Economic and Social Research Institute

Questions (568)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

568. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on a recent ESRI report which indicates that the construction workforce here is too small to produce the level of social and affordable housing needed; if he has liaised with his ministerial colleagues in relation to the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51520/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The recently published Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report on the construction industry indicates that much of the additional labour required for housing supply and other construction and infrastructural work may have to be secured through inward net migration.  However, the report concludes the Irish economy would not appear, at present, to be unduly constrained in terms of labour market.

Increasing housing supply generally, and social and more affordable housing in particular, is, and will remain, a top Government priority. Through the continued delivery on the ambitious programme of action set out in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, the State intends to fully meet its obligations to those who need a home.

Separately, my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, continues to implement a range of measures  to ensure that there will be the required number of construction workers in place to support the delivery of the Rebuilding Ireland programme. These measures include:

- educational and training programmes, which aim to develop the skills of apprentices in order to meet the needs of industry and the labour market;

- expanding the range of apprenticeships on  offer to meet the identified skills needs of industry;

- SOLAS-funded construction related further education and  training programmes provided by Education and Training Boards;  and

- working with the Construction Industry Federation, as industry lead, to further develop the national apprenticeship programme. 

Following the launch of the National Development Plan under Project Ireland 2040 in February 2018,  a Construction Sector Group (CSG) has been established. The role of the CSG is to ensure regular and open dialogue between Government and the construction sector in relation to issues that may impact on the successful delivery of the NDP on a value-for-money basis for the State.  The CSG is chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department will continue to participate actively in it.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (569, 570, 571, 572)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

569. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated cost of installing gas heating systems for water and home heating for an average social house build; the estimated cost of installing oil heating and fully electric heating systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51551/18]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

570. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated cost of installing gas heating systems for water and home heating for an average affordable house build; the estimated cost of installing oil heating and fully electric heating systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51552/18]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

571. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated cost of converting an average social house from a gas or oil heating system to a fully electric heating system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51553/18]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

572. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated cost of converting an average affordable house from a gas or oil heating system to a fully electric heating system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51554/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 569 to 572, inclusive, together.

While my Department does not have specific figures for the estimated cost of installing or converting the heating systems of social or affordable homes, the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for 2018 amendments to Part L of the Building Regulations in relation to dwellings, concerning homes irrespective of their tenure, set out some relevant information.

The cost of replacement gas boilers, oil boilers and high heat retention electric storage heating for a small bungalow or semi-detached dwelling, as set out in the RIA, is as follows: Gas Boiler €1,973 - €2,390; Oil Boiler €3,215 - €3,633; high heat retention electric storage heating €3,215 to €3,633. The cost of an electric heat pump only, for a small bungalow or semi-detached dwelling, as set out in the RIA, is €8,899 to €10,082.

When installing an electric heat pump in an existing dwelling, a fabric upgrade is required to reduce the heat demand and ensure the effective operation of the heating system. The estimated cost of a fabric upgrade combined with a heat pump, is in the order of €40,000 for a typical house. The cost of an electric heat pump on its own is approximately €10,000. The exact cost would depend on the age, size and construction of the dwelling being upgraded.

Social and Affordable Housing Data

Questions (573)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

573. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of residential units owned by the State, local authorities or otherwise that have gas, oil and electric heating systems, respectively in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51555/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department does not have specific data on heating systems relating to publicly owned residential units. However, the SEAI residential energy use report shows the breakdown of space heating fuels for housing on a national basis, based on the 2016 CSO Census, as oil 41%, natural gas 34% and electric heating as 9%.

Fire Service Staff

Question No. 575 answered with Question No. 566.

Questions (574)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

574. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if local authorities have discretion to allow retained firefighters remain in service until 65 or 66 years of age in spite of the provisions of circular 19/03 of 24 November 2003 governing the retirement of firefighters. [51561/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

International research indicates that a retirement age of 55 is the optimum age to ensure that fire-fighters are capable of satisfactorily performing the tasks expected of them.  The retirement age of 55 years of age was introduced because of health and safety considerations related to the job. Since the enactment of the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 1989, and underpinned by subsequent legislation, each fire authority, as an employer, has a statutory duty to avoid placing employees at risk.

A full time firefighter is statutorily required to retire at age 55 under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004. This retirement age is set at 55 due to the physically demanding nature of the fire-fighter role. The retirement age for retained fire fighters is 55 with an extended period to age 58 subject to a formal application process including a compulsory medical assessment.

A collective agreement was reached between the Local Government Management Services Board and the trade unions involved (SIPTU and ATGWU) in November 2002.  This collective agreement provided, inter alia, for the appointment of an Expert Group which in turn would advise as to the retirement age for retained firefighters. The Expert Group's Report on Retirement Age recommended that the retirement age for retained firefighters remain at 55, with provision for an annual extension, subject to medical assessment, up to 58 years of age. Following the report of the Expert Group published in April 2003, a circular was issued by my Department in November 2003 setting out the age requirements in relation to retained firefighters in line with the Expert Report.

In general, any changes proposed by either management or unions are negotiated using the established Industrial Relations processes. In this regard, the matter of increasing the retirement age for firefighters was included as part of recent discussions on a wide range of issues at the Workplace Relations Commission, between the Local Government Management Agency (representing the employers) and SIPTU.

I understand that these discussions are at a preliminary stage and therefore I am unable to give an indication as to when these discussions will be completed or the likely outcome.

Question No. 575 answered with Question No. 566.

Ministerial Correspondence

Questions (576)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

576. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will respond directly to an organisation (details supplied) that has corresponded with him regarding a petition by it; the steps he has taken to address its concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51721/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Resolving homelessness is a top priority for the Government.  Pillar 1 of Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, sets out a range of measures to support those individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  In order, to minimise the use of hotels and B&Bs for emergency accommodation, my Department is working with the local authorities to provide family hubs in a number of locations.  Family hubs provide more appropriate emergency accommodation for families and children, with cooking facilities, recreation areas and on-site supports provided to the families.   To date, 24 hubs have been opened, providing accommodation for over 550 families. 

All family hubs are operated in accordance with service level agreements/contracts between the local authorities and service providers, which include targets for families to be moved to an independent tenancy within a six-month period. The HAP Placefinders service, which was made available in all local authorities earlier this year, provides support to families experiencing homelessness by assisting them to identify and secure a HAP-supported tenancy in the private rented market. 

 In relation to the information supplied by the Deputy, I will respond to any correspondence to my office on this matter.

Planning Issues

Questions (577)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

577. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the waiving of the €20 fee for planning observations and submissions applies only to councillors; if other public representatives are also exempt from paying this fee in regard to the Planning and Development (Amendment) (Fees) Regulations 2018, SI No. 501 of 2018; if so, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51722/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning and Development (Amendment)(Fees) Regulations 2018 amend article 168 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 to provide that the fee for making a submission or observation to a planning authority in respect of a planning application shall not be payable by a member of a local authority acting in his or her capacity as a member. This waiver does not extend to other public representatives. In this regard, local authority members join local authorities, prescribed bodies specified under article 28 of the 2001 Regulations, State authorities and trans-boundary States as persons / bodies that are not required the pay the €20 fee when making submissions / observations on planning applications.

The recently enacted Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 gives legislative effect to a number of planning related recommendations of the Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters and Payments.  During the progress of the 2018 Act through the Oireachtas, the consensus arrived at was that the implementation of the Tribunal planning related recommendations should be supplemented by the introduction of waived fee arrangements for the elected members of local authorities in respect of the making of observations or submissions on planning applications.

In this regard, it was considered that the abolition of the €20 observation fee for elected members would enable them to participate in the planning process in a transparent way, but without undue expense, having regard to their role as democratically elected representatives for their areas. The subsequent Planning and Development (Amendment)(Fees) Regulations 2018 now bring these waived  fee arrangements for elected members of local authorities into force.

Housing Agency

Questions (578)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

578. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the Housing Agency will review the discount of the market price in a mortgage to rent application in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51777/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Mortgage to Rent (MTR) scheme introduced in 2012 is targeted at those households in mortgage arrears who have had their mortgage position deemed unsustainable by their lender under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP), who agree to the voluntary surrender of their home and who have very limited options, if any, to meet their long-term housing needs themselves. In addition, the household must be deemed eligible for social housing support and the property must meet certain eligibility criteria. 

I am not in a position to comment on any particular case nor would it be appropriate for me to do so.  The reasons why a case may not have progressed are varied and can depend on the lender, the property, the household and the financial viability of the purchase of the property by an Approved Housing Body (AHB).  The decision to purchase a property under the MTR scheme must make commercial sense  for an AHB.  I cannot compel any AHB to purchase a particular property at a particular price nor can I compel a lender to sell a particular property at a particular price.   Where MTR is not an option, it will be a matter for the borrower to discuss with their lender if there are other options available to resolve their mortgage arrears situation.

The Abhaile service, formally launched by the Government in 2016, is a national mortgage arrears resolution service, provided free of charge to the borrower and its aim is to help mortgage holders in arrears to find the best solutions and keep them, wherever possible, in their own homes.  The unique element of Abhaile is that it brings together, for the first time, the full range of supports and services required by borrowers in home mortgage arrears.  A dedicated adviser will work with the borrower and their lender to find the best solution for their particular situation.  The Money Advice and Budgetary Service (MABS) acts as the gateway for the service and can be contacted by telephoning (076)1072000 or by accessing their website at: www.mabs.ie/abhaile.

Brexit Negotiations

Questions (579)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

579. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has formally met with his UK counterpart to discuss Brexit and its impact on east-west trade reciprocal arrangements and all other Brexit related matters that fall within the remit of his Department; the number of times they have formally met to discuss Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51890/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The negotiations on both the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the framework for the EU-UK future relationship, both of which we were endorsed by the European Council on 25 November, were conducted on behalf of the EU27 by the EU's Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the Commission's Article 50 Taskforce.

Brexit is a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I have taken every opportunity to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities. In 2018 I have met directly my UK counterpart, Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP, on two occasions.

 The Government has already taken a number of key decisions on measures to support East – West Trade. These include staffing, ICT and infrastructure measures to implement necessary checks and controls at our ports and airports.  To support businesses, the Government provided dedicated Brexit support measures in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019. Ireland is working closely with the EU and fellow Member States to discuss and to facilitate the use of the UK as a landbridge post Brexit.

Planning Issues

Questions (580)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

580. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the headquarters, number of staff and estimated full staff complement of the office of the planning regulator; when it will be fully operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51921/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning & Development (Amendment) Act 2018 provides the statutory footing for the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator. This Act was signed into law by the President on 19 July 2018. However, Part 2 of the Act relating to the Office of the Planning Regulator has not been commenced yet, pending the recruitment of the Planning Regulator who will lead the Office.

The Public Appointments Service has already advertised the position of Planning Regulator and that competition is expected to conclude in the near future. It is intended that the selected candidate will then be nominated to the Government for the purpose of approving the appointment.  It is further intended to commence the relevant sections of the Act, to formally appoint the Regulator and launch the new Office in January 2019.

Following the signing of the Act in July this year, an Advance Establishment Unit was formed within my Department and that Unit has been making the necessary preparations to ensure that the Office of the Planning Regulator will be able to meet its statutory obligations from the time of establishment. The Office will have approximately 10 staff at launch in January and will grow to a full complement of approximately 20 staff over the course of 2019. Interim premises have been sourced in Sir John Rogerson's Quay in Dublin, pending a decision on a permanent location for the Office.

Housing Agency

Questions (581)

Imelda Munster

Question:

581. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding the Abhaile scheme granny flat pilot project in Clondalkin, Dublin 22; his views on whether the concept will be expanded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51984/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Abhaile Project was the winner of the Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge in June 2017. The project developed an innovative new model to support older homeowners to reconfigure their family-sized homes by creating an independent living area suitable for the older homeowner, eliminating the need to use the stairs; and creating an affordable one-bedroom rental home upstairs. I understand that the promoters of the project are currently involved in two projects to bring the project to different house-types, one in Clondalkin and a second in Castleknock, and I will be interested to learn how these projects progress.

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health, is currently exploring policy options including supporting housing/housing with care so that older people have a wider range of housing options and choices available to them.  There are a number of key principles underpinning Government policy on housing for older people and on which the policy framework will be constructed. These involve putting in place measures to ensure that sustainable housing is provided in the right location to enable people to age in the community; to design housing and the built environment in accordance with the principles of sustainable lifetime housing; to promote the use of assistive technology to support people to live independently; to give adequate consideration to the need for social connectedness in devising policy; and to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve the policy objectives.

At an Expert Conference on Housing for Older People in Farmleigh on 20 November, 2018, a number of experts in the field, including the Abhaile Project, explained how these principles can be brought to fruition in imaginative and practical ways, which bring about tangible benefits for the older person. I will ensure that this invaluable knowledge is integrated into the development of policy in this area.

The final policy framework will be published early next year and this will be a further step in the broader process of seeking to ensure that older people are provided with appropriate accommodation options that are suited to their needs. The policy statement will set out a framework by which the Government can facilitate housing, including housing with care, for older people having regard to current demographics and looking at best practice models. The aim is to ensure that people can grow old and live in a community of their choosing, with dignity and independence.

Fire Service Staff

Questions (582)

Seán Haughey

Question:

582. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will correspond with Kildare County Council to ensure that a person (details supplied) is awarded a salary higher than point four on the salary scale in order that they receive a higher salary than they are currently receiving as a firefighter and paramedic with Dublin City Council and Dublin Fire Brigade in which their allowances are considered to be core pay and pensionable; if he has received correspondence from the person setting out their case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52045/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department has not received correspondence from the person concerned, but has received correspondence from Kildare County Council on this matter.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, it is the Chief Executive of the Council who is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (583, 584, 585)

John Lahart

Question:

583. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of women and men, respectively employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52058/18]

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John Lahart

Question:

584. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the various grades in which males and females are employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52075/18]

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John Lahart

Question:

585. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the ratio of males to females employed in his Department; the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52092/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 583 to 585, inclusive, together.

There were 389.68 full time equivalent (FTE) males and 320.74 FTE females employed in my Department at the end of October 2018. This is a ratio of 1.2 males to 1 female. The table below sets out the breakdown of males to females at each grade equivalent.

Gender Analysis at end October 2018*

(*Latest verified data)

Grade equivalent

Male

% of Dept

Female

% of Dept

Total

Secretary General

1

100

0

0.00

1

Ast Secretary

4

50

4

50.00

8

PO

47.2

75.28

15.5

24.72

62.7

AP

106.4896

57.30

79.3634

42.70

185.853

AO

10.5

55.26

8.5

44.74

19

HEO

90.0277

57.60

66.2585

42.40

156.2862

EO

88.8317

51.83

82.5554

48.17

171.3871

CO

23.6

28.93

57.9852

71.07

81.5852

SVO

16.0312

70.91

6.578

29.09

22.6092

Rural GO

2

100

0

0.00

2

Total

389.6802

54.85

320.7405

45.15

710.4207

The details requested in relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department are a matter for the individual bodies concerned. Arrangements have been put in place by each Agency to facilitate the provision of information by State Bodies directly to members of the Oireachtas. The contact email address for each agency is as below:

Agency

Email address

An Bord Pleanála

Oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie

Ervia, Gas Networks Ireland

oireachtas@ervia.ie

Housing Sustainable Communities Agency

publicreps@housingagency.ie

Housing Finance Agency

oireachtas.enquiries@hfa.ie

Irish Water

oireachtasmembers@water.ie

Local Government Management Agency

corporate@lgma.ie

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Oireachtas@osi.ie

Property Registration Authority

reps@prai.ie

Pyrite Resolution Board

oireachtasinfo@pyriteboard.ie

Residential Tenancies Board

OireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie

Valuation Office

oireachtas.enquiries@VALOFF.ie