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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 304 - 314
 Header Item Repair and Leasing Scheme
 Header Item Vacant Sites Levy
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Data
 Header Item Housing Assistance Payments Administration
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Data
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment
 Header Item Defence Forces Medicinal Products

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 956 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 88 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 304 - 314

Repair and Leasing Scheme

 304. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of vacant properties that are being brought back to use under the repair and leasing scheme for each local authority, in tabular form; his views on whether the target of 800 units for 2017 will be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30327/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) has been developed to assist private property owners and local authorities or Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to harness the accommodation potential that exists in certain vacant properties across Ireland. The scheme is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their properties up to the required standard for rental property.

  In recognition of both the critical demand for units and the potential the RLS has to offer, an additional €26m was assigned to fund the scheme in 2017, which brings the total amount available this year to €32m. This additional investment in 2017 means that delivery under the scheme can be accelerated and up to 800 vacant properties can be brought back into use as new homes for families on local authority waiting lists this year.

  Individual targets have been communicated to each local authority to ensure that the objective of 800 units for 2017 is achieved, and local authorities have been provided with delegated authority to enter into contractual arrangements in respect of that number of units. The RLS targets for each local authority are set out in tabular form below. 

  My Department will be closely monitoring this activity to ensure that the scheme works well; that the funding available is utilised effectively; and ultimately, that new social houses are delivered using the scheme in 2017. If a local authority is in a position to secure more units through the scheme than their target, this is welcomed and funding will be provided accordingly.  The RLS has potential to deliver social housing quickly and for low level investment in comparison to new build projects and I expect local authorities, working together with AHBs, will successfully deliver the scheme this year.

  2017 RLS Targets per Local Authority

Local AuthorityRLS Target 2017
Carlow County Council14
Cavan County Council9
Clare County Council18
Cork City Council26
Cork County Council50
Donegal County Council22
Dublin City Council150
Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council25
Fingal County Council41
Galway City Council24
Galway County Council20
Kerry County Council27
Kildare County Council31
Kilkenny County Council13
Laois County Council13
Leitrim County Council6
Limerick City and County Council30
Longford County Council10
Louth County Council22
Mayo County Council20
Meath County Council18
Monaghan County Council5
Offaly County Council13
Roscommon County Council8
Sligo County Council10
South Dublin County Council47
Tipperary County Council23
Waterford City and County Council53
Westmeath County Council20
Wexford County Council19
Wicklow County Council13
-800

Vacant Sites Levy

 305. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his plans to impose a vacant site levy on development sites in 2018; the details of the scheme; the rate at which he expects to apply the levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30329/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 introduced a new measure, the vacant site levy, which is aimed at incentivising the development of vacant, under-utilised sites in urban areas.  Under the Act, planning authorities are required to establish a register of vacant sites in their areas, beginning on 1 January 2017, and to issue annual notices to owners of vacant sites by 1 June 2018 in respect of vacant sites on the register on 1 January 2018. The levy will be applied by planning authorities, commencing on 1 January 2019 in respect of sites which were vacant and on the vacant site register during the year 2018 and will subsequently be applied on an annual basis thereafter, as long as a site remains on the vacant site register in the preceding year.

  Planning authorities are empowered to apply an annual vacant site levy of 3% of the market value of vacant sites, exceeding 0.5 hectares in area - with reduced or zero rates of levy applying in specific circumstances – which, in the planning authority’s opinion, were vacant or idle in the preceding year, in areas identified by the planning authority in its development plan or local area plan for residential or regeneration development. The 3% rate of vacant site levy is consistent with the rate applied to derelict sites under the Derelict Sites Act 1990 and is considered reasonable, without being over-punitive, for the purposes of incentivising the activation of such sites for residential or regeneration purposes.

  It is also worth noting that all levies due on an individual site will remain a charge on the land concerned until all outstanding levies due are paid. Accordingly, under the vacant site levy provisions, there will be a cumulative effect associated with not activating a site for development purposes for each year that a site remains vacant or idle.

  The proceeds of the levy raised on vacant sites will be used by planning authorities for the provision of housing and urban regeneration development in the local area in which vacant sites are located.  No more than 10% of the levy monies received by planning authorities may be used on their collection and administration costs.  At this time, it is not possible to provide an estimate of the annual levies that may be raised by planning authorities in the implementation of the levy.

  My Department issued general guidance to planning authorities  on the implementation of the vacant site levy in July 2016, by way of Circular Letter PL 7/2016, entitled Implementation of the Vacant Site Levy, which is available on my Department’s website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/pl_072016_guidance_on_implementation_of_the_vacant_site_levy.pdf.  

  Planning authorities are presently engaging in the necessary preparatory work, prior to the application of the levy with effect from January 2019 in respect of sites identified on the register in 2018.  As required under the Act, this includes the identification of specific vacant sites for entry on the register as well as the registered owners of the sites in question along with undertaking a site valuation.  Vacant site registers were established in January 2017 by planning authorities and the registers will be populated as the preparatory work progresses during the year.  My Department will monitor the implementation of the levy by local authorities to ensure that it is being fully utilised, in line with its intended purpose.

Departmental Reports

 306. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if the working group set up by him to report in the second quarter of 2017 on the issue of short-term tourism related lettings has made its report; if so, if he will publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30330/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Action 18 of the Strategy for the Rental Sector requires the establishment of a Working Group to provide clarity in relation to the appropriate regulatory approach, from a planning perspective, for short-term tourism-related lettings to address unintended consequences of short-term lettings, including withdrawal of supply from the rental market.

The Working Group met on 14 June and had a constructive discussion on the subject of appropriate guidance to planning authorities in relation to short-term lettings for tourism purposes. The Group consists of representatives from my Department, the Departments of Finance and of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, An Bord Pleanála, Fáilte Ireland, the Residential Tenancies Board, and Dublin City Council.

The anticipated output of the Group will be a report on the appropriate regulatory approach for short-term tourism-related lettings and the identification of the necessary amendments to legislation required to effect such regulation. It is expected that the report will be finalised in Q3 2017.

In addition to establishing a working group to consider short-term lettings, my Department has been engaging with AirBnB over the last number of months to explore the possibilities for a collaborative agreement, under which practical steps may be put in place to ensure that, where there are risks that short-term letting may result in the removal of significant numbers of properties from the rental market, planning requirements are respected.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

 307. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the expected completion dates for rapid build housing schemes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30331/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Under my Department's social housing capital programme, there are over 500 rapid build homes advancing at present. Details in relation to the projects referred to in the Question are set out as follows.

Cherry Orchard, Ballyfermot24 homes, scheduled for delivery July 2017
Mourne Road, Drimnagh30 homes, scheduled for delivery July 2017
St. Helena’s, Finglas39 homes, scheduled for delivery July 2017
Belcamp, Dublin,1738 homes, scheduled for delivery September 2017
Wellview, Mulhuddart20 homes, scheduled for delivery November 2017
Woodbank, Rathvilly18 homes, scheduled for delivery end 2017/early2018
Cherry Orchard, Ballyfermot52 homes, scheduled for delivery end 2017/early 2018
St. Aidan’s, Brookfield71 homes, scheduled for end 2017/early 2018
Pinewood, Balbriggan 24 homes, scheduled for delivery end 2017/early2018
George’s Place, Dun Laoghaire  12 homes, scheduled for delivery in early 2018


  My Department has recently asked all Local Authorities to review the social housing projects in their areas and in the interest of achieving earliest delivery, they have been requested to consider their suitability for Design and Build contracts under the Framework set up by the Office Of Government Procurement.  They are being asked to consider, in particular, schemes which are amendable to early commencement, particularly in terms of their approved planning status.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

 308. Deputy Noel Grealish Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if a review of the tenant incremental purchase scheme has been finalised; if the scheme has been revised to enable residents of Part V housing to purchase their houses from their local authority, especially in view of the fact that the income stream will help local authorities to fund additional housing stock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30375/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme.

In line with the commitment given in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, a review of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase scheme’s operation has been undertaken. The review has incorporated analysis of comprehensive data received from local authorities regarding the operation of the scheme during 2016 and a wide-ranging public consultation process which saw submissions received from individuals, elected representatives and organisations.

The review is now complete and a full report setting out findings and recommendations has been prepared. Following consultation with relevant Departments on implementation arrangements, I expect that definitive proposals will be submitted to me very shortly.

Social and Affordable Housing Data

 309. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if he will provide his Department's targets for social housing completions in 2017 by scheme type (details supplied), in tabular form. [30426/17]

 310. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of social housing completions in the first quarter of 2017 by scheme type, in tabular form (details supplied). [30427/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 310 together.

  Details on the number of social housing properties constructed, purchased and leased by local authorities and AHBs, for letting to those on their social housing waiting lists, are published on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision. Some of these details are currently being finalised in respect of quarter four of 2016 and will be published shortly, with information on quarter one 2017 to follow thereafter.

  My intention is that the delivery of social housing will continued to be accelerated and the target of 21,000 social housing units for 2017 under Rebuilding Ireland  will be fully achieved. This target is broken down as follows:

Delivery Method2017 Targets
Construction2,284
Refurbishments/Voids766
Regeneration150
Acquisitions1,250
Leasing600
Rental Accommodation Scheme1,000
Housing Assistance Payment15,000
Total21,050

Housing Assistance Payments Administration

 311. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the reason the additional flexibility was utilised by the local authority in only 3% of tenancies in south County Dublin while this was used in 88% of tenancies in the Dublin city local authority in view of the fact that average rents are comparable in both areas and that there are a very limited number of rental vacancies in both areas according to a report (details supplied); and his views on whether this could be an indication that South Dublin County Council is not adequately using flexibility available to it to secure additional tenancies for households eligible for HAP. [30444/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a flexible and immediate housing support that is now available to all eligible households throughout the State. There are currently more than 23,000 households in receipt of HAP, including more than 7,000 households that were previously supported by Rent Supplement. On average in 2017, 330 new households are being supported by HAP each week. The nationwide roll-out of the HAP scheme was completed following its introduction on 1 March 2017 to the Dublin City, Fingal and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Local Authority areas.  Eligible households in all 31 Local Authority areas can now avail of the scheme.  HAP has been particularly successful in the South Dublin County Council (SDCC) area, where it has been available since 1 October 2014, and currently supports over 1,760 tenancies.

The Government increased the maximum rent limits available under the HAP and Rent Supplement schemes across the country with effect from 1 July 2016. Furthermore, additional flexibility above the existing HAP rent limits was made available to all HAP local authorities from the same date. Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it. It is a matter for the local authority, South Dublin County Council in this case, to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis. 

The Homeless Pilot of the HAP scheme has been operational since February 2015 across the four housing authorities in the Dublin Region, and is being implemented through the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE). The focus of this pilot scheme is to transition qualified households from emergency accommodation, including hotels, into private rented tenancies. Additional discretion of up to 50% above rent limits is available to assist in housing homeless households in the Dublin Region, and 88% of all homeless households have benefited from some level of this homeless specific discretion. The additional discretion available to homeless households recognises the difficulty this cohort of households face in sourcing and securing properties in a highly competitive rental market. This proportion of households utilising discretion in the Dublin City Council administrative area reflects the DRHE's role in processing HAP applications for all eligible homeless households, across the four Dublin local authorities. When homeless households are excluded, the use of discretion of HAP in the Dublin City area is similar to that of SDCC, with 1.2% of all households supported  utilising the discretion available.

At the end of Q1 2017, 14.4% of the total number of households across the country being supported by HAP were benefiting from the additional flexibility that was provided to local authorities to exceed the maximum rent limits. Excluding homeless households, 9.6% of all households being supported were benefiting from the additional flexibility and in those cases the average rate of discretionary payment being used was 14.3% above rent limits provided. 

My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review. I am satisfied with how the scheme is operating and I consider it to be a key vehicle for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme under Rebuilding Ireland.

Departmental Agencies Data

 312. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if all agencies under his aegis have an up to date tax clearance certificate; the agencies which do not have an up to date tax clearance certificate; the reason they do not have a tax clearance certificate in each case, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [30283/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The only State body currently under the aegis of the Department of Defence is the Army Pensions Board. As the Army Pensions Board does not have its own budget, all expenditure and financial transactions relating to it are administered by my Department through the Army Pensions Vote, Vote 35.  Consequently the Board is not required to have a tax clearance certificate.

Defence Forces Recruitment

 313. Deputy Declan Breathnach Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if persons with asthma are barred from joining or serving in the Army; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30366/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Service in the Defence Forces is a demanding career which places unique physical and psychological demands on individuals, exposing them to a unique range of challenging environments. In these circumstances it is vital that the health profile of personnel be such as to ensure that operational capability and effectiveness are not compromised. There are a number of physical and medical standards laid down in the Defence Force Regulations and associated Administrative Instructions. These requirements are based on the professional advice of the Medical Branch and having regard to the nature of the job, the duties of military service and the training exercises undertaken by members of the Defence Forces.

The Director of the Medical Branch has advised that applicants who have chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk of suffering from symptoms related to those conditions due to the exigencies of military service. Entry criteria for enlistment to the Permanent Defence Force are, therefore, based on the selection of personnel who are not likely to require medical support and whose pre-existing medical status could not reasonably be foreseen to be subject to aggravation by service with the Permanent Defence Force.

Each individual’s medical condition is examined taking into account a detailed/documented history of the condition and its extent, including remissions, exacerbations, and any other associated conditions. In the specific context of a chronic medical condition such as asthma the sufferer is placed at a higher health risk. Accordingly, an applicant who is suffering from Asthma would be found to be below Defence Forces Medical Standards and would therefore be ineligible to enlist in the Defence Forces as a Recruit or Cadet.

If a serving member developed a sthma after induction to the Defence Forces, he/she would not be found to be below Defence Forces Medical Standards, unless very severe, but would be given a Medical Classification Code reflective of a chronic but intermittent medical condition.

Defence Forces Medicinal Products

 314. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of cases of malaria in Defence Forces personnel serving in sub Saharan Africa; and the anti malarial drug that the members involved had been prescribed at the time of contracting malaria, in each of the years 2015 and 2016.  [30467/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Military Authorities. I will revert to the Deputy when the information is available.   


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