Planning Guidelines

Question No. 995 answered with Question No. 955.

Questions (994)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

994. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which he can address the concerns of residents living in SDZs that the new guidelines on height will have a negative impact on them and compromise the rules of the agreed SDZ. [23990/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In December 2018, I issued ’Urban Development and Building Height’ Guidelines for Planning Authorities and An Bord Pleanála, under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended). The Guidelines are available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/planning/guidelines/urban-development-and-building-height/urban-development-and-building-height-3.

Publication of the guidelines, which were widely called for in the planning and development sector, followed a period of public consultation and consideration of over 100 submissions and a thorough assessment by my Department, details of which are available on my Department's website at www.housing.gov.ie/node/8956/public-consultation-responses. 

Under Section 30 of the 2000 Act, I am specifically precluded from exercising power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned.  Objections in relation to particular planning applications are a matter for the relevant local authority or An Bord Pleanala in the event of an appeal. 

More generally, however, it is important to note that the guidelines specifically address their application in the context of areas covered by Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) Planning Schemes, in particular, through the insertion of Specific Planning Policy Requirement (SPPR) 3(B & C).  This SPPR requires adopted SDZ planning schemes to be reviewed by their respective development agencies to ensure that Government policy on building heights is appropriately articulated within such planning schemes.  Any alteration of approved planning schemes will require the undertaking of a review process that is provided for in law.

The intention of the above policy requirement is to ensure that, on the one hand, planning authorities give practical effect to Government policy on building height in planning scheme areas, while at the same time allowing for effective public engagement in any significant policy shift in relation to heights to comply with Government policy and in view of the absence of third party appeal rights in relation to planning applications in SDZs. For this reason, it is not the intention that SPPR 3 would allow an immediate ‘over-ride’ facility for the alteration of approved planning schemes without the undertaking of a review process that is provided for in law.  Rather, the implementation of SPPR 3, and its components at A, B and C, as an integrated package, is focused on securing strategic planning outcomes, while at the same time providing for proper public consultation.

In determining planning policy and making planning decisions around appropriate building heights, the planning process has to strike a careful balance between enabling long-term and strategic development of relevant areas, while ensuring the highest standards of urban design, architectural quality and place-making outcomes. 

I am satisfied that these guidelines are necessary and appropriate to give clear context and direction to the overall requirement to promote increased density and building height in appropriate locations within our urban centres.

Question No. 995 answered with Question No. 955.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (996)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

996. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which he has investigated the possibility of providing a State backed loan scheme similar to the old local loans fund by which young couples and families might be in the position to meet their own housing need as opposed to being forced to remain in high rent accommodation interminably; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24298/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Following a review of the two previously existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, a new loan offering was introduced from 1 February 2018, known as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.  The loan enables credit worthy first time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range.  The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise be able to afford at a higher interest rate.

Single applicants for the loan must not be earning greater than €50,000 gross per annum.  The combined income of joint applicants must not be greater than €75,000 per annum.  There are no set minimum income limits; however, applicants do need to have sufficient borrowing and repayment capacity and must be capable of repaying the mortgage in accordance with the statutory credit policy underpinning the loan.  These income limits are unchanged from the previous local authority loan offerings.

Full details of the loan's eligibility criteria and other information is available from the dedicated Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan website: http://rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie/.  Any person who meets the eligibility criteria may apply for a loan regardless of whether or not they are on the local authority housing list or qualified for social housing support.

For prospective purchasers of newly-built properties, the availability, through the Revenue Commissioners, of the Help to Buy Initiative for first-time buyers may provide additional assistance to prospective applicants for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.  Further details on the Help to Buy Initiative are available on the Revenue website at: www.revenue.ie/en/property/help-to-buy-incentive/index.aspx 

Housing Policy

Questions (997)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

997. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if all housing support schemes available will be examined with a view to assessing their efficacy and possible replacement in order to ensure public confidence among young couples and families seeking to avail of local authority or affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24299/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The overarching aim of social housing policy is to provide adequate housing support to those who need it most. With this in mind, Rebuilding Ireland includes a commitment by Government to the on-going monitoring and review of social housing supports in order to ensure that the system efficiently delivers supports that are fair and sustainable and prioritise those most in need. My Department continues to review, amend and improve housing programmes, where necessary, to ensure that the supports provided are responsive to people's needs.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (998, 999, 1002)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

998. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which his Department has examined the local authority housing waiting lists with a view to devising a system to address the situation of young families becoming homeless; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24300/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

999. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which provision is readily available to meet the housing needs of single men or women who may be homeless or become so in view of their circumstances; the extent to which schemes in operation are capable of addressing these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24301/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1002. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if an emergency housing programme will be introduced to combat the threat of homelessness nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24304/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 998, 999 and 1002 together.

In 2016, the Government published the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness.  Rebuilding Ireland is designed to significantly increase the supply of social housing by 50,000, double the output of overall housing to at least 25,000 homes per annum by 2021, service all tenure types (social, private and rental), and tackle homelessness comprehensively.  The Plan is underpinned by over €6 billion in funding.  

While the realisation of these objectives will provide the ultimate solution to addressing housing supply issues, my Department also recognises the need for short-term emergency measures to address issues of homelessness and is providing capital funding to local authorities to provide emergency accommodation, to ensure that there is sufficient shelter for all who require it.  The Government has increased the budget available to local authorities to deliver homeless services to €146m in 2019, an increase of over 25% on the 2018 allocation.  Local authorities and their service delivery partners work with households experiencing homelessness to identify and secure exits from emergency accommodation to independent tenancies.  In 2018, 5,135 adults exited homelessness to a tenancy. 

The allocation of social housing support is a matter for each individual local authority in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and associated regulations. Section 22 of the Act requires each local authority to make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer, the allocation of which would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the households.  The making of such a scheme is a reserved function of a local authority.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (1000)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1000. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if credit will be given to applicants in rental accommodation when assessing their eligibility for Rebuilding Ireland home loans on the basis that they have already proven their ability to make repayments and that the deposit required by them be reduced accordingly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24302/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is designed to enable credit worthy first-time buyers, who are unable to access a mortgage from a commercial lender, to obtain sustainable mortgage lending to purchase a new or second-hand property. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first-time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise have been able to afford at a higher interest rate.

To support prudential lending and consistency of treatment for borrowers, a Loan to Value ratio of 90% applies to the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan as per the Central Bank's prudential lending guidelines. Therefore, in order to avail of the loan, applicants must have a deposit equivalent to 10% of the market value of the property.

Applicants must provide bank or similar statements (such as post office, credit union, etc.) for a 12-month period immediately prior to making an application, clearly showing a credible and consistent track record of savings. The cash savings should be no less than 3% of the market value of the property. Gifts are permissible up to 7% of the market value of the property, where their source is verified.

Exceptions to the above can be made where an applicant/applicants can clearly demonstrate a consistent and credible record of savings or rent payment through their bank account which at a minimum is equal to:

- In the case of a fixed rate loan, the proposed monthly loan repayment or

- In the case of a variable rate loan, the proposed stress tested monthly loan repayment.

Given the need to administer the loan in a financially prudent manner, in order to protect the financial position of both the borrower and local authorities, I have no plans to reduce these deposit requirements.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Question No. 1002 answered with Question No. 998.

Questions (1001)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1001. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of applicants on the various local authority housing waiting lists who have been housed in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24303/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department does not hold information of the specific type requested by the Deputy.

The allocation of social housing support is a matter for each individual local authority in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and associated regulations. Section 22 of the 2009 Act requires all local authorities, as a reserved function, to make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer, the allocation of which would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the households.

However, my Department does collect annual statistics on the number of households on social housing waiting lists. Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area are provided in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA), which has been carried out on an annual basis since 2016. The summary is a count, on a specific date, of all households qualified for social housing support on local authority waiting lists whose housing need has not been met.

The 2018 assessment shows that 71,858 households were assessed as qualified and being in need of social housing support. This represents a decrease of 13,941 households or 16.2% on the last assessment in June 2017. Indeed, since the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan was launched in 2016, the numbers have decreased from 91,600 to 71,858, a reduction of 22%.

Question No. 1002 answered with Question No. 998.

Social and Affordable Housing Expenditure

Questions (1003)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1003. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of funding spent on rent support, HAP or other housing assistance schemes in lieu of local authority housing in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24305/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department provides housing supports through a range of delivery streams, including the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

The HAP scheme is a flexible and immediate housing support that is available to all eligible households throughout the State and plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals. At the end of Quarter 1, 2019, there were over 45,900 active tenancies being supported under the HAP scheme nationally.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) introduced in 2005 placed responsibility on local authorities to meet the accommodation needs of people in receipt of Rent Supplement for 18 months or longer, and who are assessed as having a long-term housing need.  RAS has provided a more structured, accommodation-based approach to the use of the private rental sector to meet long-term housing need, thereby eliminating dependence on temporary income support payments, i.e. rent supplement.  In the period since RAS commenced in 2005 to the end of December 2018, some 62,095 households have been transferred from Rent Supplement to RAS and other social housing options. 

RAS continues to be an effective and secure form of social housing support and remains a significant part of the suite of social housing options currently available to those who are assessed as being in need of housing support. 

The funding provided for the two schemes since 2014 is set out in the following table.

Year 

€m

2014

133.9

2015

137.43

2016

188.7

2017

295.54

2018

419.94

As HAP is progressively replacing Rent Supplement for households with a long term housing need, the funding directed to Rent Supplement would have decreased in recent years, as funding for HAP has increased. Rent Supplement comes within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Homeless Persons Data

Questions (1004)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1004. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons registered as homeless by the various local authorities throughout the greater Dublin area; the number who have been successfully housed in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24306/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department publishes a monthly report on homelessness. The monthly report is based on data provided by housing authorities and produced through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS).  The report captures details of individuals utilising State-funded emergency accommodation arrangements that are overseen by housing authorities.  The most recent report for April 2019 showed that in the Dublin region, there were 4,401 adults, including 1,284 families (incorporating 1,830 individuals within the 4,401 figure for adults) and 2,769 associated dependents accessing emergency accommodation. Monthly reports are available on my Department’s website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/housing/homelessness/other/homelessness-data.

The administration of homeless services is organised on a regional basis as this approach is considered more effective, bringing a strategic perspective to bear on action to address homelessness.  In this regard, the Dublin region under the Dublin Region Homeless Executive comprises Dublin City Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council . As part of the funding arrangements in place, each region provides my Department with a quarterly performance report which includes details of the number of adults exiting homelessness in that quarter. The exits from homelessness for the Dublin Region for each year from 2014 to 2018 are set out in the following table. 

Exits from Homelessness - Dublin Region 

2014

 2015

 2016

 2017

 2018

792

 1,059

 1,833

 3,225

 3,572

Social and Affordable Housing Expenditure

Questions (1005)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1005. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which funding earmarked for the provision of affordable or local authority houses has been spent under various headings in each of the past four years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24307/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Over the course of Rebuilding Ireland, the Government is committed to meeting the housing needs of over 138,000 households.  This will be achieved through blended delivery, with over 50,000 homes being delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes, and some 88,000 further households being supported through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).  A social house building programme is well underway, with local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies significantly expanding new build output year on year.

The implementation of Rebuilding Ireland is a key Government priority supported by significant annual investment.  The overall targets set in Rebuilding Ireland are consistently exceeded, satisfying the needs of more and more households each year.  In 2019 alone, the housing needs of almost 27,400 households will be met, of which 10,000 will be new social housing homes delivered through build, acquisition and long term leasing programmes, with the remaining supports being delivered through HAP and RAS schemes.

Expenditure details in respect of the provision of social housing homes through build, acquisition and leasing programmes for the period 2016 to end May 2019 are set out in the following table.

Delivery Stream

2016 Expenditure

€m

2017 Expenditure

€m

2018 Expenditure

€m

2019 Expenditure

(to end May) €m

Total

€m

Build, Acquisition & Lease

462.09

802

1,268.84

330.5

2,863.43

The delivery of affordable housing remains a key priority for this Government.  To support the delivery of 6,200 affordable homes, €310 million is being made available under the Serviced Site Fund, from 2019 to 2021, to facilitate the delivery of infrastructure on local authority sites.  Last December, €43 million was approved under the Fund for 10 infrastructure projects in Dublin and Cork, which will deliver 1,400 affordable homes.  Under the second Serviced Sites Fund call, 30 submissions have been received from 15 local authorities.  These are currently being assessed, and I expect to issue approvals under this second call in the coming weeks.

In addition, approximately 2,350 affordable homes will be delivered on mainly publicly owned lands supported through the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, while 5,600 further homes will benefit from a LIHAF-related cost reduction, some of which are already coming to market.  Funding of €200 million is being provided under LIHAF, of which €150 million was made available via the Exchequer with local authorities matching up to €50 million.  To date, €16 million in Exchequer funding has been drawn down and this reflects the fact that most projects have been going through the design and planning stages, with more now moving into the construction phase when the bulk of expenditure arises.

Local Authority Housing Data

Questions (1006)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1006. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of local authority houses under construction; when they are likely to be ready for occupation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24308/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The latest quarterly Social Housing Construction Status Report shows that almost 5,000 social homes were under construction at end Q4 2018, of which 2,345 were in the local authorities' own build programmes.

It will be these schemes that will form the bulk of the housing delivery over the course of 2019, although further projects will continue to be added to the pipeline on an ongoing basis. The end Q4 2018 report is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q4-2018/. 

It should be noted that details of social housing delivery for Q1 2019 are being finalised and will be published shortly. All local authorities are encouraged to further accelerate their programmes and I have assured them that the necessary funding is available to support their work in this regard.

Planning Issues

Questions (1007)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1007. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the degree to which particular attention can be given to ensure that the rural indigenous population is able to obtain planning permission in their own area within reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24309/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under the current 2005 Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, planning authorities are required to frame the planning policies in their development plans in a balanced and measured way that ensures the housing needs of rural communities are met, while avoiding excessive urban-generated housing and haphazard development, particularly in those areas near cities and towns that are under pressure from urban generated development.

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.  

Planning authorities were advised in May 2017 by way of Circular Letter PL 02/2017, that the existing 2005 Guidelines remain in place, pending the issuing of the revised guidelines. The Circular also advised that they should not amend the rural housing local needs policies in their development plans until the revised Guidelines have issued. 

The National Planning Framework (the NPF) also provides an important context for the finalisation of the revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines. National Policy Objective 15 of the NPF fully supports the concept of the sustainable development of rural areas by encouraging growth and arresting decline in areas that have experienced low population growth or decline in recent decades, while simultaneously indicating the need to manage certain areas around cities and towns that are under strong urban influence and under pressure from uncoordinated and ribbon-type development, in order to avoid over-development of those areas.

Furthermore, National Policy Objective 37 of the NPF requires each local authority to carry out a Housing Need Demand Assessment (HNDA) in order to correlate and accurately align overall future housing requirements, as an evolution of their existing Housing Strategy requirements under Part V of the 2000 Act. This will assist local authorities in ensuring long-term strategic housing needs are met across all types, tenures and locations across their functional areas, both urban and rural. Accordingly, the NPF objectives are aligned with the approach already expected of planning authorities under the current 2005 Guidelines.  My Department intends to provide further guidance to local authorities later this year, to support their HNDA work as part of the review of their Development Plans. 

Taking account of the engagement with the European Commission regarding revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines 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 Guidelines that take account of the relevant European Court of Justice judgment.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Questions (1008)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1008. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of emergency housing units available for use by each local authority to meet the growing housing requirements by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24310/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at the local level.  

My Department does not provide funding for services directly but provides funding to housing authorities towards the operational costs of providing emergency accommodation and related services.  Details in relation to the number of emergency housing units available for use by each local authority, which includes private emergency accommodation, are not available in my Department, and are a matter for individual housing authorities.

Firearms Licences

Questions (1009, 1010)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1009. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a derogation will be sought for a proposal (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23620/19]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1010. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the detail of the new restrictions on the use of lead in firearms (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23529/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1009 and 1010 together.

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) was developed under the UN Convention on Migratory Species. Ireland signed up to the Agreement in 2003. The agreement includes a commitment that “Parties shall endeavour to phase out the use of lead shot for hunting in wetlands as soon as possible in accordance with self-imposed and published timetables.”

The European Commission have published a draft Regulation for consideration by Member States on the use of lead shot in wetlands following a report on the matter by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). My Department’s position is to support the AEWA commitment to phase out the use of lead shot over wetlands. The draft Commission Regulation, if accepted by Member States, would appear reasonable in the circumstances as it is in line with the AEWA commitment. It is also my understanding that the draft Regulation will provide for a reasonable lead-in time to allow hunters to make the necessary arrangements to source alternatives to lead shot.

My Department had already had discussions with a major hunting body on the draft Regulation and will be engaging with other interested parties on the matter.