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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 257 - 290
 Header Item Broadcasting Sector Regulation
 Header Item Redundancy Payments
 Header Item Broadcasting Service Provision
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Regeneration Projects Status
 Header Item Household Charge Exemptions
 Header Item Household Charge Exemptions
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility
 Header Item Leader Programmes Funding
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Rents
 Header Item Household Charge Exemptions
 Header Item Energy Schemes Issues
 Header Item Household Charge Collection
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme Applications

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 775 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 257 - 290

Broadcasting Sector Regulation

 275. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if, in view of the digital dividend which will arise from the cessation of the analogue TV signals and the freeing up of the radio spectrum between 790 MHZ and 862 MHZ, his views on the progress of the auction of this infrastructure; and if he will provide assurances, notwithstanding the statutory function of ComReg in this area, that the dividend will benefit homes and businesses in rural as well as urban areas as outlined in the Programme for Government. [40632/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The management of the radio spectrum is a statutory function of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) under the Communications Regulation Act, 2002 as amended.

  ComReg set out the process it has adopted for the award of rights of use for radio frequencies in the 800Mhz, 900Mhz and 1800Mhz bands in its information memorandum and associated documents (ComReg document 12/52). These documents also set out the reasons, analysis and other material relied upon by ComReg in support of its substantive decisions regarding the minimum coverage and rollout requirements for the rights of use to be granted in the award process.

  The Deputy will be aware that the auction is ongoing and that due to the extremely commercially sensitive nature of the process, I cannot comment further on its progress at this time.

  The auction is one of three interrelated components to the Government’s proposed programme to deliver high speed broadband to all areas in Ireland. In the first instance, the National Broadband Plan which I launched last month sets the targets for high speed broadband and outlines the actions which Government and industry will take to achieve them. Secondly, the spectrum auction will release valuable new spectrum into the Irish market and is therefore, a vital step allowing telecommunications operators to provide advanced 4G wireless broadband services and finally, the decision by ComReg on the regulation of next generation broadband access. The confluence of these three key policy, operational and regulatory reforms will define the delivery and availability of high speed broadband to all areas of Ireland as envisaged in the Programme for Government.

Redundancy Payments

 276. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the reason that when Bord Na Móna made a number of employees redundant in September 1992 the company's superannuation committee instead of preserving the pensions of the redundant employees reimbursed them their contributions minus tax; and the reason that no employers contributions were included in the pension reimbursement. [40634/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I have no statutory function in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy.

  I have asked Bord na Móna to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Broadcasting Service Provision

 277. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte his plans to make Saorview channels available on FreeSat;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40729/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In the UK, the public service channels for example BBC and Channel 4, are obliged to provide their channels throughout the UK freely over a digital platform. They have chosen to do this in two ways – using both a digital terrestrial network and also using satellite. Their satellite service, Freesat, is intended to provide for reception to the UK only but also covers Ireland through overspill.

  In order to overcome copyright issues which are associated with broadcasting, the UK channels must purchase the rights to show their acquired content in Ireland as well as the UK. The copyright costs are proportional to TV viewer numbers so the additional cost for acquiring the rights to broadcast in Ireland is small. As an alternative approach, the UK could choose to encrypt the satellite service so that it could not be received in Ireland or elsewhere.

  For the Irish channels to be freely available on the same satellite as the UK channels, the issue of copyright also arises. Irish stations would need to acquire copyright throughout the footprint area of the satellite, in the UK as well as Ireland, or to provide an encrypted service. RTÉ has informed us that both options are prohibitively expensive and that they have no plans to seek to place Saorview channels on Freesat.

In Ireland RTÉ has chosen to build its free to air digital network over two platforms - over a digital terrestrial network (SAORVIEW) and over satellite (SAORSAT). SAORVIEW is available to 98% of the population whilst SAORSAT has 100% coverage, covering only Ireland.

  RTÉ has informed us that with SAORSAT it is possible to pick up the UK Freesat TV channels as well as the Irish TV channels by using a second Low Noise Block Down converter Feedhorn (LNBF) which is correctly aligned. SAORSAT therefore provides a mechanism whereby both Saorview and Freesat TV channels can be received.

  Further information on SAORSAT is available at: www.rtenl.ie/broadcast/saorsat-digital-television.html.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 278. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if local authorities are entitled to withhold grant payments to students whose parents may or may not have paid the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40695/12]

 283. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his views on a report that Clare County Council is linking the payment of third level grants to non payment of the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40175/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 283 together.

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislation underpinning the household charge. Under the legislation, it is a function of a local authority to collect the household charges and associated late payment penalties due to it and all such charges and late payment penalties imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned. In this regard, application of the legislation in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. Section 7 of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (No. 2) Act 1983 provides that where a sum is due to a local authority in respect of a charge under any enactment and at the same time, another sum is due by the local authority to the same person, the local authority may set-off the money owing to it against the money it pays out. Local authorities are thus legally empowered to withhold money due to an individual if that person owes unpaid charges to the local authority . However, this does not apply to higher education grants, which are administered by local authorities on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. The Student Support Act 2011 does not provide for withholding the payment of a student grant on foot of non-payment of the household charge.

I am aware that Clare County Council recently issued letters in relation to the disbursal of higher education grants and asked in the letter for applicants to indicate if the household charge had been paid in respect of the relevant household. I understand that the question was added in order to facilitate the local authority’s information gathering in respect of collection of the household charge and was not linked to the assessment of grant applications, which will be processed in the normal way. No moneys have been withheld by any local authority in respect of higher education grants.

Regeneration Projects Status

 279. Deputy Seán Kenny Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when the remaining phase of maisonette remedial works (details supplied) in Dublin 17 will commence; and the timescale for the completion of the project. [40106/12]

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 My Department issued budget approval of some €3.6 million to Dublin City Council for this project in 2012.

  It is a now matter for Dublin City Council to progress the project to construction stage. I understand the City Council expect work to commence later this year and anticipate a completion date of mid-2013.

Household Charge Exemptions

 280. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the steps being taken to protect tenants from paying the household charge in an instance in which the landlord wrongly imposes the charge on a tenant. [40116/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislation underpinning the household charge. Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

  Section 1 of the Act provides a definition of “owner” for the purposes of the Act, which, in relation to a residential property, means—   

(a) a person (other than a mortgagee not in possession) who—   
(i) in the case of a residential property that is let under a lease or held under a tenancy for a term not exceeding 20 years, is entitled to receive the rent under that lease or tenancy whether in his or her own right or as trustee or agent for another person, or
(ii) in the case of a residential property that is not so let or so held, would, subject to paragraph (b), be so entitled if the residential property were so let or so held, whether in that person’s own right or as trustee or agent for another person,
or   

(b) where the property is let under a lease or held under a tenancy for a term exceeding 20 years, the person (other than a mortgagee not in possession) who is the lessee under that lease or tenant under that tenancy.

A tenant holding a lease of less than 20 years’ duration, whether in public or in private rented accommodation, is not an owner of the property in which he or she is living and is therefore not liable in respect of that property. The household charge is a charge levied on the ownership of property, not on its occupation, and a non-compliant owner of a property, not the tenant, will be pursued for payment.

Household Charge Exemptions

 281. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of persons in County Donegal who are currently exempt from paying the household charge because they are in receipt of mortgage interest supplement; the number from County Donegal who received an exemption because they live in an unfinished housing estate; if a breakdown is available listing the numbers of employed and unemployed persons who have paid this charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40143/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he or she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the charge.

I am informed by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), which administers the household charge system on a shared service/agency basis for all county and city councils, that as of 20 September 2012 , 113 households in County Donegal had registered for a waiver from the charge on the grounds of being in receipt of mortgage interest supplement. 369 households had registered for a waiver on the grounds that their property forms part of an unfinished housing estate as set out in the Regulations. A further five households had registered under both criteria.

Information on the employment status of people who have paid the household charge is not collected.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

 282. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will consider amending the claw back element of the affordable home scheme to discount legal and auctioneering fees in the event of the sale of the property when it is within the claw-back period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40150/12]

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 claw-back provision is intended to prevent short-term profit taking on the resale of the house to the detriment of the objectives of the schemes. However, where a person is selling and the clawback amount payable would reduce the proceeds of resale below the initial price actually paid, the legislation provides for the amount of the clawback payable to be reduced to the extent necessary to avoid that result. Legal and auctioneering fees are costs which vendors bear separately, as do all other owner-occupiers who choose to sell their home.

To take account of the current housing market conditions, the Government's housing policy statement, published in June 2011, announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes in the context of a full review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. That review is now underway and it is expected to conclude later in the year. Any future changes to legislation governing affordable housing schemes will be informed by the review.

  Question No. 283 answered with Question No. 278.

Leader Programmes Funding

 284. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the position regarding a grant application to Mayo north east LEADER partnership company Teoranta by an organisation (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when a decision will issue. [40177/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Mayo North East Leader Partnership (MNELP) is the Local Action Group contracted by my Department to deliver both the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP) to the North Mayo area.

On foot of correspondence I received in 2011 regarding a possible governance issue at Mayo North East LEADER P Partnership Company, I directed my Department to investigate the matter. This investigation is complex and ongoing and approval of projects under the LEADER element of the Rural Development Programme, which includes the project referred to in the question, is currently suspended pending its completion. I understand that the final investigation report is nearing completion.

Local Authority Housing Rents

 285. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide a list of local authorities which regard foster care allowance as reckonable income when calculating rent; the length of time this has been the practice and the number of foster families affected; if he will immediately instruct them to cease this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40277/12]

 286. 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 a list of all local authorities who take foster care allowance into consideration as means when calculating rent; if it is acceptable to do so when foster care allowance is paid to the foster carers for the benefit of the foster child and is not an income or an income support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40322/12]

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. 285 and 286 together.

My Department does not collect the information sought. The making and amending of rent schemes is the responsibility of housing authorities as an integral part of the housing management functions and there are many different rent schemes in operation across housing authorities. The decisions on whether or not to disregard either a proportion of income or particular sources of income for the purposes of calculating rents are matters for each individual housing authority to consider in accordance with their own rent scheme.

Section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, when commenced, will replace existing enactments in relation to differential rent schemes. Regulations and guidelines for housing authorities to give effect to section 31 are currently in preparation in my Department. When these are made section 31 will be commenced and authorities will have one year in which to put in place a differential rent scheme under the new provisions. While it is not the intention to introduce a national standardised differential rent scheme, the regulations to be made will more clearly set out the matters that may be included in a local rents scheme, including the level, type and sources of household income that may be assessed for rent purposes. It is my intention that foster care allowance will be disregarded for rent assessment purposes under the new regulations.

Household Charge Exemptions

 287. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will outline the reason an area (details supplied) was not designated for a household charge waiver by the county council despite being determined to be a category three estate. [40357/12]

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 As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, launched by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows:

- Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist;

- Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;

- Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and

- Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

  Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process include, inter alia: the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting facilities, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development; the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission; the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007; the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act; the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned and, where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.

This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge. Only households in developments in categories three and four, as identified in October 2011, are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. The list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012. It is a matter for the relevant local authority to interpret and apply the relevant provisions.

A revised list of estates will be prescribed for 2013 after which time the waiver for unfinished housing developments will end. Throughout this period it is anticipated that the numbers of categories 3 and 4 developments will decrease significantly as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.

Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge.

Energy Schemes Issues

 288. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the grants available, if any, towards the installation of solar panels on local authority housing; if there is no such scheme in place, if he will consider the provision of such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40370/12]

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 Under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock, including the regeneration of large housing estates and flat complexes, estate-wide remedial works schemes, funding for extensions and adaptations to meet the needs of tenants with a disability etc. Funding of €18 million has also been provided by my Department this year for a programme of works aimed at improving the overall standard and energy efficiency of the housing stock.

In certain cases, approved retro-fitting and refurbishment works may include the installation of solar panels. However, there is no specific grant scheme currently in place for the provision of solar panels in local authority owned properties. I intend to review the operation of the retro-fitting and energy efficiency measures in the context of the programme for 2013, including a review of the range of grant-eligible works under these measures.

Household Charge Collection

 289. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the impact of the letters sent by local authorities to those on the non-principal private residence list in relation to seeking payment of the household tax, broken down by county on the basis of numbers of letters sent out each time, and the rate of compliance which followed each letter. [40392/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The table shows the number of reminder letters sent out by county and city councils in July, August and September 2012 in relation to the household charge. The table also shows the number registered prior to the issuing of these letters and the number of registrations made immediately following the issuing of the reminder letters.

Number of Registrations per Local Authority and Reminder Letters Issued 

Local Authority Number registered in Household Charge 2nd June 2012 No. of NPPR - Letter 1 (Issued between 2nd and 13th July) Number registered in Household Charge 20th July 2012 No. of NPPR - Letter 2 (Issued between 7th and 20th August) Number registered in Household Charge 24th August No. of NPPR - Letter 3 (issued between 10th and 21st Sept.) Number registered in Household Charge 20th Sept 2012 Increase in registrations since June % increase since June
Leitrim 7,584 1,034 7,991 625 8,338 497 8,577 993 12
Roscommon 12,980 1,373 13,819 852 14,474 660 14,964 1,984 13
Sligo 14,927 1,631 15,822 1,102 16,437 917 16,806 1,879 11
Cork City 23,184 5,324 24,879 2,985 26,093 2,396 26,685 3,501 13
Dublin City 119760 19,423 125,182 11,048 129,372 8,686 132,184 12,424 9
Donegal 28,443 3,262 30,970 2,350 32,301 2,032 33,405 4,962 15
Mayo 28,144 2,621 32,992 1,678 34,203 1,412 35,111 6,967 20
Longford 6,981 1,031 7,287 692 7,573 549 7,780 799 10
Meath 31,394 2,487 32,783 1,778 33,767 1,446 34,638 3,244 9
Limerick City 11,612 2,333 12,364 1,441 12,789 1,212 13,304 1,692 13
Galway Co. 33,221 2,961 35,724 1,972 37,149 1,614 38,647 5,426 14
Clare 24,727 2,764 28,521 1,758 29,738 1,338 30,736 6,009 20
Westmeath 17,118 1,917 18,039 1,294 18,678 1,030 19,259 2,141 11
Carlow 9,745 1,196 10,127 838 10,498 703 10,783 1,038 10
Laois 13,030 1,194 13,821 769 14,294 571 14,635 1,605 11
South Dublin 44,162 4,442 47,097 2,806 48,330 2,285 49,247 5,085 10
Kilkenny 17,947 1,327 18,614 889 19,182 736 19,680 1,733 9
Louth 20,936 2,032 21,605 1,279 22,303 1,076 22,932 1,996 9
Wexford 28,312 4,040 30,590 2,455 31,914 1,902 32,967 4,655 14
Fingal 50,820 5,627 53,625 3,554 55,264 2,945 56,420 5,600 10
Monaghan 10,821 824 11,746 553 12,249 411 12,466 1,645 13
Kerry 34,024 3,516 38,534 2,279 39,713 1,843 40,978 6,954 17
Limerick County 24,400 2,222 27,602 1,351 28,542 1,040 29,386 4,986 17
Galway City 16,892 3,895 18,088 2,242 19,110 1,772 19,658 2,766 14
Tipperary South 17,223 1,453 18,181 962 18,835 760 19,608 2,385 12
Kildare 37,100 3,459 38,655 2,445 40,018 1,960 40,893 3,793 9
Tipperary North 14,176 1,014 15,293 649 15,830 450 16,463 2,287 14
Cork County 74,857 8,565 79,360 5,894 82,777 4,747 85,059 10,202 12
Waterford City 8,008 1,925 8,967 1,059 9,416 880 9,720 1,712 18
Waterford County 13,019 1,407 14,443 819 14,965 647 15,434 2,415 16
Wicklow 26,878 1,993 28,208 1,310 29,010 1,025 29,720 2,842 10
Cavan 13,107 1,322 13,660 869 14,232 711 14,710 1,603 11
Offaly 12,431 1,128 12,969 753 13,426 613 13,762 1,331 10
Dun Laoghaire 56,866 3,163 59,457 1,862 60,594 1,380 61,540 4,674 8
Total Letters   103,905   65,212   52,246      

Tenant Purchase Scheme Applications

 290. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he has devised a method by way of a loan scheme or otherwise to enable elderly people to purchase outright their houses under the tenant purchase scheme when many such persons are already paying rents which exceed their likely monthly repayments under the tenant purchase scheme but who because of their age and or their reliance upon social welfare payments are being denied the possibility of pursuing their wish to purchase the said houses; if same can now be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40456/12]

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 relevance of the difference between projected mortgage repayments and current rental payments for a prospective purchaser is very limited. It takes no account, for example, of the fact that while rent levels can be adjusted to reflect changing household income, mortgage repayments cannot. Nor does it take account of the additional costs taken on when a household becomes a homeowner thereby assuming responsibility for the on-going maintenance of their home.

Provisions governing mortgage lending by local authorities are set out under the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2012 and associated credit policy. Persons in receipt of social welfare payments are not specifically precluded from purchasing their home under any tenant purchase scheme. However, if the applicants are applying to fund the purchase through loan finance from the local authority they must meet the criteria which apply to such loans.

While, as a general rule, the credit policy provides that loans are not available to those in receipt of unemployment/social welfare benefits, an exception may be made where there is a primary income of a permanent waged/salaried nature and where the secondary income is from the Department of Social Protection.

In such cases long term social welfare payments can be considered, provided the long term nature of the payment is confirmed. The final decision on whether to grant/refuse an applicant lies solely with the relevant local authority. All local authorities must satisfy themselves on the financial risk they are undertaking.


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