Thursday, 16 September 2021
Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters
I thank Deputy O'Sullivan for raising this very important issue. The recent launch of Housing for All demonstrates the absolute commitment of this Government to ensure that affordable, quality housing is available to everyone in Irish society, including those with disabilities and our older people.
The commitment was also reflected in the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future, in which we set out to ensure that there is an appropriate mix of housing design types provided within social housing, including universally designed units and accommodation for older people and people with disabilities. Local authorities are responsible for the planning and provision of social housing in their areas and, therefore, decide the number of specific types of dwellings to provide in their developments based on identified need. At national level, we are determined to ensure that they will have the funding and resources to deliver the housing that is needed and that houses provided will meet the standards of those who need them most.
We are ensuring that the ambition of Housing for All is translated into clear, target-driven local authority delivery action plans. The housing delivery action plans will set out how dedicated social housing provision for older people and people with disabilities will be delivered and including social housing delivery partners, matching the scale and extent of housing need identified and having regard to the forecast in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage's July 2021 disability capacity review.
It should be emphasised that social housing in Ireland is built to an exceptionally high standard and that is evident right around the country. The design standards are set out in Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities: Design Guidelines. In preparing these guidelines, particular account was taken of the objectives of Government policy on sustainability, including access for people with disabilities and meeting the varied needs of occupants through their lifetime. The design approach on social housing seeks to eliminate barriers of accessibility for all users, particularly older people and those with mobility impairment or other disabilities. Where units are being designed for those with disabilities, the guidelines refer to the National Disability Authority publication, Building for Everyone: Inclusion, Access and Use.
More recently, the Housing Agency published a roadmap entitled Designing Housing to Meet the Needs of All, which has specific regard to the principles of universal design. Of course, all new buildings and extensions or material alterations to existing buildings must comply with the legal minimum performance standards set out in the building regulations, of which part M aims to ensure visibility for all.
To further explore the potential design of accessibility in new housing units and housing more generally, the National Disability Authority is currently preparing policy advice and completing a cost-benefit analysis of achieving universal design solutions in housing action under action 97 of the National Disability Strategy 2017-2021.
My Department is participating in a technical group convened to undertake the development of a comprehensive economic and social evaluation of universal design models. Recently I attended the Oireachtas committee dealing with housing for people with disabilities and-or older persons and the challenges they face. We have significantly increased funding in our local authorities through our mobility grant mechanisms and through those for our older persons to try to support independent living and accessibility in people's homes where they most need it and where the most vulnerable need to be protected. I assure the Deputy we are fully committed to this.
As I go around the country to see the new housing builds, it is incredible to see the future-proof mechanisms attached in each to try to prepare for the future, as families and our needs change. I hope more people have that opportunity to be independently housed in their own homes for longer.