Shared Equity Scheme should increase access to new homes

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New Homes: Review of the Year

With approximately 21,000 completions forecast before the end of the year, the New Homes home building sector has demonstrated incredible agility and capacity given the annus horribilis of lockdowns, supply chain challenges and policy interventions. Many of the systemic changes muted are at conception stage. Ivan Gaine looks back, and ahead to what’s in store for 2022 and beyond.

 

2021 has been a year of change. Major policy interventions are being introduced and will impact on how housing is planned and delivered and will ultimately have impact for decades to come. From adjustments to stamp duty rates to planning reform, de-zoning and rent controls, judicial reviews and development plan challenges: the sector has been hit with waves and variants – a bit like the pandemic. One of the greatest problems for home building has been the global supply chain, which has created hold ups and cost increases across the board.

It is easy to forget that the entire private home building sector was locked down for more than three months this year. The proportionate delivery of public and private housing is skewed as a result of Covid as social housing projects continued whilst private housing projects were locked out.

A sense of urgency

All these changes and systemic issues have led to heated debate and hysteria amongst many commentators. This, in turn, has fed a sense of additional urgency among aspiring home buyers. It is vital for us all as a sector to be more empathetic to the needs and perspectives of all those who are affected. We need to create a sustainable environment, a sustainable planning system and a sustainable market to deliver homes for all, whether for sale or for rent.

Whilst not perfect, the Government’s Housing for All Plan is robust. Containing detailed targets and more than 200 action points, it does demonstrate ambition, not least to double annual housing output by the end of the decade and build more than 300,000 homes. To see this through, both public and private sectors will need to improve their collaboration and engagement.

Hope for buyers – some initiatives within H4All

Help-to-buy, has supported almost 30,000 new home owners. Of the more than 7,000 new home sales we have managed over the past five years, over 80% have been  below the Help-to-buy threshold. The timing of the review will be important. Get it wrong, and buyers will feel additional pressure to ‘use it or lose it’.

Meanwhile, we await the announcement of the full details of the Shared Equity Scheme. Recently approved by the Central Bank, this much misunderstood initiative will widen market access. Repayments will be affordable, typically at around 21% of the net disposal income, and should activate the building of more new homes than have been otherwise possible or indeed viable.

Managed by the LDA, Project Tosaigh, is at expressions of interest stage. Aimed at providing up to 5,000 cost rental and affordable units, with a big communication effort required on the merits of the new cost rental tenure. Cost rental is a private tenure and will support households with incomes of €45,000 to €80,000, with typical rental payments set at up to 30% of net income.

The Croí Conaithe (Cities) Fund, managed by the Housing Agency, includes a subvention of up to 20% (equivalent of VAT and levies) to support the delivery of owner-occupier apartments.

One more element of the Plan to note is the National Downsizing Strategy. Handled right, it could be meaningful and help to create more fluidity & efficiency in the housing stock.

Challenges and the future

Considerable liquidity and funding will be required to deliver the Plan: €250bn to €300bn will need to be invested across the residential sector over the next nine years. This figure will require the participation of owner occupiers and investors of all sizes, as well as the State. The Central Bank mortgage rules have a role to play, but constrain liquidity and are hugely conservative (forcing many to rent), Irish society needs much greater liquidity and other jurisdictions benefit from more varied controls.

The challenges of lockdowns, reactionary policy changes and supply chain issues have delayed many development projects in the year past, but there is hope and some ‘pent-up supply’ due to come through in 2022. We have visibility, of a number of significant new housing developments which should come to the market next year with completions picking up a pace from 2022 and beyond. Most forecasts suggest an uplift of some 24% to 26,000 homes being completed in 2022.

The type and location of new homes being built is set to change too. Design and much needed sustainability innovations are a hallmark of a number of exciting new projects. The working from home phenomenon has led to a desire for larger homes, and there is also strengthening demand outside the Capital, as people are choosing to find more space and choice in the other cities particularly Cork, Galway and Limerick.

The problems we encounter within the housing system here are not uniquely Irish. Economies across the world are facing similar challenges both political and economic. We start the year with a new Plan, and whilst the devil will be in the detail, we can all play a part in its successful delivery.

 

 

Ivan Gaine is Managing Director of Sherry FitzGerald New Homes, Council Member of Property Industry Ireland and a member of the Practice & Policy Group with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland