Housing Policy

Questions (1527)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

1527. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the measures being put in place to introduce legislation to ensure the fluidity of the housing market and the transparency of the planning process while ensuring first time buyers will not continue to be priced out of the market by private equity funds (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18659/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In respect of private residential developments, the issue of restricting property ownership is generally not a matter for the planning authority, as their prime concern is the appropriate design layout and impact on the spatial development of an area.

In relation to developments that specifically apply for permission as long term build to rent developments under the 2018 Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments - Guidelines for Local Authorities, it is a requirement that such apartment developments are owned and operated by a single entity and that individual units are not sold or rented separately for a minimum of 15 years. This requirement relates to the need for a clear management structure and shared communal facilities for this particular form of development.

It is important to recognise the positive effects that institutional investment can have in terms of the supply of housing, not least given the scale of housing development envisaged under the National Planning Framework over the period to 2040, particularly apartment developments in the main urban centres. I understand that, increasingly, institutional investment is being directed towards the funding or forward purchase of new residential construction, which is helpful in increasing the supply of new housing.

In this context, a recent report on institutional investment from the Department of Finance notes that it would not be correct to assume that the properties being bought by institutional investors would otherwise have been bought by first time buyers, with the suggestion being made in the report that much of the stock would likely have been purchased by Buy to Let investors with access to equity, either through their household or business wealth. The benefits of institutional investment are more likely to be indirect; to the extent that it brings about extra supply, it should help affordability across the market as a whole.

In addition, there are already supports in place for first time buyers. These include:

- The Help-to-Buy (HTB) incentive provides for a refund of Income Tax and DIRT paid over the previous four tax years, up to a maximum of 5% of the purchase value, capped at €20,000. Up to the end of March 2019, 11,557 HTB claims have been made, of which 11,043 are approved. The estimated total value of approved HTB claims to date is in the order of €161.5 million.

- The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme allows low-income first time buyers aged between 18 and 70 who cannot secure sufficient mortgage finance from a commercial lender, to access sustainable mortgage finance that is designed to enable them to purchase a new or second-hand property, or undertake a self-build, within a suitable price range at low interest rates. It is subject to certain qualifying criteria and is aimed at improving affordability. Some 1,884 loan applications have been recommended for approval by the Housing Agency’s central credit assessment service and up to the end of March 2019, 720 loans to the value of €127.5m had been drawn down, with an average loan value of €177,073.

The Department of Finance report also points to the benefits of professionalising the private rental sector, realising economies of scale, and a resultant improvement in regulatory and taxation compliance standards.

Historically, the private rented sector in Ireland has been largely made up of small-scale landlords, who will continue to provide the bulk of private rented accommodation. However, a more diverse sector, which includes institutional investors specialised in providing and managing rented residential property on a larger scale, provides additional stability and less exposure to property market risk and volatility. Institutional investors can also help provide the range of tenancy options that households need across their lifecycles. There are approximately 340,000 tenancies registered with the Residential Tenancies Board, of which approximately 310,000 are private rented tenancies. The majority of landlords, just over 70%, own just one property, with a further 16% owning just two properties. Almost 86% of the registered rental housing stock is owned by landlords with less than 10 properties, reflecting the fact that the overall proportion of the rental stock held by institutional investors is relatively low. The fact that institutional investors are entering the rental market, with a clear long-term focus on their investment, provides security for tenants who can be confident that their landlord is committed for the long run.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 includes important changes to the regulatory system which applies to the residential rental sector, such as annual registration of tenancies. Annual registration will provide improved data on the profile of landlords in the market, including institutional landlords, and will be of benefit to my Department in keeping the market under review, ensuring that we facilitate the positive impacts of institutional investment, while addressing any broader issues that may arise.

Energy Conservation

Questions Nos. 1529 and 1530 answered with Question No. 1514.

Questions (1528)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1528. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes upgraded as part of the smart technology energy saving scheme since its launch in 2016; the number of local authorities that have taken part in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18737/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department does not fund the Smart Technology Energy Saving Scheme and accordingly, does not have data on the number of social homes that participated in the scheme. I am advised that the scheme is funded by Electric Ireland.

Questions Nos. 1529 and 1530 answered with Question No. 1514.

Vacant Properties

Questions (1531, 1532)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1531. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the large number of vacant or potential residential units that are above retail units, restaurants, pubs and other commercial properties; if a study has been carried out by his Department or an agency under his aegis on the matter; his views on the need to bring significant numbers of new residential units on stream; if he has discussed the matter with his officials or ministerial colleagues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18740/19]

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Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1532. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has given consideration to a suite of measures to encourage employers to renovate and upgrade residential accommodation for employees to help bring significant numbers of new residential units into use; if he has discussed the matter with his officials or ministerial colleagues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18741/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1531 and 1532 together.

Pillar 5 of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing sets out a range of measures to assist in meeting Ireland’s housing needs by ensuring that Ireland’s existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible. An overarching action within that Pillar was a commitment to develop a National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy. This Strategy, which I published last July, strives to provide a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland and draws together all of the strands of ongoing work in one document with a clear vision for moving forward in the next few years.

The Strategy acts as an overarching roadmap and a focal point for the co-ordination and implementation of initiatives right across Government to ensure that we are utilising our existing housing stock to the fullest extent possible, aiming to return as many recoverable vacant properties back to viable use as possible, increasing the supply of sustainable housing, while also revitalising the vibrancy of local communities.

Specifically with regard to potentially vacant space above retail premises, my Department has recently launched the Bringing Back Homes – Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings, to help property owners, the public, local authorities and the construction industry to develop vacant buildings and space over commercial property. Bringing Back Homes aims to help increase housing supply as well as rejuvenate town centres and city streets. Publication of the manual was a commitment under both Rebuilding Ireland and the National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy.

The manual provides clear and detailed guidance on the current policy and regulatory requirements applying to development of vacant buildings, containing an outline of the process and issues to be considered when developing existing buildings for residential purposes. It applies these procedures to common building types that lie vacant in towns and cities across Ireland. The manual also provides a suite of reuse options for those common building types and elaborates on the complexity associated with each option giving an overview of the technical requirements associated with creating ‘over the shop’ space into residential units.

My Department has also made legislative amendments in support of the reactivation of the optimum number of vacant residential properties. New exempted development Regulations, which came into operation in early 2018, allow for the change of use, and any related works, of certain vacant commercial premises to residential use without the need to obtain planning permission. This measure is aimed at facilitating the increased use of existing resources by enabling the productive re-use of qualifying vacant commercial buildings as homes, while also facilitating urban renewal and the bringing on stream of increased housing supply. Regulations were also introduced late last year to provide clarity on the application of Disability Access Certificates to existing buildings when brought back into reuse.

In order to more accurately determine the levels of long-term vacant but recoverable dwellings that can be re-introduced into the liveable housing stock, my Department, in conjunction with the Housing Agency, the CSO and the local government sector, have developed a survey methodology in relation to locating vacant housing and a pilot field-based survey has commenced across 6 local authorities. Each participating local authority is visually inspecting approximately 1,200 homes each, recording the location of potentially vacant properties, and where possible, recording apparent reasons for vacancy and categorising each vacant home (with a view to prioritising those which are seen as most likely to be re-introduced into the liveable housing stock). To identify long-term vacancy, the pilot requires two visual inspections, six months apart, with those homes occupied between the two inspections disregarded. The pilot survey will be concluded shortly and the results will be analysed, to assess whether there would be significant value in rolling out the survey on a national basis.

My Department and local authorities have already been proactive in dealing with vacant properties and there are a number of schemes available to incentivise reactivating suitable dwellings into the liveable housing stock. Where the initial national rollout of the innovative Repair and Lease Scheme did not yield the results hoped for, improvements have been made to its terms to make it more desirable to those who wish to bring their vacant property back into use. A Buy and Renew Scheme is also in place through which local authorities can acquire and refurbish vacant residential property for social housing use.

Any financial/taxation measures for employers to renovate or upgrade residential accommodation for employees would, in the first instance, be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Ministerial Invitations

Questions (1533)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1533. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he or his officials or political staff were recipients of tickets and-or hospitality from an organisation (details supplied) during the term of office of a person; the details of each occasion tickets and-or hospitality was provided by the organisation during this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18742/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In responding to the Deputy's question, I am taking it as referring to the receipt of tickets or hospitality as a result of a person's role in my Department as some officials in my Department undertake invaluable work on a voluntary basis in soccer clubs within their communities and may receive tickets as a result. In addition, some officials have also purchased match tickets and season tickets in a personal capacity.

Apart from these personal circumstances, none of my officials have received tickets or hospitality from the organisation referred to. Neither I, nor my political staff, have received tickets or hospitality from this organization.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Questions (1534, 1535)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

1534. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the two and a half year backlog for applications for DPG grants for council houses in Limerick city; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that new applications are not being considered due to this backlog; if he has made attempts to remedy this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18769/19]

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Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

1535. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if funding will be provided to Limerick City and County Council to address the shortfall in funding under the DPG grant scheme; the amount he will provide to alleviate the backlog; when this funding will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18770/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1534 and 1535 together.

My Department provides funding on an annual basis under the Disabled Persons Grants (DPGs) scheme to local authorities for adaptations and extensions to the existing social housing stock to meet the needs of local authority tenants. The scheme applies to works that are necessary to address the needs of older people or people with a disability. This may involve minor adaptations such as stair-lifts, grabs -rails, showers, wet-rooms, ramps etc. It also provides funding for more major adaptations such as extensions, for example in the case of overcrowding, the installation of a downstairs bedroom or bathroom.

In line with previous years, all local authorities, including Limerick City Council, were asked to submit details of their work proposals and related funding requirements for this year, in early 2019. The local authority returns have been evaluated and the final funding allocations for 2019 will be issuing shortly.

In the interim and in advance of formal notification of their 2019 funding, to remove any impediment to the undertaking of works, local authorities were advised in early 2019 to proceed with works of up to 65% of their overall 2018 allocation. Notwithstanding this, it is anticipated that the overall available envelope of funds that will be made available in 2019 for the Disabled Persons Grant will be an increase on the 2018 level. This follows on a previous increase to the 2018 budget of approximately €14 million from €12 million in 2017.

Following notification of their funding for 2019, it is a matter for each local authority to prioritise the works required under the scheme in the context of available funding and in line with the terms of the DPG scheme.

My Department will also further review 2019 allocations and funding drawdown later this year with a view to considering the allocation of additional funding should it become available. It will be open to local authorities to seek additional funding, once their allocation is fully expended and the relevant funding recouped from the Department.

Urban Renewal Schemes

Questions (1536)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1536. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funding provided to Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, County Tipperary; the proposed funding that he plans to allocate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18798/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) is a flagship element of Project Ireland 2040, with €2 billion identified in the National Development Plan (NDP) to 2027. Of this, €58m is available in 2019 to provide initial support for the 88 projects approved for URDF support last November, while €550 million is included in the NDP to provide further support for these and other similar projects up to 2022.

Support from the Fund will assist in rejuvenating Ireland’s five cities and other large towns, and enabling a greater proportion of residential and mixed-use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and towns. It will ensure that more parts of our urban areas can become attractive and vibrant places in which people choose to live and work, as well as to invest and to visit.

Bids were invited from public bodies throughout Ireland for funding under the URDF and a total of 189 applications were received by my Department under the first call for proposals. On 26 November 2018, initial URDF support of €100m was provisionally allocated to a total of 88 projects throughout the country.

As part of this first tranche of approvals, Clonmel 2030 Regeneration was awarded initial URDF support of €2,897,000 towards the advancement of a series of projects including the regeneration of Kickham Barracks. While the progression of successful proposals under the Fund is a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant applicant, my Department will continue to engage with Tipperary County Council on the advancement of the overall proposal.

Planning Guidelines

Questions (1537, 1539)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

1537. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the new rural housing guidelines; when they will be published; if they will be open for public consultation when they are published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18802/19]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

1539. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the working group comprising senior representatives from his Department and planning authorities, which was established in May 2017 following the Flemish decree of the European Court of Justice in 2013 to review the new rural housing guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18811/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1537 and 1539 together.

Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department regarding the European Court of Justice ruling in the "Flemish Decree" case, a working group was established to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. The working group comprises senior officials from the Planning Division of my Department and senior officials from the Planning Divisions of local authorities, nominated by the local government sector. The objective is to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives contained in local authority development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Taking account of the engagement with the European Commission on the matter and subject to the completion of the ongoing deliberations by the working group, I will be in a position to finalise and issue to planning authorities revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines that take account of the relevant ECJ judgment.

I have no plans to hold a public consultation on the matter, due to the extensive discussions and engagement with planning authorities and other relevant stakeholders as part of the Working Group’s review of the 2005 Guidelines.

Planning Issues

Question No. 1539 answered with Question No. 1537.

Questions (1538)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

1538. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the circumstances and-or differences in which a Part 8 planning process is decided by a decision of a full council as opposed to a municipal district; the role of county councillors in deciding this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18805/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Part 2 of Schedule 14A to the Local Government Act 2001, as inserted by the Local Government Reform Act 2014, sets out a comprehensive listing of reserved functions that may be performed either by municipal district members or by the plenary council.

The procedures for how such functions are performed are set out under Section 131A of the 2001 Act (as amended), as well as regulations made under that section, namely the Local Government (Performance of Reserved Functions in Respect of Municipal District Members) Regulations 2014. One of the main purposes of these Regulations was to clarify the circumstances in which reserved functions specified in Part 2 of Schedule 14A to the 2001 Act are to be performed by the municipal district members or by the plenary council.

My Department has also prepared guidelines on the performance of reserved functions in respect of municipal district members. These guidelines under Circular LG 10/2014 were circulated to all local authorities on 29 May 2014 and can be viewed on my Department's website at:

www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/reform/circular-lg-102014-local-government-performance-reserved-functions

Question No. 1539 answered with Question No. 1537.

Water Quality

Questions (1540)

Joan Burton

Question:

1540. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to recent reports that lead concentration levels well above the legal limit have been found in drinking water in areas of north Dublin, including Cabra, Drumcondra and Phibsborough; his plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18826/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

With effect from 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels including the delivery of water services capital infrastructure, while the local authorities remain responsible for supervising the group water sector.

Based on current available data, Irish Water estimates that lead pipework exists in approximately 180,000 residential properties in Ireland. While there are no lead water mains in Ireland, service connections within properties can contain traces of lead. The vast majority of lead pipes are contained within properties built up to and including the 1970s.

The Government published a National Strategy to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water in June 2015. In response to the recommendations of this strategy, Irish Water prepared a detailed Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan to identify measures to mitigate the risks to human health posed by the presence of lead in drinking water. Irish Water has said that it will remove all lead in public supply pipes over the next ten years. They have also put in place an interim water treatment programme to protect consumers from lead exposure while this replacement programme is implemented.

Irish Water is responsible for the service pipe up to the property boundary; however, most lead pipes are within the property boundary and are the responsibility of the property owner. My Department has introduced a grant scheme to assist owners of premises connected to a domestic water supply with the costs of replacing lead piping or related fittings located within the internal distribution system of the premises, as defined in the Water Services Act 2007. The grant is administered by local authorities and information on how to apply for this grant is available on my Department’s website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/leaflet_-_grant_to_replace_lead_pipes_and_fittings.pdf

Unfinished Housing Developments

Questions (1541)

Robert Troy

Question:

1541. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if grants are available for completion of a house that never finished construction and was never occupied. [18853/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department does not have a grant scheme in place for the completion of single unoccupied houses.

However, funding has previously been provided to some ‘Unfinished Housing Developments’ (developments consisting of two or more dwellings) in terms of a Public Safety Initiative (PSI) fund and Site Resolution Fund (SRF). In March 2018, my Department published the 2017 Annual Progress Report on Unfinished Housing Developments, and the report is available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/unfinished_housing_developments_-_2017_annual_progress_report_0.pdf

The PSI consisted of a €5 million fund to specifically address health and safety issues such as site access to an unfinished housing development. The Special Resolution Fund (SRF) was introduced in the 2014 Budget and contained a special provision to further assist in addressing the legacy of unfinished housing developments in the form of a targeted €10m fund to encourage the resolution of unfinished developments particularly those developments not likely to be resolved in the normal way through solely developer/owner/funder action because of the presence of specific financial barriers. Works that took place as a result of these funding streams consisted of works to the ‘public’ areas such as roads, lighting, open spaces, drainage, fencing and did not fund the completion of any specific dwellings.

Pyrite Issues

Questions (1542)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1542. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to assist homeowners who have been assessed for level 1 pyrite damage and who are not currently eligible for assistance with pyrite remediation works; if he will review the situation in this regard (details supplied); if consideration can be given to providing grant contribution towards remediation works for level 1 homeowners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18899/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme to be implemented by the Board with support from the Housing Agency.

The pyrite remediation scheme is a scheme of “last resort” and is limited in its application and scope. The full conditions for eligibility under the scheme are set out in the scheme which is available on the Board’s website, www.pyriteboard.ie.

The provisions of the Act apply only to dwellings affected by significant damage attributable to pyritic heave consequent on the presence of reactive pyrite in the subfloor hardcore material and not to damage arising in any other circumstance, e.g. such as pyrite in concrete blocks.

The scheme is applicable to dwellings, which are subject to significant damage attributable to pyritic heave established in accordance with I.S. 398-1:2017 - Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material – Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol. In this regard, it is a condition of eligibility under the scheme that an application to the Board must be accompanied by a Building Condition Assessment with a Damage Condition Rating of 2. Dwellings which do not have a Damage Condition Rating of 2 are not eligible to apply under the scheme. This ensures that, having regard to the available resources, the focus of the scheme is on dwellings which are most severely damaged by pyritic heave. I have no proposals to amend this eligibility criterion.

The Report of the Pyrite Panel (June 2012) recommended a categorisation system as a means of prioritising pyrite remediation works in recognition of the expensive and intrusive nature of pyrite remediation and the unpredictability of pyritic heave. The independent Pyrite Panel was clear in its view that only dwellings with significant damage due to pyritic heave should be remediated and that it would be unreasonable to expect dwellings not exhibiting such damage to be remediated. Dwellings which have no significant damage but have reactive pyrite in the hardcore material should be monitored and only remediated if they display significant damage due to pyritic heave. I have no plans to introduce additional supports to assist households beyond those who fall within the Pyrite Remediation Scheme, in the manner referred to.

The latest figures available indicate that 2,326 applications have been received under the pyrite remediation scheme. Of the 2,326 applications received so far, 1,892 dwellings have been included in the scheme and the applicants notified accordingly.

A further 78 applications have been validated and referred to the Housing Agency for the Assessment and Verification Process, while another 205 applications are at the initial Application and Validation stage. 151 applications under the scheme were not successful.

Of the 1,892 dwellings that have been included in the scheme:

- 128 are at remedial works planning stage,

- 42 are at tender / tender analysis,

- 214 are under remediation, and

- 1,508 are complete.

A sum of €32 million is available to fund the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme this year. This will facilitate the remediation of some 460 additional dwellings and is a clear signal of the continuing importance attached by Government to addressing the issue of significant pyritic damage in private dwellings. This will bring to approximately €126m the total funding provided under the scheme since 2014.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Questions (1543)

Declan Breathnach

Question:

1543. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the 2018 review of income eligibility levels for social housing will be finalised and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18913/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

The 2011 Regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy.

Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, and the universal social charge. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once off in nature.

The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.

Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.

However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is underway. The review will also have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Questions (1544)

Mary Butler

Question:

1544. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether adequate funding is provided to local authorities for disability adaptations to council housing stock; if each local authority determines the amount it allocates; if a percentage is recommended by his Department of its overall budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18928/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department provides funding on an annual basis under the Disabled Persons Grants (DPGs) scheme to local authorities for adaptations and extensions to the existing social housing stock to meet the needs of local authority tenants. The scheme applies to works that are necessary to address the needs of older people or people with a disability. This may involve minor adaptations such as stair-lifts, grabs -rails, showers, wet-rooms, ramps etc. It also provides funding for more major adaptations such as extensions, for example in the case of overcrowding, the installation of a downstairs bedroom or bathroom.

My Department provides 90% funding towards the cost of the eligible works per property with the remaining 10% being provided by the local authorities. The local authority can carry out works up to a maximum level of €75,000 per property without the prior approval of the Department. Applications in excess of this amount can be submitted to the Department and will be considered for funding on a case by case basis.

In line with previous years, local authorities were asked to submit details of their work proposals and related funding requirements for this year, in early 2019. The local authority returns have been evaluated and the final funding allocations for 2019 will be issuing shortly.

In the interim and in advance of formal notification of their 2019 funding, to remove any impediment to the undertaking of works, local authorities were advised in early 2019 to proceed with works of up to 65% of their overall 2018 allocation. Notwithstanding this, it is anticipated that the overall available envelope of funds that will be made available in 2019 for the Disabled Persons Grant will increase on the 2018 level. This follows on a previous increase to the 2018 budget to €14 million up from €12 million in 2017.

Following notification of their funding for 2019, it is a matter for each local authority to prioritise the works required under the scheme in the context of available funding and in line with the terms of the DPG scheme. My Department will also further review 2019 allocations and funding drawdown later this year with a view to considering the allocation of additional funding should it become available. It will be open to local authorities to seek additional funding, once their allocation is fully expended and the relevant funding recouped from the Department.

Approved Housing Bodies

Questions (1545, 1546, 1547)

Clare Daly

Question:

1545. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he is satisfied that the recent recruitment of a chairperson for an organisation (details supplied) was in line with the code of practice for governance of State bodies. [18944/19]

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Clare Daly

Question:

1546. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if all legal advisers providing services to an organisation (details supplied) were appointed following a public procurement process. [18945/19]

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Clare Daly

Question:

1547. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a public procurement process was followed by an organisation (details supplied) in tendering for contracts on a project. [18946/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1545 to 1547, inclusive, together.

Under Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, housing authorities may provide assistance to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) for the provision and management of housing accommodation. As Minister, I am empowered to grant approved status to housing bodies for this purpose. AHBs are non-profit, independent legal entities with independent governance structures.

Each AHB must have a properly functioning governing body, or board of directors/trustees, which is directly responsible for the commissioning of housing projects and services, the ownership, management and maintenance of dwellings and compliance with all statutory regulations. An AHB seeking to obtain, and to retain, approved status in its memorandum or articles of association must:

- Have as primary objectives the relief of housing needs, or poverty or hardship or the welfare of travellers, and the provision and management of housing;

- Have provisions prohibiting the distribution of any surplus, profit, bonus or dividend to members and requiring the assets of the body be applied solely towards its objectives; and

- Have a winding-up clause which states that, in the event of winding up or dissolution of the company, there remains any property whatsoever, it shall be given or transferred to some other institution having objectives similar to the objectives of the company.

My Department is currently working on new legislation which will establish a Statutory Regulator to oversee, more effectively, the governance, financial management and performance of voluntary and co-operative housing bodies that provide housing in accordance with the Housing Acts.

In the interim, the Government established an Interim Regulation Committee for the AHB sector under the auspices of the Housing Agency, which, supported by a Regulation Office based within the Agency, oversees implementation of a voluntary regulation code (VRC) for AHBs. Since the Code was put in place, any AHB applying for housing funding from my Department and local authorities must furnish proof of compliance with the Voluntary Code. Only those AHBs that have undergone a satisfactory assessment as part of the annual assessment process by the Regulation Office are considered eligible for funding from local authorities for the provision of social housing.

Information in relation to AHB staff is not held in my Department; the appointment of personnel to AHBs is a matter for their individual Boards. I have no role in relation to such appointments nor does my Department. Currently, there are 547 bodies with approved status and the register of AHBs can be found on my Department's website at:

www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/voluntary-and-cooperative-housing/register-housing-bodies-approved-status.

My Department is not involved in the procurement process or the contractual agreements between an AHB and a developer or contractor. However, all publicly-funded construction projects, including social housing, are implemented under the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Capital Works Management Framework.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, enquiries were made relating to the project referred to and it has been confirmed the procurement for housing development was published on the eTenders procurement website on 02/04/2015 under Ref. RFT 94189.

Register of Electors Administration

Questions (1548)

John McGuinness

Question:

1548. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the Acts under which the authority or remit is given to a local authority or remit is given to local authority rate collectors to prepare or update the register of electors in each county without providing an interpretation of the law or regulations; if ministerial orders were used in the past to change the powers and-or duties of local rate collectors relative to the Acts; if the same system of collecting rates and updating the register of electors is used in each local authority area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18952/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Electoral Act 1992 and the Second Schedule to that Act provides that the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible, and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register. The focus of my Department's work in relation to the Register is to support and assist registration authorities in ensuring that an appropriate legislative framework is in place.

Following the repeal of the Electoral Act 1923, rate collectors no longer have a statutory function in relation to the preparation of the register of electors. However, as employees of a registration authority they are not precluded from providing, and may be requested to provide, assistance or information with regard to the preparation of the register of electors.

Section 7 of the Local Government (Collection of Rates) Act 1924 allowed, by Ministerial order, the transfer of “powers and duties of a collector of poor-rate in relation to the valuation of rateable property, the registration of electors, the preparation of jurors lists, or any other matter unconnected with the collection of rates” to any person or persons appointed for the purpose by the local authority or to an Garda Síochana. There is one instance of an order made under Section 7 - the County Kerry (Jurors Lists and Register of Electors) Order, 1961.

Commercial Rates Valuation Process

Questions (1549)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1549. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will investigate the anomaly whereby a convenience store valuation is radically less than the convenience store element of a convenience store with a forecourt filling station; if he will instruct the Valuation Office to investigate the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18984/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015 provide for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property for rating purposes. The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Acts and the making of valuations for rating is his sole responsibility. I, as Minister, have no function in decisions in this regard.

There is a distinct separation of function between the valuation of rateable property and the setting and collection of commercial rates. The amount of rates payable in any calendar year is a product of the valuation set by the Commissioner of Valuation, multiplied by the Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) decided annually by the elected members of each local authority.

Having a modern valuation base is very important for the levying of commercial rates on a fair and equitable basis across all economic sectors. The Valuation Acts provide for the revaluation of all rateable property within a rating authority area so as to reflect changes in value due to economic factors such as business turnover, differential movements in property values or other external factors and changes in the local business environment.

A valuation for commercial rates purposes is arrived at by estimating the Net Annual Value (NAV) of the property in question, at a specified valuation date. The term “net annual value” has a legal definition and is set out in section 48 of the Valuation Act 2001 as “the rent for which, one year with another, the property might, in its actual state, be reasonably expected to let from year to year, on the assumption that the probable average annual cost of repairs, insurance and other expenses (if any) that would be necessary to maintain the property in that state, and all rates and other taxes payable in respect of the property, are borne by the tenant”. This definition of Net Annual Value is applied to all rateable properties and classes of business on a nationwide basis including service stations with and without convenience stores or car washing facilities.

Estimating the NAV of a rateable property is an evidence-based exercise. I am informed that, during a revaluation, the Valuation Office analyses relevant market rental transactions for all rateable properties, in accordance with the legislation, best practice internationally as set out in published Practice Guidance Notes, well-established valuation principles and case law arising from the independent Valuation Tribunal and the higher Courts. The conclusions drawn from that analysis are applied to similarly circumstanced property using the “comparative” method of valuation, which employs direct comparison with other similar properties.

All valuations determined for rating purposes under Part 5 of the Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015 must reflect open market rental values at the valuation date specified in the relevant Valuation Order made by the Commissioner of Valuation, and must also endeavour to be correct, equitable and uniform. These are fundamental principles of any modern system of rateable valuation. I am informed by the Commissioner of Valuation that no anomaly exists in the approach to the valuation for rating purposes of the retail elements of service stations. The market data and financial information analysed by the Valuation Office since the first revaluation was conducted in 2005 suggests that the valuation approach adopted in relation to service stations is reflective of the open market and compatible with the statutory requirements of Part 5 of the Valuation Acts. I understand that this has also been affirmed as the appropriate approach in a number of recent Valuation Tribunal decisions.

There are a number of avenues of redress for an occupier of rateable property who is dissatisfied with a determination of valuation made under the provisions of the Valuation Acts, 2001-2015. Firstly, before a determination is made, there is a right to make representations to the Valuation Office in relation to a proposed valuation. Later in the process, if the occupier is still dissatisfied with the determination, there is a right of appeal to the Valuation Tribunal which is an independent body set up for the purpose of hearing appeals against determinations of the Valuation Office. There is also a right of appeal to the Higher Courts on a point of law. Appeals are made on an individual case basis. However, the decision in one case can have relevance in other similar cases.

Private Rented Accommodation

Questions (1550)

Clare Daly

Question:

1550. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the provision made for older persons who are renting properties and whose tenancies are terminated following the transfer of the property to a vulture fund; and his plans to introduce safeguards for such persons such that they do not find themselves homeless in their retirement. [19096/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing aims to ensure that older people have a range of housing choices available to them and there is an overall commitment to examine the potential of targeted schemes to meet differing housing needs.

A number of measures have been introduced in recent years with the objective of improving security of tenure for tenants. Security of tenure provisions under the Residential Tenancies Acts apply once a tenant has been in occupation of a dwelling for a continuous period of 6 months, with no valid notice of termination having been served during that time. Section 34 provides that a landlord must state a reason for the termination in any notice served, in accordance with the grounds for terminations set out in the table to that section.

The so-called ‘Tyrrelstown amendment', included in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, provides a proportionate and justifiable limit to the legal right of landlords to use the 'intention to sell' ground to terminate a tenancy. Where a landlord proposes to sell 10 or more units within a single development at the same time, that sale is subject to the existing tenants remaining in situ, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2018 published last December aims to deliver on a number of commitments flowing from Rebuilding Ireland and commitments I made to provide the RTB with additional powers and resources to deliver enhanced protections to both tenants and landlords.

While extending the scope of the "Tyrrelstown amendment" is legally problematical and is therefore not provided for in the Bill, the Government has approved a range of amendments, including provisions to strengthen further the arrangements in relation to security of tenure for tenants and enforcement mechanisms under the Acts. These amendments were approved at Dáil Committee Stage of the Bill and I will be working to ensure that the Bill completes its passage through both Houses as quickly as possible, supporting the stability of the private rental sector in the interests of both tenants and landlords.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (1551)

Peter Burke

Question:

1551. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if discretion can be shown in the application of the terms and conditions of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan and county council mortgages for families who may have got homes repossessed in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19109/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Applicants for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan must be of good credit standing and have a satisfactory credit record. The Housing Agency provides a central credit assessment service to local authorities and credit checks are undertaken as part of the credit assessment process. The final decision on loan approval is a matter for the relevant local authority and its credit committee on a case-by-case basis.

Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme and have regard to the recommendation of the Housing Agency, in order to ensure prudence and consistency in approaches in the best interests of both borrowers and the lending local authorities.

As a requirement of the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan applicants must be first time buyers (with the exception in certain instances where the applicant is separated or divorced). This is to ensure the effective targeting of limited resources, and I have no plans to amend this requirement.