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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 143-173
 Header Item Local Authority Housing
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Land Development Agency
 Header Item National Parks and Wildlife Service
 Header Item Departmental Staff
 Header Item Vacant Properties
 Header Item Departmental Policy Functions
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Waterways Ireland
 Header Item Departmental Data
 Header Item Data Protection
 Header Item Housing Provision
 Header Item Traveller Accommodation
 Header Item Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund
 Header Item Departmental Administrative Arrangements
 Header Item Fire Service
 Header Item Fire Service
 Header Item Fire Service
 Header Item National Parks and Wildlife Service
 Header Item Vacant Properties

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 78 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 143-173

Local Authority Housing

 143. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will introduce a policy to allow both parties in a relationship breakdown who are local authority housing applicants to separately retain their years served together on the housing list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17753/21]

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 the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

  If a household meets the eligibility and need criteria, it qualifies for the suite of social housing supports, including HAP, and is placed on the housing list to be considered for the allocation of suitable tenancies in accordance with the authority’s allocation scheme.

  Under the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, a local authority may review a household’s qualification for social housing support in order to ensure that a household continues to qualify for social housing support and thus can remain on a housing list. Such a review may be carried out by a local authority whenever it becomes aware of changes in household circumstances or whenever a review is considered appropriate.

  The oversight and practical management of housing lists is a matter for the relevant local authority, in accordance with the 2009 Act and associated regulations. Specifically, section 63(3) of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that, subject to law, a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions.

Housing Policy

 144. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he plans to review the income thresholds for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; his views on the case of a person (details supplied); his further views on whether the scheme should be amended to accommodate cases such as this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17800/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Single applicants for the loan must not be earning greater than €50,000 gross per annum. These income limits are unchanged from the previous local authority loan offerings.

  Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee can usually appeal the decision to the local authority. However if someone does not meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme they cannot appeal the decision.

  The new Programme for Government ”Our Shared Future" contains a commitment to expand the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. Officials in my Department are currently reviewing the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan on this basis.

Land Development Agency

 145. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if all paid positions of employment at the Land Development Agency are hired through a public process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17820/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke 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.

The day to day management of the LDA is matter for the LDA Chief Executive and his management team reporting to the LDA Interim Board. Under its Establishment Order, the LDA may appoint such and so many persons to be employees as it may determine.

As with all State bodies operating under the aegis of my Department, arrangements have been put in place by the LDA through which Oireachtas members can request information directly from the Agency in relation to operational matters - in this regard, the LDA may be contacted directly at oireachtas@lda.ie.

In order to assist the Deputy, enquiries were made with the LDA who confirmed it is standard practice that roles within the LDA are filled following a competitive and public hiring process. However, one fixed-term temporary post was previously recruited without public advertisement as an interim measure. Posts are generally advertised across multiple platforms, including the LDA's own website, the Public Appointment Service website and other websites relevant to the post.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

 146. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien when the National Parks and Wildlife Service will produce proposals for deer management in relation to land it has responsibility for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17824/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Information on Malcolm Noonan Zoom on Malcolm Noonan The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of my Department is committed to the active management of the deer species within State owned National Parks and Nature Reserves and, as part of its regular on-going management operations, NPWS carry out regular surveys, censuses and reports on deer in our sites. Where appropriate, and depending on the annual count and instances of damage caused by deer to habitats, especially woodland, culls may need to be carried out to ensure that deer populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences.

However, it should be noted that while the NPWS does licence hunting of deer, my Department does not own the deer population and is not responsible for the management of deer populations generally. Deer, albeit larger, are like other wild animals in this country and it is not part of the remit of my Department, nor indeed would it be generally possible, to cordon them onto specific areas of land. In the case of deer on private property, management is a matter for the relevant landowner.

With regard to the management of deer within State owned National Parks and Nature Reserves, culling is a regular and on-going management operation and is undertaken periodically when resources, weather and timing allows. This allows my Department work towards sustainable herd management, and as such there is and will continue to be, a need to remove a certain percentage of animals from the herd encompassing both age and gender on an on-going basis.

Departmental Staff

 147. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will provide a breakdown of the higher executive officers, administration officers, assistant principal officers, principal officers and assistant secretaries in his Department by gender in tabular form. [17913/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table below, and reflects the position at 28 February 2021.

Grade Female Male Total
ASSISTANT SECRETARY 4 4 8
PRINCIPAL 14 31 45
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL 80 55 135
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER 16 11 27
HIGHER EXECUTIVE OFFICER 78 66 144
Total 192 167 359

Vacant Properties

 148. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the details of the €7,746,404 payment (details supplied) made by Dublin City Council to the receivers with regard to the vacant 58 units at Prospect Hill, Finglas in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17924/21]

 149. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if the payments totalling €7,746,404 made by Dublin City Council to the receiver for the 58 vacant units at Prospect Hill, Finglas includes the potential or projected costs of the refurbishment of any or all of the individual units; if the figure does not include such costs, the projected costs to Dublin City Council of refurbishing any or all of the units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17925/21]

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. 148 and 149 together.

The details of payments made by Dublin City Council (DCC) to the receivers with regard to the vacant 58 units at Prospect Hill are a matter for DCC.

  DCC has advised my Department that a scope of works exercise is currently underway to refurbish these apartments with a view to going to tender in Q2 2021.   DCC has advised that the payments made to the receiver to date do not include costs associated with the refurbishment. The cost of this work will be established once the tender process is complete.

  I refer to the reply to Question No. 646 of 24 March 2021 for further details on this matter.

Departmental Policy Functions

 150. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the advice he can provide in relation to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17933/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Government announced that additional public health restrictions would apply under Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19 on 6 January 2021. The additional restrictions required all construction activity to cease from 6pm on Friday 8 January, with a number of exceptions. These measures are set out in The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 (as amended). The decision on restrictions was taken by the Government following advice from NPHET.

With regard to private housing development, the Regulations provide that housing and construction works ongoing on 8 January could continue where the works required to render the property capable of occupation were scheduled for completion by 31 January 2021. The Regulations also provide for the supply and delivery of essential or emergency maintenance and repair services to businesses and homes (including electrical, gas, oil, plumbing, glazing and roofing services) on an emergency call-out basis. No other private housing construction activity is allowed under the Regulations.

On 30 March, the Government announced that all residential construction can resume from 12 April 2021.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

 151. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his plans to amend the tenant purchase scheme to enable persons that are in receipt of a pension and have the financial resources to buy out their council home avail of this scheme; when it is proposed to make such necessary amendments to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17935/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

The minimum reckonable income for eligibility under the scheme is determined by the relevant local authority in accordance with the detailed provisions of the Ministerial Direction issued under Sections 24(3) and (4) of the 2014 Act. In the determination of the minimum reckonable income, local authorities can include income from a number of different sources and classes, such as from employment, private pensions, maintenance payments and certain social welfare payments, including pensions, where the social welfare payment is secondary to employment income.

In determining reckonable income, the income of all tenants of the house, including adult children that are joint tenants, is included, as is the income of the spouse, civil partner or other partner / co-habitant of a tenant who lives in the house with them, thus ensuring the appropriate level of discount is applied to the purchase price.

The minimum income criterion was introduced in order to ensuring the sustainability of the scheme. Applicants must demonstrate that they have an income that is long-term and sustainable in nature. This ensures that the tenant purchasing the house is in a financial position, as the owner, to maintain and insure the property for the duration of the charged period, in compliance with the conditions of the order transferring the ownership of, and responsibility for, the house from the local authority to the tenant.

The financing of any house sold under the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme is a separate matter from the eligibility criteria for the scheme. If the tenant is deemed eligible under the scheme, he or she may fund the purchase of a house from one, or a combination, of his / her own resources or a mortgage provided by a financial institution or a local authority house purchase loan.

A review of the first 12 months of the Scheme’s operation has been undertaken. In addition, the Programme for Government commits to maintaining the right of social housing tenants to purchase their own home with some changes to eligibility. The review and the commitments in the Programme for Government are being examined as part of the work on the broader social housing reform agenda. I expect to be in a position to publish the review and finalise changes to the Scheme once the work on these reform measures is complete.

Social and Affordable Housing

 152. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will improve income eligibility limits for social housing in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan in which the existing limits are much too low at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17936/21]

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 the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

  The 2011 Regulations 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 Additional Superannuation Contribution. 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.

  A table setting out the details of the three bands and the limits currently applicable in each local authority area is available on the Department's website at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/fcb86-social-housing-support-table-of-income-limits-2-june-2016/

  The income bands are expressed in terms of a maximum net income threshold for a single-person household, with an allowance of 5% for each additional adult household member, subject to a maximum allowance under this category of 10%; and 2.5% for each child, subject to a maximum allowance under this category of 10%.

  The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced in 2011 also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.

  Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.

  However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is underway. The review will have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.

Waterways Ireland

 153. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if the capital funding for Waterways Ireland will be increased in 2021 to enable an improved level of maintenance and improvement works to be carried out on the navigable waterways in view of the low level of such work over recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17937/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Information on Malcolm Noonan Zoom on Malcolm Noonan Waterways Ireland's work programmes are critical to providing a safe and high quality recreational environment for the public, whilst also preserving the industrial and environmental heritage of the waterways for future generations. These challenges must be balanced with its objective of increasing recreational activity across all of our waterways.

As regards 2021 funding, a provision of €28,918,000 has been provided in the Revised Estimates Volume as part of Budget 2021. This is an overall increase of just over €3,000,000 on the original 2020 allocation. Any proposed works to be carried out in 2021 are an operational matter for Waterways Ireland, which will take into account its strategic business objectives for the waterways network.

As Minister, I have many competing and compelling requests for funding in 2021. I am acutely aware of the value of our inland waterways’ amenity and the excellent work that Waterways Ireland carries out.

Going forward, my priority is to secure the level of current and capital resources that will allow maximum progress to be achieved across the entire range of programmes for which my Department is responsible, including Waterways Ireland and the Heritage area. Details of specific allocations towards individual programmes will be finalised as part of the annual Estimates processes.

Departmental Data

 154. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if a schedule will be provided of the data sets, databases and file types his Department has shared with the Department of Health since 2000. [17975/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The scope of the question is very broad and compilation of the information sought would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work, as it would require all areas of my Department's extensive range of activities to be checked in respect of a 20 year period.

Based on the information that is readily accessible to my Department in the time available, no specific flows of personal data from my Department to the Department of Health have been identified.

I am aware that, as part of the Housing First National Implementation Group, the Department of Health is provided with an update on the number of individuals currently in a Housing First tenancy and the number of new tenancies created in the previous month. The Group meets every 2-3 months and these updates are provided to the Department prior to each meeting. These figures are tabulated by my Department from returns provided by lead local authorities. They are provided in Word document format with tables outlining the national total and the figures by local authority. Although these constitute data provided to the Department of Health, no details are provided that relate to private individuals or officials. Aggregated figures are given. No private individual or official is identified and there is no personal information in relation to any identifiable individual.

Data Protection

 155. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of complaints his Department has received from members of the public under the heading of GDPR and data information requests since 2018 to date in 2021; the number of data information requests that have been refused and accepted, respectively; the number of GDPR requests refused; and the basis on which they were declined in tabular form. [17994/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien My Department has received no complaints under the heading of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

  In terms of data information requests, Article 15 of the GDPR provides for the right of access to personal data and certain information, by data subjects. Details of the requests received are supplied in the table below.

  All requests were accepted but in some instances the request was not relevant to this Department or the data subject withdrew their request or did not proceed with the request when asked to provide identification.

Table

Housing Provision

 156. 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 has considered additional measures to address the housing crisis with particular reference to the rapidly escalating house prices, the increasing number of persons seeking to purchase an affordable house and the number of applicants on local authority housing waiting list; his plans to introduce radical measures to address the situation which is now for many persons an emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18006/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien In terms of the number of households on social housing waiting lists, details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority administrative area are provided in the annual statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA).

The most recent summary, conducted in November 2020, shows that 61,880 households were assessed as qualified for, and being in need of, social housing support. This represents a decrease of 6,813 households or 9.9% on the last assessment in June 2019. Since 2016, the numbers have decreased from 91,600 to 61,880, a reduction of 32.4%.

In line with the commitment to put affordability at the heart of the housing system in the Programme for Government, ‘Our Shared Future’, Government approved the priority drafting of the Affordable Housing Bill 2020 on 22 December 2020, and I published the General Scheme on 20 January last.

The Bill includes provisions to underpin three schemes delivering on the Programme for Government commitment to prioritise the increased supply of affordable homes through (1) affordable homes for purchase delivered by local authorities (2) a new affordable purchase shared equity scheme for private homes, and (3) the introduction of a new form of tenure in Cost Rental. The provision of affordable housing to purchase is covered by two of the three elements of the Bill. The drafting of the Bill is progressing well.

The Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) supports affordable homes being delivered by local authorities, funding infrastructure on local authority lands to enable the delivery of affordable homes to purchase or rent. Funding of almost €188 million has been approved in principle in support of 38 infrastructure projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of almost 4,000 more affordable homes. In addition to these projects, approval in principle has also been given to three further applications for SSF funding, namely, Dublin City Council’s projects in Emmet Road and Oscar Traynor Road, and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council’s project in Shanganagh. Affordable homes for purchase provided by local authorities via the SSF will come with an initial purchase price of between 10% and 40% below market prices.

Another element of the Bill, the Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme, is designed to help bridge the gap, by means of an equity stake, between the mortgage people have and the price of the new home they wish to buy. This affordability measure will increase housing supply and will enable First Time Buyers to buy a new home at a price they can afford.

In addition to the measures in the Affordable Housing Bill 2020, the Land Development Agency is 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. On establishment, the LDA had access to an initial tranche of 8 sites that have near term delivery potential for approximately 3,400 new homes. The LDA will have regard to Government policy, and all appropriate legislation, on the appropriate tenure mix for developments on public land, as well as the criteria for the operation of cost rental and affordable housing schemes.

Additional affordability measures which promote housing supply, such as the Help to buy scheme and the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, are already available to eligible applicants.

The Help to Buy Scheme has had 23,545 approvals by the end of February 2021, with the estimated total value of approved Help to Buy claims to date in the order of €389.2 million.

At the end of February 2021, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan had 3,817 approvals. Budget 2021 confirmed that €210 million has been sanctioned for RIHL lending in 2021.

Traveller Accommodation

 157. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne Information on Violet-Anne Wynne Zoom on Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he has engaged with Clare County Council on the need for a Traveller project in the county; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 50% of homelessness in County Clare is from the Traveller community and that there are 15 vacant Traveller accommodation units in the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18020/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke In accordance with the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, housing authorities have statutory responsibility for the assessment of the accommodation needs of Travellers and the preparation, adoption and implementation of multi-annual Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs) in their areas. My Department’s role is to ensure that there are adequate structures and supports in place to assist local authorities in providing such accommodation, including a national framework of policy, legislation and funding. It is a matter for each local authority to set targets for the provision of Traveller accommodation, which they outline in their Traveller accommodation programmes.

In 2020, funding of €14.5 million was provided for the provision of Traveller-specific accommodation for new building and improvement works. For 2021 this funding has increased to €15.5 million. In addition, in 2020, my Department provided €56.4 million on the repair and re-let of 3,067 vacant local authority homes.

Addressing homelessness is a significant priority for this Government with €218m in Exchequer funding allocated to support the provision of homeless accommodation services in 2021. My Department’s role involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at a local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of homeless services rests with individual housing authorities and Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988 sets out the purposes for which costs may be incurred by housing authorities in respect of the provision of homeless accommodation services.

While responsibility for the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities, the administration of homeless services is organised on a regional basis, with nine administrative regions in place. In the Mid West region, Limerick City and County Council is the lead authority for the region along with Clare. A homelessness consultative forum has been established in each region in accordance with Chapter 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009. It is a matter for the management group of the consultative forum, in the first instance, to determine the need for services and the funding required to address homelessness at a regional level. My Department contributed some €9.2m in Exchequer funding to the Mid West region in support of homeless accommodation services in 2020.

Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

 158. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the criteria required under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund for the construction of roads as part of the developments; and if this applies equally to all types of roads.  [18056/21]

 159. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the level of expenditure incurred in the construction of major roads under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund by county in tabular form.  [18057/21]

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. 158 and 159 together.

  The Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) was designed to support housing supply by relieving critical infrastructure blockages. 30 projects were approved with an overall budget of €195.7m, €146.8m Exchequer funded and the remainder funded by local authorities. Full details of the approvals are available online at www.rebuildingireland.ie/LIHAF.

  All proposals for funding under LIHAF were evaluated and assessed in line with the criteria set out in Appendix 1 to the original Call for Proposals. These criteria included the link to housing delivery; the level of innovation and collaboration, the strategic fit of the proposal, the financial package and the delivery outcomes. The detailed criteria are available at the same link www.rebuildingireland.ie/lihaf/.

Of the 30 projects, 2 projects will not proceed. Kildare County Council has confirmed that the Naas Inner Relief Road will not progress and   Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has confirmed that the Clay Farm project will now not proceed. One further project, Clonburris in South Dublin County Council, will not avail of LIHAF funding but will proceed in conjunction with funding from the Urban Renewal Development Fund.

  In terms of LIHAF funding drawdown, thus far, most infrastructure projects have been at the design, planning and procurement stages, and the bulk of expenditure will arise during the construction phase. This is reflected in the level of expenditure to end Q1 2021, with approximately €61.248m in Exchequer funds drawn down (matched by a further 25% local authority funding bringing the total expenditure to €81.664m). The table below details the exchequer funding drawn down up to end of Q1 2021.

 Table

Departmental Administrative Arrangements

 160. Deputy Alan Dillon Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of outstanding applications with his Department (details supplied); the number applied for over the past five years; the outcomes; his plans for streamlining the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18059/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke In the past five years for County Mayo my Department has received thirteen applications for a foreshore consent that come within my remit under the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended, for proposed works and activities on the foreshore. Of the thirteen applications received, eight have been determined, four are currently under consideration and one was recently withdrawn. Further details of these applications can be found in the attached spreadsheet and on my Department's website.

  My Department has also received three additional pre-applications for proposed works or activities on the foreshore which are currently the subject of a standard technical review. In the event that these proposals are cleared to proceed to full application status, details of these applications will appear on my Department's website.

  It is intended that the Maritime Area Planning Bill will replace the existing State consenting regime under the Foreshore Act and streamline arrangements on the basis of a single consent principle i.e. one state consent called a Maritime Area Consent or MAC to enable occupation of the Maritime Area and one development consent (planning permission), with a single environmental assessment to take place at the planning stage.

  The final legal text of the Marine Area Planning Bill (previously titled, Marine Planning and Development Management Bill) is due to be published in the near future.

Table

Fire Service

 161. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of times calls were placed to the fire service in cases in which the closest retained fire service was unavailable to attend due to unavailability of personnel in which alternative tenders had to attend instead by county over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18063/21]

 162. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of fire service callouts that have been responded to by the retained fire service nationwide by county; the number that have been responded to by the permanent fire service by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18064/21]

 163. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of retained firefighters in the fire service; the number of permanent firefighters in the service; the age breakdown of both groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18065/21]

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. 161 to 163, inclusive, together.

  The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy, providing the legislative framework, running a central training programme and issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects. Fire services issues are managed in my Department by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM).

  Fire services are provided in Ireland by local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003. Under this legislation, there are 31 fire authorities which provide fire prevention and fire protection services for communities through 27 service delivery structures. Local authority fire services are delivered by approximately 3,300 local authority staff engaged at 217 fire stations nationwide, with 16 of these stations being staffed by full-time firefighters, a further 4 are mixed full-time and retained, and 197 are staff by retained firefighters.

  My Department collects statistics from local authorities, on an annual basis, regarding fire service attendance at incidents and the types of incident involved. Fire statistics for the past five years are available at the link below:

 https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/f01ff-fire-statistics/

  The information requested by the Deputy in regard to mobilisation of fire service responses is not available in my Department. However, it should be noted that the arrangements for mobilising a response to a 999/112 call from the public for fire service assistance are handled at three Regional Communications Centres, where call-takers establish the location and nature of the emergency and then mobilise the nearest available fire brigade resource (or resources) to the scene. Individual fire stations (or an appliance in the station in the case of multi-appliance stations) may not be available to respond (they may already be attending another call) or may be 'off the run' at different times for a number of reasons, including the non-availability of personnel. Where a crew are already dealing with an incident or are unavailable for any reason, the next resources on the pre-determined attendance list for that kind of emergency are mobilised by the Regional Communications Centre. I am aware that a small number of situations occurred over the last twelve months where crews were not available due to covid cases or close contacts with covid cases. However, an appropriate fire service response was made to all calls for assistance from the public.

  While my Department does not routinely collect the data in the format requested by the Deputy, a breakdown of the number of firefighters in each fire service as of March 2021, based on data supplied by local authorities, is set out in the table below.

Fire service Total no. of operational staff in stations
Carlow 45
Cavan 93
Clare 76
Cork City 152
Cork County 204
Donegal 154
Dublin 963
Galway 138
Kerry 104
Kildare 63
Kilkenny 67
Laois 73
Leitrim 43
Limerick 140
Longford 45
Louth 100
Mayo 119
Meath 72
Monaghan 51
Offaly 51
Roscommon 45
Sligo 47
Tipperary 127
Waterford 124
Westmeath 46
Wexford 64
Wicklow 95
Total 3301

Fire Service

 164. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he has reviewed the recommendations of a report (details supplied); his plans to implement the recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18066/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy, providing the legislative framework, running a central training programme and issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects. Fire services issues are managed in my Department by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM).

  The Farrell Grant Sparks (FGS) Report referred to by the Deputy was published in January 2002 and it represented a comprehensive review of fire services and fire safety in Ireland at that time.

  It identified a number of areas where fire services and the overall approach to fire safety could be improved and was an important landmark in the development of fire services in Ireland. Implementation of its recommendations contributed towards a re-orientation and re-shaping of local authority fire services, with a systemic approach to fire risk management, including a much greater emphasis on Community Fire Safety, together with the focus on incident response.

  As the recommendations of the FGS Report were implemented through the Fire Services Change Programme (2005 - 2007) there has been significant development of fire services in Ireland across a wide spectrum of areas. The National Incident Command System was established and Standard Operating Guidance to support safe and effective operations were developed and introduced across all fire services.

  The most significant outcome, which is attributed generally to the Community Fire Safety approach, is the decline in the rate of fire-related fatalities which, averaged over three years, now stands at four deaths per million of population, placing Ireland in the league of most fire safe countries. We cannot be complacent, however, and there are significant ongoing fire safety programmes as well as investment in and development of infrastructure including fire stations, the appliance fleet, equipment and training.

  After the successful Fire Services Change Programme, the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) was established in my Department in 2009 to give effect to the recommendations in the FGS Report relating to the role of national government in supporting local authority fire services.

  This NDFEM structure has proved to be very effective, and the close collaboration between my Department and local authority fire services has been central to the development of effective emergency management response to a range of severe weather and flooding emergencies since 2009. Likewise national fire safety campaigns have been carried out successfully in the aftermath of tragic fires.

The NDFEM carried out a further significant review of fire services and fire safety in Ireland in 2012 and published the policy document "Keeping Communities Safe"   in 2013. This sets out an approach a to fire safety cross a number of areas, including risk management; fire safety; service response; dealing with large scale incidents; inter-agency work; major emergency management; quality assurance; performance reporting and implementation. The Review is available on my Department's website at the following link:

  https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/ec22c-fire-services-policy/

  In 2016, an external validation exercise on the implementation by local authorities of "Keeping Communities Safe", concluded that the public are served well by fire services in Ireland. There has been a welcome downward trend in fires and other emergencies requiring fire service assistance over a number of years and a reduction in the incidence of loss of life in fire as noted above.

  In conclusion, the FGS Report was a point of major change in the approach to fire safety and fire services in Ireland and the developments arising from the implementation of its recommendations have made Ireland a safer country.

Fire Service

 165. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the measures in place to ensure retention, upskilling and promotion of retained firefighters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18067/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy, providing the legislative framework, running a central training programme and issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects. Fire services issues are managed in my Department by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM).

Under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 there are 31 fire authorities which provide fire prevention and fire protection services for communities through 27 service delivery structures. Local authorities employ 3,300 staff who work at 218 fire stations nationwide. Fire services are provided by combinations of full-time and retained firefighters, professional, competent and highly committed personnel who work to protect their communities.

The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) provides support to individual fire services in the areas of Human Resources and Industrial Relations. The LGMA works with the NDFEM to monitor issues associated with recruitment and retention and on developing strategies to address issues which arise. It is clear that in some areas societal changes are impacting on the availability of personnel for the retained fire service and the number of candidates applying for retained fire service positions is limited in some cases. However, local authorities across the country continue to maintain their fire services throughout.

In relation to upskilling, on initially joining the fire service, retained firefighters are trained in accordance with a national syllabus. Fire-fighters are given further specialist training as required in the early stages of their careers. They continue to practice their skills through-out their careers with weekly on-station training. However, this ongoing local training has been disrupted by covid-related restrictions, as has much of fire service training provided at national level.

Promotional opportunities in the retained fire services are limited of necessity to vacancies which arise in the fire fighters' own station. The LGMA is currently engaged with with staff representative bodies in relation to changing one aspect of promotion arrangements, as part of the overall terms of employment.

In summary, the issues of recruitment, retention, upskilling and promotion of retained firefighter are continuously monitored by the LGMA in association with the Management Board of the NDFEM. The aim is to ensure that the entire country continues to be served effectively into the coming decades by fire services that are equipped to face and meet the challenges of our ever-changing society.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

 166. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the amount of expenditure incurred by county and site by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the provision of car parking in tabular form. [18078/21]

 167. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of current plans by county and site by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the provision of car parking and other mechanisms for safe access to each NPWS site in tabular form. [18079/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Information on Malcolm Noonan Zoom on Malcolm Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department manages a natural heritage network of some 87,000 hectares across over 80 individual sites. Many of these sites have parking facilities which are upgraded and maintained on an ongoing basis as part of the regular operation activities of the NPWS, subject to both resourcing and consideration of the conservation requirements of these sites.

  The pandemic has exposed significant challenges on all National Parks, nature reserves and scenic areas and I am of the view that alternative measures to reduce pressures on habitats and natural amenities must be prioritised over and above extending or providing car parks.

  I am keen that sustainable mobility options be explored in the longer term to reduce traffic pressures. Such measures do not necessarily need to be state-provided and I would be hopeful of the private sector providing, for example shuttle services to locations where there is clearly a demand.

  At present, there is no charge for car parking at any of our sites, so no current expenditure is explicitly incurred in security or revenue collection thereon. I attach below a table of capital expenditure on carparks at our sites in 2020. Funding is provided when appropriate on a case by case basis.

County Location Project Amount spent
Kerry Tomies Wood, Killarney National Park Tomies Wood car park and public access €687,919.19
Kerry Killarney National Park Dinis Loop €147,673.48
Clare Coole Park Kerbing at the Coole Bus Park €25,501
Donegal Glenveagh National Park Barrier at Gate in Visitor Centre Public Car Park €6,844.05
Mayo Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park Altnabrocky Road Repairs €10,000.00

Vacant Properties

 168. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of empty or unoccupied domestic dwellings in County Longford by local electoral area.  [18080/21]

 169. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of empty or unoccupied domestic dwellings in County Westmeath by local electoral area.  [18081/21]

 170. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of vacant properties in County Longford as per a website (details supplied).  [18082/21]

 171. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of vacant properties in County Westmeath as per a website (details supplied).  [18083/21]

 172. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the action that has been taken to date in relation to the number of domestic properties logged on the vacant homes portal in County Longford.  [18084/21]

 173. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the action that has been taken to date in relation to the number of domestic properties logged on the vacant homes portal in County Westmeath.  [18085/21]

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. 168 to 173, inclusive, together.

  My Department does not hold the data on the amount of empty or unoccupied domestic dwellings in the State, nor does it hold data on the number of vacant properties in local electoral areas.

  The innovative website vacanthomes.ie was developed by Mayo County Council in July 2017 on behalf of the local government sector to serve as a central portal for individuals to anonymously log possible vacant homes and to alert local authorities so that they can then follow up with the registered owners.

  It is a key tool in the effort to identify and bring long-term vacant homes back into use, and this source of locally generated information is proving useful in supplementing the country-wide analysis on vacancy and in mobilising communities to assist local authorities in developing and implementing a targeted approach. The website provides useful information for property owners on how to bring their vacant properties back into use and on available financial supports.

  The latest statistics from vacanthomes.ie indicate that 106 properties in County Westmeath and 39 properties in County Longford have been logged on the website.

  My Department is focused on ensuring that existing housing stock is utilised to its fullest extent including a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland. In that regard, my Department and local authorities are being proactive in dealing with vacant properties and there are a number of schemes available to incentivise reactivating suitable dwellings into the liveable housing stock.

  The National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy was published in July 2018, it provides a targeted, effective and coordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland. The range of objectives and actions it specifies have been pursued in partnership with stakeholders and agencies across the housing sector to address vacancy in our housing stock.

  The key drivers of these actions are: local authorities, the Housing Agency, and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), supported by schemes available within my Department specifically designed to tackle vacancy, such as the Repair and Lease Scheme, the Buy and Renew Scheme and the Long Term Leasing Scheme.

- The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their properties up to the required standard for rental properties. The scheme provides upfront funding to carry out the works and, in return, the property owner agrees to lease the dwelling to the local authority to be used as social housing for a period up to 25 years. The maximum loan for property repair available under the Repair and Lease scheme has been increased by my Department from €40,000 to €60,000.

- The Buy and Renew initiative allows local authorities to purchase private vacant properties for use as social housing.

- The Housing Acquisitions Fund is a €70 million revolving that was established in January 2017 with the objective of enabling the Housing Agency to acquire vacant units from banks and investment companies for social housing use. The fund is replenished by the Housing Agency through the sale of units primarily to the AHB sector and the funds received are then recycled back into the fund for future acquisitions.

The table below gives a breakdown of the number of properties delivered under each of the schemes in Counties Westmeath and Longford.   

Local Authority Repair and Lease Dwellings Delivered Q2 2017 to Q4 2020 Buy and Renew Dwellings Delivered Q2 2017 to Q4 2020 Housing Agency Acquisitions

Dwellings Delivered

Q2 2017 to Q4 2020
Total
Longford 6 11 7 24
Westmeath 1 4 13 18
Total 7 15 20 42


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