Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Questions (648)

Niamh Smyth


648. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to tackle the problem of derelict premises and housing in towns, villages and rural areas nationally; his further plans to ease the ongoing housing crisis being experienced by county councils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21417/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Derelict Sites Act 1990 imposes a general duty on every owner and occupier of land to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the land does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site. The Act also imposes a duty on local authorities to take all reasonable steps, including the exercise of appropriate statutory powers, to ensure that any land within their functional area does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site. To this end, local authorities have been given substantial powers under the Act in relation to any such sites, including powers to require that owners or occupiers take appropriate measures on derelict sites, to acquire derelict sites by agreement, or compulsorily, and to apply a derelict sites levy on the registered owners of derelict sites.

Under the Act, local authorities are required to maintain a derelict sites register, which includes the name and address of each owner and occupier, where these can be ascertained by reasonable enquiry, of any land which, in the opinion of the local authority, is a derelict site.  Under section 8(5) of the Act, a copy of the derelict sites register for any local authority can be inspected at the offices of that authority during office hours. This positions members of the public to engage with their local authority in relation to addressing individual derelict sites in their local areas.

It is a matter for local authorities to determine the most appropriate use of the legislation within their respective functional areas.

Under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018, both the Derelict Sites Levy and the Vacant Sites Levy will increase from 3% to 7% of the market valuation of relevant sites with effect from January 2020. This change in the rate of the levies is intended to ensure that the levies have more meaningful impact and that the powers of local authorities in tackling dereliction and vacancy are strengthened for the purpose of bringing relevant sites into productive use, thereby facilitating urban regeneration and development while also combatting land hoarding.

In addition, the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2018, which came into operation on 8 February 2018, provide for an exemption from the requirement to obtain planning permission in respect of the change of use of certain vacant commercial premises, including vacant areas above ground floor premises, to residential use. This measure is aimed at facilitating 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.

In relation to progress on a more general level, Rebuilding Ireland aims to deliver over 50,000 additional social housing homes through build, acquisition and leasing programmes and also aims to support some 87,000 additional households through the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme and the Rental Accommodation Scheme, over the 6 year period of the Plan.  

Very significant progress has been made in delivering on Rebuilding Ireland's targets, with over 72,000 households having had their housing need met under the Plan by end 2018. This level of delivery has been reflected in the reductions recorded on housing waiting lists, with the number of households on waiting lists reducing by 13,941, or over 16%, between 2017 and 2018 alone.

Rebuilding Ireland has been increasing the capacity of local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies to deliver social housing over the past three years and clear results are being delivered.  This is evident in the fact that there was an 85% increase in new build social homes in 2018 when compared to 2017 and the number of new social housing homes built in 2018 was eight times greater than the number built in 2015, the year before Rebuilding Ireland was initiated.

My Department supports delivery through the development and implementation of policy and legislation geared towards enhanced supply and also through the provision of significant funding for local authorities. In addition, my Department works closely with each individual local authority to support them to deliver their minimum targets, and where possible to exceed their targets and advance their pipelines for additional delivery in the coming years. The quarterly Construction Status Reports which I publish provide an overview of all new build social housing completed and being advanced across the 31 local authorities.  The latest report, which sets out the position at end 2018, is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at  http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q4-2018/ .

The coming three years will see further increased output of social housing throughout the country and I have recently written to each local authority outlining ambitious targets for 2019. These targets can be viewed at

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

In 2019, record funding of €2.4 billion is being provided for the delivery of housing programmes, which will allow for the housing needs of almost 27,400 additional households to be met. 10,000 of these will be provided through build, acquisition and lease programmes.

I am confident that progress remains on track to meet the target to deliver 50,000 new social housing homes over the six years 2016-2021.