Government must urgently change social housing delivery rules - Eoin Ó Broin TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Eoin Ó Broin TD has said that 'Government must urgently change the rules for social housing delivery if they are to meet their modest targets contained in the Housing Action Plan.' His comments were made at the launch of a Sinn Féin policy briefing recommending changes to the Department of Housing approval, tendering and procurement regime for social housing.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
"In 2015 only 75 new social houses were built by Local authorities. So far this year only 103 units have been completed.
"Despite attempts by Enda Kenny and others to blame local authorities for the low level of output the responsibility lies at the Governments door.
"The Department of Housing imposes cumbersome approval, tendering and procurement rules on Councils that delays the delivery of social housing by up to 24 months.
"These rules need to change urgently if Government is to deliver even their modest targets contained in the Housing Action Plan.
"When I was a member of South Dublin County Council we approved planning permission for a number of social housing projects at the end of 2013 and again in 2014. These were for three small infill housing schemes totalling 56 units in North and South West Clondalkin.
"Three years on and these projects are still stuck in a bureaucratic four stage approval process with the Department. We now expect the schemes to go on site early 2017 and be tenanted at the end of 2017.
"This is not an acceptable situation. While Minister Coveney is tinkering around with the planning process in his as yet unpublished Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill the real problems persist in his Department. The Minister would be better placed cutting red tape in his own department before undermining the private sector planning process.
"Sinn Féin believe that the approval, tendering and procurement process for social housing must be substantially shortened. This can be done without undermining transparency and building quality. The policy briefing paper we are launching today contains four key recommendations.
"Sinn Féin believes a one stage approval process could be put in place, instead of the current four stage process. It would be ran on the basis of reporting by exception instead of engaging in a time consuming back and forth with the Department.
"This would be complemented with the creation of a new integrated design and build framework agreement. This would cover the design and construction of new builds, and would be suitable for a long term programme of work cutting down on onerous tendering procedures.
"Thirdly, in order to enable local authorities and Associated Housing Bodies to deliver social housing programmes as quickly as possible the Department of Housing should provide them with, in principle, funding approval for six years to cover the period of the government’s Housing Plan. This would ensure an economic dividends for communities that suffer high levels of unemployment and socio economic deprivation.
"Our fourth recommendation is social clauses to be inserted into public contracts to ensure that a percentage of the workforce is taken directly from the live register and that a percentage of the suppliers are taken from firms below a certain size.
"The Department needs to be more proactive in reviewing and amending its own procedures, and see how it can help to unblock and streamline the social housing building process."