Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Questions (358, 359)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

358. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the student housing officer funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48103/19]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

359. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of steps to launch an assessment of scope for provision of additional student accommodation on local authority or other publicly owned lands. [48105/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 358 and 359 together.

Pillar 4 of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, published in July 2016, focuses on the supply of rented accommodation and includes specified actions to increase the supply of student accommodation in Ireland. The National Student Accommodation Strategy was subsequently launched in July 2017 by the Minister for Education and Skills in conjunction with Action 4.07 of Rebuilding Ireland.

Identified measures in assisting the development of new student accommodation projects included reforms related to planning matters and to development finance which were then provided for in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016. Firstly, under Action 4.13, the fast tracking of planning applications for construction projects with more than 200 student bedspaces was created under the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) route directly to An Bord Pleanala.

As of the end October 2019, this has resulted in the granting of planning permissions for 7,573 student bedspaces nationally under the SHD procedure. In addition, legislative provisions (Action 4.11) were also created to facilitate financing from the Housing Finance Agency to the Higher Education Institutes, specifically for new student accommodation projects.

There has been a sustained increase in the planning and construction of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) nationally since the adoption of Rebuilding Ireland in 2016. As of the end of Q3, 2019, a total of 8,229 bed spaces have been completed since the adoption of Rebuilding Ireland. This delivery exceeds the objective under Action 4.08 of Rebuilding Ireland to bring on stream 7,000 student accommodation places by end 2019.

In addition, there are a further 5,254 bed spaces on site and plans approved for an additional 7,771 bed spaces, representing a total of 21,254 bed spaces either complete, under construction or with plans granted at the end of Q3 2019 which indicates a strong pipeline of new student housing construction projects to continue growth to 2021 and beyond.

Action 4.07 of Rebuilding Ireland referred to the scope for the provision of student accommodation on local authority or other publicly-owned lands. Circular letter PL8/2016 to local authorities encouraged their collaboration with the Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in developing student accommodation projects. To this end the ‘State Lands Map’ was also published on the Rebuilding Ireland website in 2017 and this resource provides details and mapping of state owned lands including those controlled by the local authorities and the Housing Agency. The HEIs have been made aware of this resource through the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Student Accommodation established by the Department of Education and Skills and many are progressing plans to develop student accommodation.

Efforts to expand short-term capacity enhancing measures in the student accommodation sector are identified in Action 4.10. My Department has provided funding of €130,000 in the 2016-19 period to the Union of Students in Ireland in this regard to assist in funding a Student Housing Officer, training and other activities such as the #homesforstudy campaign. This initiative involves a website and other initiatives to encourage homeowners in targeted locations across the country to earn up to €14,000 tax free under the rent-a-room scheme by accommodating a student.

An additional provision has also been made for the UCD Students Union, who are outside the USI. A submission for further funding for the 2019/20 academic year has been made by the USI jointly to the Department of Education and Skills and my Department including proposals for continuing the #homesforstudy.ie campaign and other activities in the student accommodation area. This submission is being considered currently with a decision anticipated shortly.