International Snapshot – The Housing Agency

Our Head of Policy and Sector Development Paula O’Leary catches up with Ireland’s homelessness and housing sector leaders.

During this trip she meets with representatives from The Housing Agency – CEO, Bob Jordan, and National Director of Housing First, Rob Lowth.

Shelter WA members may remember that Bob Jordan lent his support to the launch of Housing First in Western Australia. Bob was our International Keynote Speaker for Homelessness Week 2019, describing the rollout of Housing First in Ireland and providing an overview of the differences in social housing models across Europe, including in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

A National Strategy

The Housing Agency is an Irish State agency with the role of providing expertise and solutions to help deliver sustainable communities throughout Ireland. The Agency supports a wide range of actors in the Irish housing sector, including the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Local Authorities and ‘Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs)’, which are Ireland’s independent, not-for-profit community housing providers. The Agency is playing a major role in supporting the delivery of the Irish Government’s Housing for All National Strategy to 2030.

National Director of Housing First, Rob Lowth, Paula O’Leary, The Housing Agency – CEO, Bob Jordan

National Office for Housing First

The Housing Agency has a deep understanding of the housing sector in Ireland, and a dedicated team with a broad range of experience and skills, including housing policy experts, researchers, architects, engineers, project managers and planners. This allows the Agency to provide high quality housing knowledge to inform decision making; co-ordinate the implementation of Government programmes to address issues of supply and demand; and to build capacity in the sector through education and information. Ireland’s new National Office for Housing First is located at The Housing Agency.

Rob Lowth, National Director of Housing First, said there has been a lot of political backing and buy-in for Housing First as a response to people who are rough sleeping and those who experience long-term homelessness in Ireland. Housing First is a Government initiative jointly led by the Departments of Housing and Health. Permanent homes are provided by local authorities and AHBs, and home visits to Housing First tenants are made by non-governmental organisations and health services. A total of 737 tenancies were in place at the end of June 2022 and the Government’s Housing First National Implementation Plan 2022 – 2026 aims to deliver over 1,300 additional Housing First tenancies. The success rate, in terms of housing retention, is over 85 per cent.

Housing Provision

Bob Jordan explained that social housing is delivered in Ireland by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies with funding provided by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and loans provided by the state-backed Housing Finance Agency. The AHB sector in Ireland has developed a reputation for excellence in terms of housing provision and tenancy management.

There are approximately 450 AHBs with a combined stock of about 45,000 homes. The sector is comprised of a small number of larger AHBs and a lot of smaller AHBs, many of which provide additional services catering to diverse needs, including to people with disabilities, older people, and people exiting homelessness. AHBs were governed by a voluntary code of regulation overseen by The Housing Agency until the end of last year. But since early 2022 the sector has witnessed a major development with the move to mandatory regulation, overseen by the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA).

Paula also visited Peter McVerry Trust, Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Cork City Council and Dublin Simon Community during her trip.