Social Welfare Fraud Data

Questions (639)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

639. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons prosecuted for social welfare fraud in 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21993/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department initiates criminal prosecutions against persons who defraud the social welfare system and against employers who fail to carry out their statutory obligations under social welfare legislation.

Cases involving the detection of theft, impersonation, identity fraud or multiple claiming are referred to An Gardaí Síochana (AGS) for investigation and for consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution under criminal justice legislation.

The table below outlines the number of cases submitted by the Department to the Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO) for prosecution of offences under social welfare legislation. It also shows cases referred to AGS for investigation of social welfare fraud and consideration of prosecution under criminal justice legislation.

 

 2018

 2019 to date

Cases referred to the CSSO

 101

 27

Cases referred to AGS

 74

 24

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Child Benefit Reform

Questions (640)

Clare Daly

Question:

640. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to extend child benefit to children over 18 years of age who are in full-time second-level education in view of the fact that children are starting school later and in many cases transition year is mandatory. [22016/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years.  The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability.  Child Benefit is currently paid, as of end-March 2019 to almost 632,000 families in respect of nearly 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2018.

Given the universality of Child Benefit, extending entitlement to parents of full time students in second level education who are over 18 years of age would not be a targeted approach.  The adoption of such a proposal would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:

- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;

- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;  

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance  

These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.

Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility

Questions (641)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

641. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person whose entire farm landholding is under forestry would be considered to be a farmer for the purposes of applying for farm assist; if a person in these circumstances will be eligible to apply for farm assist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22017/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The farm assist (FA) scheme is a means-tested payment for farmers on low incomes and is similar to jobseeker's allowance (JA).  To qualify for the scheme a person must satisfy the means test and be engaged in farming.  Recipients retain the advantages of the JA scheme such as the retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes. The 2019 Revised Estimates for my Department provides for expenditure of €72 million for the FA scheme.

Social Welfare legislation defines a farmer as a person engaged in farming, farming farm land including commonage, which is owned, and used for the purposes of husbandry, is leased, and used for the purposes of husbandry, or does not form part of a larger holding and is used for the purposes of husbandry.  Husbandry is defined as the working of the land with the object of extracting the traditional produce of the land. This can include the cultivation of crops or trees (forestry) and the keeping of livestock and poultry. 

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy and if he has a particular case of a person in these circumstances he should forward the details to my Department for examination.

Water Quality

Questions (642)

Noel Rock

Question:

642. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the drainage system at a location (details supplied); the measures taken or being taken to address the cause of the deterioration of water quality which resulted in the closure of bathing areas throughout Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21348/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Our bathing water quality in Ireland is generally of a high standard – the most recent EPA report on Bathing Water Quality in Ireland for 2017 classed 93% of our designated coastal and lake beaches as meeting the minimum standard of sufficient water quality as defined under the Bathing Water Quality Regulations, and almost 85% classed as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Bathing water quality is regulated under the Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008, which transposed the EU Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC into Irish legislation.

However, I am concerned at the ongoing issues contributing to poor water quality at a small number of our many bathing waters.  The Ailesbury Pumping Station, referred to by the Deputy, discharges to the Sandymount Strand bathing waters in the event of overflows following periods of heavy rainfall, and has been identified as a contributory factor in Sandymount Strand's 'poor' water quality designation in 2017. Sandymount Strand has continued to receive a ‘poor’ designation in 2018.

Dublin City Council has responsibility for bathing water quality in the area under the Regulations, and takes frequent samples which are published on the EPA’s beaches.ie website. Where ‘poor’ designations are received, Dublin City Council is responsible for putting in place a management plan to address the contributing pressures.

I view the bathing water quality issue at Sandymount with concern, in terms of safeguarding our natural amenities and human health. Discussions are ongoing at a senior technical level between my Department, Dublin City Council and the EPA in order to address this issue.

I also believe that upgrades to our waste water treatment infrastructure, including the Ringsend Waste Water Treatment Plant Upgrade and the Greater Dublin Drainage Project, will make a significant contribution to improved bathing water quality throughout Dublin.

The Deputy may also be interested in the 2017 EPA Bathing Water Quality in Ireland Report which includes a special chapter on the pressures on water quality in Dublin Bay. This report is available on the EPA's website at the following link: http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/water/bathing/bathingwaterqualityinireland2017.html.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (643, 653)

Catherine Martin

Question:

643. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his Department has conducted a review of the enhanced long-term social housing leasing scheme; if so, the details of the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21541/19]

View answer

Catherine Martin

Question:

653. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a cost-benefit analysis of the enhanced long-term social housing leasing scheme has been conducted; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21540/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 643 and 653 together.

The new Enhanced Leasing Scheme has been developed by my Department, together with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), the Housing Agency and local authorities, following market engagement. It has been designed to harness the potential of private sector interest in social housing delivery in a new set of long-term leasing arrangements, in a manner designed to leverage off-balance sheet funding opportunities in accordance with Rebuilding Ireland objectives.

Following the launch of the Social Housing Strategy 2020, a wide variety of developers, investors, financiers, Approved Housing Bodies and others expressed an interest in being involved in the provision or financing of social housing across the country. A structured, formal process was put in place to facilitate engagement with these bodies. A body called the Social Housing Investment Proposals Clearing House Group - or the Clearing House Group - was established in 2015 to examine and consider proposals and to meet with the companies, groups and institutions involved. Arising from the workings of that group, Government took the decision in February 2016 to develop a new enhanced leasing scheme, which would provide lessors with a longer-term contract with a greater proportion of market rent available, in exchange for more responsibility with regard to management and maintenance and greater risk transfer from local authorities. The Government decision at that time was informed by a consideration of indicative costs including comparative costs with other delivery schemes.

In the period after February 2016, the Clearing House Group concluded its work and my Department, the National Development Finance Agency, the Housing Agency and local authorities worked to develop a new set of long-term enhanced leasing arrangements that met the requirements of that Government decision.

A further set of costings were undertaken to inform the decision of Government to move forward and launch the enhanced leasing scheme in January 2018. These costings were undertaken using information on average lease costs, at that time, and the expected level of take-up of the scheme, which is targeted at 2,500 units by end 2021. The costs of the Enhanced Lease are included in the Government's commitment to multi-annual funding to deliver on the targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland.

There are a number of factors, which ensure that leasing is good value in the long term for the State. The cost of delivering social housing units under the traditional construction and acquisition model is not adequately captured by the up-front capital expenditure, as each unit will carry a stream of ongoing costs over the long-term including management, maintenance and remediation. Furthermore, during the term of the lease, the responsibility for structural matters remains with the property owner and not the local authority. At the end of the lease term – 25 years is a substantial period - the dwelling can require major renovation or upgrading resulting in a significant capital cost, which under leasing is not borne by the local authority but by the owner.

To date, there have been two Calls for Proposals, where interested parties were given the opportunity to make qualifying submissions to the scheme. The first Call for Proposals ran from 31 January 2018 and the Housing Agency accepted submissions from interested parties until 12 April 2018. After that Call for Proposals, my Department carried out a review of the submission process, to reflect on the nature of the submissions made, and amendments were made to the scheme, including the introduction of a Pre-Planning Suitability Assessment process, in order to allow proposers that have yet to obtain planning permission for their lands, an opportunity to gauge the interest of the relevant Local Authority in any proposals for housing that might come forward with planning. Other amendments included stricter submission quality control measures, to improve the quality of the submissions.

The launch of the Second Call for Proposals, in August 2018, reflected this process review. The scheme is the subject of ongoing monitoring by my Department, as is the case with all social housing delivery programmes.

Vacant Sites Levy

Questions (644)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

644. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated additional revenue that would be raised by each extra one percentage point on the vacant site levy. [21616/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under the vacant site levy provisions in the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, planning authorities are empowered to apply a vacant site levy of 3% of the market value of relevant vacant sites where a site exceeds 0.05 hectares in area, was in the planning authority’s opinion vacant or idle in 2018, and is in an area identified by the planning authority in its development plan or local area plan for residential or regeneration development. As signalled in Budget 2018, the rate of the levy has been increased to 7% for sites on a local authority vacant sites register from 2019 onwards and in respect of which site owners will become liable to with effect from January 2020.

My Department does not maintain a central register of vacant sites, as each local authority administers the vacant site register in respect of their functional area. As provided for under the Act, the register in respect of each local authority is available for inspection at its offices and online on its website. However, on foot of a recent review of the on-line vacant site registers across all local authority areas, I understand that there are collectively over 380 individual sites currently on the local registers. Over 120 of these sites were entered on the local vacant site registers on 1 January 2018 and are therefore subject to the levy in 2019, unless development works were activated in the interim.

The specific information sought by the Deputy in relation to the amount of the levy that would be raised in particular circumstances is not available in my Department. However, based on the current legislative provisions and a recent review of the sites currently listed on local authority registers, it is estimated that the levy proceeds nationally could be of the order of €7.6m in 2019 (applying the current 3% levy rate) and €22.7m in 2020 (applying the increased 7% levy rate). The latter estimate for 2020 is based on the number of sites currently included on the local vacant site registers and in respect of which market valuations have been attached to the registered sites. It is anticipated that the number of registered sites in respect of which market valuations will be obtained will increase in the coming months which should result in an increase in the estimated levy proceeds nationally for 2020.

My Department continues to monitor implementation of the levy to ensure that it is being effectively applied, in line with its intended purpose of incentivising the development of vacant or under-utilised sites in urban areas.

Housing Adaptation Grant Eligibility

Questions (645)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

645. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the grants or other funding available for a sensory room in newly built houses for children with non-verbal autism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21630/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department provides Exchequer funding to local authorities to support the Housing Adaptation Grants for People with a Disability in private houses.  These grants are available to assist in the carrying out of works which are reasonably necessary for the purposes of rendering a house more suitable for the accommodation of a person with a disability who has an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment. 

The detailed administration of the grants, including the assessment, approval and payment of individual grants to applicants, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority. The types of works allowable under the scheme include the provision or adaptation of rooms, for example downstairs toilet facilities or a sensory space, and the provision of stair-lifts, access ramps, accessible showers, adaptations to facilitate wheelchair access or other works which are reasonably necessary. 

European Parliament Elections

Questions (646)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

646. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the restrictions on content applied to the freepost election literature to which each European candidate is entitled. [21659/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Electoral Acts provide that every notice, bill, poster or similar document, having reference to an election or distributed for the purpose of furthering a particular candidate at an election, is required to bear upon its face the name and address of the printer and of the publisher thereof.  The Electoral Acts do not regulate the content of electoral material, including election posters, leaflets or other similar material, either during or outside of electoral campaigns.

More generally, section 7 of the Public Order Act 1994 provides that is an offence for any person in a public place to distribute or display any writing, sign or visible representation, which is threatening, abusive, insulting or obscene with intent to provoke a breach of peace.  In this regard it would be a matter for An Garda Síochána to deal with public order offences generally, including offences under section 7 of the Act, either at their own instigation or on foot of allegations made in that regard. 

Planning Issues

Questions (647)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

647. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a person (details supplied) may install a windmill for personal use without planning with a view to expanding in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21792/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under section 32 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, all development requires planning permission unless it is exempted development.

Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended (the 2001 Regulations), provides exemptions from the requirement for planning permission for the construction, erection or placing within the curtilage of a house, and within the curtilage of an industrial building or commercial premises, of a wind turbine, subject to specific conditions and limitations applied to the exemption.

Similarly, Part 3 of Schedule 2 of the 2001 Regulations includes provision for a planning exemption for the construction, erection or placing of a wind turbine within an agricultural holding, also subject to specific conditions and limitations.

It should be noted that under Article 9 of the 2001 Regulations, such exemptions may be restricted by the planning authority in particular circumstances. This is particularly the case where the development is proposed to be located in a protected area or area of special amenity, identified as such in the relevant development plan.

Under section 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, a person may apply to the local authority for a declaration as to whether a particular proposed development is exempted development or requires planning permission.

Housing Policy

Questions (648)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

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]

View answer

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.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Questions (649)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

649. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of income limits for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21504/19]

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 Issues

Questions (650)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

650. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of proposals for a housing passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21526/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

It is already possible for households to move and relocate between housing authority areas, including relocating from an urban to a rural location, under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme.

Under the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, a household may apply to one housing authority only for social housing support, at a time. Currently it is not possible for a household on the waiting list of one housing authority to transfer its application to another authority and to carry the time spent on the previous list (special arrangements that apply where there is more than one housing authority in a county, as is the case in Dublin, Cork and Galway).

A commitment has been given to examine the possibility of introducing a “housing passport”. The basic premise is that households in receipt of, or qualified for, social housing support in one local authority area could potentially transfer to, or be allocated, social housing in another local authority area. I am currently finalising proposals in relation to this matter. It is my intention to bring forward any proposed changes needed to implement the passport proposal to Government as part of a comprehensive social housing reform package of measures in the near future.

Local Authority Housing Funding

Questions (651)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

651. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to increase the threshold for discretionary spending on housing by local authorities above levels set in budget 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21527/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

At an overall level, the budgetary provision for the delivery of housing in 2019 is €2.4 billion, the largest investment ever in a single year.  This funding will see the housing needs of 27,360 households being met this year. Local authorities derive their income from a variety of sources including commercial rates, charges for goods and services, Local Property Tax (LPT) as well as funding from Government Departments and other bodies.  Elected members have direct responsibility in law for all reserved functions of the authority, which includes adopting the annual budget. Accordingly, it is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary processes, having regard to both locally identified needs and the resources available. Local authorities may decide to augment central Government funding for the provision of housing from within their own resources, in line with the authority's agreed budget.

Land Development Agency

Question No. 653 answered with Question No. 643.

Questions (652)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

652. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the protocols put in place between local authorities and the Land Development Agency in respect of the co-ordination of land purchases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21528/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Land Development Agency (LDA) is focused on managing State-owned land to develop new homes, and regenerate under-utilised sites. In the longer-term the LDA will assemble strategic land banks from a mix of public and private lands, making these available for housing in a controlled manner, bringing essential long-term stability to the Irish housing market with the objective of facilitating the delivery of 150,000 new homes over the next 20 years. 

The LDA’s mandate in the initial period is focussed on accessing existing State land rather than land acquisitions. Accordingly, the need for a formal protocol for engagement with local authorities in relation to land acquisition does not arise at this point.

There is, of course, ongoing engagement between the LDA and local authorities on a range of issues of mutual interest. As the LDA develops further in the coming months, the need for a formal land acquisition coordination procedure to be put in place between the LDA and local authorities, to support the existing informal discussions already taking place, will be kept under review.

Question No. 653 answered with Question No. 643.

Mayoral Election

Questions (654)

Catherine Martin

Question:

654. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the funding of the difference in cost between the current annual cost of the Lord Mayor of Cork including salary, office, assistant staff, driver and pensions and the annual cost under the proposal for a directly elected Lord Mayor of Cork will be paid for from the Local Government Reform Fund following commitments made by the Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform; if the same commitment applies to proposals for directly elected mayors of Limerick and Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21542/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Act 2019, plebiscites are taking place on 24 May 2019 in respect of Cork City Council, Limerick City and County Council and Waterford City and County Council, on the Government's proposal for directly elected mayors with executive functions. The Government's proposal is outlined in its policy paper, 'Directly elected mayors with executive functions: detailed policy proposals', published on 2 April 2019.

The Policy Paper provides that the cost of the establishment of an office of directly elected mayor with executive functions in a local authority would be met from local authority resources. The passing of the annual budget is a reserved function of the elected council and under the Government’s proposal, it would be a matter for the elected Council of each local authority to adopt the annual budget including the costs of the directly elected mayor’s office.

Each year an element of the Local Government Fund is generally utilised for important local government reform initiatives. I have committed that this funding would be available to contribute toward the establishment of the office of a directly elected mayor in one or all of the local authority areas concerned if the plebiscites pass.

If there is a majority vote, in any of the plebiscites, in favour of the Government's proposal, in accordance with the 2019 Act, the Minister is obliged to prepare and submit, within 2 years of the vote, to each House of the Oireachtas, a report with legislative proposals providing for a directly elected mayor with executive functions for that local authority.  

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (655)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

655. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount spent in fees to companies (details supplied) by his Department in each of the years 2011 to 2018. [21583/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The information requested is set out in the following table:

2011€

2012€

2013€

2014€

2015€

2016€

2017€

2018€

PwC

179,584

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

KPMG

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

49,721

Ernst & Young

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

119,556

*Deloitte

Nil

Nil

39,299

66,036

28,939

Nil

Nil

Nil

* Deloitte & Touche

Rental Sector

Questions (656)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

656. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans for regulations under section 38 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21590/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In late 2018, 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.

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 this regard, section 38 of the Bill proposes to insert a new section 3A into the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the 2000 Act), to provide that the short-term letting of a house in a rent pressure zone is a material change of use of the house, thereby requiring planning permission, unless otherwise specifically exempted from this requirement.   It sets out the necessary definitions for both short-term letting and rent pressures zones. In addition, it provides me, as Minister, with specific regulation making powers that will enable planning authorities to require persons involved in short-term letting in rent pressure zones to provide specified information to their local planning authority.

The primary regulations to underpin these proposals will be regulations to be made under section 4 of the 2000 Act providing for the necessary exempted development provisions, as outlined, which will shortly be laid in draft form before the Houses of the Oireachtas and require a positive resolution from both Houses before they can be made.   As indicated, supplementary regulations to be made under the proposed new section 3A of the 2000 Act will require such persons as are specified to provide specified information to the relevant planning authority for monitoring and enforcement purposes.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (657)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

657. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the borrowing amount authorised for each local authority for the second tranche of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan in tabular form. [21613/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan launched on 1 February 2018. Prior to its launch, an initial tranche of €200 million of long-term fixed-rate finance was borrowed by the Housing Finance Agency to provide funds for the scheme to local authorities.

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was initially being developed, it was estimated that the drawdown of loans under the scheme would be approximately €200 million over three years. From the data collated on the scheme to date, the RIHL has proven to be more successful than initially anticipated, as a result of which, the scheme would require a further tranche of funds to be borrowed by the HFA in order to enable its continuation.

My Department is currently in discussions with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance with regard to the amount of a second tranche, which I anticipate will be finalised soon. When these discussions are concluded I will be in a position to make an announcement on the matter. However, the scheme remains open and all local authorities have been advised to continue to receive and process applications up to and including the issuing of loans. An announcement on the amount of additional funding to be provided is not inhibiting the running of the scheme in any way.