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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 23 Jun 2022

Vol. 1024 No. 2

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Housing Policy

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

1. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the additional measures he is taking to address the alarming increase in homelessness in recent months. [33472/22]

As the Minister is aware, the homeless figures released by the Minister’s Department for April saw yet another significant increase in adult and child homelessness in respect of emergency accommodation funded by the Minister’s Department. There were an extra 91 adults and 133 children, which is a month-on-month increase from March to April of 224 people. We are now back above the significant mark of 10,000 people being in this position. Based on the current trajectory, we could hit the figure of having 11,000 people in emergency accommodation funded by the Minister’s Department by the end of the summer. Will the Minister outline what additional measures he intends to take to halt and reverse this worrying trend?

The recent increase in homelessness is of great concern to me and to the Government, as it is to all Members of the House. I assure the House that we are doing everything in our power to tackle this problem. As the Deputy is aware, I established the national homeless action committee, which I chair and which is made up of representatives from my Department, all the State agencies and the NGOs, to ensure that we address prevention and exits from homelessness. In addition to the measures already in place, to get to the Deputy’s specific question, I am working with my Government colleagues and with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to provide for an increase in the housing assistance payment, HAP, discretionary rate to 35%. This has been agreed by the Government and will be implemented shortly. The couple’s rate will also be extended to single persons for new tenancies. This again is another significant change and it will secure more tenancies and prevent more entries into homelessness.

Furthermore, in the Seanad this week, I will bring forward some changes to the notice-to-quit period to alleviate some of these pressures. The Government also recently approved a pilot expansion that will open the repair and lease scheme to a wider range of owners. These properties will be available for social housing. My Department has also approved the reintroduction of the place finder fee incentive by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, DRHE. This will be payable where suitable properties are made available exclusively to homeless families through the DRHE place finders team and not advertised on websites or elsewhere. Targeted measures such as these, along with the provision of more homes, and the crucial point is that we must increase the supply of social homes, are key to meeting the challenge of eradicating homelessness. To this end, as the Deputy will know, we are investing significantly in social and affordable housing, with record funding allocated for current and capital expenditure this year.

Monday is the second anniversary of the formation of this Government and of the Minister being elevated to his portfolio. In these two years, homelessness has increased by 16%. Since the Covid-19 related ban on evictions was ended last April, we have seen a 24% increase in the official figures for homelessness. We are perilously close to having 5,000 single adults in emergency accommodation, which would be the highest figure since records began. We have also had an alarming increase, not under the auspices of the Minister’s Department, but that of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, of former asylum applicants who got their leave to remain here but who are now trapped in direct provision, which is essentially being used as emergency accommodation. Our hotel system is also enormously overstretched.

The modest changes the Minister has made to the HAP are welcome, but they can only work if there are HAP properties available to rent, which there are not. Likewise, the changes to the notice-to-quit period, while welcome, are not going to change the fundamental problem of an accelerating level of notices to quit and presentations in this regard. What I would like to hear from the Minister is something that gives an indication of the urgency of the crisis we are facing over the summer, and the minor measures the Minister has announced so far do not do that. Therefore, is anything else under consideration to help us reverse this trend in the coming months?

I share the Deputy's concerns and I am acutely aware of our responsibilities in this regard. We must accelerate the supply of social homes. We are going to build more social homes this year than in any year since the foundation of the State. This is welcome, but also badly needed. I am also targeting a new voids programme for each local authority that will be fully funded. I have asked the local authorities to be mindful of the allocation of those void properties and to look specifically at our homeless list. As the Deputy will know, I have also reinstituted the purchase of homes with tenants in situ across the country. This is not just in the context of the Dublin City Council, DCC, scheme, which previously operated. I have removed the cap in this regard. I want our councils to build more. We all do. In the current climate as well, when we can sustain a tenancy in a situation where a landlord is selling a property - how we can try to stem the flow of mom-and-pop landlords leaving the market is another matter we can have a debate on - I have also removed any restrictions on local authorities buying homes with tenants in situ to prevent those tenants from becoming homeless. Approval is not needed from me or my Department for each case in this regard. I have devolved this power directly to the local authorities.

There is still some confusion and inconsistency among local authorities regarding tenants in situ. Following requests from many of us, I welcome that the Minister has amended this provision. The Minister could go one step further and issue a circular to say that, given the escalating level of presentations, the Minister is insisting that local authorities purchase properties where tenants receiving HAP or rental accommodation scheme, RAS, payments are in situ. I think some local authorities will apply criteria that are too restrictive, while others will apply criteria that are less restrictive. Given the crisis we have, this would be a mistake and addressing this is something useful the Minister could do.

Likewise, the Minister could also reconsider the Government's opposition to the Focus Ireland amendment to restrict vacant possession notices to quit in respect of landlords who availed of section 23 tax reliefs. The Minister could also revisit the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (Extension of Notice Periods) Bill 2021 devised in conjunction with the Simon Communities, which we passed on Second Stage in December 2021, and work it into his own legislation to accelerate the requirement for local authorities to have homeless prevention plans in place before a notice to quit expires. I would also like the Minister to confirm when he will publish the social housing output report. Halfway through this year, how close is the Minister to meeting half the figure of 9,500 new build social homes, which is the target in the plan?

Sorry, the target for this year is 9,000 new build homes, and this is just on the new build side of things. To speak directly to the issue of the purchase of properties with tenants in situ, I have also established our housing delivery team, which is made up of representatives of our local authorities. I have made it abundantly clear to all of them, and through the County and City Management Association, CCMA, and the Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, as well, that they are to purchase homes with tenants in situ where there is a risk of homelessness. We have reiterated this point. On foot of the Deputy’s question today, I have no difficulty going back to do so again, but we are watching this situation on a weekly basis. Local authorities know this. There is no barrier to them undertaking such purchases.

Regarding the Simon Communities amendment, what we are doing this week in the Seanad is a response to the issue of the expansion of notice-to-quit periods for certain tenancies.

We work very closely with Wayne Stanley and others on that. That will be a significant change. Fundamentally, our response to homelessness has to be housing led. That is why I am accelerating the delivery of social housing by building and buying more and using every lever we have to provide more supply to be able to exit people from homelessness. The preventative measures we brought forward will have an effect.

Planning Issues

Gerald Nash

Question:

2. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the An Bord Pleanála’s review report published in 2016; his views on each recommendation; the recommendations that have been implemented to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32980/22]

I wish to ask the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of An Bord Pleanála's review report published in 2016, his views on each recommendation, the recommendations that have been implemented to date and if he will make a statement on the matter. I am conscious that this is particularly timely, given that this is a week in which we were to see the presentation to the Minister of the report from Remy Farrell SC, which I and other Opposition speakers spoke about in the Dáil in the past few days. Subsequent to our exchange in the Dáil yesterday, there was a request for an extension from Remy Farrell SC of a further five weeks. It is that context that this question becomes particularly pressing.

I thank the Deputy for her question. I wish to confirm in the first instance to the House that the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, received a request from Remy Farrell SC at 3 p.m. yesterday for an extension to 29 July for a report into the management of conflicts of interest and relevant disclosures at An Bord Pleanála, and the Minister acceded to that request.

An organisational review of An Bord Pleanála was undertaken by an independent expert panel and the report published in March 2016. An implementation group comprising representation from my Department and An Bord Pleanála was established to oversee the implementation of the review recommendations. The review contains 101 recommendations relating to simplification of the planning legislation, more open arrangements for the appointment of board members, improvements to the process systems and practices of An Bord Pleanála and organisational structure and staffing, changes to the statutory objective timeframes and aspects of the strategic infrastructure development process.

The implementation group published its terms of reference and plans for implementation in 2016. The board, supported by my Department, as required, took the lead in the implementation of a large number of key recommendations, with my Department dealing with the recommendations requiring legislative underpinning. An update in tabular format on the recommendation status of each of the 101 recommendations is contained in the official reply to this question. As of 20 June 2022, 36 of the recommendations have been completed and no further action is deemed necessary. Some 43 of the recommendations are ongoing and 22 are to be determined in the current review of the Planning and Development Act, being led by the Attorney General.

Housing for All sets out a number of objectives, with the aim of improving the functioning of the planning system, including a comprehensive review and consolidation of the planning legislation. Recommendations of the organisational review of An Bord Pleanála requiring legislative underpinning are being considered in the context of the current review of the planning legislation, which is being led by the Attorney General.

I thank the Minister of State for the update. It is, however, of some concern that of the 101 recommendations made by the independent review group in 2016, only 36, or just over one third, have been completed. The others appear to be ongoing or are still to be determined.

In the context of such serious allegations about impropriety and a conflict of interest in the operation of An Bord Pleanála over recent months, it is of real concern that recommendations to address systemic failures and issues made years ago have still not been implemented. That emphasises the need for us to have a debate in the House before the summer recess on the operation of An Bord Pleanála.

We are all very conscious of huge delays in the past in the publication of reports into planning - I am thinking of the Donegal report. I accept the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, did not know yesterday, during what was a good exchange on this issue, that Remy Farrell SC would seek an extension. We now have clarification of the timing of that request subsequent to that exchange. However, the problem is that the report will not now be provided to the Minister until 29 July and we have no commitment from the Minister as to whether it will be published by him, even in redacted form. We do not know when we will have a Dáil debate on it. Let us have such a debate before the summer recess on the broader issues around the systemic operation of An Bord Pleanála.

Obviously, the Minister needs to see the report and consider it, but it will be dealt with in a very transparent manner, like all the other actions of the Government.

We are prepared to ensure that board appointments will go through the Public Appointments Service, PAS, system, as detailed in the previous review. The Office of the Planning Regulator announced on 27 April that it is conducting a review into the procedures and structures of An Bord Pleanála. It is no secret that we need to ensure the board is functioning correctly in terms of delivering, within an adequate timeframe, on very key decisions. The Government has about €160 billion in public infrastructure to deliver over the next decade and it is important that the board is getting it right. We have sanctioned a 30% increase in staffing levels for 24 approved posts to ensure it has the resource base to deal with its large volume of work.

I thank the Minister of State for the update. I appreciate that the Minister has not seen the report from Remy Farrell SC. I am glad to hear a commitment to transparency when the report is produced and provided to the Minister. However, this is not just about transparency, but also the ability of all on the Opposition and Government sides to be able to scrutinise the findings in any report in a timely manner.

In recent months we have seen a drip feed of very serious allegations. The terms of reference provided to Remy Farrell SC on 12 May set out a series of very serious allegations, including one concerning a property in my constituency. In that context, when we are in the midst of a housing disaster, and have been told by our President that there have been failures over successive years to deliver on housing, we do not want there to be any undermining of public confidence in such a key entity in our planning and construction system. That is the real concern, namely, that we let things slide and do not have an opportunity to debate issues in An Bord Pleanála over the coming weeks.

I thank the Deputy for her question. As stated in my opening remarks, the report is due by 29 July. The Minister has no issue with having a debate on the report in the Oireachtas. To be fair, the report has not yet been completed and the Minister has to consider the contents of the report when he receives it by 29 July. We are open to ensuring that An Bord Pleanála is fit-for-purpose and is delivering large-scale investments and decisions fairly by taking in submissions from the public, hearing their side of the story and adjudicating on applicants. It is very important that the board is resourced now, which it is in terms of the review being conducted. We need to give Remy Farrell SC the time to conduct this review. It is exceptionally important for the State that we get this right and the Government consider the recommendations subsequent to the completion of the report.

Housing Schemes

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

3. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide an update on the delivery of affordable housing in areas (details supplied). [33473/22]

As the Minister knows, two of the most important affordable housing development for the city of Dublin are the Dublin City Council led social and affordable cost-rental project in St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore and the requirement under the strategic development zone for Poolbeg to deliver an additional 15% affordable homes on top of the 10% Part 5 allocation. There is significant concern about the delivery of any genuine affordability, in particular in Poolbeg, and due to ongoing delays with St. Michael's Estate there is concern that prices might be pushed up further. Can the Minister give us an update on the efforts made by him and his Department to ensure the delivery of genuinely affordable homes on those two sires?

I agree with the Deputy that the Emmet Road scheme will be a flagship project for the Dublin City Council and will deliver social, cost-rental and community facilities to a very high standard, in full consultation with the local community. I have met the local community and intend to do so again very shortly.

In July 2020, as the Deputy will know, a serviced sites fund application was made and approved for 395 cost-rental units. On Friday, 17 June, the council submitted a revised application under the new affordable housing fund, which provides higher levels of subsidy. I welcome that, and we will consider the application positively in an expeditious fashion. As the Deputy knows, the affordable housing fund allows for a higher level of State subsidy towards each unit than the serviced sites fund.

As there will be in excess of 500 residential homes in total on the development, an environmental impact assessment is required. It is anticipated that a planning application will be lodged with An Bord Pleanála in the third quarter of this year and I want to see that happen.

We need to see progress on this.

As for the provision of housing on the former Irish Glass Bottle Company site, in the Poolbeg strategic development zone, SDZ, Deputy Ó Broin will know that a condition of planning requires the provision of 15% social and affordable homes on the site in addition to the 10% statutory requirement. On 24 March, DCC approved an application for the first 570 homes on the site. We are working in partnership with DCC, which I met last week specifically to discuss Poolbeg, and the developers to try to drive through affordability, which is challenging on the site. I met just yesterday evening, coincidentally, with residents and Deputy Jim O'Callaghan to discuss that. It is a very important site, not just for that part of Dublin but also for the region. I am more than happy to keep Deputy Ó Broin and other interested parties informed of the progress. We are working on this, and I am directly involved.

The concern with St. Michael's Estate is that, while the planning application will go in at the latter end of this year, and that will take time, there will be potential cost increases if the post-planning, pre-construction phase of that development is elongated. In some cases projects of this size can take up to two years to get to construction. I have said before that it would be sensible for the Minister to meet with Opposition spokespeople in advance of planning being granted, not to discuss the planning application but to look at phases 3 and 4 of the four-stage process in order to see if that can be reduced and accelerated to ensure that unnecessary cost inflation is designed out of the project. Otherwise, the rents there will be too high.

As for Poolbeg, I welcome the fact the Minister has been engaging with residents and the council. The difficulty is that the condition of the SDZ is subject to an agreement between the parties. If no agreement can be reached, all bets are off. We know that Ronan Group and Lioncor are quoting an all-in figure of about €640,000 for the development costs. Even if we get €100,000 from the serviced sites fund plus support from the National Transport Authority, NTA, and the Department's own funding, that will not drive affordability. The key is NAMA's 20% interest in the development. Has the Minister engaged with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and NAMA on this? If not, will he give a commitment to do so? I think transferring NAMA's stake to DCC is the key to unlocking affordability. Again, just like with St. Michael's, we would work constructively with the Minister to achieve that end if he were to engage with us on it.

Thankfully, we see more and more affordable housing sites open up right across the country now. We have our advance purchase schemes. We approved five more last week. That is good. That is moving.

As for St. Michael's Estate specifically, I know the Deputy raised that a number of weeks ago during Question Time. I am more than happy to sit down at the appropriate time with Opposition spokespeople and others who are interested in this. It might be appropriate to wait until we process the affordable housing fund application because then we will know the costings within it, but I will do that. We will take it that that will be done.

As for Poolbeg, and I wish to be very clear on this because I have said this publicly, €640,000 is not affordable. Obviously, I have to protect the taxpayer and the Exchequer. We have to drive affordability. We have to get a good social mix there too. There is no way I will enter into any agreement for affordable homes for €640,000. That will not happen. We have been engaging with NAMA and we have not at this stage concluded those engagements. NAMA has a role in this, but the conditions of the SDZ and the planning require an agreement to be done before any work can proceed, and there is no agreement currently.

I have two specific propositions. As for St. Michael's Estate, I think the development could be greatly progressed if the Department were to firm up the commitment to have a single point of approval within the Department for mixed-tenure projects. That was one of the considerations to come out of the review. This is the ideal project on which to test that. There needs to be a senior official who has the ability to drive the decisions rather than waiting for others. Also, we need to look at the cost appraisal and the detailed design appraisal, given the level of public consultation on this, not in any way to ease up on public accountability of public funds but, rather, to accelerate that process, as is hoped, from planning approval to construction.

I welcome the fact the Minister has engaged with NAMA. As he will know, his predecessor turned down an offer for the purchase of NAMA's interest at a 60% discount, a scandalous decision, in my view, and I am sure the Minister agrees with me. That needs to be revisited. Unless NAMA's interest, in either land or a commercial stake in the development, is transferred to DCC, there will be no affordable homes on that site. I urge the Minister to secure that outcome. We will support him on that if he does so.

Last year, when Poolbeg had run into the sand and there was nothing happening with the site, I held a round-table meeting in the Custom House with all interested parties, including residents and local representatives. I want to see the site move forward, but it will move forward only if a reasonable deal can be done. I want that to happen. As I said, I briefed residents just yesterday evening. It is a very important site, and I want to see it progressed, but we will not see it progressed at all costs to the Exchequer. I think, however, that there is a landing zone there such that we can move forward to get an agreement.

As for Emmet Road, we have established a multi-tenure unit within the Department because we have a lot of multi-tenure, affordable and social schemes coming in. Rather than being approved separately, they come in together now. We have a very senior official, the gentleman who constructed many of our cost-rental schemes and our affordable housing legislation - the Deputy will know who he is - who has his eyes directly on Emmet Road and is working directly with me. We will have a single unit in that regard. I want to get the application from DCC done. It came in only last Friday. I want to get that processed very quickly. We will do so and we will meet to discuss it.

Rental Sector

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

4. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the redress available to tenants who make a complaint to the Residential Tenancies Board about breaches of their tenancy rights when they relate to a tenancy with an unregistered landlord or a landlord who fails to provide an address; the action being taken to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33252/22]

What redress is available to tenants who make a complaint to the Residential Tenancies Board about breaches of their tenancy rights when they relate to a tenancy with an unregistered landlord or a landlord who fails to provide an address? There is a significant issue of the RTB being ineffective in dealing with cases in which the tenant does not have proof of his or her landlord's address. Does the RTB have sufficient power and resources to take action against rogue landlords who do not register or those who do not provide an address? If it does, why is it not using those powers?

I thank Deputy O'Callaghan for the question.

Section 134 of the Residential Tenancies Act requires a landlord to apply to the RTB to register a tenancy of a dwelling within one month of its commencement and, thereafter, within one month of each anniversary of its commencement date. All private landlords, approved housing bodies and providers of student-specific accommodation are required to register such tenancies.

Subsection 136(b) of the RTA requires that when a landlord registers a tenancy with the RTB, the name, the address at which the landlord ordinarily resides, any other address for correspondence the landlord may wish to provide, the landlord's personal public service number, PPSN, and, where the application is made by his or her authorised agent, the name, address for correspondence and PPSN of the agent must be provided as part of the application process.

The RTB has registration enforcement powers to pursue landlords who have not complied with the obligation to register their tenancies and a dedicated investigations and sanctions unit to investigate certain potential breaches of rental law by landlords referred to in the context of proper conduct under Schedule 2 to the Residential Tenancies Act, one of which is failure to register a tenancy with the RTB. Failure to register a tenancy is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to €4,000 or up to six months in prison.

The RTB is gaining information from a focused review it conducted, members of the public, its own investigations and sanctions unit and the Department of Social Protection, with which the RTB shares a significant amount of data. Finally, in respect of action 2.5 in Housing for All, Revenue will share data with the RTB in order to see instances of non-compliance where landlords may not have registered. The law is very strong in respect of the consequences for those who are convicted.

I wrote to the Minister about this recently. Indeed, the Minister has been cc'd in correspondence on this since April. I detailed one instance, an example of hundreds of instances, in which the RTB is unwilling to progress a case against a landlord who is not registered. In that instance the problems began in November 2021, when the hot water in the building stopped working. Following a phone call from the RTB, the landlord retaliated by entering the renter's home without permission, ripping the curtains off the wall, smashing up his bathroom and turning off his electricity. This is all recorded on video. Incredibly, the RTB has refused to progress the case further or to give assistance to the renter who has made the complaint.

The RTB told the renter to contact Threshold. What is the Minister of State doing about this? I know the powers and the legislation is there but the RTB is not acting, is refusing to act, is not doing what it should be doing in the situation and is leaving renters stranded. What is the Minister of State doing about this?

First, I acknowledge the very egregious case outlined by Deputy O’Callaghan. I am aware that last Friday the Deputy communicated with the Minister, Deputy O’Brien, in respect of that particular example and he will escalate that within the RTB.

In the main, the RTB is doing its job. The legislation which this Dáil has put through is very strong on the sanctions that are there and the offences, if convicted through the courts, are very significant, as I outlined in terms of the monetary fine as well as a term in prison. I also point out that we are expanding the powers of the RTB through working and data sharing with the Revenue Commissioners and this work is ongoing through Housing for All.

I highlight again the case which the Deputy has referred to. It is horrific for any individual or citizen to be at the mercy of such horrific actions. It is totally unacceptable and the Minister, Deputy O’Brien, will escalate that particular case with the RTB.

To be very clear, the law under which the RTB is operating is very strong and the courts have the power to prosecute in cases of non-compliance.

I thank the Minister of State for that response. I want to be very clear that this is just one example of hundreds. If one talks to Threshold or to anyone working in this area, there are hundreds of renters where the RTB will not help progress a case and will refuse point blank to do so if the landlord is not registered or if the renter cannot provide proof of the landlord’s address. It is utterly unacceptable that the RTB is refusing to help.

What are the Minister of State and the Government going to do to sort this out and to get the RTB to use the powers under legislation that it has? It is not doing it at the moment; be very clear about that. It is leaving renters high and dry. These are the very landlords, the rogue landlords who will not register, who are behaving in such a manner and are the very ones the RTB should be pursuing. For them to be getting through the cracks is deeply unfair on renters and deeply unfair on landlords who do comply with regulations. What is the Minister of State going to do about this?

I thank the Deputy for his question. The Government should firmly focus on what it has done and the evidence to date and on the law that has been passed to strengthen the powers of the RTB and the increase in resources which the board has to conduct its work to ensure that landlords are held to account on any breaches. The courts have the powers in the law.

The Deputy is referring to a very particular case detailed in a letter issued by the Deputy last Friday where a landlord cannot be pursued because of his address. Given the horrific outline given by the Deputy, An Garda Síochána should be informed of that incident if someone breaks into someone’s home and carries out actions in this manner where the resident has prima facie evidence of this in the recording cited by the Deputy.

The Minister, Deputy O’Brien, is meeting with Threshold this afternoon and will raise this issue with it in respect of the concern in this particular case.

Housing Provision

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

5. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason for the delay in the sale of affordable housing in Cork city and south County Dublin. [33474/22]

Two developments where affordable housing has been significantly delayed are in Boherboy Road in Cork and Kilcarbery Grange in my constituency. The Boherboy Road development was substantially completed at the end of the year but the properties have still not been put on the market for affordable purchasers. The Kilcarbery Grange development was put on the market recently but eligible applicants have been refused mortgages by the banks on the grounds that it is a Government affordable housing scheme. Is the Minister aware of these two problems and can he explain what the delays are and what he is doing to help resolve them?

I thank the Deputy for his question. I am happy to advise the Deputy that both Cork City Council and South Dublin County Council will be delivering affordable purchase homes this year. Cork City Council has advised that 117 affordable purchase homes will be delivered in the Boherboy Road in Cork City. The first two phases of this development involving 37 homes will be delivered this year and Cork City Council has advised my Department, and we have been working with it, that this scheme will be advertised for applications to purchase in July, literally within the next few days. Cork City Council has also confirmed that it will deliver a further 36 affordable homes this year at Cluain Chaoin in Tower in two phases via advance purchase arrangements which I have also put in place. This is good because we are delivering more affordable homes on top of what the councils are delivering themselves.

I understand we have approved the national regulations on the scheme of priority and have published these, as the Deputy will see, on affordable purchase. Each local authority has to then adopt them. The scheme of priority in respect of phase 1 of this development is to be presented to Cork City Council on Monday, 11 July 2022 and, if adopted, the scheme will be advertised in July. There are no other impediments to those homes.

South Dublin County Council has advised that it will deliver 16 affordable purchase homes in Kilcarbery Grange, Clondalkin, also by way of an advance purchase arrangement. These units have been allocated to applicants but there was a slight delay in some of the documentation required. There was an issue there and it has been worked out and my senior officials have met the director of services for housing. I understand that they are doing so again tomorrow. That will be resolved. The absence of the national regulations at one stage may have caused some delay but they are now in place. This will allow us to ramp up our delivery of the affordable homes.

Finally, both of these developments are being supported by almost €8 million in funding under the Government's affordable housing fund.

I also advise and mention to the Deputy that the first home scheme to support affordable purchases of new homes in the private market will operate nationwide and will open in July.

I thank the Minister. It is significant that we are talking about very small numbers of homes in both locations and, in fact, in the case of a number of the homes that the Minister cited in Cork, while they may be completed this year, it is unlikely that they will be purchased or occupied until next year. That is, however, a separate matter.

My understanding of the problem that has been experienced with the sale of the property in Kilcarbery in south Dublin is a little more substantive. Individuals had mortgage approval, applied to the local authority and met all of the criteria, but when they went back to the banks, the banks told them that they would not approve mortgage drawdown because they were in an affordable housing scheme. There has been considerable correspondence between elected members, the affected individuals and the local authority. As of today, while we are being told by the local authority that a process is in progress we do not know when that will be resolved.

I would be interested to know, for example, if during the course of the development of the scheme, if the Minister's departmental officials and relevant officials from the Department of Finance been engaging with the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, BPFI. Could this not have been addressed at that level to ensure that there was no uncertainty? Is the Minister satisfied that in a short period of time the banks will stop refusing people who have otherwise been given mortgage approval for private home purchases?

With respect, again, to Cork, I am trying to understand what the delay was between the substantive completion of the homes and the fact that they will not be put on the market for six or seven months after that period.

There will be a substantial number of affordable homes delivered this year and even more next year. The pipeline within the Deputy's own constituency, in South Dublin County Council, is very strong. We are adding to that through the advance purchase arrangements. One can look at Rathcoole where there are 100 affordable homes, in Clonburris there are 184 and in Killinarden there are 372. This is the start of it.

The issue that obtained specifically in Kilcarbery is being resolved. We have other affordable purchase homes, for argument's sake, in Lusk in north County Dublin with which there has been no issue with mortgage lenders. The scheme of priorities was important together with the conveyancing piece, how the properties would be conveyed and the issue of the State equity which is also being worked through. As the Deputy knows the local authority takes this equity on behalf of the State in respect of the subsidy for the reduction in price. I am very confident that this is being resolved right now and that there should not be any inordinate delays in order to be able to move on with these homes.

Importantly, this means that the matter is resolved into the future. It is a new scheme. The Department has engaged with the BPFI. A further meeting will take place tomorrow that should move Kilcarbery on.

With respect to the pipeline in my own constituency, the pipeline of affordable homes is not very strong. It is anaemic to say the least. There will not be 100 affordable homes in Rathcoole because Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil councillors voted to de-zone the land. We may get some social housing in there, but greatly reduced from what was originally planned.

Likewise, while we have just approved a Part 8 decision in Clondalkin for much-needed affordable homes, there will only be about 50 there and Kilcarbery will only end up with about 50 or so houses.

In my constituency, therefore, we are not even going to reach a couple of hundred houses over the next few years and in the local authority area perhaps double that figure. That is in a constituency that needs thousands of affordable homes over the lifetime of this Government and will not get those.

To be clear, is the Minister saying there have been affordable home purchases where mortgages have been drawn down from private banks, for example, in north County Dublin? What is the understanding of the Minister as to why banks were willing to lend to these people but not to others? The allocation scheme for south Dublin has been in place for some time. My understanding from the correspondence I have seen from the banks is that the issue was not something particular to south Dublin but concern about the operation of the scheme and the level of equity of the State. If the Minister has more information I would welcome him sharing it.

Aside from what will be delivered through the first home shared equity scheme in South Dublin County Council there are more than 1,100 affordable homes in the pipeline between now and 2026. We will have thousands more through the first home shared equity scheme that will launch in July. It will give first-time buyers and those on the fresh start principle the opportunity and choice to be able to buy homes in private estates, with the State stepping in to help to bridge the affordability gap by taking equity.

With regard to the issue that arose in Kilcarbery there were issues previously in Lusk. They have been resolved. I will be very straight with the Deputy on this. It is a new scheme of priorities. The regulations were published. Some work had to be done with the banks on the conveyancing side. This has been resolved. I understand there will be a meeting today or tomorrow on this. The good thing is that once these have been resolved, which they have been, they will be resolved for every scheme in future. It is the clarity that was needed. The Department has engaged with the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland on it and we should be able to see these homes move forward and people move into them.

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