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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 59-62
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Issues
 Header Item Electoral Divisions Report
 Header Item NAMA Social Housing Provision
 Header Item Dormant Accounts Fund Administration

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 59-62

Local Authority Housing Issues

 59. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if his attention has been drawn to the recent call by NABCO and ICSH for investment in social housing which would support jobs; and if he is considering any proposals to undertake an investment package in social housing which would increase housing stock, improve conditions and create jobs. [27058/13]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Government’s housing policy statement, published in June 2011, clearly identifies that the priority for Government will be to meet the most acute needs of households applying for social housing support. I am determined to ensure that the social housing programme optimises the delivery of social housing and the return for the resources invested. To achieve this, it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing conditions and explore the full range of solutions to address housing needs.

  In terms of addressing the demand for social housing, my Department’s social housing capital budget has been reduced from €1.535 billion in 2008 to €287 million in 2013 and the financial parameters within which we will be operating for the coming years rule out a return to large capital funded construction programmes.

  The Government is committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to social housing support needs through a variety of mechanisms, including through increased provision of social housing. In July 2012, I announced details of a three-year funding programme of €100 million to deliver some 800 new units of voluntary and local authority owned social housing. I am monitoring expenditure under my Department’s housing programme for 2013, together with the level of contractual commitments extending into 2014, with a view to a decision later this year on approving some limited new construction and house purchases over the period to end 2014.

In line with the Government’s Housing Policy Statement which was published in 2011, delivery of social housing will be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and leasing but the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. My Department is actively engaged with various interested parties in this respect.

  There is also obvious potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government’s objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). My Department and the Housing Agency are engaged with NAMA in identifying suitable housing units for social purposes and this process is on-going. These deliberations have also identified suitably located sites which require substantial works to finish out and NAMA is investing accordingly thus bringing about obvious benefits in terms of job creation.

  Earlier this year, I introduced a new €10 million energy retrofitting measure for older local authority dwellings, based around roof and wall insulation and with the potential to reduce energy bills by around €400 per year. Last week the Government committed to providing an additional €50 million to accelerate this programme and ensure that up to 25,000 homes are fully insulated and draught-proofed by mid-2015. In addition to providing immediate benefits to the families concerned, this new investment package has the capacity to create approximately 1,000 new jobs and reduce carbon emissions by some 30,000 tonnes per year – an important contribution to Ireland’s climate change strategy.   

  The Housing Policy Statement specifically identifies approved housing bodies (AHBs), such as those represented by ICSH and NABCO, as key partners in the delivery of social housing. This recognises both the constrained funding levels available for local authority construction programmes and the capacity and track-record of the voluntary and cooperative housing sector.

AHBs are uniquely placed to help drive the achievement of the housing supply responses set out in the policy statement. However, the move from capital funded programmes of construction and acquisition by approved housing bodies to more revenue funded options presents challenges for them. As such, I am developing an enabling regulatory framework for the sector that will provide support and assurance both to the sector itself and to its external partners as it takes on the expanded role envisaged for it in the policy statement.   

  The development of a regulatory framework will take time. In the meantime, I am engaging with the sector on the development of a voluntary regulation code which, I would hope, most approved housing bodies will sign up to over time and I expect to publish a final version of this code in the coming weeks.

  My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, is also exploring a range of options for external investment in social housing including, inter alia, social housing bonds and social impact bonds. Such options are still in development. In some instances, this could potentially enable sizeable lending by the European Investment Bank and others to the AHB sector.   

  Taken together, this package of direct Exchequer investment, new funding models and the creation of an environment that will encourage new external lending to the sector is a flexible response to the challenge of meeting social housing need in the most trying of economic circumstances.

Electoral Divisions Report

 60. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the status of the report on the Constituency Commission produced in June 2012 recommending no changes to electoral boundaries for European Parliament elections; in view of a decision taken at European level to reduce Ireland’s number of MEPs from 12 to 11 at the next European Parliament elections in 2014, the implications it has on the report; if he is considering forming a new Commission to report on electoral boundaries for next year’s European Parliament elections in view of the number of constituencies needing to be revised; if the new report will be taking submissions from the public in a suitable timeframe as per all previous Constituency Commission reports on Dáil and European Parliament boundaries; when submissions will be taken from the public regarding the boundaries; when the Commission will be reporting to the Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26847/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Constituencies for European Parliament elections were most recently reported on in the 2012 Constituency Commission Report, where no change to the existing arrangement of European Parliament constituencies was recommended. At the time of that report there was no change to the number of members to be elected in Ireland. However, with the accession of Croatia to the European Union this year, there is a need to adjust the distribution of seats in the European Parliament. This is done on the initiative of the European Parliament which adopted a resolution on 13 March 2013 on the composition of the European Parliament for the 2014 – 2019 term. That resolution includes a reduction, from twelve to eleven, in the number of representatives to be elected in Ireland. The matter will next go to the European Council for decision by unanimity and with the consent of the European Parliament.

In the event that the number of MEPs to be elected to represent Ireland is reduced it will be necessary to review and revise the constituency arrangement. This can be addressed once decisions are made in Europe. In the meantime my Department is giving consideration to how such a review might be carried out having regard to the provisions of the relevant legislation. In that context, the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2013, currently being drafted, will provide for necessary amendments to the Electoral Act 1997.

NAMA Social Housing Provision

 61. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide an update in the delivery of the National Asset Management Agency social housing; the cost to date to the State; and the amount it is estimated that the return of each unit will cost local authorities when the leasing arrangement ends. [27056/13]

 67. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of units from the National Asset Management Agency housing stock that have been taken under control by local authorities; and the number that are occupied at this moment in time. [27057/13]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 67 together.

To the end of Quarter 1 2013, the transition of 263 properties from the NAMA portfolio has been completed, with contracts signed in respect of a further 76 properties. All but 24 of the 263 completed units are being made available for people deemed by the local authorities to be in need of housing. These 24 units were part of a project of 58 apartments delivered in Sandyford with the other 34 apartments delivered for social housing use. The 76 contracted properties are units where a local authority or approved housing body has signed legal contracts to take possession of properties once fitting out or other works have been completed. These works are ongoing. In addition, a further 1,198 housing units are either under consideration or under negotiation.

The current average cost of NAMA units brought into operation to date is €820 per unit per month. There is no cost to the State for an authority or approved housing body when returning a unit to its owner, if it is returned in the same condition, less fair wear and tear, as when leased.

Dormant Accounts Fund Administration

 62. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when it is hoped to publish the next dormant accounts disbursement plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28057/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Disbursement Plan of 2009, put in place by the former Dormant Accounts Board, will be replaced later this year by a new disbursement scheme in accordance with the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2012. My Department is consulting with relevant Government Departments and other stakeholders as appropriate in relation to the preparation of the new scheme; the scheme will be submitted to Government for approval and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas which will have 21 days to consider it.

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