Question No. 470 answered with Question No. 445.

Question No. 471 answered with Question No. 101.

Commercial Rates

Questions (472)

Robert Troy

Question:

472. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if landlords are liable for outstanding rates following the departure of tenants who have failed to meet their obligation to pay their own rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5423/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.  The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

Under rates legislation the person liable for payment of rates is the person in occupation of a rateable property on the date of the making of the rate by the relevant local authority. The owner, rather than the occupier, may be liable for commercial rates if the property in question is unoccupied on the date of the making of the rate. Currently, where a person’s occupancy commences after the date of the making of the rate, that person as a subsequent occupier could be held liable for up to two years arrears of rates if they could not be recovered from the person with whom the primary liability lies. However, the Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides for a change to rating law which will remove this subsequent occupier liability .

It is not the intention in removing subsequent occupier liability to undermine local authorities’ collection powers and put at risk the collection of rates income.  Therefore, section 32 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides for all unpaid and outstanding rates liabilities to be discharged prior to the transfer of ownership or other interest in a property (including tenancy) and that this transfer of interest must be notified to the local authority within two weeks of its effect. This measure is intended to strengthen local authority collection powers in this area without causing any additional burden for subsequent occupiers.  Furthermore, the amendment provides that any rates due by an owner of relevant property and not discharged shall remain a charge on the property.

Under these new provisions, should the owner fail to notify the local authority of a change of occupancy, the Act provides that the owner or landlord will become liable for an amount which is equivalent to two years of outstanding liabilities that may have accrued in respect of any previous occupier of the property. Any amount of that charge that remains unpaid by an owner will become a charge on the property for up to 12 years. The imposition of such a charge on the landlord or owner does not transfer any liability that may rest with any previous occupier.

The Local Government Reform Act 2014 was signed by the President on 27 January 2014. The timing of the commencement of the provisions outlined above is being considered in the context of the timetable for commencement of the Act generally. My Department will be consulting with local authorities in that regard, in order to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place, and likewise that ratepayers and property owners are properly notified of the new obligations.

Water Quality

Questions (473)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

473. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will investigate the chlorine levels and the water quality in Milltown, County Kerry and in an estate (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5438/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department has no responsibility for, or role to play in, the management, maintenance or operation of water infrastructure.

Information and Communications Technology

Question No. 475 answered with Question No. 416.

Question No. 476 answered with Question No. 445.

Questions (474)

John Deasy

Question:

474. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the apps his Department or attached agencies have been involved in developing for smartphones and other multimedia devices in the past three years; the cost and the software developer employed in each case. [5458/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department has been involved in the development of a mobile app by Cora Systems for use on Android devices to assist with the Water Meter Survey programme. The development was part of a larger project and costs attributable to app development were circa €28,000. The development of a pps by agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the agencies concerned, as are the contractual details, and these are not collated by my Department.

Question No. 475 answered with Question No. 416.
Question No. 476 answered with Question No. 445.

Homeless Persons Data

Questions (477, 480, 486)

Michael P. Kitt

Question:

477. Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for dealing with the increased numbers of homeless persons, particularly in Dublin; the number of social housing units to be built this year in each county and each city borough; if he will indicate any other proposals he may have to provide extra housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5526/14]

View answer

Dessie Ellis

Question:

480. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown based on local authority area of all the emergency accommodation beds available for persons experiencing homelessness here, specifying those which are exclusively for use by a particular demographic. [5612/14]

View answer

Dessie Ellis

Question:

486. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons that have reported as homeless for the first time across the State between the years 2011 and 2012. [5618/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 477, 480 and 486 together.

I expect that in the region of 5,000 new social housing units will be provided in 2014. These units will be delivered through a range of mechanisms including through continued investment in leasing and the Rental Accommodation Scheme, the completion of existing capital programmes and mortgage to rent arrangements and the continued transfer of NAMA units. A detailed breakdown by local authority area is not available.

In February 2013, I published the Government’s Homelessness Policy Statement in which the Government's aim to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016 was outlined. The statement emphasises a housing-led approach which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness. The availability and supply of secure, affordable and adequate housing is essential in ensuring sustainable tenancies and ending long-term homelessness. When the statement was published, I announced a set of indicators to be used to demonstrate the dynamics of homelessness as it is addressed. These indicators will give a clearer picture of homelessness in Ireland and, in quantifying its on-going extent, will support the bringing forward of realistic and practical solutions. The Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS) was extended nationally in 2013 and is now operational nationwide. It will assist housing authorities to report on these indicators and 2014 will be the first year for which PASS will produce composite national data on homelessness. These reports will be published on my Department's website as soon as they are available.

The Homelessness Oversight Group, which I established in 2013 for the purposes of reviewing the progress of the approach being advocated in the statement, identifying obstacles and proposing solutions has submitted its first report to me. The report considered information on the homeless population, emergency and other accommodation as well as housing supply issues. I am considering this report and its recommendations and I will consult with my Government colleagues on the implementation of these recommendations, as appropriate. A copy of this report is available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie.

The specific information sought on emergency accommodation beds and on persons reporting as homeless for the first time is not available in my Department. Traditionally it has been difficult to quantify the number of homeless persons on an on-going basis; this is in part a consequence of the volatility within this cohort of housing need.

In advance of the composite national data on homelessness to be available through PASS, the most complete set of data available in relation to homelessness nationally is the Central Statistics Office’s special Census report, Homeless Persons in Ireland, which was published on 6 September 2012. This report indicated that a total of 64 individuals were sleeping rough on Census night, 10 April 2011, while identifying a further 3,744 people as housed in accommodation defined as emergency, transitional or long-term. Of the total of 3,808 individuals included in the report almost 60% were in long-term or transitional housing arrangements. This report is available on CSO's website, www.cso.ie.

Motor Tax Yield

Questions (478)

Arthur Spring

Question:

478. Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the increase in revenue generated from motor tax as a direct result of closing the motor tax exemption loophole on 1 October 2013. [5550/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Act 2013 came into effect on 1 July 2013. The Act provided for a three month transition period on commencement to allow vehicle owners to bring their motor tax status up to date by making both a retrospective and prospective off-road declaration. The new arrangements, only allowing for a future declaration, have been fully in force since 1 October 2013.

Monthly income comparisons for July to December 2012 and 2013 are set out below. However, it should be noted that for 2013 income, the impact of the 2013 Act in relation to off-road declarations is only one of a number of factors involved. In particular, the 2013 figures reflect the impact of the increase in rates announced in the December 2012 Budget. In addition, a further issue that has to be factored into the income comparison between 2012 and 2013 is the year-on-year reduction in income arising from the private vehicle fleet due to the switchover from motor tax based on engine capacity to that based on CO2 emissions, given that vehicles taxed under the latter regime carry a lower average annual tax. The impact of payment of once-off arrears would also need to be considered.

Income in January 2014 was the first month in respect of which the December 2012 Budget increases do not affect a comparison with the corresponding month the previous year. In that regard, income in January 2014 was €114,921,257, an increase of just under 12% on January 2013 income.

Month

Motor tax income 2012 (€)

Motor tax income 2013 (€)

Difference (€)

Percentage increase

July

92,339,722

102,150,278

9,810,556

10.62

August

84,961,804

89,363,654

4,401,850

5.1 8

September

74,728,486

97,517,447

22,788,961

30.49

October

86,482,093

101,287,487

14,805,394

17. 11

November

75,491,855

83,228,548

7,736,693

10.24

December

77,109,851

79,768,667

2,658,816

3.4 4

I will be considering, in conjunction with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the new provisions for off road declarations.

Motor Tax Collection

Question No. 480 answered with Question No. 477.

Questions (479)

Arthur Spring

Question:

479. Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will estimate the current level of motor tax evasion; if a strategy to increase enforcement is necessary; and if the option of replacing tax discs with an electronic system utilising automatic number plate recognition, similar to that recently announced in the UK, has been considered. [5551/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Prior to the introduction of the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Act 2013, the estimated level of motor tax evasion was 5%, representing an annual loss to the Local Government Fund of some €50m. I consider it too early to evaluate the success of the new measures, but the experience in the UK of introducing a similar system resulted in a drop in evasion rates from a similar level to under 1%. I will be considering, in conjunction with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, measures to evaluate levels of evasion in the light of the new provisions for off road declarations and will consider what further measures may be necessary at that stage. I have no plans currently to replace tax discs with automatic number plate recognition.

Question No. 480 answered with Question No. 477.

NAMA Portfolio

Question No. 482 answered with Question No. 418.

Questions (481, 487)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

481. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of National Asset Management Agency housing units that are now occupied; and the status of all other identified NAMA units for social housing. [5613/14]

View answer

Dessie Ellis

Question:

487. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount the National Asset Management Agency housing scheme has cost the State to date; and the amount it is expected to cost over the lifetime of the scheme. [5619/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 481 and 487 together.

Information in relation to the delivery of NAMA sourced units, including a full breakdown by county of units delivered by quarter, is available on the Housing Agency’ s website: www.housing.ie/NAMA. By the end of December 2013, of the 4,374 units identified by NAMA as being potentially suitable, some 2,055 units have been confirmed by local authorities as being suitable for social housing. Completed housing unit transfers stand at 492, with a further 104 units contracted and w ith completion work on-going. This brings the overall total deliv ery of social housing from NAMA- sourced units to 596 units (completed or contracted) since the process began.

Units acquired from NAMA are brought into s ocial h ousing using a number of existing delivery mechanisms including the Social Housing Investment Programme, the Capital Acquisition Scheme and the Social Housing Leasing Initiative. These are existing funding mechanisms and my Department does not distinguish the financing of NAMA-s ourced units from other sources of social housing supply. To the end of December 2013 the Social Housing Leasing Initiative, including NAMA-sourced units, has delivered 4,600 units for social housing use and expended some €66.4m in leasing costs since its introduction in 2009. The current average per-unit cost of Social Housing Leasing Initiative units is just over €502 per month.

Question No. 482 answered with Question No. 418.

Local Authority Housing Application Numbers

Questions (483)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

483. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will commit to providing a regular update to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the number of people on housing waiting lists here and his Department's progress in tackling these numbers; if he will not make this commitment, the rationale for this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5615/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

In accordance with section 21 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, housing authorities are required, in specified circumstances or as the Minister may from time to time direct, to prepare a summary of the social housing assessments carried out in their administrative areas. In February, 2013, I directed all housing authorities to provide a summary report of their social housing assessments as at 7 May 2013. This exercise involved each authority reviewing the continuing qualification for social housing support of all households entered on its waiting list and summarising the details of households on the updated waiting list. I published the overall results of the summary in December 2013 and these are available on my Department’s website and that of the Housing Agency .

Traditionally, the number of households on local authority waiting lists is collected nationally every 3 years. Consideration will be given on an on-going basis to whether the national summaries should be prepared within a shorter time period, having regard to the on-going response to housing need and whether any future changes to the social housing assessment process may require further review by authorities of the continuing qualification for social housing support of all households entered on their waiting lists.

Housing Assistance Payments Administration

Questions (484)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

484. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way he expects the new housing assistance payment scheme to work; the persons that will be eligible to avail of same; and when it will come on stream. [5616/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

On 18 July 2013, the Government approved the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Approval was also given for the provision of funding to the local authorities to cover the cost of accommodating HAP recipients, and it was agreed that the Department of Social Protection (DSP) would provide for the implementation of the mandatory direct deduction of rental contributions from the welfare payments of HAP recipients and local authority tenants. My Department and DSP continue to work closely on the legal, policy and operational issues involved in developing and introducing HAP. The completion of the business process design exercise for HAP in 2013 allowed for the General Scheme of a Housing Bill providing for HAP and associated items to be developed. On 17 December 2013, the General Scheme was approved by Government and the Bill is in preparation, as a priority for enactment to facilitate the test phase and implementation of HAP in 2014.

HAP is being designed so as to bring all of the social housing services provided by the State together under the local authority system, with local authorities being responsible for all households with an established housing need and ensuring significant efficiencies in the provision of rental assistance. HAP will provide a new framework for the provision of rental assistance, and will, in as much as it can, facilitate the removal of existing barriers to employment by allowing HAP recipients to remain in the scheme if they gain full-time employment.

Under the new scheme applicants will source their own accommodation within the private rented market (as currently happens with rent supplement) and the tenancy agreement will be between the HAP recipient and the private landlord. The local authority will pay the new assistance payment on the tenant’s behalf directly to the landlord. The tenant will pay a rental contribution to the local authority based on the differential rent scheme for the relevant local authority.

My Department is working closely with all the key stakeholders in overseeing plans for the implementation of HAP, but more specifically at this stage in relation to an early pilot phase and phased roll out of the scheme later in 2014, subject to the enactment of the relevant legislation. Consideration, where possible, will be given to what aspects of the scheme can be progressed under existing mechanisms prior to enactment of the required legislation. Limerick City and County Councils have been identified as lead authority to drive implementation in the local government sector including the delivery of the HAP pilot in Quarter 1 2014.

During implementation, it is envisaged that authorities will initially focus on taking across new applicants, before moving on a progressive basis to dealing with those already in receipt of rent supplement. It is also intended that the test phase will prioritise, as much as possible, the transfer of long-term unemployed rent supplement recipients to HAP. This is a reasonable approach to implementation, which will allow any issues that arise to be dealt with in a graduated way and give local authorities sufficient time to scale up the operation of HAP within their housing sections.

Private Rented Accommodation Provision

Question No. 486 answered with Question No. 477.

Question No. 487 answered with Question No. 481.

Question No. 488 answered with Question No. 422.

Questions (485)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

485. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the efforts he has made to investigate the possibility of introducing measures to tie private rents to the cost of living in order to ease the difficulties faced by many private tenants at this moment and secure better value for money for the State in its use of private accommodation to house people. [5617/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The most recent data available from both the Private Residential Tenancies Board and the daft.ie service suggest that rents are increasing in Dublin and the bigger cities at a rate in excess of inflation. A recent Threshold study suggests that there is particular pressure on rents in the lower segment of the market.

Almost 1 in 5 households in the country are now renting their accommodation in the private sector, the biggest share of the housing market since the 1950s. In recent years improvements have been made in the sector in relation, for example, to security of tenure and resolution of disputes. The Government has also recently approved the drafting of amendments to the Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill to establish a deposit protection scheme.

However, it is clearly a cause for concern if affordability issues are emerging in the private rented sector, given its importance in terms of the overall housing mix. I have sought to stimulate a debate on how to bring greater stability to the sector, as it is in the interest of landlords, tenants and society as a whole that we have a stable private rental sector that is sustainable into the long term. The regulation of rents is a complex area and I am mindful of the need to avoid introducing measures that might have unintended consequences, on supply and affordability. Nevertheless, I believe there is scope to explore measures that would alleviate short-term difficulties pending a return to equilibrium in the market, and my Department is exploring the possibilities for commissioning policy research in this regard.

Question No. 486 answered with Question No. 477.
Question No. 487 answered with Question No. 481.
Question No. 488 answered with Question No. 422.

Motor Tax Exemptions

Question No. 490 answered with Question No. 445.

Questions (489)

Brendan Smith

Question:

489. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will ensure that no additional penalties are imposed on owners of old tractors where their registration is now being regularised; if due account will be taken of the inevitable delays that occur in preparing all documentation for processing; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a considerable additional burden has been imposed on local motor taxation offices in dealing with such applications; if he will confirm that no financial penalties will be imposed on applicants where there is a delay in finalising registration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5633/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Liability for motor tax arises from the date of registration of a vehicle and arrears of motor tax are not applied to a date prior to the date of entry of the vehicle on the register. Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each County and City Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible and it is a matter the Manager, in the first instance, to ensure that appropriate service levels are in place.

Question No. 490 answered with Question No. 445.

Irish Water Expenditure

Questions (491)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

491. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the names of the persons, companies or other entities that received consultancy contracts from Uisce Éireann in 2013; the details of the experience of the personnel doing the work in each case; the hourly rate being charged; the nature of the companies or entities involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5661/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Regeneration Projects Expenditure

Questions (492, 493)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

492. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown in tabular form of moneys spent on consultant fees relating to the Ballymun regeneration from its beginning to the present day. [5664/14]

View answer

Dessie Ellis

Question:

493. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 528 of 28 January 2013, if he will provide a breakdown of the areas on which the €755,399,650 was spent. [5665/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 492 and 493 together.

Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL) was established in 1997 with a 14-member Board of Directors drawn from the statutory, voluntary and community sectors in the area and charged with responsibility for implementing and managing the Masterplan and Integrated Area Plan for the physical, social and economic regeneration of Ballymun. Over the 17 years since its inception, BRL has overseen the procurement and implementation of up to 250 individual services and works contracts which have seen the delivery of over 3,000 new homes and key infrastructural development as well as substantial investment in social and economic interventions. As could be expected in a project of this size and complexity, outside consultants were engaged for the various planning, design and research activities.

The Masterplan set out an ambition to provide a variety of design responses to address legacy issues resulting from the failed uniform design responses achieved in the Ballymun of the 1960’s. In order to sustain this long-established community it was necessary to undertake demolition and rebuilding on a phased basis over an extended timeframe. This required specific design, operational and implementation responses according as the overall project progressed. As part of the original budget approval and in recognition of the scope and extent of the research and design element of the project, involving a range of disciplines including statutory planning, urban design, architecture, engineering, demolition, environmental, social and economic professionals and practitioners, my Department allowed for expenditure of up to 10% of overall project cost in this regard.

The detailed information sought in relation to the amounts spent on consultants’ fees across the full range of disciplines and a breakdown of the amounts recouped by my Department to BRL in respect of each of the contracts procured and implemented is not readily available in my Department and its compilation would involve an inordinate amount of staff time and resources. A significant element of these data is held by BRL. As the project has now reached substantial completion, I intend to request Dublin City Council to initiate a comprehensive Post Project Review of the overall regeneration project undertaken by BRL, detailing the outputs and costs in respect of the projects delivered, the impact of investment in social and economic regeneration, the lessons learned, how past investment can be protected and the overall sustainability of the regeneration project into the future. I will be happy to make this report available in due course.