Cost Rental can play a key role in delivering sustainable communities

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John O’Connor

John O’Connor, Chief Executive of the Housing Agency, believes that cost rental can deliver on much needed secure and affordable housing in the Republic of Ireland

The idea of cost rental has been in the media a lot recently. It is a model where the rents charged are linked to the cost of delivering and maintaining the properties, as opposed to being linked to market rents. It aims to ensure that homes are affordable for households with a moderate level of income.

This model has been used, for example, in Austria for the last century. It is considered a critical element of their approach to housing. Vienna regularly scores as having the highest quality of life in global surveys, and their housing is a key element of this high ranking. Given the difficulties we have experienced recently in the provision of housing, what can cost rental offer to achieve affordable and sustainable housing?

The Housing Agency has been looking at ways to provide long-term affordable rental homes for a wide cohort of Irish households with low to middle incomes, who wish to rent. We believe that cost rental public housing should be a major part of the housing we provide and there is a need to establish cost rental in Ireland on a large scale. We must focus on public investment to support communities creating good places to live.

The Agency has committed to a pilot cost-rental model project on a site along the Enniskerry Road near Stepaside in Dublin. For this site, the Agency and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have contracted housing associations Túath and Respond to build 155 apartments, 50 of which are to be cost rental and the remainder designated for social housing. An application submitted by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for Serviced Sites Fund grant funding for this project has also been successful. Tenders for the project have been assessed and the contract is due to be awarded shortly, with construction expected to commence in June.

The Housing Agency is also providing three additional sites for development to the Land Development Agency and is setting specific requirements for the provision of long-term cost rental housing on these sites. One of these is Devoy Barracks in Kildare which the Housing Agency expects to be delivered as a cost-rental model with a minimum of 250 houses and apartments.

These projects will provide very valuable lessons for the development of a national cost rental approach in Ireland and will help to shape the contractual model and specifications for future larger-scale projects. The long-term affordability of completed cost rental homes is largely delivered by putting in place the right structures and supports at the outset of the project. We need to learn from these early projects. Cost rental requires long-term thinking.

We need a steady supply of affordable homes to rent, ones that provide
the type of security and certainty that people need to plan their lives. Cost rental offers this opportunity. And while it brings these great benefits to individuals and families, it also has wider social and economic benefits. This model will provide greater choice to households and help to deliver on sustainable communities. Affordable and secure accommodation is also a key element underpinning our economic competitiveness.

The Housing Agency’s role is to promote the supply of housing to meet current and future requirements. We support the building of sustainable communities to enable everyone to live in good quality, affordable homes.
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