Other Questions

Homeless Persons Data

Jan O'Sullivan


36. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of families accommodated in hotels due to homelessness; the number of families in such accommodation for longer than three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9649/18]

Dessie Ellis


73. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homeless families accommodated in hotels; the number of families to date in 2018 that have been taken out of such accommodation; the target date by which all families will be removed from such accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9702/18]

One the most important targets in Rebuilding Ireland was to take families out of hotels except in very extreme circumstances by July 2016 but unfortunately it was not reached. Today's homeless figures indicate that the number of children in homeless services has increased from 3,079 to 3,267. Obviously, they are not all in hotels; I am sure many of them are in family hubs. How many homeless families are in hotels and how many have been there for more than three months?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 73 together.

My Department publishes monthly reports on homelessness and the report in respect of January was published today and is available on the Department's website. These reports are based on data provided by housing authorities and produced through the pathway accommodation and support system, PASS.

The reports capture details of individuals utilising State-funded emergency homeless accommodation arrangements that are overseen by housing authorities.

The report for January shows that a total of 1,517 families were using emergency accommodation during the survey period. Of these, 700 homeless families were recorded as staying in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation in the Dublin region. Some 45% of these families had been resident in such accommodation for less than six months. The Government is committed to addressing the use of hotels for emergency accommodation and we are working closely with the local authorities to secure the necessary alternative accommodation. The delivery of family hubs has been an important response and there are now almost 500 units of family accommodation in these hubs. These facilities offer a greater level of stability than is possible in hotels, with the capacity to provide appropriate play-space, cooking and laundry facilities. In January, I held a second housing summit with the local authority chief executives at which I asked them to develop proposals for the development of more family hubs and, as far as possible, to locate these hubs close to the communities where families are experiencing homelessness. My Department will fund and work with local authorities on the delivery of the hubs.

Significant progress is being made on exiting people from homelessness. Last month, in Dublin alone, 92 families exited emergency accommodation, including hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation and 70 families were prevented from having to enter homeless accommodation. During 2017, a total of 1,263 families in the Dublin region were moved on from hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation arrangements into either independent tenancies or more appropriate hub accommodation. Last year, over 4,000 exits from homelessness were achieved nationally, into sustainable tenancies in local authority and approved housing body housing and housing assistance payment, HAP, supported accommodation. Every effort will continue to be made to achieve the maximum number of exits from homelessness this year, assisted by the recent extension to all local authorities of the homeless HAP placefinders service, which has been a key response in Dublin and in Cork since its introduction there last year.

Since I tabled this question, there was an alarming press release this morning from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation to say that babies in hotels are not reaching their developmental goals which is really worrying. We were aware of the difficulties with young children not being able to run around, bring friends in and so on but this is really alarming. If a child does not reach developmental goals at a very early age, that has a real effect on the rest of that child's life. The Minister gave me figures for 700 families in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation in the Dublin region. He gave me a figure for less than six months. That still leaves families in such accommodation for more than six months. My question was specifically about cases of more than three months. Will the Minister give me the information I asked for, which was about those resident in hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation for more than three months? The Minister gave me figures for the Dublin region but I did not hear any for the rest of the country. It is important that we get these figures. One of the most important goals in Rebuilding Ireland was to get families out of hotels for anything more than a short period of time in urgent situations. It is important to reach this target. Real children are involved who only have one life to live.

Babies in hotels not reaching developmental goals was one of the first things brought to my attention upon being appointed to this office, to make sure that we could find a policy solution that would ensure adequate play spaces, cooking facilities and wraparound supports that families need were in place when they experience this crisis in their lives. That is what the family hub, initiated by my predecessor, Deputy Simon Coveney, is. Over the course of the second half of last year, we rapidly increased the number of available family hub places to help families into hub spaces or as families present for emergency accommodation, to put them directly into hub spaces in the family hubs that we have. At the second housing summit in January, I asked local authority chief executives to develop, with my Department, a rapid hub delivery programme because we need far more hubs than are currently in the pipeline. We have 500 family hub spaces at the moment. We hope to see the rapid family hub programme bring in at least an additional 400 spaces in a short period over the coming months.

On the statistics the Deputy was asking about, in so far as the 700 families in hotels in Dublin at the end of January are concerned, I said that 45% were there for six months or less. Some 22% have been there for more than six months but less than a year. Some 15% have been there for between 12 and 18 months and 6% of families currently in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation have been there for more than 24 months. That 6% represents 29 families. On the point of the length of stay that some families are experiencing in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation, we have to be very sensitive to individual families' needs. Some families need a tailored approach depending on the size of the family. There are not necessarily hub spaces currently available for larger families. Some other families will have very particular needs. As we work with our partner organisations to get families into more appropriate accommodation, we are sensitive to those needs and sometimes it takes longer to support those families to get appropriate accommodation.

I accept that family hubs are better than hotels but we absolutely need targets for how long one can stay in a hotel or family hub. Every month is important for a child's development where individual children are concerned. We need targets and to achieve those targets.

The vast majority of families who have been placed in family hubs spend less than six months in that family hub accommodation. We get in there as quickly as possible with our care supports to get them either into social housing or one of the social housing supports that we have. This is why we have expanded the placefinder service which is there to help families to source accommodation, whether they are in emergency accommodation or before going into emergency accommodation. With the placefinder service, they can give their first month's rent and the deposit. If the homeless housing assistance payment is being used, there can be extra discretion with regard to rent. We are seeing results from that. We note, as I put in the statement that I issued earlier, that the extent of the increase in families in emergency accommodation that we saw in January was not anticipated and I have asked the Dublin Region Homeless Executive to investigate the reasons for this, come back to me with a report and, following from that, to see what further responses might be necessary.

The Minister still has not given us a target date for when we will get people out of hotels. This has been going on. The Minister has mentioned many times that he will have everyone out of hotels in a certain period. That period is well past. If one takes the peak period, which was March last year, there were 815 families in hotel accommodation. There were 758 families in November. The Minister is now saying that there are currently 700 families in Dublin alone. That is an increase in the homeless figures that the Minister just announced of 329 adults and 188 children. It is absolutely scandalous that we are not making a dent. The much-vaunted fast-build housing that the Minister spoke of being able to move people into has only been delivered in Finglas, Ballymun and Drimnagh. We are far behind with that. It is now three years since we mentioned this. We were going to have nearly 500 families housed and we are nowhere near that target. That is another failed target. We heard on the radio today about the effects this is having on children who are living in hostels, bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels. Many of these are being lumbered around the city, far from their families, friends and where they are being educated. It is scandalous. The long-term effects of this on the children going through it will be massive.

It is important to note the huge amount of work that has gone on in 2017 between my Department, local authorities, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and the NGO sector. As I stated in my previous reply, more than 1,200 families exited hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation in 2017. Of course it is still a huge challenge for Government and society, with 700 families still in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation. That is why we have initiated the rapid hub development programme for the coming months, for 400 additional family hub spaces, and that is why we continue to roll out the HAP placefinder service and the use of homeless HAP to help accommodate the other families who are still in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation. On the increase in our figures of people experiencing homelessness in January, the increase of individual adults was anticipated to a degree because we brought more permanent and emergency beds into the system. That brought rough sleepers off our streets and into services. They are then counted as being in emergency accommodation and, importantly, are getting all the care and support they need to help to get them into secure housing. We have now appointed a national director for Housing First and we hope to see great progress with that model over the coming year.

Are we making a dent? We are making progress. When one looks at the rate of increase over the previous years, we are making progress and it is beginning to stabilise with regard to families. If we continue to do the good work that was done in 2017, then we will see quite significant progress over the year. When I talk about the progress in 2017, when one looks at the target that we had for increasing our stock of social housing and general social housing supports, we exceeded all but one of our targets. We were only 8% off the one that we did not achieve. Some 2,200 social housing homes were built in 2017, an increase by a factor of three on 2016 and only 200 homes short of our target.

In spite of measures such as the rent supplement and rental accommodation schemes, the system is still haemorrhaging people into homelessness. I have been dealing with such persons all week in my constituency, as have most Deputies in their constituencies. Although the Minister has stated we are making progress, the figures for homelessness remain high, which is very hard to believe in view of the stated amount of resources that have been put invested. Serious weather warnings are in place and there is a possibility that families, children and individuals may be left to sleep outdoors. We need to warn such people. I hope the Government has put out a very serious warning to get them into safe places and make available the maximum possible amount of accommodation, wherever it may be found. That is necessary because, if the weather forecast is correct, this is urgent and more lives could be lost. A huge number of homeless persons have died on the streets in recent years and months, which is a tragedy for the country.

Will the Minister confirm that there are now more families living in hotel accommodation than when he took office? I understand there were over 800 at the start of last year but that figure dropped to approximately 640 before the Minister took office. He has stated there are now over 700 such families. Will he commit to providing figures for the total length of time families spend in emergency accommodation? That information is necessary because families move from hotels into hubs and other forms of accommodation and, as happens in Scotland and Northern Ireland, we should have a figure on a quarterly or monthly basis for the average total length of time a family spends in emergency accommodation and for it to then be broken down into time spent in hotels, hubs or other forms of accommodation.

I thank the Deputies for their questions. To respond to the questions asked by Deputy Dessie Ellis, people are still presenting to the homeless services. We are putting a huge amount of work into prevention and there will be a big focus in the coming year on trying to use supports such as the homeless housing assistance payment to prevent people from having to enter emergency accommodation. When they enter emergency accommodation, the NGO sector and the Dublin regional homeless executive, DRHE, do everything they can to get them into secure and sustainable accommodation through measures such as the housing assistance payment scheme.

The number of homeless persons will come down as Rebuilding Ireland makes progress. We made more progress in 2017 than had been envisaged in the plan; therefore, Rebuilding Ireland is working in meeting our build and social housing support targets and doing so more quickly than we had anticipated. We can expect to see progress during 2018, but we must be vigilant and keep on working.

If Deputy Eoin Ó Broin is correct on the number of families living in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation when I took office, there has been an increase as the figure of 700 which I quoted is correct. However, as outlined in the statement I released earlier and as I have stated today in the House, we did not anticipate the increase in the number of families who would seek assistance. I have discussed this issue with the Dublin regional homelessness executive and asked it to investigate the problem. It will very shortly come back to me with a report, on the basis of which we may have to make additional policy interventions to ensure we are doing everything in our power as policy makers to help people who are experiencing this crisis in their lives.

Deputy Dessie Ellis referred to the expected severe weather event. Because of better modelling by Met Éireann, we were able to anticipate its occurrence and put out additional outreach teams over the course of the weekend. In co-operation with the Peter McVerry Trust, we have opened a temporary facility to ensure no one will have to sleep out in the coming nights and days. The public has responded very well to our request that anyone who sees a person sleeping rough use homelessdublin.ie to notify us of the homeless person's location in order that we can quickly get a team out to him or her.

Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Robert Troy


37. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the next round of funding for the local infrastructure housing activation fund will be announced; and his plans to fund an application by Westmeath County Council for a project on Ardmore Road, Mullingar, County Westmeath. [9709/18]

The Minister is aware of the introduction of the local infrastructure housing activation fund as part of Rebuilding Ireland and that €50 million was originally allocated in that regard. When will the balance of the fund be announced? Will local authorities that made an application to the original fund have to reapply or will such applications be judged based on the previous submission?

The first call for proposals under the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, was issued to all local authorities in August 2016 and 34 projects received preliminary approval in March 2017. Westmeath County Council submitted two projects for consideration under LIHAF and funding in the amount of €1.83 million was approved for an access road on Brawny Road, Athlone. However, the proposal on Ardmore Road, Mullingar, was not approved for funding at the time.

As part of budget 2018, I announced that an additional €50 million of Exchequer funding would be available for a second LIHAF call. As was the case in the original LIHAF call, this will be subject to matching funding by local authorities such that the Department will provide 75% Exchequer funding and the local authorities will provide 25% matching funding. This will bring overall LIHAF funding under both calls to €266 million.

I anticipate that there will be a further call for proposals in phase 2 of LIHAF during March. It will be open to all local authorities to submit new projects or resubmit previous ones for consideration at that time.  Following the assessment and selection of successful projects, it is expected that the LIHAF 2 projects will commence towards the end of 2018.

When the original announcement was made, the total funding was €200 million. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong, but a sum of €50 million was announced as part of phase 1. He has stated a further €50 million is being announced as part of phase 2. By my calculation, €50 million plus €50 million equals €100 million, which falls short of the €200 million total. Has all of the €50 million announced in phase 1 been committed to and agreed on? Are contracts in place to draw down the full amount? If not, how much has not been allocated?

On the new call which the Minister is to make in March, why is a further administrative burden being put on local authorities to make a new submission when they may have submissions in place and ready to go? On the Ardmore Road project in County Westmeath, the key land is available, has been appropriately zoned and can be opened up for the construction of 970 houses that are much-needed in Mullingar. The Minister promised a reduction in the level of red tape and bureaucracy, as did his predecessor, but local authorities will be forced to reapply for funding under LIHAF 2, even if they have a valid application in place.

Some 74 proposals were submitted under LIHAF 1 by 21 local authorities in October 2016, with 34 projects across 15 local authorities receiving preliminary approval in March 2017. To date, grant agreements on 30 of these projects have been signed between the Department and local authorities. The total cost of the projects is €195.71 million, of which €146.69 million will be funded by the Department, with local authorities funding €49.02 million. The potential yield from LIHAF 1 is approximately 20,000 homes. Not all applications were successful. They were scored according to various criteria.

The proposed cost of the Ardmore Road project in Mullingar is €3.3 million, of which €2.48 million would be funded by the Exchequer and the remaining €820,000 by the local authority. The associated housing delivery potential is up to 1,000 units by 2021. It is within the remit or mandate of the local authority to resubmit the application. If it wishes to resubmit exactly the same application, it may do so. However, I note that the Ardmore Road scheme was unsuccessful because it did not receive enough points in the scoring attributed to each of the projects It might be wise for the local authority to look at projects that were successful under LIHAF 1 to see how it might reconsider the Ardmore Road project to give it a better chance of success under LIHAF 2.

The scheme will open for applications in March. What will be the turnaround time once applications are submitted? I understand the Ardmore Road scheme scored quite highly but that there was insufficient funding and a decision had to be made based on what was available. However, officials advised that the project might be successful in phase 2. What will be the turnaround time once applications are sought in March? There is an urgent need to support such applications. The project would open up lands for approximately 970 houses in a town that is crying out for investment in social and affordable housing.

Our housing lists are increasing by the day, as is the number of people who are coming into my clinic, and I am sure those of many of my constituency colleagues, on a daily basis. There is simply not enough housing there at present.

Funding was not necessarily the problem when it came to a number of projects under the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF 1. LIHAF can be a complicated way of achieving what is a very important goal because it requires the local authority to work with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and in some instances to also work with a number of different owners of land to make sure we can get the best number of units onto a site and the site open as quickly as possible, get all the supporting infrastructure in place and arrive at affordable prices for the housing as well. It can be a complex thing to put together and that is what we saw in the course of this first phase of LIHAF, that there were some delays that were not initially anticipated, but we have learnt a lot from LIHAF 1. It is a new model of funding for getting a significant number of houses built over a shorter period, which we now seek to progress, not just through LIHAF 2 but through other schemes that might come on stream in the future. There will not be any unnecessary delays with the Department for LIHAF 2 in the call for proposals that will issue in March because a huge amount has been learned in recent months since the original call went out. A number of projects that were submitted were not successful and some of them will be resubmitted because progress will have been made with work by local authorities on the sites so we expect to be able to turn them around quite quickly and to sign agreements over the course of the second half of the year.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Aindrias Moynihan


38. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of the demonstration scheme for group sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9692/18]

Aindrias Moynihan


97. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to increase group sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9691/18]

Right around the country there are numerous smaller housing developments with proprietary treatment plants serving up to 20 houses in some cases. If the treatment plant is not working it is left to the residents to deal with it. There is no developer, the council has no budget, and Irish Water is not involved. Is there some way the grant for group water schemes could be made available to support householders in such circumstances? The very restrictive three-year group scheme is coming into its third year and it is due for review with a view to putting in place a new scheme. Could it be done in such a way as to give meaningful support to communities who need to upgrade their defective treatment plants?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 97 together.

The multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2016-2018 was developed through a working group of key stakeholders involving local authorities, the water services transition office, Irish Water and the National Federation of Group Water Schemes, as well as the Department. The programme provides for the funding of demonstration group sewerage schemes, through measure 4(d), where clustering of households on individual septic tanks is not a viable option, particularly from an environmental perspective.

Local authorities were invited in January 2016 to submit bids under the programme. The invitation envisaged no more than two demonstration group sewerage projects being brought forward under the measure in any one year of the three-year programme. The demonstrations will allow the Department, over the course of the programme, to determine the appropriate enduring funding levels and relationship with the current grant scheme.

As new demonstration group sewerage schemes have been identified for the duration of the programme, and as only two demonstration projects can be advanced in any given year, it is not proposed to modify the programme at this point. However, the Department will give consideration to the scope of the measure under the programme from 2019 onwards having regard to the implementation of the existing programme.

The Department will also be giving wider consideration to the report of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services as it relates to the rural water sector. In that regard, the Department will shortly initiate a short, focused review of the wider investment needs relating to rural water services, including the overall approach to funding rural water issues. The review will focus on governance, supervision and monitoring of the sector and the capital investment requirements. It is anticipated that the review group will engage with relevant stakeholders and will aim to complete its work by mid 2018. The process will inform preparations for a new multi-annual programme for the period 2019 to 2021.

I raised this matter with the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, last May. At that point we were told the scheme was being reviewed. He said the Department was analysing options on costings and that the work was ongoing. Is the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, telling me now that the review has not started? Could he outline what is the situation with the review? I would have expected that as we are coming into the last year of the scheme that the review would be up and running so that the new scheme would be ready to hit the ground in 2019.

A small number of schemes were in place in recent years. Will councils now have to reapply for the new programme as only six schemes out of 83 were in place for the past three years? Will increased funding be available for schemes so that the grant would be meaningful for smaller housing developments that want to upgrade the plant at the end of their estates which are causing pollution and where there are blockages, hassle and disruption for householders? Such people are on their own as they do not receive support from a local authority or Irish Water. If there was a meaningful grant they could take it into their own hands to repair the damage themselves.

The review will be completed by the middle of this year. I think there were 83 applications - it was somewhere in the low 80s - from groups for the original scheme but only six were chosen. The scheme was for demonstrative purposes. There are quite a few schemes. Deputy Moynihan previously raised with me a scheme in his area which has encountered difficulties and where funding is required. The purpose of the six pilot schemes that were chosen was to try to develop a future framework for resolving the problems that exist right across the country. A total of €95 million has been identified for investment in the rural water programme over the period 2018 to 2021, which is a significant increase on what was available heretofore. The intention is to ensure that more than the six schemes that are part of the current process will be involved in the next three-year period.

Six schemes over three years is indicative of very slow progress and greater urgency is required. The Minister of State is aware that in excess of 80 schemes made applications on the previous occasion so clearly there is demand. Will they now have to reapply? Will there be an opportunity for further schemes and local authorities to make applications? Will communities in an area where a sewerage treatment plant is not working have an opportunity to have a public consultation or to have their views heard in the review that is being conducted or will it be purely a desktop exercise by the Department? Those are the people who are stuck with a sewerage treatment plant at the end of their estate that is not working and they recognise the urgency of addressing the issue. They will clearly tell the Department what is needed and inject a shot of urgency into the issue because given the recent pace of progress with six schemes over three years there needs to be greater priority given to the issue to allow householders to take the matter in hand. They are on their own and do not have the support of the county council or Irish Water. They have a problem and they are keen to do the right thing and improve their community and environment. The Minister of State should be helping them not slowing them down.

I accept what the Deputy is saying. We do not intend to slow people down. The purpose of the six scheme demonstration model that has existed in recent years was to try to come to terms with the level of difficulty and complexity that exists. Each scheme that has a problem is orphaned, as such. That is the term that is often used when a scheme does not already have the involvement of Irish Water or a local authority. Each one has unique circumstances. The purpose of the demonstration model was to see how we could provide a framework to deal with many other such schemes in the future. The significant increase in funding will ensure that more can be dealt with. I reassure Deputy Moynihan that when the initial demonstration process was set up an independent panel made the recommendations on the six schemes that were chosen out of the 83 bids from 17 different local authorities. The background makes for interesting reading in that some local authorities have made many applications while a sizeable number made no application whatsoever.

It is the first league table of local authority applications that County Leitrim has topped. Perhaps that relates to groundwater issues and other soakage and drainage problems in the area. There were 14 applications from County Leitrim and 12 from County Donegal which was in second place. The rest of the local authorities that applied had a very small number of applications. A total of 83 were received. Fifteen local authorities did not apply.

Question No. 39 replied to with Written Answers

Housing Provision

Barry Cowen


40. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the proposed housing targets under the affordable purchase scheme in each of the years from 2018 to 2023, inclusive,; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9486/18]

Thankfully, the Minister introduced an affordable house scheme in January this year. Since 2011 Fine Gael has not delivered one such house. It scrapped the only scheme in place in 2012. Will the Minister outline to the House the targets he has set for the new scheme this year and in the forthcoming years, given that there are the same expectations of local authorities in the provision of social housing units? Perhaps we might discuss the issue then.

The delivery of affordable homes to buy or rent is a major priority for the Government, with a particular emphasis on Dublin, Cork and Galway, where people face the greatest affordability challenge. To deliver more affordable homes, the State must develop the full potential of its residential landbank. I stressed this point to local authority chief executives at the second housing summit on 22 January. I have since asked them to submit an outline of their respective affordable housing programme by early March. I anticipate that there is significant potential for the delivery of affordable homes on public lands. I expect approximately 3,000 new affordable homes to be made available under the affordable purchase scheme. As announced in budget 2018, I am providing funding of €25 million over 2018 and 2019 for a targeted programme that will support the provision by local authorities of key enabling infrastructure on their lands to make shovel-ready sites available for affordable housing. My overall ambition is for 10,000 new affordable homes for sale or rent to be provided across a range of initiatives in the coming years. When local authorities have submitted their plans to develop their landbanks for social and wider housing development and the plans have been assessed, I will be in a position to consider delivery targets for affordable housing.

The Minister's answer is somewhat twofold. In the first instance, he has confirmed that no targets have been set. We would have expected a great deal of research to go into the preparation of the scheme and a great deal of groundwork to be done to allow action to be taken immediately to match the rhetoric. However, that is not the case. It is disappointing that the Minister is awaiting the information before he sets about providing the information. I was more alarmed to hear what he said at the beginning of his reply. He said priority should be given to making an affordable scheme available in Dublin, Cork and Galway. Is that at the expense or the neglect of the rest of the country? I was in Sligo last night. I have also been in other parts of the country and spoken to colleagues throughout the country. There is an affordability issue in every constituency, although it might be spoken about more in Dublin, Cork and Galway. When an affordable housing scheme is brought before the House, it should be available to all citizens in the cohort of people who cannot get on a housing list, who cannot afford a mortgage and who cannot rent at affordable rates, let alone buy at affordable rates. We want the State to take an active participatory role in assisting such persons, but it has not done so in recent times, despite the commitment and the expectation among the public, as evidenced by the representations we receive.

One of the main aims of Rebuilding Ireland was the construction of 50,000 social housing homes and their addition to the social housing stock over the period of the five-year plan. The additional funding secured at the time of the last budget for the five-year capital plan we have for Rebuilding Ireland means that we can now meet the joint committee's recommendation that 50,000 new homes be added to the social housing stock. The affordability scheme was stood down in 2011 because it was not necessary after the previous Government - prior to 2011 - had effectively destroyed the economy. As we all know, there was a massive decrease in house prices. That is why we had to stand down the affordability scheme. At the time, affordability was not a problem. People fell into massive negative equity. We are still dealing with the long tail of the financial crisis in the banking, property, construction and housing sectors. There will be affordability where it is needed. Every local authority attended the second housing summit, at which I spoke about our ambitions for the provision of affordable housing and referred to the affordable purchase, cost rental and Rebuilding Ireland home loan schemes. Obviously, the challenge is greater in some areas than in others. The Rebuilding Ireland home loan is available in every local authority. We are seeing significant demand for the new scheme across the country. I can give the Deputy a breakdown of the projects involving 3,000 affordable homes for which finance has been secured or plans are in place. It will include a breakdown of from where they will come. I note that the previous Part V affordability scheme in 2008 produced approximately 3,000 homes only. One of the problems with the scheme under the 2009 Act was that because it allowed for a mix of social and affordable homes, there was a tendency to provide more affordable homes and fewer social houses. That had a negative impact on our ability to secure the type of mix we wanted to secure. This is a different and a better way of going about ensuring affordability.

The 2008 scheme might have yielded just 3,000 units, but I repeat that, irrespective of the Minister's contention about the Government's reasons for abandoning the scheme in 2012, since 2011 Fine Gael in government has not provided one affordable unit for any citizen. That is a fact. Will the Minister elaborate on and clarify his initial comments in response to this question? I have no doubt that there are affordability issues in Dublin, Cork and Galway. Like everyone else with a representative role, I want to ensure the State will make adequate provision to ensure progress is made in making affordable units available for purchase and rent. This should not happen at the expense or neglect of certain citizens of the State. When the Minister brings forward a mechanism, an initiative and a programme for the provision of affordable units, he should do so for the whole of the State. I am very disappointed that he has made this comment. He might be able to point to the picture in front of him which relates to schemes which are proposed. I want to assure the people I represent in my constituency that the members of the local authority have as much access to the provision of affordable units as anybody else in the State. Will the Minister clarify the matter for once and for all?

We did not abandon the need for an affordable housing scheme. The Deputy's party did so when it abandoned the economy. House prices crashed and people fell into serious negative equity. The affordability of housing was not an issue in 2011. There were difficulties with ghost estates and knocking down houses that had not been completed.

What about what happened in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018?

In recovering the economy we have put in place the ability to have a five-year ring-fenced capital investment plan that will take back responsibility for building social housing which the Deputy's party abandoned.

We were building four times more than the Government.

We have done this to bring social housing units back into the stock of social housing via the local authorities and the approved housing bodies. The local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, scheme which is one of the key measures under which we are going to achieve the provision of affordable houses is open to every local authority in the State that applied under LIHAF 1. LIHAF 2 will present another opportunity to achieve the provision of affordable homes. The Rebuilding Ireland home loan is available to every local authority. The Deputy and I need to recognise that the affordability challenges are greater in some parts of the country than in others. The affordable purchase and Rebuilding Ireland home loan schemes that were announced in January are available to every local authority. I have asked each local authority to come back to me, using, in particular, the additional €25 million secured for the serviced sites fund, to identify for the Department where it wants to build affordable houses. We are going to make progress when the numbers are made available.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Bernard Durkan


41. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which the housing needs reflected in the waiting lists of the various local authorities are being met in line with requirements; the extent to which waiting lists have been reduced; if adequate provision of emergency housing accommodation has become or is becoming available; whether there is a need for an emergency housing plan which employs rapid build housing techniques, with particular reference to the need at an early date to achieve targets in line with the urgency of the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9708/18]

Bernard Durkan


80. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the degree to which he expects to meet the most urgent and pressing housing needs in the shortest possible time, with particular reference to the housing crisis and rapid, modular and traditional local authority builds; his plans to invoke emergency legislation to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9707/18]

I have tabled this question to evaluate the extent of the expected demand for local authority housing, particularly in the counties adjoining Dublin city and county. I compliment the Minister and the Department on the efforts they are making, but I am concerned that the tide is so great that they will fall short of the target by a long shot. I ask for particular steps to be taken to address this issue.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 80 together.

Implementation of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland action plan is well under way and making significant progress. This was evident in the social housing output indicative figures published last month, which showed that nearly 26,000 households had their social housing needs met in 2017. In 2017 some 85,799 households in the country were assessed as being qualified for social housing support, which represented a decrease of 6.3% on the comparable figure for 2016. This shows that small progress is being made in the right direction. There will be no let-up in the Government's focus on the issue. The resources provided through Rebuilding Ireland are allowing us to respond in a significant manner. Over €1.4 billion was provided for investment in housing in 2017. The 2018 budget provides over €1.9 billion to tackle housing matters. Taxpayers' money is being spent to try to address the problem. This investment will yield substantial delivery activity and ensure we make further significant progress towards meeting the overall target of delivering 50,000 social homes by 2021 through construction, refurbishment, acquisition and leasing. That number is alongside an accelerated roll-out of the housing assistance payment scheme to meet the needs of 80,000 households.

New rapid delivery construction is a vital part of the programme and nearly 200 new homes were delivered in this way across the Dublin area in 2017. An additional 20 rapid projects involving in excess of 500 new homes are being advanced, many of which are scheduled for delivery in 2018.

The Deputy has issues regarding other types of housing and we are prepared to meet anyone for discussions. We have met many people involved in different types of construction to discuss various types of housing in which we could invest, provided they meet regulations and are finished to a high standard. New social housing construction schemes are being added continually to the pipeline, both through the local authorities and approved housing bodies. More than 3,800 houses are under construction on approximately 120 sites, and a total of 12,000 houses are planned on 700 sites. With sufficient drive, we will be able to deliver housing to help provide housing solutions every year.

Last year, more than 4,000 people left homelessness. We acknowledge, however, that this is not enough to deal with demand. However, we are beginning to move in the right direction and houses are being delivered. Last year, through the various methods of delivery, more than 7,000 new social houses were added. Together with private sector support, this helped 27,000 people find housing solutions. We will match and increase this figure in 2018.

Notwithstanding the progress being made, we must continue to drive on the process. We are allocating additional funding to do this in the coming years. If we can drive on the various schemes in place through local authorities and other partners and apply the necessary urgency to complete schemes as quickly as possible, we will be able to solve the housing problem.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply and I acknowledge that he and the Minister are making genuine efforts to deal with this issue. However, they should bear in mind that I have spoken to their predecessors going back as far as the former Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Mr. Michael Finneran. I indicated to the then Minister of State that the problems we are currently experiencing were rapidly approaching. Despite the efforts being made, we have our fingers in the dyke and without an emergency intervention, we will find ourselves in a worse position one year from now and in an intolerable position in two years.

To appreciate fully the difficulties being experienced, one must encounter daily the deprivation that affects entire families and individuals, young and old, who have nowhere to go and must sleep in the open air. This is not a political issue but a reflection of society. Despite the degree of sophistication Ireland has achieved nationally and internationally, we find ourselves apologising to people who are homeless. In view of the seriousness of the matter, what new interventions are likely? Is it expected that we will be able to deal with homelessness in the short term?

We all share Deputy Durkan's concerns and we all want to try to solve the housing problem as quickly as possible. Most Deputies daily meet people with a housing need, whether in our clinics and offices or, as I do, on visits to projects. Members from all parties are committed to delivering a minimum of 50,000 houses over the next three or four years through Rebuilding Ireland. We want to go beyond this objective by meeting the commitment given in Project Ireland 2040 to build upwards of 12,000 houses annually thereafter. This should address the social housing requirement in the years ahead, provided sufficient land is also made available to deliver affordable housing. We believe that will be possible.

Rebuilding Ireland is a five-year programme, which commenced less than 18 months ago. Many people judged An Action Plan for Jobs after 18 months when they argued the plan was not working. The plan delivered a couple of hundred thousand jobs in three or four years and helped to solve the unemployment problem. Likewise, if we stick to the action plan for housing, introduce new schemes to deliver affordable housing and increase investment, as the Minister has done, we will achieve the progress required to ensure the housing problem is tackled in the years ahead.

All of our solutions are based on supply. Last year, commencement notices and planning permissions increased threefold and 50% year on year. It is hoped that a minimum of 20,000 new houses will be built this year. The construction sector is of the view that 23,000 new units will be provided this year. We have also made significant funding available for social housing to help tackle the housing problem.

I want to believe what I am hearing and I know the Minister of State spoke with great honesty, but as a long-time Deputy, I have seen too much evidence to suggest the Minister and Minister of State, other Deputies and, more important, the homeless people we represent will be disappointed. I ask the Minister to have a further re-evaluation of this issue done with a view to identifying the number of people becoming homeless daily. While family hubs and similar initiatives are a help, they are emergency measures which do not solve the problem. Children, families and older people are in the worst possible position. Despite having worked hard for a long time to address this issue, I believe the problem will get worse. I know that is not the intention. Direct build and rapid build projects must begin now, not in six months or one year.

Deputy Durkan and I are on the same page. We want progress to be made as quickly as possible. The Minister and I visited County Kildare recently where we met the Deputy at the opening of two new housing projects. Kildare County Council is committed to delivering more than 2,600 houses in the next couple of years, which will make a significant contribution towards solving the county's housing problem. We ask all local authorities to avail of the new delivery mechanism for getting on site and to use the rapid build programme to try to bring greater urgency to the delivery of housing.

Compared with two years ago, local authorities now have the staff and funding they need. In addition, sites have been identified and planning permission has been granted. More than 12,500 houses are already in the system. Local authorities delivered more than 7,000 houses last year and will deliver more than 8,000 this year.

I am much more hopeful than Deputy Durkan because I track the figures daily. We have systems in place to accelerate the process. We changed the planning process and funding arrangements and many partners have bought into the process. There is also greater engagement from the private sector through turnkey projects, enhanced leasing arrangements, the mortgage-to-rent scheme and various other schemes. If we can press ahead with these schemes and the initiatives to bring vacant properties back into use, I have no doubt we will get ahead of the curve. While it is disappointing that a large number of people are being declared homeless every month, we are now delivering the housing units that will help us to get ahead of the trend very soon.

We will take one further group of questions. With the agreement of Deputies, we will move straight to the answer and take one question from each of the Deputies who tabled them.

Housing Provision

Jan O'Sullivan


42. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes built under the rapid build programme that were completed in 2017; the areas in which these homes are located; the number that have persons resident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9650/18]

John Curran


45. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to accelerate the delivery of rapid build homes; the estimated number of rapid build homes that will be completed and occupied by the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9689/18]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 45 together.

The Department is working closely with all local authorities on increasing and accelerating the delivery of a range of social housing programmes and supports, including through the use of rapid build methodologies. Under the Department's social housing capital programme, 208 rapid delivery homes were completed in schemes across the greater Dublin area by the end of 2017. Of these, 22 were delivered in 2016. This increased substantially to 186 social homes delivered last year. During 2017, in the Dublin city area, four schemes amounting to 130 homes were completed, of which 38 were in Belcamp, 24 in Coolock, 29 in Cherry Orchard, 29 in Drimnagh and 39 in St. Helena's Drive, Finglas. The remaining 56 homes were delivered in Fingal, of which 20 were in Wellview, Mulhuddart, and 36 in Hansfield, Ongar. The allocation of these homes is a matter for each local authority and I am assured that arrangements are in place that resulted in them being occupied without delay on completion.

An additional 20 rapid delivery schemes, set to yield in excess of 500 social homes, are at various stages of advancement. Many of these are scheduled for delivery in 2018 and I understand seven of them in are in Limerick. Further rapid delivery homes are being added to the construction pipeline regularly. The Minister recently made clear to all local authorities that we want the rapid build approaches to be used to deliver social housing projects. Not only do we want construction to commence on site as quickly as possible, but the quickest method offering the best value for taxpayers must be used to deliver housing. Local authorities have been advised that rapid build approaches should increasingly become the norm for delivering social housing projects. Ultimately, it is likely that we will reach a point where no differentiation will be made between traditional and rapid build approaches to housing construction. It is important that units are being designed that can accommodate both types of construction. Rapid build approaches offer significant gains and we are asking that they be adopted as quickly as possible.

To support delivery, the Office of Government Procurement put in place a framework of rapid delivery contractors in 2017. This framework is available for all local authorities and approved housing bodies to use in the interest of accelerated delivery. In this regard, the Department has organised information seminars for local authorities, as well as visits to rapid delivery projects under construction, factories and other premises. Local authorities and approved housing bodies have also been asked to consider, in particular, schemes which are suitable for early commencement, particularly in terms of their approved planning status.

Updated details on this programme of rapid delivery projects are included in each social housing construction project status report. They can be tracked online as well and I can give details to the Deputy at a later stage if she so wishes.

I share the scepticism of Deputy Durkan with respect to rapid build. It is the greatest misnomer ever in most of these cases. The first 22 went through fairly quickly but the rest seem to be taking forever and are anything but rapid. If buildings are constructed off site, why can they not be put in place more rapidly? Why are they stuck in various stages, as the Minister mentioned in his reply? The Minister of State used the term "drive on" earlier, so why can we not do so and have them completed in a matter of months rather than the length of time they are taking now? It seems to be fairly similar to regular construction as far as I can see. May we see rapid build really being rapid?

The big issue is not necessarily construction as these are, without a doubt, constructed much more quickly after being produced in factories. Getting on sites has been the cause of the delay. We made many changes in the processes, and the Deputy is familiar with those from her time in the Department. There were long delays on many sites across the country for many years going on for three or four years. It has been agreed that there is a timeline and process in place to be on-site with any new project within 59 weeks. The rapid builds can be constructed in a matter of months thereafter. I hope we will see improved results in the rapid build scheme this year and next.

It is not just hope we need.

I am quite confident about it. I have even named the sites in Limerick so I am quite confident the Deputy will see the results of the rapid delivery scheme, which we should have been able to see well before now. We will certainly be able to see it in future. The issue has been getting to site and getting planning, along with other requirements. We have fast-tracked that as much as possible.

Without being unkind, the Minister of State has missed the targets for the rapid build programme by a mile. Rebuilding Ireland is 18 months old. It clearly indicated that by the end of 2016 there would be delivery of 200 units, with a further 800 units in 2017. By the end of last year we would have expected approximately 1,000 units. The action plan status report indicates there were approximately 200 units built in total, so we missed by a mile.

The Minister of State has indicated in reply that various things have been done but the problem is not enough has been done. Looking at the predictions from the action plan status report, there is only indication of another 500 units this year. The delivery that the programme should be making is not coming about. We as ordinary Members of this House do not understand where the real blockages are. We should remember that this was the first action in Rebuilding Ireland and it was aimed specifically at people who are homeless and in hotel accommodation. The Minister of State is wondering why figures are going up. If the Government delivered its own targets, there would be 800 more units for accommodation. The number of people we refer to homeless accommodation would be reduced significantly. The Government is missing the target and failing to explain to us why. It is not making up the time in 2018 lost in the previous 18 months.

The Deputy is not being unkind and he is quite entitled to question the figures. I have already explained that we expect many of our schemes to deliver much more this year, next year and in the years ahead. It has become the default position that rapid build is the best technology to use for speed purposes in some of these sites. We are providing workshops and skills bases for local authorities so they can make this happen and use rapid construction. The difficulty has been in getting on site. We made great changes to the process of getting a project to site after it has been earmarked for a particular greenfield or brownfield site.

Not to be unkind to the Deputy but he should look at the delivery across all the schemes in Rebuilding Ireland. We are well ahead of track in what we want to achieve. We all accept it is still not enough, so although we are happy it is ahead of target, we want the process to become even faster again and to deliver even more. It is important to consider all our schemes and funding mechanisms. If we compare 2017 delivery with estimates and targets, we are approximately 36% over. We are trying to achieve those goals. Without being unkind to the Deputy, he should look at all the figures.

The Government is still 800 units behind the predictions.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.