Rental Sector Strategy

Question No. 1553 answered with Question No. 1516.

Question No. 1554 answered with Question No. 1552.

Questions (1552, 1554, 1590)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1552. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if additional resources will be provided to local authorities in order to allow them to effectively enforce short-term letting legislation coming into force on 1 June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19146/19]

View answer

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

1554. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 660 of 19 February 2019, the status of proposed regulations with particular reference to rural areas with no rental demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19178/19]

View answer

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

1590. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if under new regulations it is possible to let accommodation in Galway city, which is student accommodation during term time, as accommodation on a website (details supplied) during the summer months and which is not the primary residence; the permissions required from the local authority to so do; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19854/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1552, 1554 and 1590 together.

Under Action 18 of the Strategy for the Rental Sector published in December 2016, a Working Group was established, involving representatives of all major public stakeholders with a policy interest in short-term lettings, to consider measures aimed at facilitating the short-term letting of accommodation within permanent residences (homesharing), protecting the existing stock of residential stock in areas of high demand, providing clarity in relation to the appropriate regulatory approach - from a planning perspective - for short term tourism related lettings while also recognizing the important role of short-term lettings in the provision of tourist accommodation.

Having considered the Working Group's report as well as the recommendations in the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on short-term lettings, I announced plans to regulate short term lettings. As the proposals are primarily aimed at addressing the impact on the private rental market by the use of residential homes for short term tourism type letting, in areas of high housing demand, it is intended that the new provisions will only apply in areas designated as rent pressure zones under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

Under the proposed new arrangements, homesharing will continue to be permissible for a person’s primary residence on an unrestricted basis. In addition, an annual cap of 90 days will apply for the renting out on a short-term basis of a person's entire home where it is their primary residence, with such short-term lets being restricted to periods of 14 days or less at a time. Where the 90 day threshold is exceeded, change of use planning permission will be required.

Furthermore, where a person owns a property that is not their principal private residence and intends to let it for short-term letting purposes, they will also be required to apply for a change of use planning permission unless the property already has a specific planning permission to be used for tourism or short-term letting purposes. It will be up to each local planning authority to consider such applications, having regard to guidance that will issue from my Department, taking account of housing demand pressures in the area concerned and other relevant factors such as cumulative impacts.

The new arrangements are being introduced through the planning code and each planning authority’s enforcement unit will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing these new requirements. Additional funding will be provided to support local authority enforcement of the new short-term letting arrangements and my Department will be engaging with the relevant local authorities in this regard.

It is intended that the proposed planning reforms will come into effect on 1 July 2019 and the primary legislative provisions required to underpin the proposals are currently progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas through the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018. In addition, the necessary supporting planning regulations to further underpin the proposals are currently being finalised and details will be published in due course.

It is important to note that these proposed changes will not affect the operation of holiday homes as typically understood, or longer-term flexible type lettings including lettings to those coming to Ireland under temporary employment contracts or those moving employment location and who require temporary accommodation while seeking long-term accommodation etc. Similarly, they will not affect the operation of purpose built student accommodation, for which permissions are typically granted with planning conditions that generally facilitates the use of student accommodation complexes as alternative summer or holiday accommodation but are reserved as student housing during the academic year. This is on foot of advice provided my Department to planning authorities, by way of Circular Letter PL8/2016 issued in July 2016, regarding matters to consider in relation to proposals for student accommodation. It was made clear that housing for students is a specific and important segment of the overall housing sector with distinct characteristics and requirements. Therefore, safeguards are required to ensure that student accommodation is not used as permanent residential accommodation or other uses and is restricted to students during the academic year. However, planning authorities were reminded of the importance of a steady rental income for such student accommodation developments throughout the year in order to ensure the deliverability of development projects from a funding point of view and to recognise that student accommodation complexes can play an important role in providing affordable accommodation for tourists and visitors in major urban areas during peak summer demand periods.

Question No. 1553 answered with Question No. 1516.
Question No. 1554 answered with Question No. 1552.

Water Services Infrastructure

Questions (1555, 1572)

Noel Grealish

Question:

1555. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the next steps in the process and the timeframe for the development of a water treatment facility at Lough Talt, County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19272/19]

View answer

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

1572. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding the application for planning under the IROPI process for the new Lough Talt water treatment plant in County Sligo; when the matter will be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19604/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1555 and 1572 together.

On 12 March 2019, I received a statement of case from Sligo County Council that Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI) exist in respect of a planning application for the upgrade to the existing water treatment plant at Lough Talt, County Sligo. The statement of case submitted by Sligo County Council pursuant to Section 177AA of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, relates to a planning application received by the Council on 28 May 2018 (Sligo County Council planning application details ref: 18210).

In accordance with Section 177AB of the 2000 Act, I requested the views of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in respect of this matter on 14 March 2019 . On 18 April 2019 I received an opinion from the Minister confirming that the compensatory measures proposed in the statement of case submitted by Sligo County Council are sufficient to ensure the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network is protected. On the basis of details provided therein, on 30 April 2019 I notified Sligo County Council of that opinion, in accordance with section 177AB(3) of the 2000 Act. Under section 177AB(6) of the 2000 Act, Sligo County Council must make this notice available for inspection by members of the public during office hours at the office of the authority, and I note that the Council have also published the notice, as well as the correspondence referred to above, on their website, at the following link: www.sligococo.ie/PublicNotices/IrishWaterPlanningapplication-Update/.

I understand that on 2 May 2019, Sligo County Council made the decision to grant permission, with conditions, in respect of the aforementioned planning application (ref: 18210). Regarding the timeframe for development, this will be a matter for Irish Water, having regard also to whether the Council's decision of 2 May 2019 is the subject of any appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Furthermore, in accordance with section 177AB(5) of the 2000 Act, I will presently inform the European Commission of the notice to Sligo County Council as issued on 30 April 2019, including the compensatory measures proposed.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (1556)

Brian Stanley

Question:

1556. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to consider changing the criteria in condition 1 of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme (details supplied). [19311/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan Scheme enables credit-worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range, where they cannot obtain sufficient mortgage finance from a commercial lender.

The Regulations under which the Scheme is established provide that the loan is available to first-time buyers only. The Regulations define a first-time buyer as having the same meaning as a first-time buyer in Section 92B of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999, which defines a first- time buyer as a person who has not individually or jointly with another person previously purchased a house or an apartment.

However, applicants who are separated or divorced may be treated as first-time buyers, in accordance with the regulations, if they meet certain conditions as set out in Section 92B of the 1999 Act, including that:

- they are legally separated or divorced under a court order or by a separation agreement or have been granted an annulment by a court;

- the property being purchased is the first property since leaving the family home;

- they have left the family home and retain no interest in it;

- they have made no financial gain from the transfer of the ownership of the family home; and

- the other party has remained in the family home.

Under the legislation, applicants wishing to avail of this exception must provide evidence that they are divorced, legally separated or have an annulment granted by the High Court.

The loans are provided by the local authorities and the applications are assessed by the Housing Agency on their behalf. Each local authority must have in place a credit committee which makes the final decision on applications for loans, in accordance with the regulations and having regard to the recommendations made by the Housing Agency.

Planning Guidelines

Questions (1557)

Alan Kelly

Question:

1557. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the planning guidelines for solar development at large scale ground mount level will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19349/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

As is the case with the large majority of development types, there are currently no specific planning guidelines in place in respect of solar farms. Proposals for individual solar farm developments are subject to the statutory requirements of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, in the same manner as other proposed developments, with planning applications made to the relevant local planning authority and with a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Within the wider national and local planning context, planning authorities must make their decisions, based on the specific merits or otherwise of individual planning applications.

While I am satisfied that the planning code is sufficiently robust to facilitate the assessment of individual planning applications for solar farm developments, the matter is being kept under review, in consultation with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, who leads on renewable energy policy. Our two Departments are presently exploring the potential for enhancing national planning guidance on solar energy, taking account of solar energy projects being assessed by planning authorities and the scope for future development of the sector in the context of the ongoing development of renewable energy policy.

On foot of this on-going engagement between the two Departments, where the need for specific planning guidance for solar farms is identified, my Department will develop such guidance as appropriate.

Local Authority Charges Application

Questions (1558)

Alan Kelly

Question:

1558. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on standardisation of development charges by local authorities for grant of planning permission for solar farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19350/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Local authorities levy development contributions in respect of public infrastructure and facilities provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority that benefit development in the area, based on a development contribution scheme adopted by that authority. The adoption of development contribution schemes is a reserved function of elected members and it is a matter for the elected members to decide and approve the level of contribution, and the types of development to which development contributions should apply, including any exemptions from charging in specific circumstances if that is deemed appropriate, in each local authority.

My role as Minister is to provide the necessary statutory and policy framework within which individual development contribution schemes are adopted by each local authority. This framework must strike the right balance between ensuring a transparent and broadly consistent levying of development contributions across the country, while also affording each local authority sufficient flexibility and discretion in the application of development contributions within their own respective functional areas.

My Department issued statutory guidelines to planning authorities in January 2013 under section 28 of the 2000 Act on the implementation of development contribution schemes and to which planning authorities are required to have regard in the performance of their planning functions. The 2013 guidelines updated and supplemented non-statutory guidance previously issued to local authorities by my Department by way of Planning Circulars PD 4/2003 and PD 5/2007.

The 2013 Guidelines recommended that all local authorities incorporate options for reduced charges in their schemes in respect of renewable energy development to promote uptake of renewable energy technologies. For example, authorities are encouraged to consider reduced or no charges in respect of renewable energy development which is not supplying electricity to the national grid. Authorities are also advised to ensure that their schemes distinguish proportionately between large and small-scale i.e. not to apply the same flat rate charge to particular forms of development irrespective of scale. This recommendation is reflected in most development contribution schemes, with some variation in approach applied by local authorities in this connection having regard to local circumstances.

The 2013 Guidelines also recommended a standard methodology for all planning authorities to follow to ensure that the methodology used in the preparation of a development contribution scheme is clear and broadly consistent. It should be noted that local authorities are best placed to determine their development contribution schemes having regard to their own particular local needs. While it is expected that local authorities ensure that developers make an appropriate contribution towards the costs of public infrastructure and facilities in their functional areas, local authorities are advised to be mindful of the policies adopted by other authorities in their immediate area so as to avoid a major divergence in the level of contributions charged, and to take care to avoid setting contributions that are excessively high.

Commercial Rates

Questions (1559)

Alan Kelly

Question:

1559. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the Valuation Office has a policy on standardisation of rates applicable to solar farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19351/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I am informed by the Commissioner of Valuation that solar farms would appear to come within the ambit of Schedule 3 of the Valuation Act 2001, as amended by the Valuation (Amendment) Act 2015, and would, therefore, appear to constitute “relevant property” for rating purposes. As such, they would be liable for rates under the relevant legislation.

I am also informed that the Valuation Office has not yet received any applications for valuation of solar farms for rating purposes. Following the construction and commissioning of any such facilities in due course, it would be a matter for the relevant local authority to request the Valuation Office to carry out a valuation of such properties under the provisions of Part 6 of the Valuation Acts.

Housing Data

Question No. 1561 answered with Question No. 1513.

Questions (1560)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1560. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the breakdown of Part V acquisitions for 2017 and 2018, by local authority, of the number of homes acquired as new homes, existing second-hand homes previously occupied or not and ghost estates. [19384/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Details in relation to 2017 and 2018 Part V delivery across all local authorities can be found on my Department's website at the following links:

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/attachments/social_housing_output_overview_2017.xlsx

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/attachments/socialhousing_by_area_2018_final.xlsx

Agreement on Part V arrangements is a matter for local authorities. The current options available to local authorities for Part V delivery are:

- the transfer of ownership of land, subject to the planning permission application, to a local authority for the provision of social housing remains the default option as is currently the case. The land option must be acceptable to the local authority, as well as the developer;

- the building and transfer of ownership to the local authority, or persons nominated, of completed social housing units on the site subject to the planning permission;

- the transfer of ownership to the local authority, or persons nominated, of completed social housing units on other land;

- the Part V obligation can now be fulfilled by developers through long term leasing of properties; and

- a combination of the options above.

Part V homes are newly built homes, rather than second hand homes. While my Department collects and publishes statistical information on Part V delivery for social housing, the data does not include details of whether the homes were in developments formerly considered to be Unfinished Housing Developments.

Question No. 1561 answered with Question No. 1513.

Fire Service Staff

Questions (1562)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

1562. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of front-line staff in Dublin Fire Brigade in each of the years 2014 to 2018; the number of new recruits in each of the years; the cost of overtime for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19463/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Fire services are provided by local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible. Dublin Fire Brigade covers the four Dublin local authority areas and is managed on a shared basis by Dublin City Council.

My Department oversees workforce planning for the local government sector, including the monitoring of local government sector employment levels and payroll costs and processing staff sanction requests. To this end, my Department gathers quarterly data on staff numbers, pay and superannuation in the local authorities but this does not provide details of the specific role and function of each individual staff member or overtime costs. This detailed information should be held by the local authority concerned.

Details in relation to the number of firefighters for the period 2014-2018 are set out in the following table.

Dublin City Council

Fulltime Firefighters

Retained Fire-fighters

2014

867

23

2015

842

21

2016

898

28

2017

920

26

2018

906

30

In the period from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2018, my Department received 143 staff sanction requests for Dublin Fire Services-related posts, all of which have been approved.

Election Management System

Questions (1563, 1564, 1565, 1566)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1563. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of blind or visually impaired templates made available nationwide for both the presidential election and recent referendums; if a record was supplied to his Department by all returning officers of the number of voters requesting and using the templates on each voting occasion; and the amount spent on each of the templates. [19471/19]

View answer

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1564. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if templates will be used to assist blind or vision impaired voters at the upcoming local and European elections; and his plans to make available supports by telephone or website to assist blind or vision impaired voters to recall the position of each candidate on the ballot papers. [19472/19]

View answer

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1565. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to research by focus groups carried out by the National Disability Authority on the use of templates; and the outcome of the study (details supplied). [19473/19]

View answer

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1566. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the template solution will be used to provide blind or vision impaired persons with assistance for secrecy when voting; the amount being spent on the solution for elections in 2019; the guidance that will be given to returning officers on same; if an information campaign on same (details supplied) will be considered; and if local telephone or web based supports will be made available to assist the vision impaired or blind voter to recall the candidates and their positions on the ballot papers in each electoral area. [19474/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1563 to 1566, inclusive, together.

I am aware of the National Disability Authority Report Voting Trials for Voters with Sight Loss, published in January 2015. The Authority noted that the results of the trials did not produce a clear recommendation for a secure voting method that is likely to meet the needs of most voters with sight loss. However, the Authority recommended that ballot paper templates be trialed at a future referendum where voters have a simple ‘yes/no’ choice, and that the results be monitored and evaluated.

Regulations were subsequently made in 2016 requiring ballot paper templates to be available at future referendums in order to facilitate voters who are blind or vision impaired. Since the making of the regulations, there have been two referendums and the feedback from the blind and vision impaired community on the efficacy of the template has been generally positive. In order to ensure the availability of the referendum templates at all polling stations over the two referendums, 12,000 templates were provided at a cost of €67,518.

Encouraged by the positive feedback on the referendum ballot paper template, further Regulations were made in 2018 requiring a ballot paper template to be available at future Presidential Elections, including the October 2018 election. A total of 8,000 Presidential ballot paper templates were provided at a cost of €56,365.

Estimates, based on returns received from returning officers, indicate that some 1,000 templates were used at the May 2018 referendum and some 750 templates at the October 2018 polls.

In December 2018, I established a Working Group on Voting Accessibility chaired by my Department with representation from the National Disability Authority, the Disability Federation of Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association, the National Council for the Blind, the Blind Legal Alliance and Pakflatt – the company that tendered successfully for the provision of ballot paper templates in Ireland. I asked the Group to develop ballot paper templates that could be used at the 2019 European Parliament and Local Elections. I am pleased to say that the Working Group was successful in this endeavour, resulting in ballot paper templates now being available for the first time at the European Parliament and Local Elections scheduled for 24 May 2019. The template will also service requirements at any future Dáil elections and I am currently preparing regulations that will require the availability of ballot paper templates at all future elections.

The existing stock of referendum templates is being used in relation to the referendum and plebiscites being held on 24 May 2019. Therefore, there are no additional costs in 2019 in respect of templates used for these polls. The cost of providing templates in 2019 for the European Parliament, Local Elections and any future elections has yet to be finalised.

The ballot paper template at the forthcoming elections consists of raised numbering and corresponding braille to assist the voter in identifying the openings on the template that correspond to the voter preference boxes for the candidates on the ballot paper to which it will be attached. It will operate in conjunction with a ‘freephone - 1800’ number. Based on the interaction between the tactile features of the template and the information provided on the ‘freephone’ number, the voter can mark the ballot paper with their voting preferences (1, 2, 3 etc.). The candidate information on the ‘freephone’ number can be accessed as often as required in advance of polling day and again on polling day at the polling station with a mobile phone, if required.

Another option open to voters with the relevant screen reading technology (eg on their phones, tablets or laptops) is to familiarise themselves with the candidates standing in their European Parliament constituency or local electoral area by accessing the relevant ‘Notice of Poll’ or ‘candidate details’ section on the relevant website.

Detailed instructions on the use of the template have been provided to Returning Officers and Presiding Officers. These instructions include the need to provide in each polling station an appropriate table and chair, located in such a position as to ensure secrecy in voting, at which electors with vision impairment and other electors such as wheelchair users and persons with a physical disability or the elderly can mark their ballot papers, if they find it more convenient.

The availability of templates for use by voters who are blind or vision impaired at the forthcoming European Parliament and Local Elections and details of how they will operate are set out on my Department’s website. Appropriate reference is also made to their availability, with links to the Department’s website, on the websites of the National Disability Authority, the Disability Federation of Ireland and the National Council for the Blind (NCBI). The NCBI provide a facility whereby the templates can be tried out and a demonstration provided in each of their offices nationwide.

My Department’s Memorandum for the Guidance of Local Authority Returning Officers in relation to the conduct of the Local Elections provides that information regarding the ‘freephone’ facility and the candidates standing for election in each Local Electoral Area should be displayed on the local authority’s website. Similarly, in the case of the European Parliament Elections, the relevant returning officers have been advised to place similar information on any website they maintain in their capacity as returning officers.

Residential Tenancies Board

Questions (1567)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

1567. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if in all HAP and RAS tenancies and leasing arrangements between local authorities and landlords the properties are registered with the RTB; if this is a requirement for the landlord to receive payments; the number of tenancies that are not compliant by local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19485/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment Scheme (HAP), Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and leasing schemes are key vehicles in meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme outlined under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. A key principle of HAP is that eligible households source their own accommodation in the private rented sector, which best suits their needs in their area of choice.

The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016 set out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants in both the private rental sector and the Approved Housing Bodies (AHB) sector. The Acts provide that landlords in the sector must apply to register a tenancy of a dwelling with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) within one month of the commencement of the tenancy. Property owners who enter a long-term lease with a local authority, do not have to register their tenancy with the RTB.

The RTB was established as an independent statutory body under the Acts to operate a national tenancy registration system and to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants.

The RTB actively pursues landlords for non-registration. Failure of a landlord to register a tenancy with the RTB can result in criminal conviction. If convicted, a landlord faces fines of up to €4,000 and/or six months' imprisonment, along with a daily fine of €250 for a continuing offence. In addition, if the tenancy is not registered, the landlord cannot avail of the dispute resolution services of the RTB should an issue arise with the tenancy.

To pursue non-compliant landlords, the RTB receives information on residential rented dwellings from several sources including the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners and local authorities. In addition, the RTB receive a file on a quarterly basis from the HAP Shared Services Centre containing details of tenancies approved for rental support in the previous quarter. These files are uploaded to the RTB Tenancy Management System where the details are matched against tenancies on the RTB register. Where non-compliance is identified, notice and warning letters are sent to the landlord. If the landlord still fails to register, appropriate enforcement action is taken.

Legislative Measures

Questions (1568)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

1568. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he will progress the maritime area and foreshore (amendment) Bill; the reason for the delays in its progression to date; the timeline in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19564/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In May 2017, a draft of the MAFA Bill was circulated to all Government Departments and the Attorney General. A number of workshops and bilateral meetings with relevant policy Departments and the Office of the Attorney General continued throughout 2017 and into 2018. A high level Marine Legislation Steering Group (MLSG) was established in 2018 to facilitate the further development of this legislation given its cross-Departmental implications.

Legal advice from the Attorney General on the draft MAFA Bill was received in November 2018, raising a number of complex matters, which were considered by the MLSG. Revised proposals for a more comprehensive, holistic and robust approach to State consenting and development management in the Maritime Area are currently being developed jointly with my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It is intended to revert to Government with the revised proposals in the near term.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (1569)

Catherine Martin

Question:

1569. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason a person with a stamp 4 visa is excluded from accessing the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19576/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Local authorities may issue Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans (RIHL) in accordance with the Housing (Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan) Regulations 2018 and the credit policy issued under the Regulations. The Housing Agency provides a central assessment service for the authorities and makes recommendations to them as to whether or not to approve loan applications. The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its Credit Committee to make on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the credit policy and have regard to the recommendations of the Housing Agency, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants. Under the credit policy, applicants must either be citizens of an EU or EEA country, or have a legal right to remain in the State on a long-term basis.

Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee may appeal that decision to the local authority. Details of the appeals process can be obtained from the relevant local authority.

Rent Pressure Zones

Question No. 1572 answered with Question No. 1555.

Question No. 1573 answered with Question No. 1516.

Questions (1570, 1571)

Catherine Martin

Question:

1570. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to allow former tenants to lodge a complaint with the RTB if the cost of the rent of their former home has increased by more than 4% between their tenancy and the next tenancy in a rent pressure zone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19595/19]

View answer

Catherine Martin

Question:

1571. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to create a database of rents in order that individual rental units can be tracked and forced to adhere to the rent pressure zone regulations when there is a change of tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19596/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1570 and 1571 together.

Tenants who are concerned that their rent has not been set or reviewed in accordance with RPZ legislation are encouraged to contact the RTB and to raise a dispute for resolution, where appropriate. Where an unlawful rent increase has given rise to a tenancy termination, the RTB has the power to award damages for abuse of tenancy termination provisions including a direction to permit the tenant to resume possession of the dwelling.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2018 contains amendments to enhance the rental data to be provided to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), including provision for the annual registration of tenancies and the enforcement of the requirement to update the RTB with rent alterations. The aim is to regularly gather more accurate and detailed tenancy and rental data to improve the information available to assist with policy formulation in the residential rental sector and with the enforcement of tenancy law by the RTB. The Bill, as amended in the Select Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on 11 April 2019, is available at the following link:

https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/bill/2018/140/eng/ver_a/b140a18d.pdf

The Bill is expected to be enacted during the current Oireachtas session to provide powers to the RTB to investigate and sanction landlords who engage in improper conduct, including non-compliance with the rent increase restriction in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs). The Bill will allow the RTB to initiate an investigation into such improper conduct by a landlord without the need for a complaint to be made. The rental data generally gathered by the RTB through its registration and rental update processes will assist in identifying cases for investigation and sanctioning under the proposed new Part 7A (Complaints, Investigations and Sanctions), which is to be inserted into the Residential Tenancies Acts by the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018. Any member of the public can also make a complaint to the RTB regarding such alleged improper conduct by a landlord that has occurred, or is occurring, under the new Part 7A.

The Bill will also make it a criminal offence for landlords to implement rent increases that contravene the law. It is expected that these rental reforms will act as a significant deterrent to unlawful rent setting in RPZs including any unlawful rent increases that might occur in the context of a change of tenants.

Question No. 1572 answered with Question No. 1555.
Question No. 1573 answered with Question No. 1516.

Building Regulations

Questions (1574)

Brendan Smith

Question:

1574. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a scheme (details supplied) will be approved; his plans to ensure that there are no further delays in having such a properly funded scheme put in place due to the severe hardship caused to householders at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19659/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks was established by my Department in 2016, to investigate problems that have emerged in the concrete blockwork of certain dwellings in counties Donegal and Mayo.

In 2017, the report of the Expert Panel was published and included eight recommendations, which my Department is actively progressing with the relevant stakeholders, prioritising the implementation of Recommendations 1 and 2.

With regard to Recommendation 1, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) established a Technical Committee to scope and fast track the development of a standardised protocol. The standardised protocol will inform the course of action in relation to remedial works for all affected householders. The standardised protocol was published by the NSAI on 13 November 2018 and ‘I.S. 465:2018 - Assessment, testing and categorisation of damaged buildings incorporating concrete blocks containing certain deleterious materials’, is available at www.nsai.ie.

The standard can be used to assess and categorise the damage in properties where the concrete blocks are suspected to contain the minerals mica or pyrite. Previously, there was no common way for engineers or homeowners to assess the damage caused by defective concrete blocks, in order to decide what, if any, remedial work could be carried out. The standard:

1. establishes a protocol for assessing and determining whether a building has been damaged by concrete blocks containing certain excessive amounts of deleterious materials (free or unbound muscovite mica, or aggregate with potentially deleterious quantities of pyrite);

2. describes methods for establishing the extent of the problem;

3. describes the scope of any testing required; and

4. categorises buildings, in accordance with the standard, providing competent persons with guidance on the appropriate measures to be taken.

With regard to Recommendation 2, my Department has been in contact with Engineers Ireland in relation to the establishment of a register of competent engineers for homeowners/affected parties’ reference. Engineers Ireland has provided assurance that they are in the process of finalising measures to establish such a register. Engineers Ireland have issued a call for suitably qualified engineers to participate on the register. They have also arranged for a number of training seminars to be provided in May for those engineers with the aim of ensuring consistency throughout the industry in assessing and categorising the damage.

In 2017, I visited Donegal and Mayo and met with key stakeholders, including affected homeowners, elected members and officials of the local authorities and other interested parties. I made similar visits to both counties last year and I will continue to monitor the situation and to update affected parties on progress.

Under Budget 2019, the Government approved in principle the development of a grant scheme of financial assistance to support affected homeowners in the two counties to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks. Work on the development of such a scheme is well underway, including discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the operation and funding of the scheme. It is intended to revert to Government with proposals for the scheme shortly, with a view to publishing details of the scheme thereafter.

Housing Data

Questions (1575)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

1575. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated average all-in cost of building a new social home. [19671/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The information sought in relation to average costs for the construction of new social homes, to the extent and in the format in which it is readily available, is set out in the following table.

1 bed

2 bed (1 storey)

2 bed (2 storey)

3 bed

4 bed

1 bed Apt.

2 bed Apt.

3 bed Apt.

Construction Costs

€155,818

€165,132

€174,206

€184,685

€199,491

€174,159

€189,112

€209,482

All-in Costs

€201,359

€212,624

€222,582

€234,571

€252,047

€225,082

€243,476

€267,629

The average costs set out are based on the analysis of returned data from tendered social housing schemes over an extended period (up to and including Q1 2019), and have been updated based on published tender index information, as required.

'Construction Costs' are reflective of building costs (including VAT) and include normal site works and site development. 'All-in Costs' include construction, land cost, professional fees, utility connections, site investigations/surveys, etc.

Housing Data

Questions (1576)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

1576. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated average all-in cost of delivering a buy and renew home. [19672/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

To date, circa 370 homes have been delivered through the Buy & Renew Scheme, with an average all-in cost per unit of approximately €193,000.