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 Header Item Written Answers
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-57
 Header Item Local Authority Housing
 Header Item Home Loan Scheme
 Header Item Approved Housing Bodies
 Header Item Vacant Sites Levy
 Header Item Land Development Agency
 Header Item Urban Development
 Header Item Housing Provision
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme Review
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Rent Controls
 Header Item Pyrite Remediation Programme
 Header Item Local Authority Housing
 Header Item Legislative Process
 Header Item Housing Issues
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision
 Header Item Land Development Agency
 Header Item Ministerial Meetings
 Header Item Housing Data
 Header Item Housing Data
 Header Item Water Services
 Header Item Referendum Campaigns

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

Written Answers Nos. 1-57

  Questions Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.

  Questions Nos. 13 to 19, inclusive, resubmitted.

  Questions Nos. 20 to 25, inclusive, answered orally.

Local Authority Housing

 26. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if he is satisfied that the supply of new local authority housing is meeting demand. [8476/19]

 38. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the details of new homes provided by local authorities in 2018 under the various categories of provision including build, lease, voids refurbishing and acquisition by local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8245/19]

 58. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of direct build social houses delivered by all 31 local authorities in 2018 excluding those built by approved housing bodies and Part V; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8471/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I propose to take Questions Nos. 26, 38 and 58 together.

Qualified households on social housing waiting lists can have a wide variety of housing needs and it is therefore important that there is a blend of social housing delivery mechanisms available that can meet those diverse needs in the most effective manner.  Under Rebuilding Ireland, the aim is to meet the housing needs of some 138,000 households over the 6 year period 2016 to 2021, and provision is made for this to be achieved through a mix of different mechanisms.  These include build, acquisition and leasing schemes delivered by local authorities or in partnership with Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). 

Just over two years ago there were over 90,000 households on local authority housing waiting lists.  By June 2018, the number had reduced to less than 72,000 and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. Over the three year period 2016 to 2018, some 72,000 additional households across the country had their housing needs met.  In 2018 alone, just over 27,100 households were supported, 6% ahead of the overall target for the year. 

In January 2018, I committed to publishing individual targets for housing delivery in each local authority area to enable greater transparency and accountability when it comes to increasing the stock of social housing and responding to social housing needs more generally.  With over €6 billion committed to Rebuilding Ireland, it is vital that this public funding is used efficiently to deliver new homes and that this can be demonstrated clearly.

Data in relation to 2018 social housing output against target, broken down by local authority area, has just been published on the statistics page of my Department's website. Overall, a very strong performance versus the national target for the year was achieved.  That is not to say, however, that delivery by individual local authorities was consistently strong.  At a Housing Summit with local authority Chief Executives last week, I took the opportunity to discuss their individual delivery pipelines and I heard from them about local plans and actions to further accelerate output.

Looking specifically at build, acquisition and leasing schemes, Rebuilding Ireland supported local authorities to deliver 8,422 homes to households on their waiting lists in 2018. This included:

- 3,410 local authority and AHB new build, 2,022 of which were delivered through local authorities, plus 841 local authority and AHB Part V homes, bringing the overall new build figure for 2018 to 4,251, up 85% on 2017;

- 560 voids;

- 2,610 local authority and AHB acquisitions, up 17% on 2017; and

- 1,001 local authority and AHB leases, up 21% on 2017.

The evolution of the social housing programme is clear from the overall 2018 performance.  While the level of new build social housing homes was more than 8 times the level in 2015, the year before Rebuilding Ireland was introduced, the level of new HAP supports remained static last year and will decline over the coming years.

I recognise that the blend of delivery will vary across areas depending on local circumstances. However, my message to local authorities has been consistent and it is a message that every possible effort must be made to, at minimum, achieve our targets, if not exceed them.  The range of delivery schemes, funding and resources are in place to support this and while I am pleased that 2018 showed a strong performance overall, there is no room for complacency.  I will therefore be continuing to engage proactively with local authorities to ensure that any impediments to progress are addressed.

  Questions Nos. 27 to 31, inclusive, answered orally.

Home Loan Scheme

 32. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the status of the allocations of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan; if further allocations will become available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8475/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan launched on 1 February 2018. Prior to its launch, an initial tranche of €200 million of long-term fixed-rate finance was borrowed by the Housing Finance Agency to provide funds for the scheme to local authorities.

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was initially being developed it was estimated that the drawdown of loans under the scheme would be approximately €200 million over three years. From the data collated on the scheme to date, the RIHL has proven to be more successful than initially anticipated, as a result of which, the scheme would require a further tranche of funds to be borrowed by the HFA in order to enable its continuation.

My Department is currently in discussions with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance with regard to an extension of the scheme in this regard. When these discussions are concluded I will be in a position to make an announcement on the matter.

Approved Housing Bodies

 33. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the efforts being made to have approved housing bodies reclassified as off balance sheet.  [8453/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy My Department is continuing its work on the issue of reclassification, by Eurostat, of the majority of Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies as part of the Government sector for accounting purposes.  It is engaging with the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, with technical support from the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) and the Housing Agency (HA), in order to ensure that AHBs can continue to fulfil their full potential in the delivery of the targets set out in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan.

The Department has also had constructive discussions with the AHB representative bodies. The sector itself has engaged its own research on the matter, and has put forward its own proposals. My Department is evaluating these proposals as part of its ongoing consideration of the issue and with regard to their potential wider implications.  The Department is also examining measures that could be taken to develop the AHB sector to enable reclassification in the longer term.  

Notwithstanding the decision by Eurostat, the Government continues to see a central role for the voluntary housing sector in contributing to delivery of social housing under Rebuilding Ireland. It is committed to using all mechanisms and schemes, including through the AHB sector, to ensure that we maintain the momentum towards meeting the ambitious 50,000 social housing target under the Action Plan.

Vacant Sites Levy

 34. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if he is satisfied that the changes introduced in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018, specifically the removal of provisions in the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 relating to reduced rates of vacant site levy being applied in situations in which a site loan exceeds specific percentages of the market value of a vacant site, are working as intended; if there has been an increase in the number of sites being placed on the register following the removal of the exemptions; if he is satisfied that local authorities are applying the most up-to-date version of the vacant site levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8469/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The vacant site levy measure was introduced by the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015.  As part of an on-going oversight and review of the levy, the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 introduced amendments to the 2015 Act, which collectively aimed to further strengthen the vacant site levy provisions.  The amendments included provisions to increase the rate of the levy from 3% to 7% for sites on local authority vacant site registers from 2019 onwards and the removal of the possibility of applying reduced or zero rates of levy for sites on registers that are subject to a site loan, reflecting the improved economic circumstances and higher property prices since the levy measure was originally introduced.

The removal of the possibility of applying reduced or zero rates of levy on specified vacant sites does not impact on the number of sites placed on vacant site registers. The inclusion of sites on registers continues to be determined by the criteria provided for in section 5 of the 2015 Act, that is -

(1) in the case of residential land, that the site is situated in an area in which there is a need for housing, the site is suitable for the provision of housing, and the site or the majority of the site is vacant or idle, and

(2) in the case of regeneration land, that the site or the majority of the site is vacant or idle, and being vacant or idle has adverse effects on existing amenities or reduces the amenity provided by existing public infrastructure and facilities in the area in which the site is situated or has adverse effects on the character of the area, subject to the site exceeding 0.05 hectares in area.

While application of the levy provisions is a matter for individual local authorities, my Department continues to monitor implementation of the levy to ensure that it is being effectively applied, in line with its intended purpose of incentivising the development of vacant or under-utilised sites in urban areas.  To support this work, progress reports were requested from local authorities and the responses received are currently being examined by my Department to see what further implementation supports may be required.

Land Development Agency

 35. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his views on the fact that the Land Development Agency is not accessible under freedom of information; if information relating to the work of the agency to date on the number of staff employed, external advisers employed and fees associated with both staff and external advisors will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8470/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Land Development Agency (LDA) was established on 13 September 2018 by way of Establishment Order under the Local Government Services (Corporate Bodies) Act 1971.

As set out in Section 6(12) of the Freedom of Information Act 2014, the LDA, being a public body as set out under Section 6(1) of the FOI Act, is not subject to FOI until a maximum of 6 months have passed since the date of establishment. As the LDA was established on 13 September 2018, it is not officially bound by FOI legislation until 13 March 2019.

There are currently 3 staff working in the LDA who are on secondment from the NTMA.  Expenditure in relation to the LDA in 2018 was approximately €250,000.  This related to professional services, including legal and financial services, relating to the establishment of the LDA, as well as services in relation to the initial work regarding the masterplans of the 8 initial sites to which the Agency has access, which have the potential to deliver 3,000 homes in the short term and a further 7,000 at later stages, 30% of which will be affordable housing.

In line with the Establishment Order, the LDA will be required to publish an annual report and audited financial statements for each financial year and the audited accounts will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.  The LDA has already appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government and will, of course, continue to be available for further engagement as its work programme advances.

Urban Development

 36. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of applications for the Project Ireland 2040 urban regeneration fund; the status of the applications; the value of grants that will be issued in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8293/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) was launched as part of Project Ireland 2040 to support the compact growth and sustainable development of Ireland’s five cities, regional drivers and other large urban centres, with €2 billion available to 2027. 

A total of 189 applications were submitted to my Department under the first call for proposals.  Following a three-staged assessment process, I announced 88 successful proposals in November 2018, details of which are published on my Department's website.

The projects involved fall into two categories: Category A - projects that are 'ready to go' - and Category B - projects which are at an earlier stage (Master Planning/Feasibility) and which will assist in forming a future pipeline of projects.  Successful bid proposals have been approved in principle, subject to final agreement of technical details with my Department, and the funding allocations should be regarded as an initial investment of support for the projects. 

My Department has been actively engaging with successful applicants on the detailed progression of their proposals in 2019.  This process will be finalised shortly, following which project conditions and formal grant agreements will be concluded.

Funding of €100 million has been allocated in respect of the 88 successful proposals, combining both category A and B projects.  In terms of 2019 spend, while an initial allocation of €71 million was provided for the URDF as published in my Department’s 2019 Estimate, it was determined in the context of the accommodation of increased costs of the development of the National Children’s Hospital, that €13 million of drawdown under the URDF could be re-profiled from 2019 to 2020 without any delay in the progression of successful proposals.  I am satisfied at this point that the revised allocation of €58 million in respect of URDF grants for 2019 will be spent in full.

It is expected that a second call for proposals for 2020 funding will be launched later in Q1 2019 and a workshop for applicants will be organised in advance.  It is envisaged that this application period will run until summer 2019.

Housing Provision

 37. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his plans to address the lack of housing in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8185/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The provision of housing, whether it be social, affordable or private is a top priority for this Government. Under Rebuilding Ireland, the Government is making over €6 billion available to deliver 50,000 social housing homes nationally, through build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing, over the period to 2021.  In addition, some 88,000 households are to be supported under the Housing Assistance Payment and Rental Accommodation Scheme.  Good progress is being made and to date under Rebuilding Ireland, over 72,000 households have had their housing needs met nationally. 

In Wexford, delivery against social housing targets has been strong and the statistics for each local authority’s 2018 delivery, which are being published today, show that Wexford County Council supported 920 additional households in 2018 and exceeded its overall target of 627 for the year, as well as its specific target of 231 for the build, acquisition and leasing of new social homes.  This progress can also be measured in the number of households on Wexford’s waiting list, which has reduced by 15% between 2017 and 2018. While those achievements are very positive, more remains to be done and I will shortly be writing to all local authorities, including Wexford County Council, setting out their individual targets for social housing for 2019. 

In the important area of new social housing build, Wexford County Council, in conjunction with Approved Housing Bodies, has over 300 further new social homes that are either on site or in planning and procurement.  This is in addition to what has been delivered already up to the end of 2018. My Department will continue to work with the Council to support the further expansion of their build programme and their wider delivery of social housing supports to households on their waiting list.

In terms of housing overall, just over 18,000 dwelling completions nationally were recorded by the CSO in 2018, up 25% on the previous year. 485 of these were in Wexford, which was a 38% increase on the 352 recorded in 2017.

  Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 26.

Social and Affordable Housing

 39. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if his Department has contacted Dublin City Council in relation to cost-benefit and opportunity cost studies of significant vacant lands under the control of the authority which have been earmarked for social and affordable housing for decades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8187/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Under the Public Spending Code, project sponsoring bodies, such as Dublin City Council, must prepare an economic appraisal, such as a cost benefit analysis or a cost effectiveness analysis, for current and capital expenditure projects or programmes costing €20m or more. In the case of large-scale social housing projects, my Department reviews such appraisals, as the relevant sanctioning authority, and they are submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) for technical review.

My Department is working with Dublin City Council and DPER to ensure that the critical appraisal process is carried out in a robust manner, with the minimum impact on project delivery timelines. To this end, my Department recently met with Dublin City Council and DPER, arising from which my Department is preparing additional detailed guidance for local authorities on the appraisal process for social housing projects over €20m.

My Department continues to work closely with all local authorities to support accelerated delivery of new social and affordable homes on their residential land banks, with particular emphasis on prioritising those sites with the greatest potential to deliver mixed tenure housing at scale, in the short to medium term.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Review

 40. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his plans to publish the review of the tenant purchase (incremental) scheme 2016; his further plans to change the scheme to make it more attractive; the number of houses purchased under the scheme to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8396/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy In line with the commitment given in Rebuilding Ireland, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been completed and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations.  I hope to be in a position to publish the review shortly, following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising.

  My Department publishes information on the sale of local authority houses each year; this can be accessed on my Department's website at the following link:

  http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/social-and-affordble/other-local-authority-housing-scheme-statistics.

Social and Affordable Housing

 41. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his views on whether legislation allowing developers to deliver 10% of social housing units required per development off site is acceptable in the housing emergency in Dublin and nationally; if the legislation relating to this exemption will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8472/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Local authorities have been advised in Guidelines on Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, issued under section 28 of the Act in January 2017, that the priority option to be pursued in relation to Part V agreements is the acquisition of social housing on the site which is the subject of the planning permission. However, in some cases acquiring homes on the development site is not an efficient use of resources, for instance where:

  - land costs are particularly high;

  - the homes are of significantly higher specification than would be the case in a local authority owned housing project; and

  - there are excessive annual management fees.

  My Department considers all requests from local authorities for sanction for funding in terms of the acquisition of homes under Part V in the light of the key aims of Part V, including social integration. However, on some occasions it has been necessary for local authorities to use the off-site option in view of the prohibitive costs of some on-site homes.  

  My Department remains committed to working with the local authorities to find the best balance and to deliver social housing stock in the places where it is needed but at a price that is acceptable to the Exchequer.

Rent Controls

 42. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the actions he will take to reduce rents to affordable levels in view of the fact that rent increases in most of the country in 2018 were multiples of the rent pressure zone limits. [8479/19]

 44. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the actions he is taking to alleviate the escalating rents in the private rental sector in counties Laois and Offaly. [8290/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 44 together.

  Affordability remains a significant issue in the rental market. Continued economic and population growth coupled with inward migration and a constrained supply of housing contribute to upward pressures on rents.

  The Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, introduced the Rent Predictability Measure to moderate rent increases in those parts of the country where rents are highest and rising resulting in great difficulty for households finding affordable accommodation. In Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs), rents can only increase by a maximum of 4% annually. The measure applies to new and existing tenancies, when rents are set at the start of a tenancy and when rents are set in a rent review during an ongoing tenancy or new tenancy, unless otherwise exempted.

  Section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended, provides that the Housing Agency, in consultation with housing authorities, may make a proposal to the Minister that an area should be considered for designation as a Rent Pressure Zone. Following receipt of such a proposal, the Minister requests the Director of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to conduct an assessment of the area to establish whether or not it meets the criteria for designation and to report to the Minister on whether the area should be designated as a Rent Pressure Zone. For the purpose of the Act, ‘area’ is defined as either the administrative area of a housing authority or a local electoral area within the meaning of section 2 of the Local Government Act 2001.

  For an area to be designated a Rent Pressure Zone, it must satisfy the following criteria set out in section 24A(4) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as inserted by section 36 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016):

  (i) the annual rate of rent inflation in the area must have been 7% or more in four of the last six quarters; and

  (ii) the average rent for tenancies registered in the area with the RTB in the last quarter must be above the average national rent (the National Standardised Rent in the RTB’s Rent Index Report) in the last quarter (€1,122 per month in Q3 2018).

  The RTB Rent Index Report includes a summary in Table 9 of the data used to establish whether each Local Electoral Area fulfils the criteria for designation as a Rent Pressure Zone. This ensures transparency in relation to the position of individual areas in terms of average rent levels and increases.

  Further information on Rent Pressure Zones and designations is available on my Department's website at https://www.housing.gov.ie/PUBLICATIONS, by searching 'rent pressure zones - information'.

  The most recent average national rent available for this purpose is taken from the Q3 2018 RTB Rent Index Report which records an average national rent of €1,122. Data for Q3 2018 show that nationally, private rents rose by 7.5% annually across the country, a slight deceleration from 7.8% in Q2 2018. National rents showed a quarterly increase of 1.9%, a decrease from 3.4% in Q2 2018.

  The six Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) in Laois and Offaly do not currently fulfil the RPZ designation criteria under the legislation as the average rent in each is below the National Standardised Rent of €1,122. The data from the Q3 2018 Rent Index Report relating to the six LEAs located is set out in the following table.

Local Electoral Area Quarters > 7% Average 2018 Q3 (€)
Borris-in-Ossory-Mountmellick 2 767.54
Portlaoise 4 921.14
Graiguecullen-Portarlington 3 926.01
Birr 1 559.29
Tullamore 5 772.37
Edenderry 3 825.26


  The Housing Agency continues to monitor the rental market and may recommend further areas for designation. Where, following the procedures set out in the Act, it is found at a future date that additional areas meet the criteria, they will be designated as Rent Pressure Zones.

  The Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2018 was published on 19 December 2018 to deliver on a number of commitments flowing from Rebuilding Ireland and commitments made subsequently to provide powers to the RTB to investigate and sanction landlords who engage in improper conduct, including non-compliance with the rent increase restriction in Rent Pressure Zones.

  Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 27.

  Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 42.

Pyrite Remediation Programme

 45. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the status of the establishment of the mica redress scheme; the planned commencement date of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8179/19]

 46. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the details of the recent announcement of the mica redress scheme; the date in 2019 from which homes will be repaired under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8180/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 46 together.

  The Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks was established by my Department in 2016, to investigate problems that have emerged in the concrete blockwork of certain dwellings in Counties Donegal and Mayo.

  In 2017, the report of the Expert Panel was published and included eight recommendations, which my Department is actively progressing with the relevant stakeholders, prioritising the implementation of Recommendations 1 and 2.

  With regard to Recommendation 1, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) established a Technical Committee to scope and fast track the development of a standardised protocol. The standardised protocol will inform the course of action in relation to remedial works for all affected householders.  The standardised protocol was published by the NSAI on 13 November 2018 and ‘I.S. 465:2018 - Assessment, testing and categorisation of damaged buildings incorporating concrete blocks containing certain deleterious materials’, is available at www.nsai.ie.

  The standard can be used to assess and categorise the damage in properties where the concrete blocks are suspected to contain the minerals mica or pyrite. Previously, there was no common way for engineers or homeowners to assess the damage caused by defective concrete blocks, in order to decide what, if any, remedial work could be carried out.  The standard:

  1. establishes a protocol for assessing and determining whether a building has been damaged by concrete blocks containing certain excessive amounts of deleterious materials (free or unbound muscovite mica, or aggregate with potentially deleterious quantities of pyrite); 

  2. describes methods for establishing the extent of the problem;

  3. describes the scope of any testing required; and

  4. categorises buildings, in  accordance with the standard, providing competent persons with guidance on the appropriate measures to be taken.

  With regard to Recommendation 2, my Department has been in contact with Engineers Ireland in relation to the establishment of a register of competent engineers for homeowners/affected parties’ reference. Engineers Ireland has provided assurance that they are in the process of finalising measures to establish such a register now that the standardised protocol is in place. Engineers Ireland has recently issued a call for suitably qualified engineers to participate on the register.

  In 2017, I visited Donegal and Mayo and met with key stakeholders, including affected homeowners, elected members and officials of the local authorities and other interested parties. I made similar visits to both counties last year and I will continue to monitor the situation and to update affected parties on progress.

  Under Budget 2019, the Government approved in principle the development of a grant scheme of financial assistance to support affected homeowners in the two counties to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks.  Work on the development of such a scheme is well underway, including discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the operation and funding of the scheme.  It is intended to revert to Government with proposals for the scheme as soon as possible, with a view to publishing details of the scheme thereafter.

Local Authority Housing

 47. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if he is satisfied that none of the renovated voids completed in 2018 were leased to tenants prior to renovation. [8478/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The purpose of the voids programme, funded by my Department, is to support local authorities in returning vacant social homes to use as quickly as possible, particularly homes that would likely remain vacant for a significant period of time because of the cost of the works required.

My Department does not collate data on the letting history of local authority properties submitted for refurbishment under the voids programme. Indeed, the tenanting of social homes is a matter for individual local authorities, therefore the information sought is not available from my Department. As a matter of practice, I expect that most, if not all, properties supported under the voids programme were re-let following completion of works. However, it may be possible for some works to be carried out in tandem with a property being re-let and that might facilitate a tenant being housed more speedily; such decisions are operational ones for local authorities to take.

Legislative Process

 48. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the position regarding the commercial rates Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8458/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Local Government (Rates) Bill 2018 is currently before the Oireachtas and completed Second Stage in the Dáil recently.  Given that the current legislative basis for the levying and collection of rates is spread over a number of enactments, some dating back to the 19th century, the Bill contains proposals for modernisation of the legislation governing commercial rates.  Included in the provisions are:

  - the removal of the requirement for ratepayers to pay their annual bill in two instalments (moieties) and provision to allow ratepayers to pay rates by instalments or a payment plan agreed with the local authority;

  - schemes for the abatement of rates on vacant properties;

  - power for local authorities to introduce rates waiver schemes to support local and national policy objectives;

  - the levying of interest on unpaid and overdue rates; and

  - the rendering of unpaid rates to be a charge on relevant property.

  Additionally, further measures could not be finalised for inclusion in the Bill as published but are currently being examined with a view to their introduction at Committee Stage.  These include:

  - the issuing, by a local authority, of a Rates Compliance Certificate when a ratepayer has discharged the rates liability or has entered into a payment plan, and the introduction of a requirement to have a Rates Compliance Certificate in order to obtain certain statutory licences;

  - addressing the powers for local authorities to take legal action through the Courts to pursue unpaid rates; and

  - amending the provisions of section 56 of the Valuation Acts 2001-2015 relating to a Rates Limitation Order in the year following a revaluation of a local authority, in order to maintain the same level of rates income for the local authority in question.

  The Bill is a key priority of my Department and when enacted, will facilitate more effective and streamlined rates collection procedures.

Housing Issues

 49. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the way in which he can address concerns of residents in areas that have seen large developments of housing stock while ensuring targets are being reached in the Rebuilding Ireland programme; the success of the programme to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8399/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Under Rebuilding Ireland, some 50,000 additional social housing homes will be delivered through build, acquisition and leasing schemes over the period 2016-2021. In addition, a further 87,000 households will be supported under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.

Overall targets for each local authority are directly proportionate to the housing need in their area and the aim is to deliver the housing required in the most efficient and effective manner through a range of delivery streams led by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs). 

The scale and relevant tenure mix for new social housing developments are, in the first case, matters for the relevant local authority, whether those developments are contracted by the authorities themselves or by AHBs operating in their areas.  Central guidance for housing developments is set out in my Department's publication 'Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities', which is available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad%2C1979%2Cen.pdf.  This advises, inter alia, that good quality, sustainable housing developments should be socially and environmentally appropriate, where the mix of dwelling type, size and tenure should support sound social, environmental and economic sustainability policy objectives and contribute to the integrated development of the areas in which they are located.

The guidance also recommends that in the case of social housing, the mix of dwellings should have regard to the need to achieve a balance in home types, sizes and tenure, but should be based primarily on the results of the most recent assessment of housing need and the characteristics of households likely to be accommodated in the scheme.

I consider that this guidance is appropriate and will support the long-term, sustainable development of communities. In applying this guidance, local authorities or AHBs are not prohibited from developing new schemes of any particular size where they are working within the guidance on sustainable communities. The current portfolio of projects under development includes a wide range of different sized schemes.

Finally, a key determinant of the scale of new social housing developments is the consideration of such proposals by the elected members of each local authority, through the Part 8 planning process.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

 50. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the progress being made on reducing the social housing waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8196/19]

 51. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of houses allocated to families on the various local authority housing lists in the course of 2018; the expectation in this regard in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8432/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 51 together.

Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area are provided in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments, an exercise which has been carried out on an annual basis since 2016. 

The 2018 assessment shows that 71,858 households were assessed as qualified and being in need of social housing support. This represents a decrease of 13,941 households or 16.2% on the last assessment in June 2017. Indeed, since the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan was launched in 2016, the numbers have decreased from 91,600 to 71,858, a reduction of 22%.

In terms of meeting the need of households on waiting lists, Rebuilding Ireland provides for a total of 50,000 social housing homes to be delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes and 87,000 additional households to be supported through the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme and the Rental Accommodation Scheme, over the 6 year period 2016 to 2021.  At end December 2018, over 72,000 households had their social housing need met, representing 53% of the overall Rebuilding Ireland target.

In 2019, funding of €2.4 billion is being provided for the delivery of housing programmes, which will allow for the housing needs of almost 27,400 households to be met.  By end 2019, it is anticipated that approximately 100,000 families and individuals will have had their housing needs met through programmes funded under Rebuilding Ireland.

My Department engages with all local authorities on a regular basis regarding the delivery of social housing. I am confident that the actions, targets and resources available to all local authorities under Rebuilding Ireland provide a strong platform for meeting our challenges in the housing sector and continuing to reduce the number of households on waiting lists.

While my Department reports quarterly on the number of social housing supports delivered through the range of Government funded schemes, this does not take account of other households that may have  been housed by local authorities or Approved Housing Bodies through, for example,  routine re-lettings.  Indeed, the allocation of social housing support is a matter for each individual local authority in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and associated regulations. Section 22 of the 2009 Act requires all local authorities, as a reserved function, to make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer, the allocation of which would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the households.

Land Development Agency

 52. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the compulsory purchase powers the new land agency will have for the procurement of underutilised private land for the provision of housing. [8456/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Land Development Agency (LDA) was established on 13 September 2018 by way of Establishment Order under the Local Government Services (Corporate Bodies) Act 1971.

On establishment, the LDA had access to an initial tranche of 8 publicly owned sites that have near term delivery potential for 3,000 new homes and an additional potential for 7,000 new homes. The LDA will also be involved in strategic land assembly by consolidating strategic privately owned lands, for example lands which may be key to opening up the potential of public lands, or which may present long-term strategic land-assembly opportunities, to ensure land supply to the market on an enduring basis, including the potential use of compulsory purchase powers where required. 

A Land Development Agency Bill is currently being prepared, which will include provisions for the LDA to compulsorily acquire lands, if necessary, to deliver on its mandate. It is expected that a General Scheme of the LDA Bill will be published in the coming weeks, with pre-legislative scrutiny to follow shortly thereafter.

Ministerial Meetings

 53. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of meetings he has had with the Pyrite Remediation Board and the Housing Agency in relation to the pyrite remediation scheme since 2016 with particular reference to the key aspects of the scheme addressed at those meetings. [8401/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme, to be implemented by the Board, with support from the Housing Agency.

My Department’s records indicate that I have attended six meetings in relation to the operation of the scheme. Representatives of the Pyrite Resolution Board attended two of those meetings, while representatives of the Housing Agency attended one of the meetings involved. Officials from my Department attended all six meetings.

My Department provides technical and general support to the Board, as well as funding to cover the expenditure incurred by the Board and the Housing Agency in the implementation of the scheme. I receive monthly updates from my Department on activity and progress under the scheme. These updates are in addition to the quarterly and annual reporting arrangements that are in place.  My Department is in regular contact with the Board and the Housing Agency in relation to the implementation of the scheme and is satisfied with the arrangements in place in that regard.

It should be noted that in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the Board is independent in the performance of its functions and, as Minister, I have no role in the operational matters relating to the implementation of the scheme.

Housing Data

 54. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of rapid build housing units that have been constructed to date and occupied; the number of additional units expected to be completed before the end of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8183/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Statistical information in relation to social housing delivery across all delivery streams, including rapid delivery, is published on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/node/6338. Statistical information for the full year 2018 has just been published and is available at: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-eoghan-murphy-publishes-breakdown-of-social-housing-delivery-in-2018-on-a-local-authority-basis/.

  At the end of 2018, 423 homes had been delivered under the rapid delivery programme. Since the programme's inception, some 40 projects have been added to the pipeline and will deliver over 1,100 homes out to 2021. Some 180 of these are expected to be delivered in 2019.

Housing Data

 55. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the expressions of interest received by the end of October 2018 for the enhanced long-term social housing leasing scheme; the number of housing units he expects the scheme to yield by each local authority in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8184/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy A range of housing options are necessary to ensure a supply of accommodation to meet different types of social housing need. Harnessing the off-balance sheet potential of private investment in social housing is an important objective of the Government and the social housing targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland over the period to 2021 reflect the ambition in that regard.  

My Department has introduced the Enhanced Long Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme in order to target newly built or yet to be built houses and apartments for long term leasing, and to target property developers and investors who are in a position to deliver housing at a reasonable scale in order to supplement delivery under Pillar 2 of Rebuilding Ireland.  

The first call for proposals for the Enhanced Leasing Scheme was open from January to April 2018 and a total of 33 submissions were received.  The second call for proposals closed on 25th October 2018 and a total of 22 submissions were received. Information with respect to the number and location of the dwellings proposed for leasing under the Scheme will be available once the respective housing authorities have signed Agreements for Lease arising from the completion of the due diligence process. It is expected that the first Agreements to Lease will be signed later in Q1 2019. 

My Department and the Housing Agency continue to work with local authorities and proposers in respect of the Enhanced Leasing Scheme, and the leasing schemes generally, in order to ensure maximum delivery of high quality leased properties to meet the needs of households on social housing waiting lists.  It is intended to open the Enhanced Leasing Scheme to the market permanently in 2019.

Water Services

 56. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the status of the reform of water services including the creation of a single utility and a referendum to enshrine water in public ownership. [8451/19]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Government’s Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025 sets the broad policy context for the development of water services, including the position of Irish Water as the single, publicly owned national water services authority. This is consistent with the recommendations made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services in 2017, and the legislative reforms in the Water Services Acts.

In this context, Irish Water has proposed fully integrating its operations and ending the current operational arrangements for the delivery of water services through service level agreements, or SLAs, with local authorities.  This, of course, will give rise to significant organisational change for local authorities and their staff.

To this effect on 19 September 2018, the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) reported on a process of engagement, undertaken at my request, with the parties involved in the transformation programme for Irish Water, including, ICTU and relevant affiliated unions, local government management through the County and City Management Association, Irish Water and my Department.  In response to the WRC report, I asked the parties to engage in a process to work towards the development of a stable structural and operational framework for the future. This engagement is to commence in the coming weeks.

In relation to the question of a constitutional amendment on the public ownership of water services, the position is that I have received Government approval for the priority drafting, by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in the Attorney General's Office, of proposed amendments to the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016, which will focus on retaining the entity charged with the provision of public water services in public ownership. This Bill is currently before the Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government.  Work on the amendments is being given priority attention by the Office of the Attorney General.  I have written to the Chairperson of the Committee as recently as 21 January 2019 and will continue to keep the Committee updated on progress in this matter.

Referendum Campaigns

 57. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his plans to hold referendums in 2019. [4260/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy John Paul Phelan): Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan At its meeting on 4 December 2018, the Government reviewed the progress on Bills to amend the Constitution and agreed that two referendums would be held on the same date as the local and European elections in late May 2019.  A referendum would be held on the issue of divorce which would be a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality while the second referendum would concern extending the franchise at Presidential elections to Irish citizens resident outside the State. 

In light of the significant impact that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union is having across all of Government, particularly in the first quarter of 2019, the Government agreed on 5 February 2019 that the proposed referendum on extending the franchise at Presidential elections would be deferred until October 2019.

Furthermore, the Government also agreed on 5 February that the preferred option to be put to the people for a referendum is for an extension of the franchise to all citizens resident outside the State, including citizens resident in Northern Ireland.  This will now inform the development of a Constitutional Amendment Bill in good time for the holding of a referendum in October 2019.


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