Proposed Legislation

Questions (75)

Denis Naughten

Question:

75. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when new legislation to establish cross boundary committees will be published in view of the commitment given by the Minister of State to Dáil Éireann on 13 December 2018 during the Report Stage of the Local Government Act 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15729/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Following on from enactment of the Local Government Act 2019, and as indicated during its passage through the Oireachtas, it is my intention, in the coming months, to publish legislation to place local authority cross boundary cooperation on a statutory basis.

What is envisaged is the establishment of Urban Area Committees for urban areas with a population between 1,500 and 100,000, where the results of a population census show that at least 1,500 persons or 10% of the population are living in the administrative area of another local authority.  This would include Athlone, Bray, Carlow, Carrick-on-Shannon, Drogheda, Limerick, Portarlington and Waterford.  The functions of UACs will be set out in the legislation in due course but, at this stage, I consider that the UACs could perform strategic and economic planning functions for the areas concerned.   

Membership of each committee would be drawn from both local authorities and consist of councillors from the relevant local electoral areas as well as the Cathaoirleach of each of the local authorities.  Provision for participation in a non-voting capacity for experts in the areas of planning, transport, infrastructure, housing and/or business could also be included.

I have recently met with a number of local authorities to discuss the proposals and I will engage in further consultation prior to finalising and publishing the legislation.

 

Land Development Agency

Questions (76)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

76. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will provide a full report on the involvement of the Land Development Agency in the development of public housing on a site (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16406/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The primary role of the Land Development Agency is to drive the use of available State lands for the development of housing and to regenerate under-utilised sites. On its establishment, the Agency had access to an initial tranche of 8 sites that have near term delivery potential for 3,000 new homes, with additional potential for 7,000 new homes over the medium to longer term. Significant preparatory work is underway in relation to these sites. In addition to this work, the LDA is also working to expand the pipeline of projects with additional publicly owned sites.

The LDA has been in discussions with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council regarding the Council's site at Shanganagh. The focus of those discussions has centred on the range of options which could be pursued to accelerate the delivery of housing on the site.

The LDA is currently working on a delivery plan for the site, including financing, which will be presented for consideration by the elected members of the County Council later this year. Ultimately, any plan regarding the development of the site will be a matter for the local authority. The Board of the LDA would need to approve any proposals for the LDA itself to invest in the development.

Credit Unions

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 67.

Questions (77)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

77. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his officials have been working with other Departments in relation to the special purpose vehicle for credit unions to be allowed to lend money to housing associations for social housing. [10601/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for a Partnership Government recognised the potential role that credit unions can play in housing finance and supported the efforts of the Registrar of Credit Unions at the Central Bank to gradually lift current lending restrictions as appropriate, including for housing.

Credit Union bodies have set out proposed means by which funding could be provided by Credit Unions to Approved Housing Bodies for the development of social housing.  This follows on from the amendments introduced by the Central Bank to the regulatory regime within which Credit Unions operate.

Along with my colleague, Minister Murphy, and officials from my Department and the Department of Finance, I have met with the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) and the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA) to examine how their sector can assist in the area of financing social housing delivery. Throughout the discussions with the Credit Unions’ representative bodies, my Department has emphasised that while it can provide technical assistance regarding the mechanisms for funding social housing, which it has provided, it is a matter for the Credit Unions themselves to set up special purpose vehicles to enable them to invest in the sector. For this reason, my Department referred the Credit Unions’ representative bodies to the Irish Council for Social Housing with a view to both sectors sharing, as far as practical, the benefits of their respective work in this area, including the work being undertaken by the ICSH on the development of special purpose vehicles for social housing financing purposes, supported by grant funding from my Department. 

It is a matter for both parties to progress these engagements, which I hope can lead to a workable, mutually acceptable approach to moving forward on this issue.  

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 67.

Homeless Persons Supports

Questions (79)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

79. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the ongoing delay in bringing forward the quality standards and inspection regime for emergency homeless accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16410/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities.  This responsibility of housing authorities includes responsibility for ensuring that contracted services are delivered in a professional manner, in line with any service level agreement that is in place.  In that regard, housing authorities carry out inspections as they determine to be appropriate.

Supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government.  The Dublin Region Homeless Executive has developed a National Quality Standards Framework (NQSF) on behalf of my Department.  The NQSF has been developed to ensure a more consistent approach on how local authorities and service providers respond to the needs of those experiencing homelessness.  The NQSF was implemented on a phased basis in the Dublin region, with site visits commencing in February this year.  The experience gained from the recent completion of the rollout in the Dublin region and the commencement of site visits has allowed the DRHE to evaluate how the NQSF should be implemented nationally and to advise my Department accordingly.

Later this week, my Department will be writing to each of the lead local authorities, responsible for the coordination of the delivery of homeless services at the regional level, advising them on the process for the implementation of the NQSF.   In light of the experience in the Dublin region, it is proposed that the NQSF will be implemented over a 12-month period commencing on 1 July 2019. 

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Questions (80)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

80. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which the strategic housing development legislation is contributing to the provision of affordable housing in particular in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16408/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 introduced new temporary streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHD) - i.e. developments of 100 housing units or more or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more - to be made directly to An Bord Pleanala for determination instead of having to be submitted in the first instance to the local planning authority with the possibility of subsequent appeal to the Board.  These arrangements came into operation on 3 July 2017.

The primary purpose of the SHD arrangements is to speed up the planning decision-making process, thereby providing greater planning certainty for developers in terms of the timelines within which proposals for such developments can be determined, while simultaneously fully respecting the statutory requirements for public consultation in respect of such proposals.

Since the new SHD arrangements came into operation up until 28 February 2019, the Board had received 65 SHD applications and had decided 43 cases, 22 of which related to development projects in Dublin.  The Dublin SHD projects in respect of which planning permission has been granted amount to a total of 4,120 houses and apartments (1,226 houses, 2,894 apartments) and 3,636 student accommodation bed spaces.

With regard to affordability, one of the Government’s key priorities is to address issues of housing affordability, including for low to middle-income households and workers.  A multi-stranded approach is being taken to support such households in achieving home ownership, particularly those households earning annual gross incomes up to €50,000 for single applicants and €75,000 for dual applicants.

In terms of affordable purchase, I commenced the relevant provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 to provide a statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase.  I also made regulations last month on foot of which local authorities are now moving ahead to develop schemes of priority for the allocation of affordable housing in due course.

The new scheme will be set in the context of moderating growth in house prices and rental levels in the market and will complement other key Government affordability initiatives.  These include the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, which has seen 720 loans to a total value of some €127.5m drawn down, and the Help to Buy scheme, under which some 10,500 applications, to a value of some €153m, have been approved.

In order to support the affordable housing programmes of local authorities, the Government has committed €310 million, over the three years 2019 to 2021, under the Serviced Sites Fund to support the provision of 6,200 affordable homes to purchase or rent.  An initial 10 projects, with the potential for 1,400 affordable homes, have already been approved with an allocation of €43 million under the first call for proposals and a second call for further projects has now issued to 19 local authorities where economic assessments have been carried out by the local authorities concerned and affordability issues have been identified.

In addition, approximately 2,350 affordable homes will be delivered on mainly publicly owned lands supported through the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, while 5,600 further homes will benefit from a LIHAF-related cost reduction, some of which are already coming to market.   The work of the Land Development Agency will also be of crucial importance in terms of delivering more affordable housing.  The initial portfolio of sites that the Agency has access to will have the potential, over the short to medium term, to deliver 3,000 affordable homes in line with the Government policy of achieving 30% affordable housing on State lands generally. 

In parallel, the Dublin local authorities continue to progress a number of other significant housing projects on publicly owned lands, including the redevelopment of O'Devaney Gardens and a site at Oscar Traynor Road in Dublin City, yielding approximately 280 affordable homes. In addition, 380 cost rental homes will be delivered between projects at the former St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore and at Enniskerry Road in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown.  

Housing Data

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 72.

Questions (81, 121)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

81. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding affordable housing availability and discounts on house prices in developments assisted by LIHAF funding and infrastructure. [16061/19]

View answer

John Curran

Question:

121. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the level of discount from market value he expects to achieve for affordable houses being provided and supported with funding from the serviced sites fund and the local infrastructure housing activation fund; the number of houses to be provided by each fund in 2019 and 2020, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16373/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 121 together.

Affordable housing is being delivered through a range of mechanisms, including the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF); direct delivery from State land supported by the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF); and delivery by the Land Development Agency.  It is expected that with construction progress being made in 2019, the first homes would become available from 2020 onwards.  

Approximately 2,350 affordable homes will be delivered on mainly publicly owned lands supported through LIHAF, while 5,600 further homes will benefit from a LIHAF related cost reduction. 

Under the SSF, €310 million is being available from 2019 through to 2021 to support facilitating infrastructure on local authority sites, which will deliver over 6,000 affordable homes.  I issued approval in December 2018 for funding for 10 infrastructure projects costing €43 million, which will support the delivery of 1,400 affordable homes. A second call for proposals seeking funding support has now issued and my Department will continue to work very closely with local authorities in order to advance priority affordable housing projects.

The price of individual homes to be delivered with the support of the SSF will be determined on a project-by-project basis.  Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which has now been commenced, provides for a discount of up to 40% of the market value on the property, with the discount being held as an equity stake by the local authority until subsequently bought out by the household or captured on resale.

The work of the Land Development Agency will also be of crucial importance in terms of delivering more affordable housing; an initial portfolio of eight sites that the Agency has access to will have the potential, over the short to medium term, to deliver 3,000 affordable homes in line with the Government policy of achieving 30% affordable housing on State lands generally.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 72.

Local Authority Housing

Questions (83)

Brian Stanley

Question:

83. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he is taking to reduce the length of time that local authorities have to wait for final departmental approval to proceed with housing schemes that are built within their functional area. [16293/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Important steps have already been put in place, since January 2018, to improve the timelines involved in the advancement of new social housing capital construction projects, from initial proposal to placing the construction contract and starting on site. A timeline of 59 weeks has been agreed with the City and County Management Association (CCMA) for this process, which compares favourably with private sector construction projects. 

The 59-week timeline includes the time required for my Department to assess and approve the projects. However, this is just a small element of the 59-week timeline; the majority of the time is given over to the local authorities' own work in designing projects, engaging consultants and contractors and obtaining planning approval through the Part 8 process. 

For example, after design work is complete and planning permission has been obtained, 10 weeks are provided for local authorities to undertake tendering and assess the proposals received. 3 weeks are then provided for my Department to give final funding approval. As well as all parties working to the above timelines, technical advisors from the Department also meet directly with their local authority colleagues on a quarterly basis to address issues with social housing construction projects as they arise. This continuous dialogue also helps the advancement and approval of new construction projects. 

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (84)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the contacts his Department has had with Dublin City Council in relation to the delivery of social housing targets in 2018 and to date in 2019; if the council needs further emergency powers to meet those targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15746/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department is supporting local authorities in the provision of social housing homes through a range of different initiatives and schemes.  This includes the construction of social homes on the land of local authorities and construction delivery in conjunction with Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs).  Local authorities are also working in partnership with private developers to deliver social housing construction through turnkey arrangements. In addition, my Department is funding social housing delivery through acquisitions, leasing arrangements, the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). Such a blend of delivery mechanisms is essential to ensure the needs of households will be successfully met.

The social housing delivery output figures for 2018 show that the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan is working.  The level of progress being made is reflected in social housing waiting lists, which have reduced by 22% between September 2016 and June 2018, from 91,600 households to 71,858. Through partnerships between local authorities, AHBs and a range of other delivery partners, over 45,000 individuals and families had their housing needs met during 2016 and 2017.  A total of 27,103 households had their housing needs met in 2018, with 8,422 new homes brought into the active social housing stock through, build, acquisition, voids and leasing programmes.  This is 550 more homes than targeted for the year.

My Department engages with all local authorities, including with Dublin City Council, on a regular basis regarding the accelerated delivery of social housing. This includes at Chief Executive level, bilaterals at senior official level and quarterly technical meetings. In terms of the progress made in social housing delivery in 2018 and in the context of the social housing target setting process for 2019, my Department has had significant engagement and contacts with officials in Dublin City Council. Indeed, I have, myself, engaged with the Chief Executive of Dublin City Council on many occasions in relation to social housing delivery and my most recent engagement with the Chief Executive was at the last Housing Summit, which I hosted in February this year. 

I am confident that the actions, targets, legislative framework and resources available to all local authorities under Rebuilding Ireland provide a strong platform for meeting our challenges in the housing sector and I will be continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure that delivery remains on target.

Housing Issues

Questions (85)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

85. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which affordable homes would be delivered nationally further to his recent circular on affordable housing criteria to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16405/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Government recognises the housing affordability pressures that exist for low to middle income households, particularly in Dublin and other main urban centres. 

Affordable housing will be available either to purchase, under Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, or through 'cost rental' which is dealt with on an administrative basis.

In terms of the priority areas for the operation of Affordable House Purchase, this is being influenced by the economic assessments, which local authorities were asked to carry out to identify affordability issues in their areas.

Significant delivery is to be achieved through the €310 million Serviced Site Fund, under which at least 6,200 affordable homes are to be supported over the next three years. The fund primarily focuses on providing key facilitating infrastructure.

An initial 10 projects have been approved for €43m of funding under the first call for proposals under the Serviced Sites Fund.  This first tranche of funding will enable the delivery of 1,400 affordable homes.  A second call for proposals has now issued and my Department will be working closely with local authorities over the coming weeks to support the accelerated delivery of affordable housing in the areas where such homes are most needed. 

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Questions (86)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

86. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the annual growth of local authority housing lists has been accurately established with a view to ensuring the provision of an adequate number of local authority direct build houses on an annual basis thereby ensuring waiting lists do not expand further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16395/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area are provided in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA), an exercise which has been carried out on an annual basis since 2016. The assessments are published annually and the most recent assessment, carried out in June 2018, is available at the following link:

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists Data

In June 2016, the assessment showed that there were 91,600 households on local authority waiting lists nationally. This fell to 85,799 in June 2017, and the most recent assessment in 2018 shows that 71,858 households were assessed as qualified and being in need of social housing support. This represents a decrease of 19,7421 households or 22% over the period 2016 to 2018.

The targets for social housing provision set out in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness were developed to provide immediate, medium and long-term supports for households on local authority waiting lists. The Plan aims to deliver more than 50,000 built, acquired and leased homes over the 6 year period of the Plan. This ambition has been proportionately divided into local authority targets, directly reflecting the numbers on individual local authority lists. In addition, the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) will continue to deliver flexible and immediate housing solutions to complement the build, acquisition and leasing programmes. Overall, more than 138,000 housing supports are anticipated over the lifetime of the Plan. This makes provision for the 91,600 households on the lists at the time the Plan was published and also anticipated additional need arising.

All available resources at national and local level have been mobilised to maximise the delivery of social housing as quickly and efficiently as possible.   Local authority build programmes are an essential component of the 50,000 homes to be delivered over the lifetime of the Plan. In addition to local authorities building on their own land, this also includes partnerships with Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs). Annual delivery targets are issued to local authorities and delivery against these targets is published quarterly on my Department's website. The 2019 Social Housing targets are available at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/social-housing-targets-2019/.

My Department works closely with each individual local authority to provide the necessary funding and structures to enable them to deliver their minimum build targets, and where possible to exceed their targets and advance their pipelines for additional delivery in the coming years.  Quarterly Construction Status Reports provide an overview of new build social housing completed and being advanced across the 31 local authorities.  The latest report, reflecting the position at the end of 2018, is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website, at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q4-2018/.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (87)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

87. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of the criteria for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; when he plans to publish the result of the review; his plans to ensure the long-term viability and success of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16369/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme was launched in February last year to replace the existing House Purchase and the Home Choice Loan schemes. Towards the end of the year I asked my Department to undertake a review of its operation.

In carrying out the review, the Department has consulted with a number of local authorities, the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency. The review also has regard to the views raised by public representatives since the scheme's commencement.  However, in making any recommendations in relation to the operation of the scheme, it also takes account of the need to ensure that lending issued under it is provided on a prudential basis, so as to protect the financial interests of the borrowers and the local authorities.    

The review has been submitted to me and I am currently examining it with a view  to publishing it shortly.

Local Authority Housing Data

Questions (88, 91)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

88. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has met with either Cavan or Monaghan county councils to discuss social housing strategies; the housing targets for new builds in both counties for 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16160/19]

View answer

Niamh Smyth

Question:

91. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of houses acquired or purchased by Cavan and Monaghan county councils in each of the years 2013 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16161/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 91 together.

I have met with all local authorities at senior level in relation to the advancement of social housing. In particular, I have held a number of Housing Summits with the local authority Chief Executives, including those from Cavan and Monaghan, the most recent of which was in February 2019.

Separately, both I and Minister of State English regularly visit individual local authorities to discuss progress on social housing.  Minister English visited Monaghan County Council in November 2018, where he met the Chief Executive and the Council's housing team and visited a number of social housing projects.  A similar engagement was held with Cavan County Council in May 2018.

With regard to social housing targets, I wrote to all local authorities, including Cavan and Monaghan, in March 2019, setting out their targets for this year across all delivery streams, including build. Details are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/social-housing-targets-2019/.

An overall housing budget of almost €2.4 billion is available to support housing delivery in 2019 by local authorities and others against these targets.  Both Minister English and I will continue, in 2019, to meet directly with local authorities on this important work.

Details of the number of houses that have been built and acquired by local authorities, including in counties Cavan and Monaghan, in each of the years 2013 to end-2018, are published and available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision.

Similar details for 2019 will be published on a quarterly basis as the year progresses.

Mayoral Election

Questions (89, 113)

Shane Cassells

Question:

89. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the difference in the exact powers of the newly proposed directly elected mayors for Cork, Limerick and Waterford and the functions currently conducted by mayors. [16414/19]

View answer

Shane Cassells

Question:

113. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the public information campaigns and engagements he has conducted to date to inform persons of the detailed proposals being put forward for directly elected mayors in Cork, Limerick and Waterford; and the public meetings scheduled from 9 April 2019 until polling day on 24 May 2019. [16415/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 113 together.

The plebiscites in relation to Directly Elected Mayors with Executive Functions in the Cork City Council, Limerick City and County Council and Waterford City and County Council areas, which will take place on the same date as the forthcoming local elections, will operate in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Local Government Act 2019.

The Government's detailed policy proposals which are to be the subject of the plebiscites have been published in Irish and English and are available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/voting/local-elections/directly-elected-mayors-executive-functions-detailed-0.

The Act makes specific provision for information on the proposals to be brought to the attention of electors in each administrative area concerned, not later than 30 days before the plebiscite takes place, i.e. by 24 April 2019. A Committee, independently chaired by a retired judge of the High Court, and including a suitably experienced senior counsel, relevant Departmental officials, representatives from the local authorities concerned and the Local Government Management Agency, has been established to facilitate and oversee an impartial and factual information campaign in accordance with the 2019 Act and other relevant legal considerations. The information to be provided is likely to be disseminated through a variety of channels including information material provided to each household in the areas concerned, web-based material, social media channels, media advertisements and local public information sessions. The information campaign will be launched shortly.

Rental Sector

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 88

Questions (90)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

90. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the fact that 12,474 rental properties have been lost to the private rental sector since January 2017; and the steps he will take to address this disorderly exit of rental properties from the market. [16409/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The figure referred to relate to the decrease in the number of private rented tenancies registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), rather than rental "properties".  The data held and reported on by the RTB is based on tenancies registered and is the most comprehensive data source on the private rental sector.

A tenancy may be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant.  There are numerous reasons why a landlord or tenant may validly end a tenancy as set out in the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 - 2016.  

At the end of 2017, there were approximately 340,000 tenancies registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), of which approximately 310,000 were private rented tenancies.  Although indications are that this figure declined slightly in 2018, the overall size and scale of the sector remains such as to make up a significant component of housing tenures in Ireland, having doubled in size over the last 20 years.

The loss of landlords from the sector is a concern given that demand in the rental sector is high and will remain strong into the future.  The majority of landlords, just over 70%, own just one property, with a further 16% owning just two properties.  It is vital that such landlords remain in the sector in order to ensure a robust and well-functioning rental sector into the future.

The Strategy for the Rental Sector developed under Rebuilding Ireland outlines a strategy and a range of measures for a viable and sustainable rental sector.  Structured around the four key areas of security, supply, standards and services, the Strategy set out a number of targeted measures and initiatives with the aim of providing better security of tenure, achieving higher accommodation standards and greater rent certainty for tenants, as well as enhancing the supports and services available to landlords to facilitate the development of a more vibrant and sustainable rental sector.  The Strategy also aims to provide for other models of delivery of housing intended specifically for rental purposes.

A Working Group in relation to the tax and fiscal treatment of rental accommodation providers was established in 2017, chaired by the Department of Finance and also comprising the Revenue Commissioners, my Department and the RTB.  The report of the Working Group was published in September 2017 and can be accessed through the following weblink:

Report of Working Group on Tax and Fiscal Treatment of Landlords

It is a matter for the Department of Finance to lead the implementation of the Group's policy options in line with any related Government decisions. 

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 88.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (92, 112)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

92. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when new and existing applicants in County Meath will be able to avail of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme. [16060/19]

View answer

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

112. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the progress he has made in securing more funding for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; the way in which local authorities are dealing with applications in cases in which they have run out of funding for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16332/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 112 together.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was launched on 1 February 2018 to replace the existing House Purchase and Home Choice Loan schemes, providing a new line of mortgage finance, including fixed rates over 25 to 30 years, to creditworthy first-time buyers who cannot access sufficient mortgage finance from commercial lender.  

The HFA borrowed €200 million to fund the scheme, and it was estimated that the drawdown would be approximately €200 million over three years.  Some criticism at the time was that insufficient loans were being approved and drawn down. However, as Minister I had made a commitment to seek further funding at an early stage, if necessary, given my belief in the scheme's potential.

The scheme has been more successful than anticipated, and by the end of January, €106m had been drawn down, accounting for 53% of the available funding, at a point at which €66m would have been more consistent with the expectation of a three year draw down period.  By the end of March, draw downs have reached €127m.

My officials kept me informed regarding progress on the loan on a regular basis, and have been engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform since October 2018 when higher lending and drawdown volumes were beginning to materialise.

I informed the Dáil on 29 January 2019 of the scheme’s success and of the need for additional funding, and further indicated that my Department was in discussions with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance with regard to the allocation for 2019.   Local authorities could continue to accept applications as the total funding had not been drawn down.  A meeting with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform took place on 5 March 2019.   

Ongoing discussions between the three Departments have included consultation with the Central Bank as recently as last Friday, 5th April.  When these discussions have concluded, I will be in a position to confirm the level of allocation for 2019.   In the meantime, the scheme remains open and all local authorities have been advised to continue to receive and process applications.

Housing Estates

Questions (93)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

93. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the review of the taking-in-charge initiative measure two will be published; the timeframe for the reopening of applications; the level of funding that will be available in measure two; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16368/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department  launched the National Taking-in-Charge Initiative (NTICI) in April 2016 to trial new approaches and working methods in supporting and accelerating overall national and local action on the taking-in-charge process of housing estates, including estates with developer-provided water services infrastructure which can include stand-alone treatment plants. Under the terms of the NTICI, which was underpinned by €10 million in funding, developments subject to valid taking-in-charge applications were eligible for inclusion in the associated call for funding proposals. Ultimately, €7.5 million of the allocated funding was paid to local authorities in respect of 330 developments, containing some 14,930 homes. 

Findings and recommendations from the NTICI process were included in a report on the initiative that was published by my Department in December 2018. The report is available at the following link: 

http://housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/national_taking_in_charge_initiative_report_dec2018.pdf. 

This includes the review of all measures, including measure two relating to Developer Provided Water Services infrastructure.

The publication of the NTICI report is of value to local authorities and other stakeholders in applying the lessons from the pilot authorities, in a more general roll-out of a streamlined approach to taking-in-charge, including through coordination with capital works by Irish Water. In this regard, my Department is liaising with Irish Water in relation to the report.

The National Development Plan, published last year, includes provision of €31 million for the period 2018-2021 for developer-provided infrastructure, commencing with an estimates provision of €6 million in 2019.  The multi-annual programme will be initiated through the invitation of project bids from local authorities followed by their evaluation by an Expert Panel, set up by my Department, to independently evaluate the bid projects and make recommendations to my Department on suitable projects to be approved for funding.  It is expected that approval of projects for this first cycle multi-annual programme will take place later in Q2 2019. 

Student Accommodation

Questions (94)

John Curran

Question:

94. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the findings of a recent report that found 80% of students living in purpose built student bed spaces in Dublin were international students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16372/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Pillar 4 of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, published in July 2016, focuses on the supply of rented accommodation and includes actions to enhance the supply of student accommodation. The National Student Accommodation Strategy was subsequently launched in July 2017 by the Minister for Education and Skills.

Recent analysis from the Higher Education Authority has indicated that, by September 2018, over 5,500 bed-spaces had been delivered since the publication of Rebuilding Ireland. Some 4,800 additional bed-spaces are currently under construction nationally, with over 7,900 further bed-spaces having received planning permission and are yet to commence construction. These figures indicate that the National Student Accommodation Strategy's Private Build Student Accommodation (PBSA) construction targets will be met, and indeed surpassed, and that significant progress is being made in the provision of newly constructed accommodation for this distinct segment of housing demand.  The increase in new student accommodation, as detailed above, is contributing to the increase in the overall stock of residential accommodation nationally and easing pressures in the broader rental sector, which benefits all students seeking rental accommodation, regardless of country of origin.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (95)

Brian Stanley

Question:

95. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he is taking to accelerate the building of social housing provided by local authorities. [16294/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

This Government introduced the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness in 2016 in order to accelerate housing supply, with a particular emphasis on social housing.  The implementation of the Action Plan has seen the capacity of local authorities to deliver social housing increasing over the past three years and very substantial progress has been made.

This is evidenced by the fact that in 2018 local authorities exceeded the national target for social housing delivery by 6%.  A total of 27,103 households had their housing needs met in 2018, with 8,422 new homes brought into the active social housing stock through, build, acquisition, voids and leasing programmes.  This is 550 more homes than targeted for the year.  

Local authority build programmes are an essential component of the 50,000 homes to be delivered over the lifetime of the Plan. In addition to local authorities building on their own land, this also includes partnerships with Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs). Annual targets for build, acquisition, leasing, HAP and RAS are issued to local authorities, and delivery against these targets is published quarterly on the Department's website. The 2019 social housing targets are available at the following link:

 http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/social-housing-targets-2019/.

My Department supports delivery through the development and implementation of policy and legislation geared towards enhanced supply and also through the provision of significant funding for local authorities. In addition, my Department works closely with each individual local authority to support them to deliver their minimum build targets, and where possible to exceed their targets and advance their pipelines for additional delivery in the coming years. The Social Housing Construction Status Reports which I publish on a quarterly basis provide an overview of all new build social housing completed and being advanced across the 31 local authorities. The latest report, which sets out the position at end 2018, is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q4-2018/.

To further support local authorities and AHBs deliver, my Department has streamlined its approval processes and provided a range of delivery supports to local authorities. In order to deliver effectively and efficiently, local authorities and approved housing bodies are responding using a combination of the rapid build framework, turnkey opportunities, as well as through traditional construction methods.

Over the coming three years, social housing output will continue to increase further throughout the country.  I am confident that delivery remains on track to meet our target to provide 50,000 new social housing homes over the 2016 - 2021 period. 

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (96, 115)

Mick Wallace

Question:

96. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether housing policy may be contributing to the increased number in homelessness; if he will consider re-examining the recommendations made by the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16354/19]

View answer

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

115. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which he plans to reverse the rise in the number of families and persons becoming homeless; if further measures will be introduced to assist persons to remain in their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16331/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 115 together.

The Government's Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, Rebuilding Ireland, is designed to increase the delivery of housing across all tenures to help individuals and families meet their housing needs.  The Action Plan focuses, in particular, on increasing the delivery of social housing, with a target of delivering 50,000 social housing homes in the period to 2021, while also making the best use of existing stock and laying the foundations for a more vibrant housing sector.  

Many of the measures set out in Rebuilding Ireland are in line with the recommendations made by the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness in 2016, including actions to provide assistance to those at risk of becoming homeless, through accelerated delivery of social housing and through increased protections for both tenants and landlords within the rental sector. These measures aim to support people remain in their own homes where possible. 

One of the measures that has been introduced is a national mortgage arrears resolution service, known as Abhaile, which is 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.  

The Mortgage to Rent (MTR) scheme, introduced in 2012 and administered by the Housing Agency on behalf of my Department, is targeted at those households in arrears whose mortgage is unsustainable and who are eligible for social housing support. Under the scheme an eligible household with an unsustainable mortgage goes from being a homeowner to becoming a social housing tenant of an Approved Housing Body (AHB).  The borrower voluntarily surrenders their property to their lender who in turn sells the property to an AHB.  The AHB becomes the landlord and the household can remain in the family home as a social housing tenant.  The tenant pays a differential rent to the AHB, based on their income, which is designed to be affordable.  The MTR scheme is an established part of the overall suite of social housing options and an important part of the mortgage arrears resolution process.  

I am also committed to strengthening and improving security of tenure for tenants.  The Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2018 was published in December 2018.  The key focus of the Bill is to deliver on a number of commitments flowing from Rebuilding Ireland and the commitments made in September 2017 to provide the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) with additional powers and resources to deliver enhanced protections to both tenants and landlords.  The key measures and reforms are designed to enhance enforcement powers for the RTB, provide greater security of tenure for tenants and further underpin the operation of the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) arrangements, along with some further targeted priority measures.  Government has also approved further amendments to the Bill, to be introduced at committee stage to extend the duration of Rent Pressure Zone restrictions to the end of 2021, and to restrict the exemption for new properties to the market to the first letting, which is to be at market rent level.  Any subsequent rent review will be restricted to a maximum 4% rent increase.  Also to be introduced at Committee stage are measures to protect tenants where a notice to quit is made under Section 34 of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016. 

My Department is also fully committed to supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  Budget 2019 provided an allocation of €146m, an increase of over 25% on the 2018 allocation, for the provision of homeless services by the local authorities. This funding will ensure that the local authorities can provide the best possible supports to those individuals and families experiencing homelessness, until they can be assisted to secure a more sustainable housing solution to their needs.

Rebuilding Ireland is delivering results in supporting exits from homelessness. In 2018, 5,135 adults exited homelessness into independent tenancies, an increase of over 8% on 2017.   I and my Department will remain resolutely focused on making the further progress required to address the challenges in relation to homelessness.