Seniors Alert Scheme Issues

Questions (162)

Barry Cowen

Question:

162. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown by county of the numbers of recipients of the senior alert scheme in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; the number of groups used to distribute the programme in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; the amount of money spent in 2011, 2012 and earmarked for 2013 and 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45289/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department manages the Seniors Alert Scheme which encourages and assists the community's support for older people by means of a community-based grant scheme to improve the security of people over 65 years of age. The Scheme is administered by local community and voluntary groups with the support of my Department.

The aim of the Seniors Alert Scheme is to support independent living for those over 65 who live alone or with a person who is also over 65 years of age and of limited means. A key element of the Scheme is the provision of funding for a socially monitored alarm which supports this independence.

The tabular information requested in regard to the number of groups used to distribute the programme in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; the amount of money spent in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013 on a county by county basis is available on my Department's website: http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/Community/SeniorsAlert/FileDownLoad,26536,en.xls.

The following table outlines the expenditure and the overall number of beneficiaries from 2011 to date:

Year

Expenditure

Beneficiaries

2011

€2.43 m

7,910

2012

€2.52 m

9,142

2013 to date

€1.9m

8,439

The funding allocated to the Seniors Alert Scheme in 2013 is €2.35m, and I expect the full allocation to be spent by year end. This provision has been maintained in the Budget 2014. The numbers of recipients of the senior alert scheme on a county basis is not readily available from my Department; the information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Local Authority Charges Yield

Questions (163)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

163. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money that was given to the local authority in County Kerry form all property charges, from December 2011 to December 2012 and from December 2012 to 1 October 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45297/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I assume that the question refers to the Household Charge and the Local Property Tax. The Local Government Management Agency has administered the Household Charge system on a shared service/agency basis for all county and city councils. I am advised by the Agency that in excess of €5.3m has been raised in respect of the Household Charge in Kerry. The aggregate proceeds of the Charge have been re-distributed on an equalised basis to local authorities within the context of the annual allocations of general purpose grants.

In 2013, Local Property Tax revenue is accruing directly to the Exchequer. Under the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, commencing in 2014, the Minister for Finance will pay into the Local Government Fund an amount equivalent to the Local Property Tax paid into the Central Fund during that year; this revenue will be allocated to local authorities from the Fund.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Questions (164)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

164. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of families currently recorded on the housing waiting list of each local authority; the extent to which a study has been carried out to determine the areas most seriously deficient in terms of ability to meet the housing needs as set out; his plans to deal with the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45308/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department does not hold information on the number of households on local authority waiting lists. These figures fluctuate as households are allocated housing and new households apply for support.

In accordance with Section 21 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, I directed all housing authorities to prepare a summary of social housing assessments carried out in their areas at 7 May 2013. The data submitted by housing authorities are currently being analysed and once verified will be collated and a report published by the Housing Agency. The report findings will detail the number of households on waiting lists in each local authority, broken down by basis of need, employment status, age of applicant, length of time on waiting list and other categories. This information will provide an important insight into the level and type of need for social housing support across the country.

The current assessment is the first to be carried out since the commencement of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations on 1 April 2011, which introduced a standardised system for assessing applicants for social housing support, including revised basis of need criteria. The results, when available, will not therefore be directly comparable to the results of the last assessment carried out, as at 31 March 2011, the results of which are available on my Department's website www.environ.ie and the Housing Agency's website www.housing.ie.

The Government's housing policy statement, published in June 2011, clearly identifies that the priority for Government will be to meet the most acute needs of households applying for social housing support. I am determined to ensure that the social housing programme optimises the delivery of social housing and the return for the resources invested. To achieve this, it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing conditions and explore the full range of solutions to address housing needs.

Delivery of social housing is significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and leasing, but the Government continues to be committed to other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms include options to purchase, build to lease and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. My Department and the Housing Agency are also engaged with NAMA to ensure continued delivery of housing units for social purposes.

In spite of the current challenging circumstances, almost 70% of the budget for the Department will go directly to support housing in 2014 with an investment of over half a billion on a range of programmes. Meeting social housing need within the available resources will necessitate smarter and more innovative approaches in order to maximise output. In 2014, I will continue to focus the available resources towards the most vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of the community.

Shared Ownership Scheme

Questions (165)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

165. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of shared ownership housing loans currently in arrears in respect of the rental part of their property; if cognisance has been taken of the fact that the regulations appertaining to such mortgages were penalised to the extent of an annual increase of 4.2%; if any review has been undertaken to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45309/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The rental equity portion of shared equity loans is managed by local authorities and serviced by them from the proceeds of rents received. While local authorities continue to meet loan payments to the Housing Finance Agency on their portion of shared equity properties, the shared areas of such properties may have individual arrears issues with local authorities, which are matters for resolution between the relevant local authority and their borrower. My Department does not hold specific information in that regard.

The Government's 2011 housing policy statement announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes, including the shared ownership scheme, in the context of a full review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act. That review is available on my Department's website www.environ.ie and the period for public submissions closed on 27 September 2013. Earlier in 2013, I asked the Housing & Sustainable Communities Agency to conduct a standalone review of the shared ownership scheme, including identification of the main difficulties and recommendations for mitigating measures. I have received an interim draft of the review from the Agency and I intend to issue a circular letter to local authorities this month with preliminary recommendations arising from the review.

A number of issues have been identified that need further detailed financial analysis in order to fully assess the impact on local authority finances of possible mitigating measures. This additional work is underway and I expect to make further determinations in the coming months.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (166, 167)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

166. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if in the context of funds provided for local authority house building in the recent budget are likely to be deployed to those local authorities most seriously affected by housing shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45310/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

167. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which it is expected that the serious local authority housing crisis as evidenced by the unprecedented numbers on the Kildare County Council housing waiting list will be addressed within the context of the recent budgetary allocation for this purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45311/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

The Abridged Estimate for my Department, published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Expenditure Report 2014, provides €525.8 million in respect of the Housing Programme. These resources have been supplemented by a further €50 million announced in the Budget to fund infrastructural investment primarily in the housing area and, when taken in conjunction, funding for housing is effectively maintained at 2013 levels.

Meeting social housing need within the available resources will necessitate smarter and more innovative approaches in order to maximise output. In 2014, I will continue to focus the available resources towards the most vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of the community. I expect the recently announced €30 million additional Exchequer investment in social housing to deliver up to 500 local authority homes for families on the housing waiting list. Approximately half of this investment will facilitate the construction of new infill housing developments in areas with a highest demand for social housing. It is intended that €15 million will be invested in bringing vacant and boarded-up local authority houses back into productive use.

The detailed arrangements for the implementation of the two measures are being developed by my Department at present. I intend to announce these arrangements as soon as possible with a view to having the investment programme up and running as early as possible in 2014. My Department will be requesting local authorities to submit proposals for inclusion under both measures in due course.

Local Authority Housing Mortgages

Questions (168)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

168. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of local authority loans applied for in each local authority area in each of the past five years to date; the number approved, rejected or pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45312/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department collates and publishes a wide range of housing and planning statistics that inform the preparation and evaluation of policy. Data on the number of local authority housing loan applications are not included in this range. Data on the number of local authority housing purchase loan approvals and drawdowns are included in this range; however, they are not broken down by administrative area.

Quarterly data are available on my Department's website www.environ.ie.