Housing Policy Review, 1990-2002

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Title: Housing Policy Review, 1990-2002
Authors: Norris, Michelle
Winston, Nessa
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/5325
Date: 2003
Abstract: This review documents the principal changes to the system of housing provision and to housing policy in Ireland which have taken place since 1990, as well as recent social and economic developments pertaining to housing, and examines the range of market and nonmarket housing options currently available. It is envisaged that this information will be of interest to students of disciplines related to housing such as social policy, public administration, regional and urban planning and architecture, to those who work in the housing field and the members of the general public who have an interest in this area. The latest national partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, commits government to reviewing and reforming several aspects of housing policy and provision in this country, including programmes designed to assist low-income groups, and this document will provide useful background information for this review. By documenting the changes to housing policy and housing provision that have taken place since 1990, it will highlight anomalies or omissions in housing policy and provision, together with the most significant housing related challenges which will face the country in the coming years. It is envisaged that this information will enable policy makers to consider how these issues can be most effectively addressed. The opening chapter of the review highlights several aspects of the system of housing provision in Ireland that are distinctive in the wider European Union (EU) context. For instance the proportion of Irish people who own their own homes is much higher than the EU average, while the proportion who rent is relatively low. Furthermore, in contrast to many other EU member states, most social housing for rent to low-income households in this country is provided by local authorities, rather than non-governmental agencies. The number of dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants in this country is the lowest in the EU, although the Irish housing stock is comparatively young, and it is also distinguished by the high number of standard houses, in contrast to many other EU member states where a large proportion of the housing stock is made up of apartments. Chapter Two reveals that the last decade is distinguished by dramatic changes in the housing system. The years since 1995 have seen marked increases in private house prices (particularly in Dublin), in private sector rents and in social housing need. These trends are related to both economic factors including falling unemployment and rising disposable incomes and demographic factors such as population growth, together with a rise in the number of independent households and falling population size. In response to increased demand, house building rates have increased significantly in recent years, to the extent that housing output in Ireland was proportionately the highest in the EU during 1999, 2000 and 2001. However, private housing output is not concentrated in the parts of the country where demand is highest, while social housing output remains low in historic terms. The second part of the chapter assesses the impact that these changes have had for housing affordability and highlights affordability difficulties in the private rented sector and among lower income households seeking to gain access to the owner occupied sector. Chapter Three sketches the impact which this changing environment had in terms of the evolution of housing policy. The housing policy statements produced by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) in the early years of the decade are mainly concerned with ensuring an adequate supply of housing for the lower income sections of the population, principally by means of providing social rented accommodation. As a result of the high price inflation in the housing market in the late 1990s, the focus had necessarily broadened to the housing needs of the general population and a number of significant interventions in the owner occupied and private rented sectors were introduced. The broadening of the housing policy agenda over this period, together with the increased political priority which it was afforded, also 10 Housing Policy Review 1990-2002 had the effect of moving housing and accommodation issues to the core of the national policy agenda and of accelerating the pace of policy development in this area. Since 1996 eight major policy statements on housing have been issued by the DoEHLG. Furthermore, in contrast to the early 1990s when housing policy development was confined mainly to policy statements from this Department, by the late 1990s it had become a key consideration in most national social and economic policy statements including: the National Development Plan (NDP) for 2000 to 2006, the national agreement negotiated between government and the social partners in 2000 and 2003, and the revised National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) published in 2002. Chapters Four to Seven provide further details of the policy initiatives introduced since 1990 pertinent to the owner occupied, private rented and social rented housing tenures and to households with special housing and accommodation needs. In addition to describing the key features of these initiatives, these chapters also examine the available evidence on their impact on the ground. The key points raised in these chapters are as follows: Chapter Four reveals that the owner occupied sector has seen the greatest number of new initiatives introduced during the period under examination, as four new supports for low-income home buyers have been established since 1990, along with numerous reforms to the more longstanding schemes which target households of this type such as the local authority housing loans and the tenant purchase scheme. The number and variety of the supports now available for low-income home buyers should help to address the full spectrum of need created by the developments in the housing market examined in Chapter Two. However, these complex arrangements obviously raise administrative challenges and there is some variation in the level of take-up of the individual schemes and also over time and geographically. Chapter Five which examines private renting suggests that the longstanding decline of this tenure may have been reversed in recent years. In addition, this sector has recently been the subject of extensive intervention by government on the recommendation of the Commission on the Private Rented Residential Sector that reported in 2000.Many of these interventions are legislated for in the Residential Tenancies Bill which was being considered by the Oireachtas at the time of writing. It is premature to assess the impact of these developments at this stage.However, they have the potential to improve the rights of tenancy of tenants in this sector, address affordability issues and improve housing standards; their achievements in this regard should be kept under review. Chapter Six examines the policy developments in the social rented sector over the last decade. It highlights three principal categories of reform. Firstly, levels of social housing output have been increased significantly since the mid-1990s to meet growing social housing need. Secondly, efforts have been made to diversify the sources of provision, as in addition to increased building of social housing by local authorities, output by voluntary and co-operative bodies has also increased. Thirdly, the social housing policy agenda broadened beyond the traditional focus on matching the quantity of dwellings provided with housing need, and qualitative issues such as the design, planning, management and regeneration of the social rented stock were afforded more attention. These reforms raise a number of challenges for policy makers and practitioners in the housing field. These include: the financing of social housing output; the governance of more complex arrangements for social housing provision and the establishment of systems to assess the success of measures to promote improved social housing design and management. Chapter Seven examines the various supports that are available to the sections of the population with special housing and accommodation needs, e.g. members of the Traveller community, homeless people, older people, people with a disability and asylum seekers and refugees. It reveals that some of these provisions have had a mixed impact in practice and suggests that they merit further examination in order to identify appropriate reforms.
Type of material: Book
Publisher: Stationery Office
Copyright (published version): 2003 Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Keywords: Housing Policy Review
Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice Research Collection
UCD RePEc Archive Collection

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