I thank the witnesses. This committee would like NOAC to have a higher profile in the debate because of the information it provides.
A couple of issues for future reports, particularly given some of the new requirements in terms of the nearly zero energy building, nZEB, requirements, is to start providing some data on that and on the BER ratings of the public housing stock. The Central Statistics Office, CSO, does some of that work but it is not necessarily as clear as some of the reporting of the commission. That would be helpful. We have the 2018 and the 2020 requirements in terms of public buildings and the nZEB requirements. I tabled questions to both the Departments of Housing, Planning and Local Government and Communications, Climate Action and Environment and both replied that it is not their job to monitor compliance with those legal requirements of the EU legislation. It is not clear whose job it is to monitor it. The Department of Housing Planning and Local Government produces the planning guidelines, whereas the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment produces some of the supports, but nobody tracking them. It might be a useful role for NOAC.
Likewise, we on this committee have done a great deal of work on the underspend on Traveller accommodation. Deputy O'Dowd raised disability issues and I referred to wheelchair accessibility. While the headline figures are important, we need to start tracking those sections of society. Even as housing output is increasing, although not as fast as many of us would like, groups in society could still get left behind. The more information we have about those sectors, the better.
The other major gripe that many of us have is voids. NOAC produced an important report, published in 2017, which exposed the scandal of long-term voids. The great aspect of that report was not just the headline figures but NOAC was able to outline a timeline for how long these properties had been void and so on. We have ended up in a dispute with the Minister over what the Department is now calling voids. Mr. Brendan Kelly from Dublin City Council came before the joint committee and told us that in last year's housing output figures, no long-term voids were returned to stock, but what they had were standard relets or casual vacancies, some of which came under the €40,000 refurbishment figure. Others cost more than €40,000, but in his view they were all casual relets.
According to the Department's figures, 500 voids were returned to stock. The important distinction is that a casual relet is not an addition to stock and, therefore, in the annual output figures there is no net increase in casual relets, whereas casual relets are reclassified as voids, they are classified as additions to stock. When we questioned the Minister on this after Mr. Brendan Kenny's attendance at the joint committee, he said that the Department had given extra funding, and if it had not done so, the units would have become long-term voids. From a statistical point of view, that is a peculiar way of counting. I am very clear on this. For something to be considered a long-term void, it would have had to have fallen out of stock for quite some time and require significant money and work to be brought back into stock. The value of the NOAC report was that we could see short-term, medium-term and long-term voids. That is one area where some clear independent data from NOAC would be helpful. I tabled a number of parliamentary questions asking about the time the units were vacant, because that is a key determinant. The Department will not give us the data, as it states that it does not collate them at departmental level but it would be useful for NOAC to examine this, if not in the upcoming report, in future reports.
I am finding an increasing number of anomalies between how local authorities and the Department categorise units. I will not ask Mr. McCarthy to comment on this but I am clear that at departmental or some other level political considerations are infecting classifications which should be done statistically. We had it with the house completions. It was given to the CSO so now we have a good dataset through which we know the annual number of completions in the sector. There are other streams of housing data in which we need to do that and NOAC is well placed to provide some of that information.