Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Questions (188)

Peter Burke


188. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government when local authorities will be able to access funding for the repair and lease scheme; the way applications will be made; if extra allocation will be made for towns such as Longford with above average levels of boarded-up properties; the timeframe for this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10527/17]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) has been developed to assist private property owners and local authorities or Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to harness the accommodation potential that exists in certain vacant properties across Ireland. The scheme is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their properties up to the required standard for rental property. Subject to the suitability of the property for social housing, and the agreement of the property owner, the cost of the necessary repairs will be met upfront by the local authority or an Approved Housing Body (AHB). This allows for the property owner to sign-up to a lease arrangement for a length that is linked to the value of the repairs, subject to a minimum of 10 years. The value of the repairs will then be offset incrementally against the agreed rental payment over a defined period within the lease.

A property owner can either choose to arrange for a contractor to carry out the repairs themselves, or the local authority or AHB can arrange this instead. Property owners will not be required to take on landlord responsibilities and the local authority or AHB will have on-going management and maintenance responsibilities in respect of the properties.

The local authority will determine the eligibility for the scheme, having regard to the location and the suitability of the property for social housing and also taking into consideration the extent of the repairs that may be required. The maximum costs of repairs allowable under this initiative will be €40,000. My Department is working closely with local authorities to implement the scheme locally.

Following on from the success of the initial pilot in Waterford and Carlow local authorities, the Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) is being rolled out on a national basis from 23 February 2017.

I am making an additional €26m available to fund the scheme in 2017, which brings the total amount available this year to €32m. This additional investment in 2017 means that delivery under the scheme can be accelerated and up to 800 vacant properties can be brought back into use as new homes for families on local authority waiting lists this year. This funding represents a frontloading of the €140m being made available for the scheme over the next 5 years. Over the period 2016 to 2021, it is anticipated that up to 3,500 units will be secured for social housing under this scheme.

I will be carefully monitoring the scheme in 2017 to ensure that it works and is cost effective. Likewise, this analysis will assist in determining its delivery potential for future years, as well as whether additional financial resources are required in that context.

The Repair and Leasing Scheme is one of a number of initiatives in Rebuilding Ireland to address vacant properties around the country. Other initiatives include the Buy and Renew Scheme. The full details of this scheme are being finalised and will be communicated to local authorities shortly. I have made an initial €25 million available for this initiative this year and propose to increase this to as much as €50 million in 2018, depending on the uptake. I expect this investment to deliver between 400 and 500 renewed houses for social housing use.

The initiative may present opportunities for local authorities and approved housing bodies to tackle dereliction in towns and urban areas, but prospective housing units will always need to be suitable for social housing use, in an area of need and to represent reasonable value for money.