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Construction work underway on new houses and apartments in Citywest Sasko Lazarov/
new dwellings

Over 1,000 homes being bought by local authorities as part of tenant in situ scheme, Varadkar says

The government has set a target of 1,500 properties to be acquired under the tenant-in situ-scheme.

LAST UPDATE | 26 Apr 2023

MORE THAN 1,000 homes are being bought by local authorities as part of the tenant in situ scheme, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said. 

As part of its measures to mitigate the lifting of the eviction ban, the government said last month the tenant in situ scheme will be expanded with the Department of Housing to finance the purchases.

It has set a target for 1,500 properties to be acquired under the scheme, which sees councils step in and purchase a privately rented property where a landlord is looking to sell – representing a significant increase on the past target of 200 properties per year. 

At tonight’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Varadkar said more than 1,000 homes are being bought by local authorities as part of the scheme. 

He said the target of 1,500 properties will be achieved and may be surpassed.

Government ministers yesterday signed off on a plan to try to accelerate the building of new homes and the refurbishment of vacant ones in an update to its Housing for All strategy.

Regarding the plan, the Taoiseach said this evening that the country is now experiencing the highest draw down on first time mortgages since 2005 and this is due to three main factors – increased supply, help to buy and the first home scheme.

The meeting heard that house prices in Ireland have almost certainly peaked and the average house price is expected to fall this year.

CSO figures

New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) released today show that more than a third of homes built in the first three months of 2023 were apartments.

The CSO examined “new dwelling completions”, which are described as recently constructed self-contained units of living accommodation.

There were 6,716 new dwelling completions during January, February and March – representing a 19.1% increase over the same period in 2022.

There was a 41% rise in apartment completions compared with the same three months last year, to 2,427.

This means apartment completions in the quarter were more than double what they were three years ago and more than five times higher than five years ago.

More than a third of all completions in the first quarter of 2023 were in Dublin, including more than three-quarters of all apartment completions.

The highest number of completions by local electoral area was 332 in Rathfarnham-Templeogue.

CSO statistician Justin Anderson said: “Six of the eight regions of Ireland saw an increase in completions from Q1 2022 to Q1 2023, with small drops just in the Midlands (Laois, Longford, Offaly, and Westmeath) and South East (Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford) regions.

“The relative increase was greatest in the South West (Cork City and County, and Kerry) at 37.3% and the West (Galway City and County, Mayo, and Roscommon) at 30.7%.”

Building plans

Under the update to the Housing for All strategy signed off by ministers yesterday, funding for new apartment construction will be made through the Land Development Agency under the cost-rental system. 

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that work will begin on cost-rental developments that have planning permission but are not currently being progressed.

The cost-rental initiative aims to provide long-term, secure tenancies with rents that start at 25% below the average local area rent. 

For a person to apply for cost-rental properties, the net household income must be  below €53,000 per annum and they must not be in receipt of any social housing supports. 

It is understood there are no plans to modify the income threshold under the new changes. Last year, 684 cost-rental units were delivered through local authorities, housing bodies and the LDA. 

The plan also includes an increase in grants for the restoration of empty homes and making it easier to apply for such grants.

One of the more controversial measures is the scrapping of the development levies for developers and whether there is enough safeguards to ensure that the cost-cutting measure is passed on to the buyer. 

At Leaders’ Questions yesterday afternoon, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the measures announced today “see Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil continue to tinker around the edges of this emergency”.

“Your big idea to hand private developers €1 billion of public money with absolutely no detail is back of the envelope, threadbare stuff. And worse still Taoiseach, no guarantee that it will deliver genuinely affordable homes to rent or buy and not one extra cent for local authorities or approved housing bodies,” she said.

“We need private builders building homes that ordinary people can afford to buy, but government over-reliance on the private sector is not the answer. The answer to the housing crisis, the game-changing answer, is for the State to intervene directly to build thousands of homes on public land.

“What we need is for Government to initiate a massive scaling up in affordable and social housing.”

In response, Varadkar said the Government is building public housing. 

“We are building public housing. We built more social housing last year than any year since the 1970s. More than Sinn Féin has ever built in Northern Ireland. We’re going to build more again this year and that’s our commitment. We’re doing all of those things.”

He said the Government is likely to meet its overall housing supply targets this year, “with more than 29,000 new homes expected to be built this year and that doesn’t include student accommodation, it doesn’t include derelict homes being brought back into use”.

“But we need to do more. We understand the scale and depth of the crisis. We understand that people are suffering and that’s why we decided as a Government to do more today. ”

Includes reporting by Lauren Boland, Christina Finn and Press Association

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