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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 52-58
 Header Item National Spatial Strategy
 Header Item Water Services Provision
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Provision
 Header Item Rental Accommodation Scheme Expenditure
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 52-58

National Spatial Strategy

 52. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the progress he has made on the creation of a new national spatial strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [27999/13]

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 2002 National Spatial Strategy (NSS) is Ireland’s first national strategic spatial planning framework. It provides the spatial vision and principles to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development and population growth between regions through the co-ordinated development of nine gateway cities and towns and nine hub towns together with complementary policies to activate the potential for lasting economic development in their hinterlands and wider regions. The NSS serves as a strategic context for spatial planning in Ireland by regional authorities in their regional planning guidelines role and for planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála in their statutory planning functions. It also seeks to influence investment priorities particularly in transport, housing, water services, communications, energy, health and education infrastructure. The 2002 NSS remains in place. However, proposals will be brought to Government later this year for a roadmap to develop a successor strategy that will take account, inter alia, of our significantly changed economic circumstances and to contribute to sustainable national recovery.

Water Services Provision

 53. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which provision has been made to meet in full domestic drinking water requirements in the short to medium term; if decisions have been made regarding sourcing of the extra supplies required; if, from existing or groundwater sources, the River Shannon is seen as a means of supplementing such supplies; the extent to which the full requirement by 2030 has been determined with the necessary purification and or treatment plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27980/13]

 156. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which any evaluation has been done of the domestic and industrial water requirements on a regional basis throughout the country; the extent of the provision being made to meet such requirements over a specific period in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28382/13]

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. 53 and 156 together.

  The overall strategy of investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives for public domestic water supplies is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme. The current Programme, which runs to the end of 2013, provides for the commencement of contracts with a value of over €800m in relation to water supply infrastructure. This includes contracts to address deficiencies in the quality of supply, to improve the overall capacity of the system and an accelerated programme of mains rehabilitation. The Programme also provides for the advancement of a further range of schemes through planning, for progression to construction in future investment cycles.

  The water supply/demand balance in the Greater Dublin Region is considered to be finely balanced at present, with little surplus treatment capacity by international norms. Increased treatment capacity through the expansion of the Ballymore-Eustace Water Treatment Plant, provision of the new Srowland Water Treatment Plant in Kildare using the River Barrow as the source and the expansion of the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant, together with the active watermain replacement/rehabilitation strategy within the region, will address the needs of the Greater Dublin Region in the short/medium-term.

  However, studies have shown that in order to meet the long-term demand and to achieve a water supply/demand balance that is in line with international norms, a new source capable of providing up to 250 megalitres per day together with increased treatment capacity for this volume is required before the year 2020 and a further 100 megalitres per day capacity is required by 2030. To address the future requirements in the region, Dublin City Council, as the lead authority, is promoting the Dublin Water Supply Scheme (Long-Term Water Source) project, which is included in my Department’s Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013 as a scheme to advance through planning. Dublin City Council has completed a Strategic Environmental Assessment and a Preliminary Report for the project. They are now in the process of appointing consultants to advance the detailed planning, statutory processes and ultimately the procurement of the elements comprising the recommended option.

Local Authority Housing Provision

 54. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide funding to local authorities to build specific instance houses in rural areas to accommodate families in rural communities acknowledging that they are a very cost effective way of providing social housing and recognise the rural nature of many local authority areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27065/13]

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 In submitting proposals for funding under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme (SHIP), it is a matter for each local authority to determine the nature, location and relative priority of individual projects, including projects for meeting housing need in rural areas. It is normal practice for many local authorities to submit proposals for single instance houses in rural areas as part of their overall social housing funding requirements under SHIP.

In June 2012, my Department invited each city and county council to submit proposals for the purchase or construction of new social housing units over the period 2012-2014. Some €30 million was approved to advance the construction of 185 houses, largely to meet the specific accommodation needs of certain categories of tenants, including rural dwellers. Approvals were based on the prioritisation afforded to the proposals by the local authority and included the construction of a number of specific instance houses in rural areas, including three such houses in Donegal.

Rental Accommodation Scheme Expenditure

 55. 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 if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Dublin City Council has confirmed to councillors that it is spending €1.5 million more per year on the rental accommodation scheme than is given to it by his Department; if this is the case in any other local authority; the reason this is the case; and the action his Department is taking to ensure that RAS is sufficiently funded.  [27062/13]

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 refer to the reply to Question No. 573 of 11 June. I have already confirmed that funding for the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is provided by a transfer of monies from the Department of Social Protection’s Vote to the Vote of my Department on an Exchequer neutral basis to meet the costs of persons transferring from the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Rent Supplement Scheme to the RAS. Therefore as already set out the issue of local authorities incurring costs in excess of the overall amount provided by my Department does not arise.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

 56. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plans to aid local authorities in developing new more independent housing structures which could seek financing for the provision of social housing in a similar fashion to voluntary housing bodies. [27053/13]

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, the social housing capital budget has been reduced from €1.535 billion in 2008 to €287m 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.

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. In the case of local authorities any such initiatives must avoid having any negative implications for public debt. 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 to ensure delivery of housing units for social purposes.

In spite of the challenging circumstances within which local authorities must operate the final outcome for 2012 is expected to be in the region of 5,000 housing units. Given the current volatility of the market and different challenges to the channels of supply it is difficult to estimate the likely output of new units for social housing this year. However, it is provisionally estimated that in the region of 5,000 units will be provided for social housing in 2013.

  Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 49.

  Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 47.


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