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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 68-87
 Header Item Water Pollution
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Homeless Persons Supports
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes
 Header Item Housing Provision
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Wildlife Protection
 Header Item Homeless Persons Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Land Development Agency
 Header Item Ministerial Communications
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Postal Voting

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 68-87

Water Pollution

 68. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Information on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Zoom on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the status of his engagement with Irish Water on the matter of pollution on the south Dublin coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28433/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien 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. Irish Water’s primary function is to provide clean safe drinking water to customers and to treat and return wastewater safely to the environment.

It is recognised that our waste water networks require ongoing and sustained investment to bring these up to the required standard of treatment; to deal with population growth; and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. In this regard, significant investment in waste water infrastructure continues and is provided for in the Irish Water Strategic Funding Plan. It is estimated that €1.9bn will be invested in waste water projects between 2019 to 2024.

In relation to Dublin Bay, the EPA has classified the water quality as ‘good’ under the water framework directive for the period 2013 to 2018, an improvement on the ‘moderate’ status achieved during the 2007 to 2009 period.

The EPA’s most recent bathing water quality report, released earlier this year, also highlights the encouraging progress being made in improving bathing waters across the country and I was particularly pleased to see the continual increase in the number of bathing waters meeting or exceeding the minimum water quality requirements.

However, there are instances of bathing water quality issues in some specific areas of Dublin Bay, with Merrion Strand recently delisted as a bathing water. There are multi-faceted sources of pollution that may be impacting on the bathing water quality in Dublin Bay. This includes sewer misconnections to surface water drains and streams, sewer storm water overflows, wildlife and dog-fouling. Through a recently created task force, my Department, Dublin City Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Irish Water are currently working together to diagnose the root-causes and put in place programmes to solve these issues.

In addition to these pressures, the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant was originally designed and built to treat wastewater for a population equivalent of 1.64 million and is now overloaded. In response, Irish Water is currently undertaking a major upgrade of the plant. This upgrade will increase the capacity of the plant to cater for the growing population of the Greater Dublin Area and will address compliance with EU law. Planning permission was granted for the project in April 2019, and the project is currently underway.

Given a legacy of underinvestment in water services infrastructure in Ireland, the scale of remedial work necessary in our water system will take a number years and investment cycles to fully resolve. The Government has committed to ambitious funding of Irish Water’s capital investment plans for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure on a multi-annual basis. The Government plans to deliver the €8.5 billion funding package committed to in Project Ireland 2040.

Housing Policy

 69. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his views on the need for cost-rental housing provision in regional towns to accommodate those unable to secure a mortgage from a bank or lending facility. [28356/20]

 91. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will address the position of persons whose income is above the threshold for social housing but not sufficient to secure a mortgage from a bank or lending facility. [28357/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 91 together.

  This Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that affordable, quality housing solutions are available to everyone in Irish society, and this is reflected in the Programme for Government, ‘Our Shared Future’. We will put affordability at the heart of the housing system through the progression of State-backed affordable housing. To this end, I can confirm that both Affordable Purchase and Cost Rental homes will be delivered on State and public lands through a number of channels, including by local authorities and the Land Development Agency.

   Under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), €310 million has been allocated to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands. With a maximum of €50,000 funding available per home, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated. To date, Serviced Sites funding of €127 million has been approved in principle in support of 35 projects across 14 local authorities which have the capacity to deliver 3,200 more affordable homes. Details of these projects can be found at the following links:

  https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-gives-the-go-ahead-for-ten-local-authority-sites-for-affordable-housing-under-the-serviced-sites-fund/  

  https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-funding-of-e84m-to-support-delivery-of-1770-affordable-homes-under-the-ssf/  

  In relation to the rental sector, the Programme for Government also commits to the development of the Cost Rental model to improve security and affordability for renters. Cost Rental is not intended to overlap with or replace traditional social housing for low-income households. It is public housing where the rents charged cover the cost of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes only.

  Work to outline the consistent and sustainable delivery of Cost Rental at scale is being assisted by an external research project sponsored by the European Investment Bank (EIB) on behalf of my Department. Furthermore, three initial Cost Rental projects are already being progressed, including 50 units at Enniskerry Road in Stepaside, that are currently under construction, while sites at Emmet Road, Inchicore (the former St Michael’s Estate) and Shanganagh Castle, Shankill, are at the design phase. I can also confirm that the Land Development Agency is progressing a significant development pipeline including many thousands of both Cost Rental and Affordable Purchase homes across a range of its sites.

  Other measures such as the Help to Buy Scheme and the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan are also available to eligible purchasers nationally to make home ownership more affordable. As part of the €7 billion July stimulus plan, an enhanced version of the Help-to-Buy scheme was announced. This will allow first-time buyers purchasing a newly-built home – or building one themselves – to claim back up to €30,000 in income tax paid and DIRT on bank deposit interest over the last four years. Full details of the Help to Buy initiative are available at https://www.revenue.ie/en/property/help-to-buy-incentive/index.aspx.

  The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a Government-backed mortgage which is for first-time-buyers nationwide to purchase a new or second-hand home or to self-build. This scheme offers loans on competitive terms to those who are unable to secure a commercial bank loan. Full details of the scheme are available at http://rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie   

  In terms of affordable housing more generally, I will outline my detailed plans in the near future, taking account of progress to date under the SSF, experience from these Cost Rental pilots, a number of other measures, as well as the input of key delivery partners.

Social and Affordable Housing

 70. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the status of the roll-out of a national choice-based letting scheme and website to support households accessing the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28235/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Choice Based Letting (CBL) is a method whereby available social housing stock is let by being openly advertised by local authorities to persons on the social housing waiting list. This allows qualified applicants to 'register an interest' in available homes.

  Applicants can act on their own initiative to respond to adverts and express an interest in dwellings that they would like to live in, rather than waiting for an authority to offer them a dwelling. This approach offers more choice and involvement for applicant households in selecting a new home, thereby reducing the likelihood of a refusal, and helping to build sustainable tenancies and stable communities.

The Social Housing Allocation (Amendment) Regulations 2016 required all local authorities, if they had not already done so, to provide for CBL as a method of allocation for social housing in their allocation schemes by the end of 2016. The way in which CBL is implemented, including decisions on which properties are to be offered through it, is a matter for the individual authority concerned. However, it must be done in accordance with the relevant regulations and their own scheme of priority.

Given the clear benefits offered by CBL, my Department continues to liaise with the local authorities to ensure that it is implemented as widely as possible across the country and has undertaken a number of surveys in both 2017 and 2018 to determine its uptake and impact. Data garnered through these surveys has shown that over half of all local authorities are operating a CBL system while others are in the process of running pilot schemes with a view to wider roll out in their respective areas. Of those authorities that are operating CBL the expressed view is that it is having a positive effect on how they allocate houses. The data also shows that where CBL is in operation the rate of refusals has dropped.

My Department hosted a workshop on CBL with representatives from the local authority sector on 15 November 2019. The aim of the workshop was to bring relevant officials from local authorities together and to provide a forum to discuss the potential for increasing the use of CBL across the State. The workshop also provided an opportunity to those authorities who, for various reasons, are not operating CBL to discuss the issues arising for their authorities.

The Programme for Government commits to developing a website to allow for CBL on a nationwide basis and my Department is working with the Local Government Management Association and the County and City Managers Association to progress this.

Homeless Persons Supports

 71. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of criteria which each local authority applies with respect to residency for persons looking to access homeless services and support. [28299/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of local authorities in addressing homelessness at a local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of homeless accommodation and related services rests with individual local authorities.

Under the Housing Act 1988 it is a matter for each local authority to determine whether a person is regarded as homeless; section 2 of the Act sets out the requirements in this regard. When a household has been assessed as homeless, section 10 of the Housing Act 1988, provides that a local authority may provide accommodation and related services to that household.

Any household assessed as homeless may be placed into temporary emergency accommodation without the requirement to undergo a social housing assessment, allowing local authorities the flexibility that is essential to respond quickly and effectively to the various needs of cases that may arise.

Social and Affordable Housing

 72. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if the issue of councils not accepting for housing supports new applicants who are in receipt of Covid-19 payments will be examined. [28551/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and associated Regulations and are applied by all local authorities in assessing individual households for support.

The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy. The 2011 Regulations do not provide local authorities with any discretion to exceed the limits that apply to their administrative areas.

Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge and Pension-Related Deductions within the meaning of Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once-off in nature.

My Department is not aware of councils not accepting new applicants for housing supports that are in receipt of Covid-19 payments but it is aware of queries received from local authorities in relation to the treatment of Covid-19 payments in the assessment of income for the purposes of social housing support and is in the process of finalising guidance to the sector on same.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

 73. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the additional funding not already committed that was allocated in the July stimulus to small sewerage schemes in villages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28421/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local level.

The Government’s July Stimulus Package included €43m capital funding for investment by Irish Water in the leakage reduction programme and capital maintenance works. This investment is funding works by Irish Water in all 26 counties across both urban and rural areas.

Irish Water is subject to independent economic regulation by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). Irish Water brought forward proposals for a Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme, as part of its Capital Investment Plan 2020-2024 submitted to the CRU, which will support a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the National Planning Framework. The Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in its Investment Plan to 2024. I understand from Irish Water that an allocation of €97.5m for this programme was approved by the CRU.

Further detail in relation to the breakdown of Irish Water's capital investment should be sought from Irish Water. It may be helpful to note that Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email at Oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Housing Provision

 74. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his views on the fact that the vast majority of strategic housing developments awaiting planning or having received planning are doing little to provide the much-needed affordable housing that is required but are for the most part profit-driven developments, often inappropriate for the sites in question and, if developed, will be unaffordable for the vast majority of those impacted by the ongoing housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28543/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act, 2016 introduced new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for Strategic Housing Developments of 100 housing units or more, or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more, to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála for determination.

Under Section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, I, as Minister, am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or the Board is or may be concerned, except in very specific circumstances, which would not apply in this case.

In relation to housing affordability generally, this Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that affordable, quality housing solutions are available to everyone in Irish society and this is reflected in the Programme for Government "Our Shared Future". The Programme commits to putting affordability at the heart of the housing system through the progression of State-backed affordable housing.

Since taking up Office I have established a High Level Housing Delivery Group of key partners to ensure that delivery is prioritised this year, taking account of the impact of Covid 19. I intend to expand this work to cover the expedited delivery of social and affordable housing over the lifetime of the Government.

In terms of affordable housing more generally, I will outline my detailed plans in the near future, taking account of progress to date under the Serviced Sites Fund, experience from three Cost Rental pilots, a number of other measures, as well as the input of key delivery partners.

Housing Policy

 75. Deputy Martin Browne Information on Martin Browne Zoom on Martin Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his views on the way in which the commitment in the programme for Government to make housing a social and economic imperative is possible with a lack of services such as public transport in some areas; his plans to provide the communities under his remit with access to such services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28462/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I have no function in the provision or funding of public transport.

Under the Programme for Government "Our Shared Future", this Government has committed to delivering more than 50,000 additional social homes over the coming five years and to ensuring that affordable, quality housing solutions are available to working families by putting affordability at the heart of the housing system throughout Ireland.

The focusing of new development at locations proximate to high quality public transport in the interest of a sustainable pattern of development is a well-established planning policy principle most recently confirmed in the National Strategic Outcomes of sustainable mobility and compact growth identified in the National Planning Framework. This reiterates the emphasis on the prioritisation of public transport corridors/accessible locations for new development that is also clearly supported in our Planning Policy Statement (2015), various National Planning Guidelines under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 including the Development Plans Guidelines (2007), the Local Area Plans Guidelines 2013 and others. Local authorities are obliged to have regard to these principles in performing their planning functions including the formulation of the policies of their statutory development plan and in deciding on planning application for new housing development.

Social and Affordable Housing

 76. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the status of plans to introduce a social housing passport scheme to allow households to move from one local authority list to another; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28234/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Programme for Government provides for a package of social housing reforms, including the introduction of a social housing passport to allow households move from one local authority list to another.

It should be noted that the four Dublin local authorities already co-operate in arrangements that enable social housing applicants to apply for housing in one or two of the other Dublin authorities simultaneously. Similar arrangements apply in the two Cork and two Galway local authorities. It is also already possible for households to move and relocate between housing authority areas under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme where the household income is within the appropriate income limits.

The issue of providing for wider tenancy movements is being examined and I will look at proposals in relation to such wider movement along with the other reform package measures.

Wildlife Protection

 77. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his views on the historically low level of prosecutions for wildlife crime, said to be only 90 prosecutions over the past eight years, when compared with an average of 75 prosecutions per annum from 1977 to 1987 and the expectation of the principal officer of the National Parks and Wildlife Service at that time that there should be at least 200 prosecutions per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25962/20]

 378. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the position regarding the historically low level of prosecutions for wildlife crime (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28908/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 378 together.

In the period 2012 to date in 2020 some 164 prosecutions were taken by my Department for breaches of the Wildlife Acts ranging from illegal deer and hare hunting, the unlawful cutting of hedges and vegetation and the poisoning of bird species.

As well as more senior regionally based officers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of my Department, there are 72 NPWS conservation ranger posts stationed around the country who deal with enforcement matters under the Wildlife Acts. Frontline conservation rangers are deployed through a regional structure and assignments are determined in light of Departmental business needs and priorities. The Department is currently working with the Public Appointments Service (PAS), with a view to establishing a new recruitment panel for Conservation Rangers.

It is to be noted that it is not only officers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service that have a role in relation to wildlife crime. Officers of An Garda Síochána are also authorised under the Wildlife Acts to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes and additional prosecutions have also been taken by the Gardai in this regard.

While bringing perpetrators of crime to justice is important, the success of dealing with wildlife crime cannot be judged on this alone, as ensuring compliance in the first instance is clearly of critical importance.

Homeless Persons Supports

 78. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the implementation plan for family-oriented Housing First by Louth County Council; the expected timeframe and resources; if there have been delays in the implementation of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28474/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Housing First enables individuals who have been rough sleeping or have been long term users of emergency accommodation, with high levels of complex needs, to obtain permanent secure accommodation with the provision of intensive housing and health supports to assist them to maintain their tenancies.

The National Implementation Plan for Housing First was published in September 2018. The Plan includes an overall target of 663 tenancies in the period to 2018-2021, including 23 in Louth County Council. The Plan is a joint initiative of my Department, the Department of Health, the HSE and the local authorities.

Housing First provides permanent housing for rough sleepers and long-term users of emergency accommodation with complex health support needs. Housing First is not a housing solution for homeless families with children. The policy for families and children experiencing homelessness is to support the families to identify and secure a tenancy, within the shortest possible timeframe, utilising the various available social housing supports.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 79. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if a scheme will be put in place for private sector rent write-offs for tenants who have lost income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. [28323/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien With effect from 1 August 2020, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 introduces protections for those tenants who are facing rent arrears and, as a result, are at risk of losing their tenancy. If a tenant’s ability to pay rent has been impacted by Covid-19 and the tenant meets specific criteria, new procedures and protections apply. Tenants who follow these procedures cannot be required to vacate their rental accommodation before 11 January 2021, and are not required to pay any rent increase in respect of the period ending 10 January 2021.

  My Department has published a guidance document, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020: What this Means for Landlords and Tenants, which sets out exactly what is expected as the rental protections under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 expire, and provides details on the new protections for tenants in rent arrears and the income and other supports available to tenants and landlords.

This guidance document clearly explains the new rent arrears procedure for both landlords and tenants facing rent arrears. The Guidance document is available on the Department's website - www.housing.gov.ie - and on the RTB's website - www.rtb.ie.

  The RTB has engaged with stakeholders with regard to the recent tenancy protection enhancements and launched a related YouTube video. The RTB also launched targeted advertising campaigns informing the public of the enhanced protections and directing people to its website for more information. The advertising campaigns ran from 15 April until to 1 August 2020 and a mail-shot to tenants and landlords is underway since mid-September.

  The RTB and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) are working with tenants in rent arrears to outline the financial supports which may be available to enable the tenant to meet their rental obligations to sustain their tenancy.   

  The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 provides for permanent enhancements to tenancy protections that require a landlord to copy the RTB with any written rent arrears warning notice given to a tenant seeking the payment of all rent arrears within 28 days. The RTB will acknowledge receipt to the landlord and tenant and provide the tenant with written information to enable them to get advice from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and on the income and other supports available. If the tenant agrees, the RTB can help them to engage with MABS to resolve their rent arrears and sustain their tenancy.  

  Tenants are required to pay rent to their landlord and, in the event of tenants having difficulty doing so on foot of Covid-19, they are encouraged to engage with their landlords at the earliest opportunity.

  Tenants facing difficulty in meeting the rental payments should engage with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) as income supports such as Rent Supplement and Supplementary Welfare Allowances are available to assist them. Further information on these supports can be found by calling the DEASP Income Support Helpline for Covid-19 on 1890 800 024 or by visiting the DEASP website at:

https://www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-employment-affairs-and-social-protection/?referrer=https://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/home.aspx.

My Department and the RTB urge landlords to consider the negative impacts of Covid-19 on their tenants and to show forbearance where temporary rent arrears might arise. Tenants and landlords are urged to discuss any problems promptly, keep lines of communication open and respect each other’s positions. If the problem cannot be resolved, registered landlords and all tenants can apply to the RTB for dispute resolution. Further information is available on www.rtb.ie.

  My Department and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) operate a programme of collaborative research principally focused on housing economics. Under this programme, researchers from the Institute and my Department prepared a research paper exploring the short-run implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on the private rental market. The research paper is focused on rental payment affordability and the potential incidence of arrears during the first three months of the pandemic among non-supported private market renting households, that is, among renting households which do not receive a housing subsidy. Changes in consumption patterns arising from public health measures are also considered in the paper. The research findings do not identify a significant rent arrears problem emerging during the first three months of the pandemic.

  Principal Findings on Affordability

  - Prior to Covid-19; circa one-in-three or approximately 70,000 private renter households did not have sufficient income remaining after housing costs to cover a minimum standard of living expenditure prior to the pandemic. The evidence suggests that in the very short run (between mid-March to mid-June 2020), the unique and extraordinary circumstances of the prevailing situation mean the affordability pressures are not likely to have worsened overall. Indeed, some private renter households may be better off.

  - This is due to the fact that short-run changes to expenditure and consumption, which came about mainly as a result of the public health restrictions, are likely to have outweighed the decline in incomes.

  - The research paper finds that the share of households who's after rent income is insufficient to purchase a minimum bundle of goods falls to just under one-in-five (from one-in-three).

  - However, these are very short-term effects and unique to the period in which households have been advised to stay at home and restrict movements.

  - Many non-supported private renters face longer-term structural affordability pressures that are likely to worsen quickly as expenditure requirements (such as on transport and childcare) rebound quicker than incomes.

  - Indeed, the Covid-19 labour market shock has been heavily concentrated in sectors (such as accommodation and food) of the economy whose employees are more likely to be renters than homeowners.

  Principal Findings on Missed Payments

  - Understanding the level of missed rental payments and arrears (both before and since the pandemic) is exceedingly difficult given the absence of national, real-time data on missed payments.

  - Given the unprecedented nature of the current pandemic, it is very difficult to estimate the trajectory of the actual rate of missed rental payments using historical relationships.

  - Model estimates suggest that there is likely to be an increase in missed payments due to the income and particularly, unemployment shocks faced by certain households. However, this increase in missed payments is likely to be tempered in the short-run due to consumption expenditure falling more rapidly that incomes which reduces the likelihood of missed payments for many households in the short-term. Model estimates suggest a moderate rise in missed payments due to the combination of these factors from 9.8% to 10.8% of households.

  Given the State income supports available, including those available for tenants in arrears, and informed by the evidence provided by research into this area, it would not be appropriate to establish a scheme for write-offs of rents payable in the residential rental sector which plays an important role in providing accommodation for many.

  Question No. 80 answered with Question No. 58.

Housing Policy

 81. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the status of his review on co-living. [28370/20]

 89. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will report on his review of co-living and shared accommodation; the way in which the review is being conducted; when the review is due for publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28231/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 89 together.

  Section 5.0 of Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments Guidelines for Planning Authorities, published by my Department in 2018, addresses the ‘Build-to-Rent’ and ‘Shared Accommodation’ sectors.

  Paragraphs 5.13 to 5.24 including Specific Planning Policy Requirement (SPPR) 9 of the Sustainable Urban Housing document, provide guidance and policy in respect of ‘Shared Accommodation Developments’, also known as ‘Co-living’.

  I have been clear in my intention to review the provisions Co-living set out in the Sustainable Urban Housing guidelines. It is also the case that the final paragraph (5.24) of the relevant section of the guidance commits my Department to monitor the emerging shared accommodation sector, with a view to issuing further technical updates of the Sustainable Urban Housing guidelines document, given the relatively new nature of this form of accommodation.

  Accordingly, I have instructed officials in my Department to review Paragraphs 5.13 to 5.24 of the Sustainable Urban Housing document. This includes analysis of development proposals for co-living that have come forward since publication of the guidelines and in particular, how such proposals compare to apartment development standards generally. My officials will report within the coming weeks and this input will assist in informing my ultimate decision in respect of the matter.

Housing Policy

 82. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the extent to which he expects to address the housing needs of families nationwide that are unable to provide themselves with affordable housing on the open market; the extent to which he expects to be in a position to meet the requirements of the local authorities in respect of housing adaptation grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28441/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Enabling thriving housing supply, complimented by a commitment to deliver more than 50,000 social homes over the coming five years are central to ensuring affordability for families. Housing supply has increased year on year in recent years and the number of families on waiting lists for social housing has reduced by 25% between 2016 and 2019.

I am acutely aware that middle-income households feel left behind, locked out, and need our help to buy high-quality new homes. The July Stimulus announced by this Government increased the amount that first-time buyers can now claim up to 10% of the cost of a home.

My Department also operates the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, which is targeted at first time buyers who wish to own their own home, have access to an adequate deposit and have the capacity to repay a mortgage, but who are unable to access a mortgage sufficient for them to purchase their first home. The scheme has been successful since its launch. For example approximately 1,100 persons were able to purchase their own home via RIHL mortgages in 2019.

This Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that affordable, quality housing solutions are available to everyone and this is reflected in the Programme for Government. I am committed to putting affordability at the heart of the housing system through the progression of State-backed affordable housing, and I will outline further plans in terms of affordable housing later in the Autumn.

The Government is also committed to helping to meet the specific housing needs of people with disabilities and older people. There is a recognised quality of life benefit in terms of facilitating the continued independent living by older people and people with a disability in their own homes. This year, my Department continued to support local authorities with €18 million being allocated under the Disabled Persons Grant scheme for local authority housing stock, and a further €73.75 million provided for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability scheme, in respect of private housing. Funding for these schemes has been prioritised and increased year on year since 2014, and further consideration will be given to increasing this funding over the coming years in the context of the range of housing supports under consideration.

Housing Policy

 83. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if the anti-eviction legislation will be reinstated for renters. [27754/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provided for a temporary moratorium on tenancy terminations, other than in exceptional and limited cases, and on all increases in rent during the emergency period from 27 March to 1 August 2020. The emergency measures aimed to urgently assist in restricting the movement of people to suppress the spread of Covid-19 and applied to all tenants, irrespective of their financial circumstances.

  The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 targets enhanced protections to the most vulnerable tenants until 10 January 2021 and respects the constitutionally protected property rights of landlords. As we learn to live with Covid-19, these provisions enable the residential rental sector to resume activity in as near as normal manner as possible.

  With effect from 1 August 2020, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 introduced protections for those tenants who are facing rent arrears and, as a result, are at risk of losing their tenancy. If a tenant’s ability to pay rent has been impacted by Covid-19 and the tenant meets specific criteria, new procedures and protections apply. Tenants who follow these procedures cannot be required to vacate their rental accommodation before 11 January 2021, and are not required to pay any rent increase in respect of the period ending 10 January 2021.

  My Department has published a guidance document, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020: What this Means for Landlords and Tenants, which sets out exactly what is expected as the rental protections under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 expire, and provides details on the new protections for tenants in rent arrears and the income and other supports available to tenants and landlords.

This guidance document clearly explains the new rent arrears procedure for both landlords and tenants facing rent arrears. The Guidance document is available on the Department's website - www.housing.gov.ie - and on the RTB's website - www.rtb.ie.

  The RTB has engaged with stakeholders with regard to the recent tenancy protection enhancements and launched a related YouTube video. The RTB also launched targeted advertising campaigns informing the public of the enhanced protections and directing people to its website for more information. The advertising campaigns ran from 15 April until to 1 August 2020 and a mail-shot to tenants and landlords is underway since mid-September.

  Any further measures with regard to restricting tenancy terminations will be informed by the extent to which restrictions of movement introduced on public health grounds under the Governments Resilience & Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 are of such a nature as to inhibit the normal functioning of the rental market. My officials are currently developing proposals to address such a situation should the need arise.

Land Development Agency

 84. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will carry out a review of the function and remit of the Land Development Agency; when the inventory of State-owned lands will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28456/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Land Development Agency (LDA) was established on an interim basis in September 2018, by way of an Establishment Order made under the Local Government Services (Corporate Bodies) Act 1971, pending the enactment of primary legislation when it will be established as a commercial State agency.

I have already considered the function and remit of the LDA to ensure its compliance with the Programme for Government commitments. The LDA will be tasked to work with government departments, local authorities, state agencies and other stakeholders to assemble strategic sites in urban areas and ensure the sustainable development of social and affordable homes for rent and purchase.

I will shortly be bringing a revised General Scheme for the LDA Bill reflecting these commitments to Government for consideration for priority drafting with the intention of the legislation being enacted in as a matter of priority.

As part of its existing remit, the LDA is currently working to develop an inventory of all relevant public lands to allow for better management of these State land assets, including their strategic planning and urban regeneration potential. This database will contain information on all relevant public lands including location, mapping and title. It is intended that the forthcoming LDA Bill will provide that all state bodies will be obliged to assist the LDA in the compilation of the database, where appropriate.

The LDA is currently working with the PRAI, OPW, my Department, OSI and numerous other state bodies to compile this database. The PRAI examine all registered properties for state owners including universities, local authorities and government departments which has resulted in almost 60,000 folios across the country being identified. In addition, the LDA are currently undertaking an examination of all non-registered state lands for the five cities. The LDA expect that an initial version of the database will be completed by the end of 2020.

Ministerial Communications

 85. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if a list will be published of the communications, meetings or exchange of documents he has had with the developers of Moore Street, Dublin (details supplied), Dublin City Council and other parties in the past year. [28230/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Regeneration is urgently needed to bring people back into the Moore Street area. The Moore Street Advisory Group, which includes 1916 Relatives, public representatives and street traders, has welcomed the proposals of the developer referred to by the Deputy for the regeneration of the area and has characterised them as ‘a significant and welcome advance on the previous plan with potential to develop a positive vision for the inter-related elements of the market, the National Monument and the developer’s site’.

  The Advisory Group has also acknowledged the potential 9500 jobs in the construction phase, and 3500 thereafter, and the significance of the commitment of the developer to local gain in the form of apprenticeships and other opportunities for the local community. I understand that the developer has also promised to address the disruption the regeneration works would cause for existing businesses on the Street when construction is in progress.

  I am delighted that the dialogue that has taken place among the relevant parties - including the developer, 1916 Relatives, Dublin City Council and street traders - signals a positive way forward for this corner of the north inner city. I believe there is now a real opportunity for regeneration that will be supportive of its traditions, culture and heritage and that will also benefit the city and people of Dublin, the street traders whose presence is a key feature of the streetscape, and other businesses in the area.

  While it is certainly also my own intention to engage with all relevant parties in any way that would be helpful to the advancement of the regeneration of the area, I have not yet had the opportunity to do so since my appointment. When I do, the details will be available, in due course, in my official diary which is online on my Department’s website: https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current/category/corporate/sub-topic/diaries/sub-type/diary/topic/ministers/type/publications?query

Housing Policy

 86. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the reason for ending the eviction moratorium in view of the fact that many industries such as the events, hospitality and related industries are closed and in further view of warnings from senior health officials that Covid-19 will continue to affect the country for the next several months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28232/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provided for a temporary moratorium on tenancy terminations, other than in exceptional and limited cases, and on all increases in rent during the emergency period from 27 March to 1 August 2020. The emergency measures aimed to urgently assist in restricting the movement of people to suppress the spread of Covid-19 and applied to all tenants, irrespective of their financial circumstances.

  The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 targets enhanced protections to the most vulnerable tenants until 10 January 2021 and respects the constitutionally protected property rights of landlords. As we learn to live with Covid-19, these provisions enable the residential rental sector to resume activity in as near as normal manner as possible.

  With effect from 1 August 2020, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 introduced protections for those tenants who are facing rent arrears and, as a result, are at risk of losing their tenancy. If a tenant’s ability to pay rent has been impacted by Covid-19 and the tenant meets specific criteria, new procedures and protections apply. Tenants who follow these procedures cannot be required to vacate their rental accommodation before 11 January 2021, and are not required to pay any rent increase in respect of the period ending 10 January 2021.

  My Department has published a guidance document, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020: What this Means for Landlords and Tenants, which sets out exactly what is expected as the rental protections under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 expire, and provides details on the new protections for tenants in rent arrears and the income and other supports available to tenants and landlords.

This guidance document clearly explains the new rent arrears procedure for both landlords and tenants facing rent arrears. The Guidance document is available on the Department's website - www.housing.gov.ie - and on the RTB's website - www.rtb.ie.

  The RTB has engaged with stakeholders with regard to the recent tenancy protection enhancements and launched a related YouTube video. The RTB also launched targeted advertising campaigns informing the public of the enhanced protections and directing people to its website for more information. The advertising campaigns ran from 15 April until to 1 August 2020 and a mail-shot to tenants and landlords is underway since mid-September.

Postal Voting

 87. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if the criteria for postal ballot eligibility will be expanded in order to align them with those in Northern Ireland. [27753/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of a number of categories of electors, including: -

  - Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses/civil partners,

  - whole-time members of the Defence Forces,

  - members of An Garda Síochána,

  - electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability,

  - certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside,

  - full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State,

  - prisoners, and

  - electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day.

  The Programme for Government - Our Shared Future contains a commitment to establish an Electoral Commission, which will be mandated to examine the use of postal voting, with a view to expanding its provision. Any reform of electoral law in regard to postal voting will have regard to the outcome of this work.


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