seems to display an extraordinarily blinkered approach, a ‘silo mentality’ where one department refuses to consider any intervention (no matter how critical) which falls outside its own bailiwick.

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017


If we are to tackle problems on the scale of the current housing crises, of which provision for an ageing population is a part, we need to break out of those silos when formulating policy. It is known as a ‘wicked problem’, the kind that design thinking is good at addressing. In terms of design, there is an abundance of suitable architectural housing models internationally to use as templates for adaptation, as well as a handful of promising new schemes that have adapted larger older buildings for occupation by older people. But in their own apartments, rather than in an institutional fashion. Nursing homes should be a last resort, with age-specific and owndoor managed settings among the possibilities. If there were increased provision for adaptation and communal housing, including in supported settings, it would reduce or remove the need for nursing care for many people. Small-scale supported housing is an ideal ‘halfway house’ for a person with dementia, deferring the need for nursing home care. Overall, we need to allow people a means to make provision in good time for the many eventualities that may arise as a consequence of ageing. Dublin’s ‘Living City ’ initiative provides one model of how re-use might be stimulated – it provides tax incentivisation for the refurbishment of older buildings in Dublin. A model which could be readily applied in rural areas, which tend to have older housing stock. Such incentives also need to take account of providing for the housing needs of a variety of users. The very same issues in relation to ageing rural populations and a mismatch in housing type and quality applies other countries, including the US. Adaptation of multiple units at one time could be supported, including via a new housing procurement agency, following bulk transfer of property, and can be expedited where necessary by part eight planning applications. But we need to be realistic – some houses (most likely older dwellings) will need more work than others, and may


need additional incentivisation (for example, housing adaptation grant plus tax incentivisation for further refurbishment). The question of whether BER is currently a barrier for the selection of older houses for re-use must be aired, bearing in mind that currently BER takes no account of the ‘energy capital’ or carbon footprint involved in new-build. It is simply not sustainable in any sense, especially economic or social, to discard otherwise viable housing stock on that basis, or at least fail to provide additional incentivisation to ensure it reaches an acceptable standard, which may not equal that of new-build. The payback is that adaptation and re-use, particularly if guided by policy on a larger and more organised scale, can inject much-needed cash into smaller communities, through employment of smaller local contractors, but also through retention of members of a community, and the possibility of attracting new members. Work could be carried out by a panel of contractors, based on prequalification, where any qualifying contractor is included, with work packages allocated as they arise to suitable contractors with the capacity to carry out work at that scale. It might range from adaptation of a handful of houses in small rural villages up to entire developments in larger towns and cities. There is no reason why single unoccupied houses might not be subdivided into two dwelling units, with the ground floor unit being made fully accessible. Why advocate building maisonettes when adaptation in an organised fashion might yield better results? And which users exactly do maisonettes, which seem to be the current favoured solution, serve? They are a functional and logistical nightmare equally for families, elderly people, and people with mobility issues of any sort. This begs the question as to how such initiatives are informed, but it is clearly not by an assessment of existing housing stock and existing need.

If we have reached a situation where we have, at the same time, 200,000 empty housing units, and a housing crisis, it is clear that current housing policy has failed, and that the private sector cannot provide sustainable answers. The current position further amounts to an abdication of responsibility on the part of the state towards its citizens, regardless of where the blame for the origin of the housing crisis lies. The Oireachtas report represents a move in the right direction, back towards provision of social housing by government. In this context, the challenge of how to deal with existing housing stock may ultimately prove to be an opportunity. That process begins with making a national inventory, which must happen without delay, followed by an analysis of user needs. In the meantime, the suggested national housing procurement agency should be set up as a matter of some urgency, so that the process of provision for social housing, starting with strategic acquisition and adaptation, can begin. n

Cathy Dalton is a researcher and architect. She is currently a Marie Curie ASSISTID Postdoctoral Fellow, outgoing to Ulster University and returning to UCD in October 2017. Her research there is supported by funding from the charity RESPECT and the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European U n i o n’s S e v e n t h F r a m e w o r k Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement no. PCOFUND-GA-2013-608728’. Her PhD thesis proposed a novel concept for a smart home environment for elderly people with dementia, in the context of care of the elderly in Ireland. cathy.dalton@ucd.ie

CIH chartered membership


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Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



HOMES FOR OLDER PEOPLE     ROSLYN MOLLOY & ANNE CONNOLLY                                    Why do so few older people move house? 85 per cent of those aged over 55 have lived in the same house for more than 20 years. Do they want to live in the same houses or are they forced to inhabit unsuitable homes due to a lack of alternatives? In the spring of 2016, the Housing Agency and the Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange began a research project to determine the current and future housing requirements and aspirations of older people, models of supported housing, policy structures and policy implementation blockages. A representative survey of people aged over 55 found that 88 per cent were very happy in their current homes. The reasons for this contentment had less to do with their dwelling and much more to do with an attachment to location, community, friends and family.

their needs. Some had adaptation features in place already such as ramps (ten per cent), a bedroom on the ground floor (58 per cent) or a toilet and shower on the ground floor (68 per cent). Many are also confident that they could get any needed adaptations made to their home if required in later years. But what of those who want to move? The survey explored what prevents people from making the jump. A clear attachment to community was evident, with over half (54 per cent) saying they wanted to stay living in their community. Another 28 per cent wanted to stay in contact with friends and neighbours. Holding on to the

family home (38 per cent) was also very important. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said they wanted to maintain their own independence and thought moving would decrease their level of independence. Housing needs for people as they age can be viewed as being on a spectrum of care alternatives with older people moving from the family home onto the next home, depending on their needs and the availability of different types of housing. Figure 1: A new taxonomy of housing and care needs of Ireland’s older population

In fact, 21 per cent said that their house impacted negatively ‘a lot’ on their ease of living, and another 13 per cent said it ‘somewhat’ impacted. The solution? The evidence shows that people prefer in the first instance to adapt/adjust their own home to their needs rather than find alternative accommodation more appropriate to

The chart above highlights the lack of alternatives for those in the middle but what type of features would older people most like to see? The four most important features were an independent house or apartment; to feel secure and safe; to be near shops and to have a nurse on site. But is this type of accommodation currently available? The reports’ authors, Ronan Lyons and Lorcan Sirr, estimate that there is potential demand for up to 100,000 ‘independent homes with support’ in Ireland, representing €25 billion of unmet need. Ireland is not alone in failing to meet demand – in the UK a third of over 55s have considered moving to a smaller property but only seven per cent have made the move as the remainder were unable to find suitable properties. Back in Ireland, the provision of longterm nursing home beds increased 49 per cent to 22,342 beds between 2003 and 2014 and it has been predicted that the Fair Deal scheme, in its current funding model, could cost €1.2 billion by 2021 in a 2015 report for Nursing Homes Ireland. The lack of supply is for housing which enables older people to live independently but potentially receive some level of care. Housing that is part of the community, integrated, close to friends, family and support services. Housing that is located in the communities people have lived in for many years. Housing that is in line with policies such as those found in Dublin City Council’s current development plan which aims to “support the concept of independent living and assisted living for older people, to support the provision of specific purpose-built accommodation, and to promote the opportunity for older people to avail of the option of ‘downsizing’”. There are some signs of progress here. Dublin City Council is providing a site in Inchicore where a prototype project will be built. This project of between 50 and 60 apartments for older people will be based on agefriendly design principles in order to

Source: Lyons and Sirr -Housing Agency/ISAX Housing for Older People – Thinking Ahead (2016)

inform a model of good practice. Clare County Council has also recently developed three new housing models for older people, one using a long-term lease for social housing from a private developer, while two other developments were built by the authority. A change in local authority thinking is evident. Officials are not just thinking about the buildings, they are considering services and transport links. Infill sites in communities are being found. Housing for older people is seen as helping rejuvenate towns. Some authorities are mapping their towns and villages using the HSE health atlas to look at the numbers of older people, health services, nursing homes, post offices, Gardai stations, hospitals and the like. The voluntary housing sector has responded by providing supported housing and group homes with supports, within communities. A survey in 2010 carried out by the Irish Council for Social Housing of 176 housing associations found 103 housing associations offering accommodation specifically for older people accounting for 4,432 housing units. The level of support provided was, for the most part, low level. Most schemes had on-call personnel and 29 housing schemes had a warden or caretaker. Only five housing bodies specified that they provided a higher level of support or care to tenants.


Munster has 11 villages, Connaught has five villages and Ulster just two. How to make things better? The report makes the following recommendations: •

housing strategies need to have a multi-decade perspective and integrate demographic trends, to integrate housing patterns with health needs

to ensure that all older people have adequate housing to meet their needs, regardless of income by increasing the supply, options and choices for older people, and

local authority development plans could contain a minimum requirement for age-friendly housing both bespoke – independent and assisted living developments – and general accommodation, including apartment blocks.

A full report on the research can be found on the Housing Agency’s website www.housingagency.ie

Roslyn Molloy, researcher, Housing Agency & Anne Connolly, CEO, ISAX

The picture for the private sector is less positive however. Vincent Collier of Retirement Care Services, which maintains a directory of retirement villages and independent living housing, has a total of 38 independent living with supports/ retirement village schemes listed for the whole of Ireland. In Dublin he says there is no available private independent housing with care with the three existing developments in the capital completely full. Mr Collier blames an absence of tax breaks and high land prices for the lack of development despite pent up demand. Cork City and County Councils list four retirement villages, Leinster (excluding Dublin) lists 13 villages,

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



Q & A WI TH CIH C H A RTERED M E MBER JOHN H A NN I GAN     JOHN HANNIGAN                                   


John, you decided to go for the executive route to chartered membership. What was the experience like and would you recommend it to others? As with most things with CIH the process was great. The support and the guidance enabled me to focus my application and my written submission in such a way as to target the things that were important in my housing career, ensuring I got to the point. As people who know me will tell you I tend to talk a lot, so having that focus both shortened the process and gave a clear focus to what I needed to do and say. The interview with peers was a daunting prospect, especially when you hear that you were also going to be questioned by those peers too! Housing Agency chief executive John O’Connor, CIH director Nicola McCrudden and I did ours at the same time. They are experts in policy with huge experience. The prospect of listening to their interviews and then being questioned by these housing giants was worrying.

However I have to say the panel were excellent at putting us all at ease, giving us the opportunity to draw out our best experiences and highlight our contribution to the area we all love being part of. Would I recommend it? Absolutely! I am now wondering why I left it so long.


What, in your opinion, are the three main skills or personality traits that one requires to become a chartered member? 1. I think one character trait is perseverance. It can take a while for you to build up the experience you need. The wheels of housing can churn slowly and can be very frustrating at times. Stick with it and develop your interests (it’s a wide sector with incredible oppor tunities for diverse experiences – I’ve worked in South Africa, across the disability sector, in the private sector and the not for profit sector) while acknowledging it can take time to access these experiences.

2. Be curious – deepen your knowledge, take things apart and delve into them. Immerse yourself in the learning that comes though housing. I started as a finance professional advising the sector, naive and in some respects innocent of the impact that housing has. I’ve had the privilege of building a career as a housing finance professional, given the opportunity to work in housing development; h o u s i n g m a n a g e m e nt a n d housing leadership; economic development on a local and international scale; and as a housing educator bringing the experiences and teaching of housing policy to a number of countries. All of this gave me the opportunity to deepen my curiosity to broaden my own learning, as well as an appreciation of how housing impacts upon people and the wider world. 3. Be challenging – housing and a career in housing provides the possibility for great innovation. Design, housing management,

facilities maintenance, debt management, tenant participation, finance development are but a few areas that continue to meet and overcome challenges. Sometimes there are local issues and sometimes they reflect national and international policy opportunities (e.g. Brexit) but each requires new consideration, new thinking and innovation to work through. Housing is never boring – each day brings a new challenge, a new opportunity, and generally a new experience that helps us grow as an individual within our career. Never let that opportunity pass. The status quo is only the status quo until it is challenged and changed.


Can you tell us about your career to date how CIH membership has helped you in terms of your work as a housing professional? I have been involved housing since 1989 when I worked for Grant Thornton and provided financial and advisory services to a number of housing associations in the midlands area of England. I thought my career was going in a different direction then but an opportunity arose in Accord Housing to move into the registered social landlord (RSL) sector. I spent five great years with Accord and grew both personally and professionally with the guidance and leadership of Chris Handy, an exceptional leader. I was then offered a position with Focus Housing (now Midland Heart) as group finance director and spent five years with them developing the group. I experienced fantastic opportunities in the capital finance markets under the guidance of Richard Clark, a housing giant at the time. I returned to Ireland in 2003 and joined Respond! as their corporate treasurer (similar to the role of finance director) and spent six years learning from a great visionary Fr Pat Coogan, while getting my first real experience of international work and general management. This spurred me on to my current role as

managing director of Sunbeam House Services, a service provider for people with intellectual disabilities and an approved housing body. I have been fortunate enough to lead and work with a number of national and international advisory panels and committees for governments, and I have developed a wide network of friends and colleagues in the housing and disability sectors as well as the banking and finance sectors. A constant through this time has been CIH. CIH was a place where I could help increase my knowledge and network – not as a member initially but as an interested housing professional. As my career developed and I wanted more formal learning CIH was there to provide this too. Over time I started to get involved with CIH in terms of policy and influencing government. It was not until I returned to Ireland that I became a formal member. I could see that there was nothing in Ireland for housing professionals in terms of a membership organisation. I started discussions with Grainia Long, then director of CIH Northern Ireland about a cross border initiative. We developed the proposition and in 2008 we started the process of setting up an advisory committee in Ireland to see if we could get a membership base established. With some initial success and some innovative thinking from John O’Connor, we were able to establish a small foothold. Since then we have been working with CIH to establish and grow the membership offering for Ireland. I joined the board of CIH Northern Ireland and have been involved ever since. So in terms of consistency the only thing that has almost matched my relationship with my wife and kids has been CIH!



If you could offer just one piece of advice to someone looking to embark on a career as a housing professional what would it be and why? Do it. Allow yourself to become immersed in it. There are so many great opportunities, great experiences and challenges you will never be bored. In Ireland, housing is not really seen as a career path but I can honestly say there are few careers where you will derive as much work satisfaction, opportunity to grow (professionally and personally) or where the diversity of the work you will experience will be as wide. I know, I’ve had many different work experiences and jobs in other sectors, but housing has offered me the opportunity to do all I have wanted to do and I can still see more that I can do over the coming years. It does not matter where you start out – finance, management, maintenance, lettings, allocations, architec t, surveyor, mechanic, admin assistant, nurse, journalist… housing offers you a means to develop yourself and your career.

John Hannigan, managing director, Sunbeam House Services

Housing Ireland | Winter 2017



Housing Ireland | Winter 2017

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Housing Ireland Winter 2017 Issue 11  

A journal for Irish Housing Professionals

Housing Ireland Winter 2017 Issue 11  

A journal for Irish Housing Professionals