Priority Questions

Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Darragh O'Brien


23. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount drawn down under the local infrastructure housing activation fund per annum to date; the number of affordable homes built; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20090/18]

We will wait for the spokesperson, Deputy Darragh O'Brien.

I will be taking questions on his behalf today because he is away.

Fine Gael scrapped the affordable housing scheme in 2012. The current Government and its predecessor have not delivered an affordable home since coming into power almost seven years ago. The current Government introduced a new affordable housing scheme in January 2018. An integral part of that scheme to deliver affordable homes is the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF. What has been the draw-down under that fund to date? What is the number of affordable homes built to date?

I thank the Deputy for the question.

The purpose of the local infrastructure housing activation fund is to relieve key infrastructural blockages for the delivery of housing at scale. I have approved 30 infrastructure projects under the fund at a cost of around €195 million, with an associated housing delivery of 20,000 units by 2021, and more will follow as the sites are fully built out.

The total LIHAF funds drawn down in 2017 amounted to €1.6 million. My Department is currently examining draw-down requests for the first quarter of this year.

The low level of draw-down reflects the stages that the infrastructure projects were at. Most were in the design, planning and tendering phases, where costs are lower than at construction stage. I therefore expect a major increase in draw-down as local authorities move projects to construction.

While there was under-expenditure in 2017, funding for LIHAF is ring-fenced within the overall multi-annual housing budget. The LIHAF under-expenditure in 2017 was diverted to other housing activities, ensuring that the funding available was fully applied to housing priorities. The under-expenditure will be made good as projects are advanced in 2018 and 2019.

LIHAF-associated housing will start coming on stream as we progress the infrastructure. Some sites will deliver housing in tandem with the infrastructure but other sites will require the infrastructure to be in place to allow proper access.

While I am anxious for the infrastructure and the housing to be delivered as fast as possible, I recognise that local authorities must observe proper design, planning and tendering procedures. My Department will continue to monitor progress on these sites and ensure that every effort is made to secure the timely delivery of the infrastructure and housing involved.

I thank the Minister. He did not answer the question on how many houses have been delivered to date so I assume the answer is nil.

I can understand the blockage in the system is because of the capital nature of the project. With regard to affordability, sums of over €300,000 are regarded as affordable in Dún Laoghaire. It is not really affordable to the average person. Can the Minister give us a breakdown of the different types of affordable housing he is proposing and their various price scales?

It is important that we do not mislead the public on LIHAF. The objective of LIHAF was to unblock key pieces of land for housing delivery. The majority of the projects, if not all, were approved only in quarters 3 and 4 of last year. The intention is for the infrastructure to be delivered between now and 2019 and for 20,000 houses to be delivered between now and 2021. At certain sites, however, the houses will be delivered in tandem with the infrastructure. We are already seeing progress on some key sites in Dublin where there will be housing delivery.

When we talk about what will be delivered under the 30 projects and about the target of 20,000 homes by 2021, we should note that 5,600 homes, or over 28%, will be social or affordable housing. That means 3,274 social homes and 2,350 affordable homes. Five thousand six hundred, or 28%, will have a LIHAF-related cost reduction, which was part of the scheme when it was originally set up. Eight thousand eight hundred homes, or 44%, will be sold at normal market rates. Therefore, 70% of the projects approved to date are likely to have housing available at €320,000 or less, subject to market inflation. Bearing in mind the number of first-time buyers and the homes that were bought last year, the figure of €320,000 is important. In the greater Dublin area, Cork and Galway, 69% of houses bought by first-time buyers in 2017 were priced lower than €320,000. Outside those areas, the figure was lower than €250,000. While LIHAF was not specifically an affordability measure in the first instance, it will deliver affordable homes. More important, it will deliver affordable purchase scheme homes. This scheme is the new affordability provision I announced at the beginning of this year.

I thank the Minister. Could he give us an update on LIHAF 2 and the projects that did not succeed under LIHAF 1? Will he state the affordable house prices he has proposed under all the schemes? It is very hard to understand the exact cost from the spreadsheet. As the Minister says, there is percentage discount and, equally, a fixed price in regard to affordability.

On the Deputy's last question, it will depend on the scheme itself. In certain instances, based on the figures I gave the Deputy, there will be a cost reduction pertaining to homes across the site. A certain percentage will be taken off the proposed selling price or the proposed rental price.

With regard to the affordable purchase scheme, again it will depend on the cost of delivering a house and what kind of stake will be taken in terms of the equity scheme.

What we have announced already are the income eligibility requirements, which are €50,000 for an individual and €75,000 for a couple. That is important in terms of knowing who will be able to access these schemes.

When I sign development commencement orders under the legislation, local authorities will be able then to make regulations in each of their local authority areas as to access. We are about to put a call out for the serviced sites fund, which is €25 million for the affordable purchase scheme, which will follow on from the Ó Cualann model. That is the model from which it comes in terms of having local authorities work with housing bodies to deliver affordable purchase scheme homes.

Money was assigned in the budget for me to proceed with the second phase of the local infrastructure activation fund, LIHAF 2. Projects that were not successful in the first phase of it can apply in the second phase of it if and when that is announced, but if we are proceeding with a second phase of LIHAF, I want to make sure that it can achieve what we want it to achieve, which is the unlocking of sites of strategic importance in local authorities up and down the country and doing that quickly. If there is any concern that we might not be able to do that at speed, that might be something we would look at again, but at present I am still reviewing plans for LIHAF 2.

Homeless Persons Data

Eoin Ó Broin


24. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the councils that miscategorised persons in monthly homeless reports; the months on which persons were wrongly included; the number of persons in each of these months in this regard; when the persons were removed; the reason his Department did not catch this earlier; the adjusted figures for each month in which there was a miscategorisation; if the March 2018 figures contain a real increase or decrease on previous months based on the adjusted figures; and if he will continue to publish the figures on a monthly basis. [19984/18]

Darragh O'Brien


25. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans for changes to the count mechanism for homeless numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20091/18]

Last Thursday, I accused the Minister of wrongly having families in emergency accommodation or who are homeless removed from the March homeless report. I spent much of Friday and early today talking to senior officials and front-line staff in local authorities and voluntary sector organisations and I am more convinced now than I was last week that the vast majority of those families are indeed homeless and still in emergency accommodation situations and they should be included in the figures. I hope the Minister can provide some clarity to justify the decision to remove 600 adults and children from the March homeless figures report.

I understand the Minister is taking Questions Nos. 24 and 25 together.

That is correct. I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 25 together.

I thank the Deputies for their questions. My Department currently publishes data on a monthly basis on the number of homeless persons accommodated in emergency accommodation funded and overseen by housing authorities. These reports are based on data provided by housing authorities, produced through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System, or PASS as it is more commonly known. The reports are collated on a regional basis.

During the compilation of the March homeless report, in the course of examining data from local authorities, my Department established that a number of local authorities had miscategorised individuals accommodated in houses and apartments, owned or leased by the local authorities, including in some instances people renting in the private rented sector but in receipt of social housing supports, as being in emergency accommodation. As these issues have not yet been fully addressed, I am not in a position to provide a complete account of the extent of such practices. My Department is writing to local authorities as part of its continuing examination of the matter.

However, I can say that a total of 247 adults and 331 associated dependants, residing in houses and apartments, were categorised as being in emergency accommodation in the Dublin, south-west, mid-west, north-east and south-east regions. These categorisations were corrected prior to the publication of the March report. I flagged the issue that had arisen very clearly when publishing the March figures and was also clear that the figures would have been higher had the corrections I referred to not been made. We do not yet know the trend month on month, beyond certain indicators such as the rate of presentations of families in Dublin being down almost 50%. We also know that there are further miscategorisations in the system still to be worked out.

My priority as Minister is to ensure that families and individuals are moved from emergency accommodation, such as hostels, hotels and family hubs, into housing. I am satisfied that individuals and families who are being accommodated in publicly funded houses or apartments, whether it be social housing or homes leased from the private rented sector, should not be considered as living in emergency accommodation.

The issues which have emerged indicate clearly to me that we need improved reporting in this area in order to reflect accurately the numbers of households in emergency accommodation so that we can measure our progress and target our further policies and actions. My Department is examining the current reporting arrangements with a view to ensuring that the best possible data is available to support policy making. No decision has been taken on amending the existing arrangements at this stage.

I take it from what the Minister said that 484 individuals, comprising adults and children, were not included on the list because they were housed in private accommodation. I believe that is what he said. I believe 247 and 237 were the figures he gave. Regardless of that, he said in an interview on "Morning Ireland" last week that people who were considered homeless were being accommodated in local authority houses. He gave an understanding that those people were in homes and will remain in those homes until they receive their long-term accommodation. Can he confirm that people who are being provided with local authority accommodation in local authority housing can remain in those houses up until long-term accommodation can be provided for them?

The Minister mentioned hotels. I have a concern about that because the previous Minister gave a commitment that there would be nobody living in hotel accommodation by the end of June last year. Month by month since then, we are seeing increases in hotel accommodation being used for homeless people. Realistically, we are just not getting on top of the homeless figures.

That response from the Minister is astounding. He seems to be claiming on the one hand that local authority owned or leased properties cannot be considered emergency accommodation, yet 63 units in Tallaght Cross, in my constituency, owned by a local authority are emergency accommodation and the families in that accommodation are included in the March figures. Likewise, hubs are leased by local authorities and the families in those for six, 12, 18 or 24 months are in emergency accommodation.

In Louth, for example, 58 of the 100 families the Minister had removed from the March figures are in short-term, emergency-type accommodation arrangements. They are in properties that have been leased by the local authority but they do not have tenancies and they are no different from being in a hotel or in a hub. Twenty-two families are transitioning into the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme, but at the time the figures were submitted to the Minister's Department before he had them changed, they were not in receipt of HAP and were therefore being funded through emergency section 10 funding and should have been considered homeless.

I will grant the Minister this. There were 20 families in HAP tenancies with a section 10 emergency funding top-up. I do not believe those families should be in the homeless figures. They should be removed, but that means 80 of the 100 families the Minister had removed from the figures in Louth are homeless, are in emergency accommodation type situations and should be classified as such. I challenge the Minister again to correct the record. Otherwise, he is claiming that these families who are homeless are not, and that is an insult to them and their children.

I thank the Deputies for their questions. What we are seeing, as this is emerging, is a mixed practice in each local authority as to both what they are counting but also some of the provisions they are putting in place to prevent people from going into emergency accommodation. At the Second Housing Summit at the beginning of the year I told the local authorities to be creative in preventing families and individuals from having to access emergency accommodation. We know the tenuous nature of that with individuals going from day to day, night to night, not knowing where they will be living, and staying in hostels, hubs, hotels and emergency accommodation. I asked that they keep families and individuals out of emergency accommodation but to be creative with the solutions they put in place. What we have seen is that some families and individuals have been accommodated in local authority housing, some have been housed in the private rental sector with HAP support, and some have stayed in private rented accommodation which they were renting themselves but they were at risk of homelessness. The local authority provided supports and therefore they never entered into emergency accommodation and yet because it was section 10 funding, they were counted as being in emergency accommodation but they should not have been.

I was glad to hear Deputy Ó Broin recognise the fact that there has been a miscategorisation error here. We are trying to get to the bottom of the scale of this. We do not know exactly when it occurred. That is why we cannot measure, with any accuracy at the moment, the kind of increase we might have seen from February to March because we do not know exactly when those miscategorisations occurred. However, we will get that information and when I have it, I will publish it. We are talking about 247 adults and 331 dependants who have already been taken out of the figures, but I am aware there may be as many as 200 more. The Deputy might have heard me say in the region of 600 to 800. We are trying to work through that currently.

By the way, no one was removed by me from these figures. This was an agreement between my officials and the local authorities once we discovered that people were in homes with their own keys and front door, some for as long as two years. They were being counted as being in the same situation as someone who is in a hostel who has to go out and walk the streets every day. That is not case here. If we want to help people who are in emergency accommodation or people experiencing this crisis, we need to understand exactly who is there and the reason they are there. We are counting some people, including people from Tallaght Cross who have not been taken out of the numbers, but if some people are in a situation where they might have been in their own home with their own key and front door for two years, that is not emergency accommodation. If they are not at risk of going into emergency accommodation, they are not in emergency accommodation. They are in a home, and it may not be their forever home. In some instances, the home did become their HAP tenancy but they will not be going into emergency accommodation. They will be going into a home from a home.

The Minister is changing the definition of emergency accommodation. The families in Tallaght Cross are in emergency accommodation. They do not have a tenancy agreement and there are key workers, which the Minister's Department funds, to try to move them into permanent accommodation. The idea that because somebody is left languishing in emergency accommodation for two years the Minister is now saying that they are no longer in emergency accommodation is truly astounding.

All of this stands in marked contrast to the refusal of both the Minister and his predecessor to add into the homeless figures families and individuals who are in emergency accommodation but are not funded by the Minister's Department. There are two hostels in Dublin, for example, the Morning Star and the Regina Coeli, neither of which is funded by Government and both of which house people in hostel type accommodation. There are 66 people in the Morning Star Hostel and there are 40 rooms for women and children in Regina Coeli Hostel.

They are not counted in the Minister's figures. Adults and children in Tusla-funded domestic violence step-down and emergency accommodation are homeless but are not included in the Minister's figures. The 520 people, including 163 children, who, despite having leave to remain, are trapped into using direct provision as emergency accommodation because they are unable get adequate housing are not included in the Minister's figures.

When we highlighted all of this to the Minister previously, he would not change the figures because, God forbid, they would show an increase but now that the figures are going in the wrong direction, he is reclassifying the definition of "emergency accommodation" in a fundamental way. That is deeply dishonest and deeply insulting to these families. When the Minister finally publishes the data which I seem to have but which he, for some unknown reason, does not, I think he will be forced into a climb-down.. A total of 80% of the families removed by the Minister from County Louth are homeless and should be included in those figures. If that trend goes across all of the 600, that is an astonishing number of families to have removed from these figures.

I must agree in the sense that while one might say that these people have been in houses for two years, they are not in secure tenancies. In fairness, they should be described as being homeless. We have been producing monthly figures for two years and it has taken two years to discover this anomaly in the system, which is unacceptable. Is the Minister trying to play games with the homeless figures and create uncertainty and doubt? What other directions is he taking regarding the presentation of homeless figures? I have heard that we might be moving to quarterly reports instead of the monthly reports we have at the moment. When will these changes take place?

I thank the Deputies for their follow-up questions. The tenants in Tallaght Cross are not at risk of being de-tenanted. Deputy Ó Broin is using the terms "temporary" and "precarious" but the tenants have been in those tenancies for a very long period and are at no risk of entering emergency accommodation. No decision has been made about people in Tallaght Cross. This is something we must address as a Dáil, a Government and a society. It is not fair on people in emergency accommodation who are experiencing that crisis in their lives to be described as being in the same situation as those who might be in the private rental sector, who have never gone into emergency accommodation and who are not at risk of having to do so. If we are to have the right supports and targets to achieve sustainable exits from emergency accommodation, we have to understand exactly who is there and why. I am not responsible for direct provision or women's refuges. These are different difficulties that are being experienced depending on where the person has come from in Irish life. What I am responsible for is getting people off the streets and into emergency accommodation and from emergency accommodation into homes. We need to understand exactly who those people are and why they are there to make sure we can provide those exits.

There was a report in the newspapers at the weekend that we were going to recategorise non-EU nationals who did not have permission to be here. Nobody is talking about recategorising non-EU nationals but we must face up to the fact that if they do not have tenancy rights, they will be trapped permanently in emergency accommodation. In such circumstances, what is the proper way to support those people? These are the things we must look at and have an honest and open debate with ourselves and the public about the challenges we face. If we reach the figure of 10,000, it tells us nothing that the figure of 9,600 does not already tell us, which is that we are in a crisis. We know we are in a crisis but I am concerned about how we best help people facing this crisis in their lives.

Not by fiddling figures.

Why is Deputy Ó Broin so desperate to see the figures go up? If we go by Deputy Casey's definition, anyone in the private rental sector for two years might be included and counted as homeless. That does not make sense to me. We must be honest about the numbers. I was upfront about this when I discovered it. I have mentioned it previously. We are still working through this. We do not have the data Deputy Ó Broin claims to possess. The Deputy admitted to the miscategorisation there. He admitted that it is happening. I am trying to get to the bottom of it.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Eoin Ó Broin


26. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason 428 fewer real social houses, that is, units owned by local authorities and approved housing bodies, were delivered in 2018 than were delivered in 2017 and his views on whether this drop indicates a problem with the speed and scale of real social housing delivery, particularly within the local authority sector. [19985/18]

The Minister is very fond of quoting the report of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness and its key recommendation for the State to deliver 10,000 additional real social houses every year over five years. That report defines real social houses as units owned by local authorities or approved housing bodies. The real social housing output last year was around 6,297 units. These are units built or bought by approved housing bodies or local authorities. However, the most recent real social housing target for 2018 is 428 fewer, standing at 5,869. Can the Minister explain and justify the drop?

I note the reference in the Deputy's question to "real social housing" units after which he then proceeded to outline an entirely unreal comparative analysis. Therefore, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I am happy to outline the actual comparison between social housing delivery in 2017 and the corresponding targets for 2018.

In 2018, local authorities will deliver 2,319 new-build homes, approved housing bodies will deliver 1,500 and 590 will be delivered through the Part V mechanism. This will bring to 4,409 the number of new-build social housing homes to be delivered this year. That is a 92% increase on the comparable 2,297 new-build homes delivered in 2017, of which 1,014 were by local authorities, 761 by approved housing bodies and 522 through Part V. This increase reflects the changing composition of the overall social housing programme as we increasingly deliver more and more new builds while acquisitions and the voids programme become less significant delivery streams.

In addition, it appears that the Deputy's analysis excludes homes delivered through long-term leasing in secure tenancies for up to 25 years. Such homes are very much a real home for the individuals and families that they accommodate and 2,000 such properties are targeted for delivery this year, well over twice the level achieved in 2017.

In addition to the 4,409 new-build homes and the 2,000 leased homes, 560 void homes will be brought back into stock and 900 new homes will be acquired bringing to 7,869 the number of new social housing homes that will be delivered in 2018. This is more than 50% higher than the target for 2017 and more than 11% up on the 2017 output. This is before any account is taken of the housing assistance payment or rental accommodation schemes. In setting local authority targets for 2018, I have been explicitly clear with local authorities that these are minimum targets and that where additional capacity to deliver arises, we will work in partnership with local authorities to drive that accelerated delivery.

Part of the problem is, precisely as the Minister says, an increasing reliance on leased properties instead of real social housing. The reason I use the phrase "real social housing" is because it was used in the unanimously endorsed report of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness. The Minister claims to be meeting the committee's recommendation when the figures very clearly show that this is not the case. My concern is the dramatic increase in the Department's long-term leasing targets from approximately 798 in 2017 to in the region of 2,000 this year. This is to the detriment of the provision of real social houses, namely, units owned, built or bought by local authorities and approved housing bodies. This means that an over-reliance on the private rental sector, be it via leasing or involving the housing assistance payment or the rental accommodation scheme, will jump from 75% of total so-called social housing delivery last year to 78% this year. Every time we say that the Government is over-reliant on the private sector, the Minister says this is not true. However, this year, which is the first full year in which he will be Minister, the actual number of real social houses owned by local authorities or approved housing bodies will be fewer than last year. This is a significant fact, one for which the Minister is responsible and one he has yet to adequately explain.

I do not know why Deputy Ó Broin wishes to misrepresent the progress that is being made when it comes to building social housing homes. He is not comparing like with like. He includes things such as voids when he wants to and then excludes them when he wants. This gives a very unfair impression of what is actually happening. Of course, we are building more units this year. We spent everything in our capital and current budgets last year. We were doing so much that I had to get additional money from the Minister for Finance to build more homes and that is what happened. This year, we again have a dramatic increase in our capital budget that will build more homes - real homes coming into the social housing stock. These are homes built by local authorities and approved housing bodies and homes delivered through the Part V arrangement.

We will also acquire homes. That figure is down. Again, the Deputy looked for it last year and I agreed that we should be acquiring less and building more so we are doing that. When we do that, the Deputy says our acquisitions target is down. Of course it is down. That is the case because we are building more. The number of voids is also down because we have managed to achieve a huge amount in terms of taking vacant, sometimes derelict, social housing units and bringing them back into use. As we do more of that, fewer voids will be brought back into use. However, even when one takes the total sum of what we hope to achieve this year, it is up on last year in terms of real social housing units for people to live in.

We still rely on the housing assistance payment and the rental accommodation scheme because we have not yet built enough social housing units for people on the housing list but as we move to 2020 and 2021 under Rebuilding Ireland, more people will be accommodated in new homes coming into the social housing stock than will be accommodated in the private rental sector. Our ambition does not end at the end of Rebuilding Ireland. It follows through into Project Ireland 2040 out to 2027. Between now and that date, at least 112,000 homes will be built. These are social housing units for the social housing stock.

First, I never called for the Government to acquire fewer units for local authorities. What I wanted it to do was to continue to acquire and to increase building. I keep coming back to the report of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness because that cross-party report set out the minimum that this House believed the Government needed to do to tackle the social housing crisis. Again, we talked about increasing the stock of real social houses owned by local authorities and approved housing bodies by a minimum of 10,000 units per year for five years.

Last year just over 6,000 were produced and it will be less than that this year. There is no confusion; it is very clear. The number of real units delivered this year will be less than last year. I accept the number of leased units, housing assistance payment, HAP, units and rental accommodation scheme, RAS, units will be higher but that is part of the problem. There is an increasing over-reliance with up to 78% of leased or subsidised private rental accommodation rather than doing what the all-party Oireachtas committee recommended, which was to deliver an increase of real units. The Government is not even coming close to the target we set at that time.

The Deputy is absolutely correct. The call to acquire fewer homes by local authorities was my call because I did not want them competing with young families in the market in high-demand areas. Where it still makes financial sense to do it and it is not a high-demand area, local authorities can still make acquisitions and that is why this year, in the region of 900 more homes will be acquired into the social housing stock, the permanent stock, under Rebuilding Ireland.

The Oireachtas joint committee referred to 50,000 new homes and therefore it always presupposed a reliance on the private sector for another type of solution for people who needed social housing support. It always presumed that. It always presumed an over-reliance on the private sector under the programme of those 50,000 homes being brought into the social housing stock. The actual output figures for 2017 - I am only talking about local authority build, housing body build and Part V build - show that 2,297 homes were delivered. When we look at similar targets for 2018, the figure for local authority build, housing body build and Part V build is 4,409, which is a dramatic increase on the previous year. The numbers are increasing not decreasing.

Home Loan Scheme

Jan O'Sullivan


27. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 636 of 27 March 2018, if the application form for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme will be corrected in order that persons in circumstances (details supplied) can qualify if they satisfy all other criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19917/18]

I seek clarity following the written answer I received to a previous parliamentary question on eligibility for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme. It states that the primary earner on the application must have at least two years' continuous employment, which can be self-employment, and the second applicant must have continuous employment for at least one year. However, the application form states "continuous permanent employment". I know of people whose applications have been rejected by the local authority because their continuous employment was not permanent.

The written answer to the parliamentary question also stated "continuous permanent employment" and that the Department would liaise with the Housing Finance Agency etc. to ensure consistent information. When checking at the time of tabling this question I found that the form still states "permanent employment". I ask that this be clarified. Obviously some people really want to get this loan because they cannot get it anywhere else. It is very important that they are not squeezed out because of lack of information.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Rebuilding Ireland home loan is targeted at first-time buyers who wish to own their own home, satisfy the relevant income limits, have access to an adequate deposit and have the capacity to repay a mortgage, but who are unable to access a mortgage sufficient for them to purchase their first home.

As previously noted regarding this issue, the primary earner on the application must have at least two years’ continuous employment and the second applicant must have continuous employment for at least one year. Both self-employment and employment with a number of different employers can be counted as part of this continuous employment.

Since this issue was last raised, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has had a chance to meet the chief executives of the two main agencies involved in the implementation of the scheme, the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency, to address any issues arising from the roll-out of the scheme.

One of the items raised was the manner in which information is presented on the application form. The Housing Finance Agency has undertaken to amend the wording on the application form to more clearly reflect the requirements of the scheme, specifically in reference to “continuous employment”, which I anticipate will address the Deputy’s concerns on this point.

The application form for the scheme contains the phrase “continuous permanent employment” at point 4 of the eligibility requirements. The requirements for the scheme do not require that the relevant employment be explicitly permanent, but rather continuous in nature. The primary earner on the application must have at least two years' continuous employment, which can be self-employment or with several employers, and the second applicant must have at least one year of continuous employment. The Housing Finance Agency will revise the application form to fully clarify this point. I am glad to have the opportunity to put it on the record today.

I welcome that. I also ask whether those who have already been turned down because their employment was not permanent can now can have either an appeals system or a review of their applications. I know of people who have been turned down.

I have one further question. This specific issue of overtime was covered on "Morning Ireland" last week. The income eligibility requirements state that single applicants must not be earning more than €50,000 per annum and the combined income of joint applicants must not be greater than €75,000 per annum. The "Morning Ireland" presenter stated that some local authorities are counting overtime and possibly also bonuses, while others are not. Can we have the same system for every local authority? It should not matter whether applicants live in Meath, Dublin, Limerick or wherever. If people qualify in one county, they should qualify in the other county. I ask for clarification particularly on overtime.

Some of these issues were also raised at the meeting. As with any scheme that is only three months old, there will be some teething problems. There were some issues with the assessment of data at the outset. Additional training is to be provided at all levels in local authorities. The Housing Agency has processed 460 applications and has sanctioned about 224 of those. If somebody has been refused for the wrong reason or there was misinformation regarding their continuous employment, that can be reviewed or there is an appeal mechanism there. We will make sure that happens as well.

I think the scheme will work and has been working very well. Naturally there will be some question marks around parts of it. There are clear criteria set down to judge overtime, bonuses and all that. The local authority processes the application, which is sent to the Housing Agency and the final decision is made by the credit committee of the local authority. There are clear definitions about that.

There are different types of overtime and different types of bonuses. We need to allow the credit committee to make the judgment on that. Some overtime is nearly like permanent wages - we are familiar with that around here - other overtime is not. That is the judgment call they must make when they assess that. We have asked that clear guidance be given. Any of the questions that have been raised are being worked through. If the Deputy comes across any other issues, we would be happy to have them amended. The frequently asked questions section is updated on a regular basis to reflect any changes. We want to make this as clear as possible and as accessible as possible because we want the scheme to work. That is why it is there.

Some people do extra overtime leading up to this because they need to get their deposit together. Those people should not be caught out.

I understand €200 million has been allocated in the budget. More may be needed if the number of applications continues to rise. Will the Minister of State be able to get more funding in order that people who qualify will actually be able to get the loan?

The scheme set out the ambitions at the start and it will be a demand-led scheme. It is the credit committee's job to judge the different types of overtime. The overtime is very clear from someone's employment record. Applicants are asked to give a lot of information on the form as well. The credit committee analyses the data and makes the decision, as they do in banks, credit unions and everywhere else. People are asked to give as much information as they possibly can, make their case and back it up with their employment record and their payslips and so on. It can be quite clear to judge someone's overtime record from that as well. Different industries, different jobs and different employment backgrounds can mean different things when it comes to overtime. That is assessed and judged. In his meetings with the various agencies, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, made it very clear, when using the scheme, to be clear as possible about this while allowing for the different categories because they can work both ways. One person might want the overtime included to qualify in the first place and others do not want it included because it puts them over the limit. It is a question of making the right judgment call here. The criteria are set down and are implemented as standard across the country. The credit committee needs to make the judgment based on sound data, which is what they do once the evidence is there.