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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 181-200
 Header Item School Enrolments
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Education Policy
 Header Item Student Accommodation
 Header Item Bullying in Schools
 Header Item Gaelscoil Issues
 Header Item Student Grants Data
 Header Item Residential Institutions
 Header Item Child Abuse
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Data
 Header Item Housing Data
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes
 Header Item Planning Issues
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision
 Header Item Wastewater Treatment
 Header Item NAMA Social Housing Provision
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Data
 Header Item Housing Provision

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 67 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 181-200

School Enrolments

 181. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if the new enrolment process will address difficulties that have emerged in recent years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44408/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2015, which was published in April of this year and is on the Government's legislative programme for enactment in this session, introduces a number of important changes to make enrolment policies fairer and more transparent.

These changes include new powers for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the Child and Family Agency to designate a school place for children who have no school place. The Bill will also enshrine in law a ban on schools charging parents to apply for a place in school.

The Bill, while including provision for single sex schools and denominational schools to reflect in their admission policy the exemptions applicable to such schools under equality legislation, provides for schools to explicitly state in the school's admission policy that it will not discriminate against an applicant for admission on the grounds of disability, special educational needs, sexual orientation, family status, membership of the traveller community, race, civil status, gender or religion. The Bill also requires schools to publish an enrolment policy which will include details of the school's arrangements for students who do not want to attend religious instruction.

The Bill seeks to strike an appropriate balance between school autonomy and the interests of parents in our education system. This can be achieved through regulations that foster greater transparency and consistency in terms of how schools communicate and interact with parents. To that end the Bill sets out clearly matters relating to enrolment that regulations may address. The regulations have not been finalised; following enactment of the Bill, the draft regulations will be updated and published for consultation with the relevant education partners.

School Patronage

 182. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if issues relating to school patronage will be addressed in the short to medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44409/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Programme for Government gave a commitment to a more pluralist system of patronage for our schools. This commitment is being progressed on a number of fronts. Firstly, the government established a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. The Forum advised on how the education system can provide a sufficiently diverse number and range of primary schools catering for all religions and none and also advised on the practicalities of transferring/divesting patronage for individual primary schools where it is appropriate and necessary. Arising from the work of the Forum, eight new primary schools have opened under the patronage divesting process and work is continuing to advance choices in other identified areas. Secondly, in 2011 the Government announced the establishment of new arrangements for the recognition of new primary and second-level schools. New schools are generally established to meet demographic need. The new arrangements give an opportunity to patrons to seek to apply for patronage of new schools. The criteria used in deciding on patronage of new schools place a particular emphasis on parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage. Since 2011, 42 new schools have opened (24 primary and 18 post-primary). 39 of these schools have a multi-denominational ethos.

The Department is continuing to work intensively with the main stakeholders to advance alternative choices for 2016 and beyond to achieve greater diversity of school provision.

Education Policy

 183. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will continue her support smaller urban or rural schools with a denominational ethos; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44410/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I am very aware of the importance of small schools to rural communities and particularly the most dispersed and remote communities. In this regard, I made two particular improvements to the staffing schedule for small schools this school year. The first measure provides for improved teacher retention thresholds for schools of 1 - 4 teachers. The second measure is an improved teacher allocation threshold for isolated 1-teacher schools that are more than 8km distant from the next nearest school of the same type of patronage and language of instruction. Both these improvements are intended to support small schools and to sustain the communities they serve.

Student Accommodation

 184. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if and how she will address issues relating to student accommodation in the short to medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44411/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Government fully appreciates the concerns regarding the availability of accommodation for students and the report, Student Accommodation: Demand & Supply, which I published recently sets out clearly that the demand for student accommodation outstrips supply in certain areas and will continue to do so in the coming years.

  There are 13 useful recommendations in this report some of which include capital financing, tax considerations and planning issues, as well as support for the rent-a-room scheme. I have introduced two immediate actions to begin this work.

  Firstly, the awarding of a grant of €30,000, which will be provided by the HEA to the Union of Students' (USI) in Ireland to progress short-term solutions for students in need of accommodation. This funding will allow USI to develop their homes.usi.ie website, to communicate more effectively to student and homeowners, and to carry out research into this important issue.

  Secondly, the establishment of an inter-departmental steering group to oversee this work, the first meeting of which took place on 1 October 2015. This group will provide a coordinating mechanism to ensure that the higher education institutions have access to information on new potential funding and delivery models. A significant number of Action points have been identified for follow up arising from the first meeting.

  Finally, the Government is committed to addressing the housing shortage through the Construction 2020 strategy. This will not resolve all of our problems immediately, but I am confident that the implementation of Construction 2020 will provide us with a sustainable housing stock in the medium to longer term.

  The full report can be accessed at http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/Report-on-Student-Accommodation-Demand-and-Supply.pdf

Bullying in Schools

 185. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if the issue of school bullying will be monitored to ascertain the best methodology to deal with it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44412/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Deputy will be aware that my Department published new anti-bullying procedures for all primary and post primary schools at the beginning of the 2013/14 school year.

The procedures are designed to give direction and guidance to school authorities and school personnel in preventing and tackling school-based bullying behaviour amongst its pupils. They include specific requirements in relation to the use of prevention and education strategies and the consistent investigation, follow up and recording of bullying behaviour.

There is no requirement that schools report incidents of bullying behaviour to my Department.

However, the procedures for schools include important new oversight arrangements that involve the school Principal reporting regularly to the Board of Management and a requirement for the Board to undertake an annual review of the school's anti-bullying policy and its implementation. Confirmation that the annual review has been completed must be provided to the Parents' Association and published on the school website.

Gaelscoil Issues

 186. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she continues to evaluate progress on the provision of a Gaelcholáiste in north Kildare, having particular regard to the case being articulated by the local support group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44413/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan On 17 November last I announced the details of the new schools to be provided nationwide in 2017 and 2018. I also announced, in view of the anticipated enrolment numbers in the Irish-medium Aonad of Maynooth Community College and the continued support for a Gaelcholáiste in the North Kildare area, that a Gaelcholáiste will be established in 2019, subject to sufficient viability of the Aonad. My Department will continue to liaise with Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board in this regard. The Gaelcholáiste will open under the joint patronage of Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board and An Foras Pátrúnachta.

Student Grants Data

 187. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the number of applications for higher education grants for the current school year that have been approved, refused, are pending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44414/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan SUSI has received almost 108,000 student grant applications for the 2015/16 academic year. This figure includes 16,500 applicants which were received after the Priority Processing deadline.

  93,000 (86%) of these applications have been processed to completion. Of which 74,500 applications have been awarded a grant and 18,500 have been refused or cancelled.

  Of the 15,000 pending applications, SUSI is currently awaiting documentation from 9,000 students and will continue to finalise grant applications as this documentation is received.

Residential Institutions

 188. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan further to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 533 of 17 November 2015 in respect of the 2002 indemnity agreement in which she stated that properties to the value of €30.93 million are still outstanding, her plans to ensure that the necessary transfers take place without further delay; the official in her Department who is responsible for overseeing this matter; and the steps that have been taken to recoup this outstanding debt. [44421/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan As I explained to the Deputy in my response to her previous question of 17 November, under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement the 18 participating congregations are contributing €128m in cash, counselling services and property. The cash contributions of €54.42m under the agreement have been received while information has been provided to my Department that confirms that counselling services in excess of the €10m provided for in the agreement have been funded directly by the contributing congregations.

In relation to property transfers, to date 46 properties have been fully transferred and there are no outstanding issues. These properties have been valued at €42.65m for the purposes of the Agreement. Some 15 properties with an estimated value of €20.93m have yet to be fully transferred. Work on the transfer of these properties is well advanced and I am hopeful that a number of further transfers will be completed in the near future. I should point out also that in most cases the physical transfer of the properties has been effected and work is taking place to finalise the outstanding requirements.

Every effort is being made to complete the remaining transfers. In this regard my Department is continuing to actively engage with the Chief State Solicitor's Office who liaise with the solicitors for the congregations and the solicitors acting on behalf of the HSE in relation to the completion of these transfers.

Child Abuse

 189. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the status of claims against the State by persons who were abused in day schools; the number of cases which have been settled and which are pending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44423/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan In cases where the Department was in possession of relevant information which, if acted upon, could have prevented abuse occurring, the State will admit that it has some liability and will enter into settlement negotiations. The only such cases to date number 13 in total. In each such case, the State has accepted partial liability and accordingly paid a specific proportion of the settlement amount with the relevant religious congregation paying the remaining proportion.

Separate to the above cases, in its response to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment, the Government agreed in December 2014 that out of court settlements be offered in those extant cases of school child sexual abuse being brought against the State where the cases come within the terms of the ECtHR judgment and satisfy the Statute of Limitations. In this regard, the State Claims Agency (SCA) has made settlement offers which have been accepted in 6 cases and the SCA has written to the other 28 litigants advising that the circumstances do not appear to come within the parameters of the judgement and inviting them to revert with any contrary evidence. Where a litigant does not accept the offer in settlement of his/her case or where the SCA is not satisfied that the case comes within the terms of the judgment, the case will proceed before the domestic Courts.

Subsequently, in July of this year, the Government approved proposals to offer ex-gratia payments up to a maximum of €84,000 to those who initiated legal proceedings in cases of school child sexual abuse against the State but who subsequently discontinued their claims against the State where, similarly, the circumstances of the claims come within the terms of the ECtHR judgment and where the claims were not statute barred prior to the proceedings being discontinued. It is not possible to assess at this stage how many cases in this category will satisfy these criteria. Persons who believe that their cases come within the criteria can contact the SCA and provide supporting evidence. Where there is a disagreement between the SCA and the individual as to whether their circumstances come within the terms of the ECtHR judgment, provision will be made for the application to be reviewed by an independent assessor. In offering these settlements, the State will not be covering the liabilities of the perpetrators, school managers or patrons or other co-defendants.

To be eligible for the above settlement or payment arrangements, cases must involve sexual abuse of a school child by a primary or second level school employee in respect of whom there was a prior complaint of sexual abuse to a school authority (including an authority of a school in which the teacher had previously taught), prior to the issue of the Department of Education guidelines to primary and post-primary schools in 1991 and 1992 respectively. This rationale has been adopted as it is the basis of the ECtHR judgment.

To date over 140 new claims of school child sexual abuse have been notified to the SCA.

Local Authority Housing Data

 190. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly the new builds and acquisitions to be completed and the new units to be provided by housing associations under the capital assistance scheme by local authority area in the second half of 2015 in tabular form. [44272/15]

 191. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if the figures provided to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on 24 November 2015 projecting 950 local authority new builds and acquisitions and 440 new units under the capital assistance programme by the end of 2015 when compared with the latest on his Department’s website for the first six months of the year showing 246 local authority new builds and acquisitions in the first half of 2015, including 20 new builds and 226 acquisitions, and 157 new housing association units, mean that there will be 704 local authority new builds and acquisitions in the second half of 2015, including in excess of 180 local authority new builds, plus 283 new units provided by voluntary housing associations under the capital assistance scheme; and if not, to provide alternative figures broken down under these headings. [44273/15]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 and 191 together.

  The Social Housing Strategy 2020 provides a comprehensive response to the need for social housing and targets the provision of over 110,000 social housing units to 2020, through the delivery of 35,000 new social housing units and meeting the housing needs of some 75,000 households through the Housing Assistance Payment and Rental Accommodation Scheme.     

  The output target for 2015 is set at 15,900 across the current and capital-funded programmes. Within that, a target of just over 2,500 units is to delivered through the capital-funded programmes of building/acquiring new social housing units by local authorities, and new sheltered housing by approved housing bodies, and the returning of vacant properties to productive use. Current data shows that over 2,500 units have already been delivered through the capital programmes as follows:   

Local Authority Housing – construction and acquisition 569
Capital Assistance Scheme 199
Regeneration 109
Vacant Units returned 1,630
  Local authorities have advised me that they are advancing the purchase of some 750 new units this year, many of which will be finalised between now and the end of the year, which is traditionally the time of greatest funding drawdown by local authorities. Combined with the further numbers of vacant housing units that I expect will be returned by the end of this year, this should mean that the capital target set for 2015 will be further exceeded. All 31 local authorities are actively engaged in the delivery of these units in 2015, so the impact will be felt across all areas in terms of new social housing provision. However as some of these units may not be finalised until early 2016, the end-2015 final outcome cannot be predicted with certainty at this stage. Data on the full year breakdown across the different categories of delivery across all the local authorities will be compiled in early 2016.   

  We now have a strong pipeline of new social housing construction projects in place following from my announcement in May of the first major social housing build programme under the Social Housing Strategy, with a further substantial announcement in July of approvals for local authorities and approved housing bodies.  The outcome has been half a billion euro allocated for 2,900 social housing new builds and acquisitions to end 2017. I also propose to make further announcements in this regard in the New Year. Coupled with new housing acquisitions and tackling vacant units, this means that progress towards achievement of the overall capital targets for the period out to 2017 is well advanced.   

  Information on social housing units constructed and acquired in respect of all local authorities and approved housing bodies is published on my Department’s website at the following link:http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/HousingStatistics/FileDownLoad,15291,en.xls.

Housing Data

 192. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he has analysed the proportion of council homes purchased under previous tenant purchase schemes that have ended up owned by landlords in the private rented sector; and how many of these are rent supplement, housing assistance payment or rental accommodation scheme tenancies. [44274/15]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Under section 90(12)(a) of the Housing Act 1966, a person who bought a house from a local authority under a tenant purchase scheme must obtain the authority’s consent to re-sell the house within a specified period after tenant purchase (20 years in the case of the 1995 Tenant Purchase Scheme). The enactment empowers the housing authority to refuse to consent to the resale of the house where

- the intended purchaser is not in need of housing,

- the intended purchaser is, or has been, involved in anti-social behaviour, or the intended sale would not be in the interest of good estate management, or

- the sale would leave the seller, or any person who might reasonably be expected to reside with them, without adequate housing.   

  In relation to the existing scheme for the purchase of certain newly-built local authority houses and also the scheme for existing local authority houses coming into operation on 1 January 2016 , the legislation provides for the consent of the housing authority to re-sell the house within the period of the incremental charge placed on the house . The legislation also empowers the housing authority to refuse its consent where :

- the proposed sale price is less than the market value,

- the new purchaser is or was engaged in anti-social behaviour or the sale is not in the interest of good estate management, or

- the sale would leave the vendor or a household member without adequate housing.

  It is a matter for individual housing authorities to deal with applications for consent to the re-sale of tenant purchased houses. Information regarding the incidence of such applications or the ownership history of these houses following their subsequent re-sale by the tenant purchaser is not available in my Department.

Flood Relief Schemes

 193. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he is aware of the proposals around building the sea wall in the Clontarf and Raheny area in Dublin; the objections from the local community; the response from Dublin City Council to these objections; if alternatives to a sea wall have been analysed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44291/15]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I understand that this project comprising a cycleway proposal as well as flood alleviation works to address higher tides and sea levels was originally approved by An Bord Pleanála in 2011 under section 226 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, relating to foreshore developments. The environmental impacts of the project were assessed as part of this process.

Dublin City Council subsequently made some alterations to the cycleway aspects of their proposals which were progressed under the Part VIII requirements of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, relating to local authority own developments. This process involved extensive public consultation with local community groups. Planning approval for the revised proposals was granted by Dublin City Council in May 2013.

Under section 30 of the Act, I am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular planning case with which a planning authority, including An Bord Pleanála, is or may be concerned.

Planning Issues

 194. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he will immediately designate the Dublin north fringe region and Fingal south as a strategic development zone to ensure the urgently needed new homes in Dublin Bay North and Dublin North are delivered by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44301/15]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey A significant quantity of land has been zoned for new residential development along the northern edges of Dublin City, situated within the Fingal County Council and the Dublin City Council administrative areas.

The future development of these lands has been comprehensively planned by the relevant planning authorities through the preparation of several local area plans (LAP’s) including the Baldoyle-Stapolin LAP and Portmarnock South LAP (Fingal) and the Clongriffin-Belmayne LAP (Dublin City).

These LAPs provide for the future delivery of substantial levels of new and badly needed housing in a sustainable fashion in tandem with the provision of new educational, transport, recreational, community and other infrastructure.

I am satisfied that the existing planning policy frameworks that have been developed for these areas by the relevant local authorities are robust and forward looking, having been developed through the statutory Local Area Plan process under Section 18 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and formally adopted by the Elected Members of the each Council.

I am therefore of the view that sufficient effort has been expended by the relevant planning authorities in planning the future development of these areas and both I and the Government expect to see the areas developed to meet the needs for housing rather than a further forward planning exercise being undertaken.

In view of the fact that I have not received any proposals for designation of this area as an SDZ from the local authorities concerned, I consider that what we require at this point is implementation of the plans in place and delivery of urgently required housing.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

 195. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he will request the National Asset Management Agency to undertake and organise a major programme of social housing in the Dublin north fringe and Fingal south fringe zones, given the failure of private developers to develop the north fringe as a high specification new urban region since the late 1990s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44302/15]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is at present playing an ongoing role in the delivery of social housing. To the end of September 2015, a total of 1,600 NAMA residential properties had been delivered for social housing use, comprising 1,241 completed properties and a further 359 that have been contracted and where completion work is ongoing. A further 486 properties are considered as being active transactions whereby terms are agreed or active negotiation is on-going by all parties concerned or where a detailed appraisal is being carried out. An additional 440 properties are to be further appraised. Overall, I expect that in excess of 2,000 units will be secured for social housing purposes from this engagement with NAMA . Full details of units offered and delivered under this process including a breakdown by Local Authority is available on the website of the Housing Agency at www.housing.ie  

  Under this process 827 units were identified in the Dublin City Council area and 399 had demand confirmed by the Council , of which 377 had been delivered to the end of September 2015. In the Fingal County Council area, 270 units were identified and 105 had demand confirmed by the Council , of which 60 had been delivered to the end of September 2015.   

  The process of reviewing units previously deemed unsuitable by local authorities is on-going. Local Authorities, particularly those in high demand areas, are continually reviewing the list of available NAMA properties.   

  In addition, NAMA is funding the construction of new residential properties to help meet demand in the major urban centres. The overall programme will be funded from NAMA’s own resources and will lead to the development of an estimated 20,000 units by 2020, mainly in the Greater Dublin area where the current residential supply shortage is most acute. Residential developments funded by NAMA are subject to the same planning and regulatory requirements as all other developments and this includes policy relating to Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. As such, I expect 10% of the output of this investment by NAMA, or about 2,000 units, to become available for social housing.

Wastewater Treatment

 196. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly the deadline for achieving mandatory European Union quality standards for wastewater treatment; the implications for the State if they are not achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44321/15]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The requirements at EU level with regard to the standards for urban waste water treatment are set out in Directive 91/271/EEC. For example, secondary treatment was required by 31 December 2000 for all discharges from agglomerations of more than 15,000 population equivalents, and by 31 December 2005 for those agglomerations with population equivalents between 10,000 and 15,000. Secondary treatment was required by 31 December 2005 for all agglomerations with population equivalents greater than 2, 000 for discharges to freshwater and estuaries.

  The most recent EPA report, Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2014 , shows 31 out of 174 large urban areas (i.e. population equivalents of greater than 2,000) did not comply with the effluent quality and sampling standards for secondary treatment set down in the Directive. If compliance is not addressed there is a risk of escalated infringement proceedings and fines against the State for non-compliance with the Directive.   

  Since 1 January 2014 Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels including the management of urban waste water collection and treatment infrastructure. In line with the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013, Irish Water has put in place a Water Services Strategic Plan (WSSP) ; this was published in October 2015 and is available online at: http://www.water.ie/about-us/project-and-plans/future-plans/.   

  The WSSP specifically notes that it is an objective of Irish Water to ensure compliance with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and sets out target dates to achieve compliance.

Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. They may be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie   or by telephone on 1890 578 578.

NAMA Social Housing Provision

 197. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he will ensure that more than 10% of the 20,000 houses being built by the National Asset Management Agency in the coming years are provided for social housing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44327/15]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) continues to play an important role in the delivery of social housing. To the end of September 2015, a total of 1,600 NAMA residential properties had been delivered for social housing use, comprising 1,241 completed properties and a further 359 that have been contracted and where completion work is ongoing. A further 486 properties are considered as being active transactions whereby terms are agreed or active negotiation is ongoing by all parties concerned or where a detailed appraisal is being carried out. An additional 440 properties are to be further appraised. Overall, I expect that in excess of 2,000 units will be secured for social housing purposes from this engagement with NAMA.

In addition, NAMA is funding the construction of new residential properties to help meet demand in the major urban centres. The overall programme will be funded from NAMA’s own resources and will lead to the development of an estimated 20,000 units by 2020, mainly in the Greater Dublin area where the current residential supply shortage is most acute. Residential developments funded by NAMA are subject to the same planning and regulatory requirements as all other developments and this includes policy relating to Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. As such, I expect 10% of the output of this investment by NAMA, or about 2,000 units, to become available for social housing.

Commencement of Legislation

 198. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly the commencement date for rent certainty measures as outlined in recent legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44332/15]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 provides for a number of measures which, taken together, will bring much-needed stability to the rental sector pending the coming on-stream of the supply of new housing. Firstly, section 25 of the Act provides for the extension of the period between rent reviews from 12 months to 24 months. The provision is subject to a sunset clause such that the period will revert to 12 months in 4 years’ time. Secondly, section 26 of the Act extends the period of notice of a new rent that a landlord must give their tenant from 28 days to 90 days and, thirdly, section 31 of the Act provides for graduated increases in the periods of notice of termination of further Part 4 tenancies, so that a landlord will have to give a tenant up to a maximum of 224 days notice for tenancies of 8 years or more. Section 1 of the Act provides for the commencement of these three provisions on enactment so they came into effect on 4 December 2015.

A number of additional provisions which were announced in the package of measures to support housing supply and rent stability are also given effect in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015. These include:

- that notice of new rent sent from a landlord to a tenant must be in a prescribed form setting out specified information, including details of dispute resolution procedures available through the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB);

- that notification of a rent increase to the PRTB will include, among other things, a signed statement by the tenant that they are aware of their rights in relation to rent and rent reviews;

- that confirmation of a tenancy registration, which is currently sent to the landlord, would also be sent to the tenant, together with information setting out landlord and tenant rights and obligations;

- that the confirmation of a tenancy registration will inform the landlord and tenant that the PRTB routinely discloses information to the Revenue Commissioners;

- that a minor mistake or omission in a Notice of Termination will not invalidate that Notice where there is no prejudice to the tenant;

- stronger verification arrangements in relation to the termination procedures under section 34 of the Act;

- the enforcement of PRTB determination orders through the District Court instead of the Circuit Court.

These provisions will be subject to Commencement Orders, the first of which will be made early in the New Year.

Social and Affordable Housing Data

 199. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly the number of applications received from Donegal County Council for social housing units under the Social Housing Strategy 2020; the number of applications made with respect to long-term voids and to new builds; the cost which these applications collectively represent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44365/15]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Social housing targets out to 2017 for all local authorities issued in April 2015. This also included funding allocations with, nationally, over €1.5 billion to be invested in a combination of building, buying and leasing schemes by all local authorities. In the case of Donegal County Council, 507 is the target set for new social units under both Current and Capital-funded programmes for 2015-17, supported by €34.1 million in funding. Following on from the announcement of targets, in May and July this year I announced major social and voluntary housing construction and acquisition programmes, with almost half a billion euros of investment covering all 31 local authorities in delivering almost 3,000 housing units. Donegal County Council submitted capital appraisals in respect of a number of projects for which funding was approved, involving the delivery of 63 new social housing units an estimated cost of some €8.2 million. Full details of the project approvals are available on my Department’s website at the following links:http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/News/MainBody,41340,en.htm   

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/News/MainBody,42225,en.htm   

  I expect that capital appraisals in respect of further social housing units will be submitted to my Department by Donegal County Council and if sanctioned for funding, they are likely to be included in the next major announcement of approvals that I expect to make early in the New Year.      

  Apart from the new social housing units sanctioned for funding for Donegal as set out at the above links, the local authority is also working to acquire new social houses and bringing forward projects under the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme, which are also part of its target for delivery out to 2017.   

  Donegal County Council has sought funding from my Department to return 154 vacant properties to use in 2015 and support for all these units will be provided. The exact cost involved will not be known until the work is completed. In 2014, Donegal County Council returned 167 vacant properties to use with funding support from my Department of €919,797.

Housing Provision

 200. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly to support rent supplement and housing assistance payment limits and introduce rent certainty as short-term housing measures, as advised by the National Economic and Social Council; to make better use and provide quicker turnaround of State properties and local authority voids that are empty; to enhance prevention and early intervention measures to support persons in their homes; to explore the efficacy of modular homes, ensuring that this does not become a long-term measure; to access affordable housing with support, as a solution to the housing and homeless crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44378/15]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly A shortage of supply is at the heart of the current challenges in the housing sector and the Government is addressing this on a number of fronts. The Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy, published last year, is aimed at addressing issues in the property and construction sectors and ensuring that any bottlenecks that might impede the sector in meeting the estimated residential demand of 25,000 units per annum are resolved. My Department and other relevant Government Departments and agencies are actively implementing the range of commitments set out therein. In addition, NAMA is aiming to deliver a target of 20,000 residential units before the end of 2020. Of these units, 90% will be in the greater Dublin area, with approximately 75% of the units being starter homes.

  With regard to social housing delivery, the Social Housing Strategy 2020 sets out clear, measureable actions to increase the supply of social housing, reform delivery arrangements and meet the housing needs of all households on the social housing list. The Strategy has been supported by two successive budgets with €1.7 billion allocated to housing, with associated delivery targets of over 33,000 units across both Capital and Current programmes. Given the pressing need to recommence a house building programme, almost €3 billion in capital funding will be provided in support of the Social Housing Strategy under the Government’s Capital Plan - Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021.   

  The unprecedented support and funding being allocated to bring vacant and boarded-up social housing units back into use is a notable example of the Social Housing Strategy’s focused and realistic approach. Over 2,300 units were delivered in 2014 and I expect 2,500 units to be completed in 2015.

  The implementation of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme is a key Government priority and a major pillar of the Social Housing Strategy. There are currently more than 5,400 households in receipt of HAP and the scheme has been rolled out to all categories of household in 18 local authority areas.

  The maximum rent limits for different household classes that apply in each local authority where HAP has been commenced are set out in regulations and are generally based on the Rent Supplement limits as set out by the Department of Social Protection (DSP). In prescribing these limits, household size and prevailing rents in the relevant areas are taken into consideration. My Department works closely with the Department of Social Protection and monitors data which it gathers, along with PRTB data, and data gathered through HAP pilot authorities, in relation to the rent limits applying. This matter will be kept under active review in all HAP pilot authority areas.   

  On 10 November 2015, Government approval was given to a package of measures to address rent stability and housing supply. The measures will act to stabilise rents in the short to medium term while the additional supply of housing comes on stream. In relation to rent stability, the measures were given effect by the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015, enacted on 4 December 2015. This Act provides, inter alia, that the minimum period between rent reviews for tenancies is being increased from 12 to 24 months and this new provision will apply for a 4 year period. In addition, the minimum period of notice of new rent is increased from 28 days to 90 days and longer notice periods for the termination of long-term tenancies have been introduced. Each of these new provisions commenced on enactment.   

  Further amendments in the Act regarding rent and tenancies will be the subject of commencement orders. Details of the full package of new rent stability and housing supply measures are available at the following link: 

http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad,43556,en.pdf

  With regard to modular housing provision, this programme of 500 units is being implemented to mitigate the issues associated with an increasing volume of homeless families accommodated in inappropriate commercial hotel arrangements. These units will provide emergency accommodation in the first instance, with each unit providing accommodation for a single household at a given time. While the placement of individual households in these units is intended to be on a short term basis, such placements will offer a greater level of stability than is possible in hotel accommodation, while move-on options to long-term independent living are identified and secured. Furthermore, such arrangements will facilitate more coordinated needs assessment and support planning for access to all required services, including welfare, health and housing services.   

  Cognisant of the difficulty faced by households in accessing the housing market, Budget 2016 provided for an affordable rental pilot scheme, with €10 million being made available from the proceeds of the sale of Bord Gáis Éireann to fund a pilot in 2016. The Scheme will be an ongoing annual commitment to secure a long term increase in the supply of affordable properties to meet the needs of those households that would struggle to make rental payments under present market conditions. Details of the Scheme are currently being finalised in my Department and will be completed by end-year, for rollout in early 2016.


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