knowledge | 8 July 2020 |

The Programme for Government: Property, Infrastructure and Development

The Programme for Government, formally adopted by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party on 27 June 2020, is a high-level ambitious plan for Government policy. It gives a strong indication of the priorities of the newly formed coalition Government and the actions proposed to achieve those. In this briefing we highlight the key policies proposed for property, infrastructure and development.

The Economy: National Recovery & Development Plans

A July stimulus package and new national plans for the economy and public spending on infrastructure are proposed. These will target and support labour intensive and sustainable projects to support employment and economic recovery while also fulfilling climate action targets. An increased focus on, and investment in, transport is part of this.

Area

Pledges

"July Stimulus"

A series of immediate actions to support the economy, this will include a Recovery Fund to be available for 2020, 2021 and 2022 to fund investment for both current and capital projects such as housing, retrofitting and public and active transport; the treatment of commercial rates for the remainder of 2020; and a code of conduct between landlords and tenants for commercial rents.

National Economic Plan

A National Economic Plan will be devised, in conjunction with Budget 2021 and will include a new National Retrofitting Plan – see further detail on this below.

National Development Plan

A review of the National Development Plan (setting out proposals for public infrastructure projects and capital spending) is to be brought forward from 2022, updated for the period up to 2031 and aligned with the National Planning Framework.

Transport

A new target is proposed to expend at a 2:1 ratio between new public transport infrastructure and new roads over the lifetime of the Government; and to give greater priority to bus services by expanding quality bus corridors. There is to be an allocation of 10% each of the total transport capital budget for cycling projects and pedestrian infrastructure. Plans for the delivery of Metrolink, Luas and other light rail expansion, DART expansion and interconnector and Bus Connects in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick are to be prioritised as well as a park and ride implementation plan for Dublin, Galway, Cork, Waterford and Limerick. Existing strategies for cities such as the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, the Galway Transport Strategy and the draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport will be developed and implemented as well as other projects progressing through planning. The Government also proposes to legislate to ban the registration of new fossil-fuelled cars and light vehicles from 2030 onwards; to phase out diesel and petrol cars from Irish cities from 2030; and to regulate e-scooters and e-bikes.

Climate Action, Environment and Planning, and the Built Environment

Climate concerns are threaded through each section of the Programme for Government. In our separate briefing on energy (accessible here), we consider the relevant pledges for the energy sector. Below, we focus on broader climate action, environmental and planning pledges; along with connected proposals to further regulate the built environment.

Area

Pledges

Climate Change:

Climate Action (Amendment) Bill,
Common Agricultural Policy (“CAP”), Carbon Tax

The Government have pledged to introduce a Climate Action (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil within 100 days to: (i) set a target to decarbonise the economy by 2050 at the latest; (ii) make the adoption of five-year carbon budgets, setting maximum emissions by sector, a legal requirement; (iii) establish the Climate Action Council on an independent statutory footing and ensure greater gender balance and increased scientific expertise in its membership; and (iv) ban the sale of new and the importation of second hand petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

A well-funded CAP transition period; a new CAP to maintain investment levels in the rural economy and safeguard direct payments; and reforms to the CAP to promote and support more sustainable actions are planned.

The Government intends to increase the carbon tax to €100 per tonne by 2030.

Environment:

Forestry,
Water

A new strategy to expand afforestation (particularly Close to Nature Forestry and agro-forestry) is proposed. It is stated that this will be designed to implement the MacKinnon Report on the Review of Approval Processes for Afforestation in Ireland [link] and will review the forestry appeals process to ensure the licensing system is sufficiently resourced to clear the existing backlog.

It is proposed to retain Irish Water as a national, standalone regulated entity which is sufficiently funded; and to mandate Irish Water to develop plans to ensure security of supply and sufficient capacity in drinking and wastewater networks to allow for balanced regional development.

Planning:

Planning and Environmental Law Court,
"Use it or Lose it" Condition,
Town Centres First Approach,
Vacant Sites Levy,
Compulsory Purchase Orders

The Government plans to review and reform the judicial review process, and establish a new Planning and Environmental Law Court managed by specialist judges on the same basis as the existing Commercial Court model.

On planning more generally, the Government has stated that it intends to establish a Town Centres First collaborative and strategic approach to the regeneration of Irish villages and towns.1 It also proposes adding a “use it or lose it” condition for all planning applications of ten units of more.

The enforcement of the Vacant Site Levy is to be strengthened with the legislation kept under review. The Government also plan to reform and consolidate Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) laws to make them easier for local authorities to use; and to grant CPO powers to the Land Development Agency.

Energy Efficiency Standards for Data Centres

Efficiency standards are proposed for equipment and processes, particularly those set to grow rapidly such as Data Centres.

Public Sector Strategy

A new Public Sector Decarbonisation strategy for 2030 is pledged. This is to include the development of policies to ensure greater use of energy performance contracts within the public service and set a public sector decarbonisation target of at least 50%.

Built Environment:

Retrofitting,
Energy Efficiency,
Targets,
Heat Pumps,
Building Energy Ratings

The Government have pledged to develop a new area-based and one-stop-shop approach to retrofitting to upgrade at least 500,000 homes to a B2 energy rating by 2030,2 to designate a National Retrofitting Delivery Body by the end of 2020; and roll out a national retrofitting scheme following evaluation of pilot schemes in early 2021. This is tied in with a pledge to develop a new National Energy Efficiency Action Plan; and to take action to drive energy efficiency upgrades in rented properties and commercial building stock.

An amended Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme is proposed, to boost the supply of retrofits by increasing the targets which obligated parties must deliver, including for domestic homes and those in energy poverty.

A targeted programme to install heat pumps in homes that are already suitable for the technology as part of a plan to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2030 is planned.

It is proposed to take steps to increase the number of homes and businesses with Building Energy Ratings (BER) and Display Energy Certificates (DEC), and using this data to increase the number of home and business being retrofitted.

Building Standards Regulator

The Government has stated it will examine the creation of an independent Building Standards Regulator to oversee building control nationwide and to act as custodian of the Building Control Management System, and examine the re-establishment of the Building Regulatory Advisory Body.

Housing for All

There is a renewed commitment to State involvement in the delivery of social and affordable housing. It is clear that there will be a much enhanced role for the Land Development Agency and local authorities. A new Commission on Housing will be established to examine issues such as tenure, standards, sustainability, and quality of life issues in the provision of housing. In seeking to deliver housing, it is clear that there is a strong drive to ensure that construction methods are as efficient as they can be and where possible property is retrofitted.

Area

Pledges

Public and Social Housing

The social housing stock is to be increased by over 50,000 over the next five-years, with the majority to be built by local authorities, approved housing bodies (AHBs) and State agencies. The Land Development Agency (LDA) is to be central to assembling strategic sites in urban areas and ensuring sustainable development of social and affordable homes for rent and purchase quickly and at scale, using local supply chains and labour to increase community gain. It will be equipped with CPO powers. Any State lands being offered for sale, will automatically first be offered to the LDA. Local authority discretionary funding is to increase from €2m to €6m for social housing projects. A package of reforms will be introduced to ensure AHBs can access finance and move off balance sheet.

Affordable Homes

A State-backed affordable home purchase scheme is to be progressed. Proposals include extending the Serviced Sites Fund; providing seed capital to local authorities to provide serviced sites at cost in towns and villages; retaining and expanding the Help to Buy scheme for new and self-build properties; expanding the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan; exploring expansion of Part V Planning Acts obligations to encompass affordable purchase and cost rental units; strengthening the Mortgage to Rent scheme; and ensuring Home Building Finance Ireland is funding SME builders and helping to bring down the cost of construction finance.

Rental Sector

Improving the position of renters is a priority in the Programme. Measures to achieve this include development of a cost rental model for the delivery of public housing for rent that is sustainable and also affordable for tenants, such as the ‘Vienna Model’. There is also to be a continuation of reform of residential tenancies legislation to provide greater security of tenure for tenants and enhance the role of the Residential Tenancies Board.

Mortgages

The Government is to work to increase the availability of long-term fixed rate mortgages. Other intentions expressed in the Programme include examining in 2020 the international experience of state-backed mortgages for first-time buyers; strengthening the Mortgage to Rent Scheme; and reviewing the codes and supports in place for mortgage holders with repayment difficulties. There is also a proposal to examine the development of green mortgages and financial products to assist in the upgrade and retrofit of energy efficient homes.

Owner's Management Companies

A review of the existing multi-unit development legislation will be undertaken to ensure it works and is in the best interests of residents.

Housing Defects

The issue of defective housing will be reviewed (in the first twelve months) and reforms introduced to improve remedies for home owners dealing with defects (as well as ensuring the remediation fund for Pyrite and Mica is fully drawn down).

Conclusion

The Programme for Government runs to 139 pages of proposals. For those engaged with real estate, planning, or construction, there are a number of general take-home points. New national plans for the economy and public spending on infrastructure will be focussed on projects to support economic recovery while also fulfilling climate action targets. Transport, energy efficiency and retrofit of buildings feature strongly. There is a renewed commitment to State involvement in the delivery of social and affordable housing. We may see new entities emerge such as a new Commission on Housing, an independent Building Standards Regulator and a new Planning and Environmental Law Court. For further information or advice on how the Programme might affect your business, please feel free to get in touch.

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  1. This approach has previously been implemented in Scotland.
  2. This pledge, similar to the pledge on heat pumps was previously made by the out-going government in the Climate Act Plan 2019 (link here). See our briefing here.

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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