Housing Policy

Questions (346)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

346. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the Rebuilding Ireland commitment to holding a competition to champion best practice, efficient and cost effective design to enable the delivery of high quality homes in sustainable communities at an affordable level. [48090/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Action 3.11 of Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan commits to a competition to champion best practice, efficient and cost effective design to enable the delivery of high quality homes in sustainable communities at an affordable level.

In late 2016, a call for proposals from local authorities for a suitable site for the design competition was issued. Following an evaluation process the successful site was identified as Old Whitechurch Road in Cork City.

In parallel, Cork City Council applied, qualified and secured funding under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) for the removal of overhead electricity lines and installation of a spine access route. Cork City Council is advancing this enabling infrastructure works on the site as a separate contract, this is due to commence on site shortly.

Cork City Council in conjunction with my Department are in the process of finalising the competition document, which will be tendered shortly.

An Bord Pleanála Data

Questions (347)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

347. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the budget and number of staff allocated to An Bord Pleanála per annum from 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48092/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department engages with An Bord Pleanála on an ongoing basis to ensure that it has the appropriate resources to perform its broad range of functions. The Board currently has a complement of 10 members and has over 160 other staff employed.

Section 116 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act), provides for the payment to the Board in each financial year of a grant of such amount as the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government may fix, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The grant goes towards financing the administration and general expenses of the Board. 

While the grant-aid funding provides for the majority of the Board’s annual income, the Board also generates income from fees charged.  Section 144 of the Act provides for the determination of fees payable to the Board, subject to my approval.  In the main, these fees are payable to the Board by parties in respect of applications for strategic infrastructure and strategic housing developments, planning appeals, referrals, oral hearing requests and certain other matters which are submitted for determination under Planning and Development, Water Pollution, and Building Control legislation.

The following table sets out the number of whole-time equivalent (WTE) staff employed by An Bord Pleanála on 31 December for the years 2016 to 2018 and at 31 October 2019, in addition to the operating budget for the Board over the same period.  The 2019 grant aid figure represents the amount provided in the 2019 Revised Estimates for Public Services. 

Years 

 Staffing* (WTE)

 Grant Aid

 Miscellaneous Income (including income from fees)

 Total Operating Budget

 

 

 €m

 €m

 €m

 2016

 142.10

14.405 

 2.987

 17.392

 2017 

 156.10

17.100 

3.026

 20.126

 2018

 165.9

 17.488

 4.059

21,546

 2019

 170.4**

 18.624

 6.491

 25,115

*Staffing figures are inclusive of Board members and Chairperson

**WTE staffing as at 31 October 2019  

This information, and other related statistics, are available in An Bord Pleanála's Annual Reports, which can be accessed at the following link: http://www.pleanala.ie/publications/index.htm.

I am satisfied that the Board has the necessary resources to deliver effectively and efficiently on its important statutory mandate and functions. I and my Department will continue to engage with the Board in this regard in the years ahead.

Rental Accommodation Standards

Questions (348)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

348. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the progress made to move towards enforcement of quality standards in rental accommodation on a regional basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48093/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, set out a series of measures to be introduced to ensure the quality of private rental accommodation by strengthening the applicable standards and improving the inspection and enforcement systems. The Strategy acknowledged the overall low rates of inspection of the private rental stock and low rates of compliance, as well as the need for greater consistency in approach to implementation of the regulations across local authorities. 

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light and safety of gas, oil and electrical supply.  My Department also published a guidance document to assist and support local authorities in implementing these Regulations.

All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations and responsibility for the enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority.

The Rental Strategy recognises the need for additional resources to be provided to local authorities to aid increased inspections of properties and ensure greater compliance with the Regulations. Provision was made for €2.5 million of Exchequer funding to be made available to local authorities in 2018 for this purpose, increasing to €4.5 million in 2019 and increasing further again, under Budget 2020, to €6m next year, with the intention of ultimately achieving a targeted inspection coverage of 25% of rental properties annually by 2021.

In 2018, 28,806 inspections were carried out, including repeat or follow up inspections in some cases. This was a 47% increase on the 19,645 inspections carried out in 2017, and I expect final data for this year to show a further significant increase. My Department will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that momentum is maintained towards the 25% target by 2021.

Local Authority Housing

Questions (349)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

349. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the roll-out of choice-based letting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48094/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Choice Based Letting (CBL) is a method whereby available social housing stock is let by being openly advertised by local authorities to persons on the social housing waiting list. This allows qualified applicants to 'register an interest' in available homes. 

Applicants can act on their own initiative to respond to adverts and express an interest in dwellings that they would like to live in, rather than waiting for an authority to offer them a dwelling. This approach offers more choice and involvement for applicant households in selecting a new home, thereby reducing the likelihood of a refusal, and helping to build sustainable tenancies and stable communities.

The Social Housing Allocation (Amendment) Regulations 2016 required all local authorities, if they had not already done so, to provide for CBL as a method of allocation for social housing in their allocation schemes by the end of 2016. The way in which CBL is implemented, including decisions on which properties are to be offered through it, is a matter for the individual authority concerned. However, it must be done in accordance with the relevant regulations and their own scheme of priority.

Given the clear benefits offered by CBL, my Department continues to liaise with the local authorities to ensure that it is implemented as widely as possible across the country and has undertaken a number of surveys in both 2017 and 2018 to determine its uptake and impact.  Data garnered through these surveys has shown that over half of all local authorities are operating a CBL system while others are in the process of running pilot schemes with a view to wider roll out in their respective areas. Of those authorities that are operating CBL the expressed view is that it is having a positive effect on how they allocate houses. The data also shows that where CBL is in operation the rate of refusals has dropped. The survey for 2019 is currently underway.

My Department hosted a workshop on CBL with representatives from the local authority sector on 15 November 2019. The aim of the workshop was to bring relevant officials from local authorities together and to provide a forum to discuss the potential for increasing the use of CBL across the State. The workshop also provided an opportunity to those authorities who, for various reasons, are not operating CBL to discuss the issues arising for their authorities.

Local Authority Assets

Questions (350)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

350. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of sites under the land aggregation scheme; the number of strategic management plans put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48095/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Land Aggregation Scheme (LAGS) was introduced in 2010, to assist in the gradual unwinding of loans taken out by housing authorities to purchase land for the social and affordable housing investment programme.  This was in cases where loans were due to mature and where it was considered unlikely that land would be developed in the short to medium term.

A total of 73 sites with a total area of circa 243 hectares were accepted into the Scheme before it was discontinued in 2013. Under the Scheme, ownership of LAGS sites is transferred to the Housing Agency which is tasked under Rebuilding Ireland with bringing forward these sites for development.

To set out a path to achieve housing development on LAGS lands, the Housing Agency published its LAGS Strategic Development and Management Plan in February 2018. This set out development proposals for all 73 sites, along with a further 13 sites also in their ownership. The plan identified 36 LAGS Sites as being Suitable for Immediate Development. The remaining 37 sites were categorised as Secondary Sites. The plan can be found on the Housing Agency website at https://www.housingagency.ie/publications/land-aggregation-scheme-strategic-development-and-management-plan.  

In terms of the development of the sites, the Housing Agency is prioritising those which are already serviced and which have with the most potential to deliver housing at scale in the short to medium term.  Currently 19 projects are being progressed across 17 LAGS sites which will deliver 788 social homes. Details of progress on these and other developments can be tracked through the Social Housing Construction Status Report. The latest report (Q2 2019) is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q2-2019-2/. 

Moreover, following on from the publication of the Land Aggregation Scheme Strategic Development and Management Plan, Expressions of Interest were sought from Approved Housing Bodies to work with the Agency to develop a number of sites not yet under development. Consequently, 18 further LAGS sites are now the subject of discussions between the Agency and a number of Approved Housing Bodies regarding development proposals for these sites. These 18 sites include 8 sites deemed Suitable for Immediate Development and 10 sites categorised as Secondary sites. See the tables for details of sites and AHBs.

Housing Agency’s chosen Development Partner for sites 'suitable for immediate development' following Call For Expression Of Interest   

 

Site   Location

Development   Partner

1

Carrigtwohill

Clúid

2

Collins Lane, Tullamore

Clúid

3

Hewittsland, New Ross

Clúid

4

Tubbercurry, Co.Sligo

Co-Op Housing

5

Paupish, Carlow

Tuath

6

Tinryland, Co.Carlow

Respond

7

Cappamore, Co.Limerick

Clúid

8

Taghmon, Co.Wexford

Respond

Housing Agency’s chosen Development Partner for 'secondary sites' following Call For Expression Of Interest   

 

Site   Location

Development   Partner

1

Parish field, Bunclody

Tuath

2

Campile, Co.Wexford

Tuath

3

Cloughmacsimon, Bandon

Tuath

4

Hacketstown, Co.Carlow

Respond

5

Castlemoyle, New Ross

Tuath

6

Nurney, Co.Kildare

Respond

7

Ballyard, Tralee

Respond

8

Derry Rd, Durrow

Tuath

9

Hillview, Wicklow

Tuath

10

Tullow Rd, Carlow

Respond

The Land Development Agency is also in discussions with the Housing Agency regarding the transfer of 3 LAGS sites 'suitable for immediate development' at Devoy Barracks, Naas Co Kildare, Hampton Balbriggan and Hackettstown Skerries in Fingal in order to provide for the development of these sites in a selective, targeted way that will further boost housing supply.

In addition, 6 LAGS sites 'suitable for immediate development' are benefitting from Departmental funding which will help relieve critical infrastructural blockages to enable the accelerated delivery of housing. This includes 3 sites at Mount Avenue, Dundalk, Gibbet Hill Gracedieu Waterford, and Lissywollen in Westmeath which have been approved for funding of €6.48m under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) which will stimulate the delivery of over 650 mixed tenure type homes.

The other 3 sites ‘suitable for immediate development’ at Enniskery Road, Dun Laoghaire, St Joseph’s Road Mallow, Cork and Hackettstown in Fingal have received funding approval of €9.5m under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) to provide the necessary infrastructure so that more affordable homes discounted on open market prices can be delivered. As a result I envisage that  219 affordable homes will be provided on these sites.  

My Department will continue to work with the Housing Agency, the relevant local authorities, the Land Development Agency and Approved Housing Bodies with a view to delivering the optimum housing mix from Land Aggregation Scheme sites.

Approved Housing Bodies

Questions (351)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

351. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the Rebuilding Ireland commitment to introduce an AHB innovation fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48096/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness included the commitment to explore a range of structural, funding and policy supports that could help to increase delivery by AHBs. 

In 2016, my Department established an Innovation Fund to support Tier 3 AHBs (i.e. those larger organisations with 300+ homes in their stock) in their development of innovative financial models that would assist in improving the capacity of the sector.

Six AHBs applied to this Fund and four proposals were deemed eligible. The total amount of funding approved for these four proposals was €104,043.50, and details of these approvals were announced in May 2017.

Details of the approved proposals are as follows: 

-  The Irish Council for Social Housing's proposal for the establishment of a sector-led financial vehicle to allow AHBs to expand and to facilitate the delivery of additional housing units.

- Clúid’s proposal to develop a set of procedures, guidelines and templates for mergers and acquisitions.

- Oaklee’s proposal to engage with financial advisors to secure off-balance sheet funding, with a view to the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle. 

- Túath’s proposal related to engaging with external experts to undertake research on two schemes relating to affordable rental. 

Approved Housing Bodies

Questions (352)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

352. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the Rebuilding Ireland commitment to establish a dedicated one-stop-shop within the Housing Agency to support AHBs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48097/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Approved Housing Body (AHB) Services Unit was established in 2017 in accordance with Action 2.14 of Rebuilding Ireland.

This unit currently has four staff and provides assistance to my Department, AHBs and Local Authorities to support AHB led delivery.

One of the main areas of operation that has been incorporated into the AHB Services Unit is the assessment of AHB Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF)funding applications and reporting recommendations to my Department. As part of this service, staff in the Unit liaise closely with AHBs and my Department in relation to particular features or issues that arise with individual applications and also engage in pre-application discussions with AHBs on matters such as advice on the assessment process or where certain innovations are being considered and how these might be viewed.

The Unit also prepares Payment & Availability/CALF contract documentation on behalf of local authorities where requested to do so. This helps to streamline the process of project funding drawdown, mainly for the acquisition by AHBs of properties acquired by the Agency using the €70m acquisition fund and for properties leased by AHBs from NAMA’s special purpose vehicle. This service has been expanding to other projects to further enhance the coordination between local authorities and AHBs in this area.

An AHB forum with representatives from the AHBs, local authorities and my Department has been established and currently meets on a quarterly basis to review strategic issues of concern to the stakeholders for the delivery of housing and improving coordination between AHBs and local authorities.

Housing Policy

Questions (353)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

353. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the Rebuilding Ireland commitment to bring forward pilot projects, beginning with Dublin City Council, based on best practice and cost effectiveness taking a cross-departmental inter-agency approach to housing initiatives for older persons. [48098/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Action 2.16 of Rebuilding Ireland states that my Department will bring forward pilot projects, beginning with Dublin City Council, based on best practice and cost effectiveness taking a cross Departmental/inter-agency approach to housing initiatives for older people. 

The aim of this Action is to examine the potential for mainstreaming best practice projects, which bring together the HSE and local authorities with designers and academic groups.  Such models would cater for those who, while not requiring full nursing home care, have been assessed as having healthcare needs that can be met in the community.  

Work on this Action has been underway for some time now and a pathfinder project at St.Michael's Estsate, Inchicore, Dublin 8 will include 52 'living with support' homes for older people. The 'housing with support' model brings together a range of services and supports, principally relating to housing, community, social and care needs. It seeks to provide an appropriate physical and supportive environment that enables older persons to live in their own homes within their own community, thereby both promoting independence and reducing or deferring the need to move into long term residential care.

The project is underpinned by a cross-Departmental inter-agency approach and involves cooperation between my Department, the Housing Agency, Dublin City Council, HSE, the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH), Circle VHA and Alone.

This pilot project has been approved for funding through my Department's Capital Assistance Scheme and is currently at planning permission stage, with construction likely to commence in or around Summer 2020.

In tandem with the work on the St. Michael’s project, housing initiatives for older people are also a focus of the policy statement ‘Housing Options for our Ageing Population’ which was jointly published by my Department and the Department of Health. An Implementation group, which includes a range of stakeholders, has been put in place to work on the Actions under the Statement and will be reporting to myself and to my colleague, Minister Daly, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People.

Housing Policy

Questions (354)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

354. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the Rebuilding Ireland commitment to create pilot competitions, focusing on three distinct areas of smart technologies in housing for older persons, adaptation of existing houses to meet the needs of older persons and life-time communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48099/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In January 2017, I launched the Rebuilding Ireland Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge. The Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge was an initiative under the Rebuilding Ireland programme (Action 2.19) and the Programme of Actions for Smart Ageing, which aims to stimulate and encourage the design and construction industries to be innovative in designing and delivering housing solutions for older people. The total Design Challenge prize fund of €100,000 was funded by my Department and project managed by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.

Over 60 high-quality entries were received from around the country, with five commended entries reaching the final round where they received funding of €10,000 and support to develop their idea further. In June 2017, I announced the winner of the Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge during an award ceremony at Dublin Castle. The winner, who received €50,000, was The Abhaile Project.

The Abhaile Project developed an innovative new model to support older homeowners to reconfigure their family-sized homes by creating an independent living area suitable for the older homeowner, eliminating the need to use the stairs; and creating an affordable one-bedroomed rental accommodation upstairs. Using a Universal Design approach, this promotes an efficient way to use our existing housing stock by carving much needed new one-bedroomed rental capacity from existing housing stock in mature urban areas, allowing the homeowner to live securely and independently downstairs, whilst promoting interaction with the person living upstairs, thereby reducing isolation.

Housing Adaptation Grant Data

Questions (355)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

355. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the total drawdown of housing adaptation grants per annum from 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48100/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department provides funding to local authorities for the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability in respect of private houses, with funding of €71.25 million allocated for 2019. 

Information for the years 2016-2018, showing the numbers of grants funded and the amounts provided to each local authority, is available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/social-and-affordble/other-local-authority-housing-scheme-statistics. 

The following table contains details of the 2019 exchequer funding drawn down by local authorities for the grants up to 8 November 2019. These amounts do not necessarily represent what each local authority has spent, as funding may have been spent but not yet claimed from my Department.  Also, the amounts shown for exchequer draw down, are topped up by each local authority's own 20% contribution.

Local Authority

Exchequer Drawdown to 8 November 2019

Carlow 

€1,132,234

Cavan 

€495,549

Clare 

€1,469,367

Cork 

€2,964,855

Cork City 

€647,935

Donegal 

€905,780

Dublin City 

€5,632,506

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown 

€974,681

Fingal 

€1,596,246

Galway

€1,148,720

Galway City 

€722,023

Kerry 

€1,911,674

Kildare 

€2,226,929

Kilkenny 

€1,378,959

Laois 

€299,748

Leitrim 

€131,308

Limerick 

€2,082,152

Longford 

€286,190

Louth

€670,082

Mayo 

€1,515,274

Meath 

€1,643,180

Monaghan 

€1,437,883

Offaly 

€554,606

Roscommon 

€924,427

Sligo 

€1,015,782

South Dublin 

€1,487,789

Tipperary

€2,340,638

Waterford 

€849,126

Westmeath 

€864,397

Wexford 

€1,609,774

Wicklow 

€613,392

Over the course of each year, my Department works closely with all local authorities, to monitor spend and to achieve a full drawdown of the available funding. As the year progresses, any underspend is redistributed to those local authorities with high levels of grant activity who sought additional funding.

Traveller Accommodation

Questions (356)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

356. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government that status of the commission of an expert, independent review of capital and current funding for Traveller specific accommodation to date with regard to targets contained in the local authority Traveller accommodation programmes and actual units delivered; and the status of accommodation funded and funding provided for accommodation maintenance and other supports. [48101/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Accommodation for Travellers is provided across a wide range of options, including standard local authority housing, private housing assisted by local authority or voluntary bodies and private rented accommodation, as well as Traveller-specific accommodation. Travellers may express a preference across the range of accommodation types at any stage when applying for social housing support through the Social Housing Needs Assessment process.

In line with the commitment in Rebuilding Ireland, and reflecting the disappointing level of overall funding drawdown in recent years, the Housing Agency, in 2017, commissioned a review of funding for Traveller-specific accommodation. This review had regard to targets contained in local authority Traveller Accommodation Plans (TAPs) and actual delivery, the current status of accommodation funded and funding provided for accommodation maintenance and other supports.

Following its consideration of the review, the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee recommended the establishment of an independent expert group to review the effectiveness, implementation and operation of relevant legislation and to put forward proposals to improve delivery of Traveller accommodation nationally. The Expert Group submitted its report in July 2019.

The 32 recommendations made by the Expert Group to accelerate the delivery of Traveller accommodation are comprehensive and wide ranging, and include proposals aimed at:

- addressing research deficiencies, including how information is gathered and used;

- removing any potential delays and obstacles in the planning system in terms of delivery;

- increasing resources and delivery capacity; and

- strengthening governance arrangements.

I am currently considering the report and recommendations of the Expert Group, with a view to implementing appropriate actions and policies that will improve the delivery of Traveller accommodation nationally. The priority is to ensure that full use is made of the increasing level of funding available for investment in Traveller accommodation. The report has been published and is available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/2019_july_expert_review_group_traveller_accommodation-final_reportrt_00.pdf

In the context of the 32 recommendations, my Department is also liaising with key stakeholders on issues arising. The Expert Group’s report has also been shared with the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee and members of the Committee are considering the report and will provide submissions to my Department, as appropriate.

I am working to complete this process as soon as possible and set out a road map for implementation of agreed recommendations, with a view to accelerating and increasing the delivery of much needed Traveller accommodation, drawing on the increasing funding available.

Housing Provision

Questions (357)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

357. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government that status of the 15 to 20 key pathfinder sites with a proven capability to deliver a significant scaling-up of new homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48102/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

As part of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan, the Major Urban Housing Delivery Sites (MUHDS) programme was launched in November 2016. This initiative provides an administrative framework to support local authorities involved in the delivery of housing in major urban centres in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.  These key strategic housing sites, details of which are set out in the Table at the link, were identified as having a capacity to deliver a significant scale of new homes, in conjunction with local authorities and other key stakeholders such as Irish Water, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, etc.  Development on many of these sites has been progressed with the support of funding streams such as the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) and the Serviced Sites Fund and through the MUHDS regional and national fora which were established to improve co-ordination between facilitating interests.

LIHAF currently provides funding support to projects on 13 MUHDS sites. This funding covers the cost of facilitating infrastructure and services to enable the delivery of private, social and more affordable dwellings.  Details of the MUHDS sites which are benefitting from LIHAF funding can be found on the Rebuilding Ireland website at https://rebuildingireland.ie/lihaf/. A ‘Story Map’ facility is also available to highlight the infrastructure delivery and the associated housing delivery for MUHDS sites and LIHAF projects.  This can be found at https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/muhds-lihaf-story-map/.

Accelerating delivery of housing for the private, social and rented sectors is a key priority for the Government. The solutions to this challenge are wide-ranging and require a number of immediate-, medium- and long-term actions to increase delivery and address underlying structural issues that, up to now, have been obstacles to creating a more stable and sustainable housing market.

Progress on (MUHD) sites continues to be monitored through the MUHDS structures at a national and local level.

MUHDS table

Student Accommodation

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]

View answer

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.

Housing Estates

Questions (360)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

360. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the national taking-in-charge initiative funding per annum from 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [48106/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department launched the National Taking-in-Charge Initiative (NTICI) in April 2016, to trial new approaches and working methods in supporting and accelerating overall national and local action on the taking-in-charge process of housing estates. Under the terms of the NTICI, which was underpinned by a once-off fund of €10 million, developments subject to valid taking-in-charge applications were eligible for inclusion in the associated call for funding proposals. Ultimately, €7.5 million of the allocated funding was paid to local authorities in respect of 330 developments, containing some 14,930 homes.

Findings and recommendations from the NTICI process were included in a report on the initiative, that was published by my Department in December 2018. The report is available at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/national_taking_in_charge_initiative_report_dec2018.pdf.

In July this year my Department launched the Multi-annual Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure Resolution Programme. The development of such a multi-annual funding programme was a key recommendation of the report on the National Taking-in-Charge Initiative. The National Development Plan published in February 2018, includes provision of €31 million for the period 2018-2021 to support the Programme. The Programme will enable the progressive resolution, on a priority basis, of substandard Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure - commonly called 'DPI', much of which was installed in housing estates during the building boom of the late 1990's and early 2000's. These privately owned and temporary facilities provide mostly wastewater treatment, with a small number providing drinking water.

The collaborative experience gained by the key stakeholders in implementing the Taking-in-Charge Initiative has informed the new Resolution Programme. Bids were sought from local authorities around the country for funding under the Programme and the closing date was 18 September 2019. A total number of 19 local authorities with Developer Provided Infrastructure in estates in their areas, made applications under the programme for support.

My Department is currently completing a preliminary evaluation and clarification process on the bids received with the local authorities. The intention is to shortly set up an Expert Panel to independently evaluate the bids and recommend suitable projects for funding. This evaluation will take place over the coming months. Membership of the Panel will include Departmental, stakeholder and independent representation in the Chair.

The Expert Panel will make recommendations to me on the suitability of projects for funding under the Programme, based on the criteria set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. The Panel will report to my Department when their examination of the bids is concluded. I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in early 2020 on approvals and allocations once that process is concluded and has been considered.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (361)

Barry Cowen

Question:

361. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount spent on public relations, promotion and advertising for the National Development Plan 2018-2027 and Project Ireland 2040 since its publication in February 2018 by category (details supplied) in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48127/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Project Ireland 2040 (PI2040) is the Government’s long-term, overarching strategy to make Ireland a better country for all its people, integrating for the first time, the national spatial and investment strategies.  The projects under these plans which include roads, schools, primary care centres, housing, sporting and cultural amenities and business activation facilities impact villages, towns, cities and regions across the length and breadth of Ireland.

Responsibility for Project Ireland 2040 communications lay with the Department of the Taoiseach and was managed by the Government Information Service from the launch of PI2040 in February 2018 until it was assigned to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on 21 November 2019, so the costs arising fell to these Departments.      

As part of the implementation of the National Planning Framework (NPF), my Department incurred miscellaneous expenditure over the course of 2018 totalling just under €70,000, the bulk of which relates to the roll-out of two key initiatives, the new Urban and Rural Development Fund (URDF) and the Land Development Agency (LDA).  URDF expenditure of €38,673 includes launch events and videos as well as newspaper notices advertising the URDF call for proposals.  LDA related expenditure of €22,232 includes a launch event, video, branding and business tools. Remaining expenditure includes document design and minor miscellaneous costs associated with the NPF itself.

Defective Building Materials

Questions (362)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

362. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the supports made available to the owners of properties in which defective blockwork has been identified and in which the property in question is a non-principal private residence; if consideration has been given to providing relief from VAT and-or other supports to owners of such properties with respect to the cost of carrying out remedial works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48180/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Last year, the Government agreed in principle to introduce a scheme to support affected homeowners in the counties of Donegal and Mayo to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been significantly damaged due to defective concrete blocks.

Budget 2020 provides funding of €40 million to fund  the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme and this new scheme to address the issues identified in Donegal and Mayo.

Funding for future years will be agreed on an annual basis as part of the normal Estimates process and additional funding can be provided should it be required.

The full terms and conditions of the scheme are currently being finalised in consultation with the Attorney General's Office and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, including the development of the necessary regulations. 

This process takes account of the engagement that my Department is currently having with both Donegal and Mayo County Councils, who will operate and administer the scheme.

In this regard, my Department continues to meet with both local authority teams to conclude implementation arrangements for the scheme. Further engagement will take place over the coming weeks.

The aim will be to complete the outstanding work without delay in order to ensure that the scheme can get underway as early as possible.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (363)

Jack Chambers

Question:

363. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount spent on bottled water and disposable coffee cups by his Department to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48193/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department has spent €413 (excluding VAT) on bottled water to date in 2019.

My Department has not spent anything on disposable coffee cups to date in 2019. Staff were provided with reusable coffee cups this year and and an annual drop in demand of over 12,000 disposable cups is now anticipated at the Custom House alone.  

My Department operates an Environmental Management System accredited to ISO 14001/2014 in the Custom House and, in support of this, in 2018, my Department ceased the purchase of single-use plastic beverage cups, cutlery and drinking straws in advance of the 2019 Government decision on this issue. Following the success of our proactive cups initiative we have also ceased the use of the expanded polystyrene food containers in the Custom House canteen.

Freedom of Information Data

Questions (364)

Barry Cowen

Question:

364. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the date of each review and revision of the material published under the publication scheme of his Department as outlined in section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48210/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department published its publication scheme in line with the Freedom of Information Act 2014 and the Model Publication Scheme guidance published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.  The structure of the scheme is set out in the 2016 guidance.  The scheme is available at: https://www.housing.gov.ie/corporate/compliance/freedom-information-foi/requests-information-and-foi-publication-scheme.

While my Department does not collate the specific detail in the format requested by the Deputy, my Department reviews and revises the content of the scheme on a more regular basis than that required under Section 8(4) of the Freedom of Information Act 2014.

Departmental Expenditure

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A

.

Questions (365)

Barry Cowen

Question:

365. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount spent on public relations, promotion and advertising, including multi-media, in his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 (details supplied) in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48249/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Press and public relations functions are generally undertaken by my Department's Press Office. The engagement of external expertise is only considered where the issues involved require expert skills or capabilities that are not readily available within my Department. 

The details requested for the years 2016 onward have previously been provided in reply to Question No 586 of 18 December 2018. Details of expenditure since 18 December 2018 are currently being compiled in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy in accordance with Standing Orders.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A
As previously advised in my reply of 20 November 2019, Press and public relations functions are generally undertaken by my Department's Press Office. The engagement of external expertise is only considered where the issues involved require expert skills or capabilities that are not readily available within my Department. My Department undertakes public information campaigns where there is important information to be brought to the public’s attention. The advertising campaigns generally comprise traditional advertising methods including TV, radio, online and print as well as social media. From 2016 to date, my Department has not advertised on billboards; bus stops or public transport. Apart from advertisements created for television, the videos used to inform audiences of the work of the Department are produced by the Press and Communications Office in my Department. The figure for creative design production below refers to costs incurred in producing and targeting radio and TV advertisements.
Out of the figures below, €200,567 was spent by the Franchise Unit of my Department. This was for public information campaigns on electoral issues such as the annual Register of Electors Awareness campaign, the modernisation of the Electoral Register project and information for, and connected with, electors with a physical disability. This sum also includes €27,390 towards the cost of a special supplement to a national newspaper marking 100 years since women got the vote, produced in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy. This supplement was widely distributed, including to all the schools in the country.
In addition, my Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management spent €242,561 on a suite of important public health and safety campaigns including National Fire Safety Week.
The details requested for the years 2016 onward have previously been provided in reply to Question No 586 of 18 December 2018. Details of the expenditure by my Department on various public relations, promotions and advertising activities since 18 December 2018 are set out in the following table.

-

-

Total (€)

1.

Online advertising

€19,022

2.

Radio advertising

€83,351

3.

Print advertising

€190,939

4.

Creative Design Production

€72,197

5.

TV advertising

€167,857

Planning Issues

Questions (366)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

366. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will report on the decision regarding so-called strategic housing developments being submitted directly to An Bord Pleanála; if he will not terminate this practice at the end of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48274/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

As part of the actions under the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness – Rebuilding Ireland, the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 (the Act) introduced new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHDs) of 100 housing units or more, or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more, to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála for determination.

The Act provides that the SHD arrangements apply until the end of 2019, but that I may, by order, extend that period by a further limited period of 2 years, up to the end of 2021, coinciding with the timeframe of Rebuilding Ireland. However, prior to the making of such an order, the Act requires that I review the operation and effectiveness of the SHD arrangements and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report of my conclusions of the review.

In this regard, a Strategic Housing Development Review Group was established in June 2019. The Report of the Review Group was received on 24 September 2019.  The Report acknowledges that the SHD arrangements have generally been a success in meeting their objectives to contribute to addressing housing undersupply issues by providing a fast-track development consent process aimed at incentivising developers to bring forward applications for large-scale housing developments.

Notwithstanding the positive contribution that the SHD arrangements have made, the Review Group notes that there continues to exist a deficit in housing supply and affirms that the original rationale for the introduction of the SHD arrangements remains. In light of these findings, the Review Group considers that there are sufficient grounds for extending the SHD arrangements until the end of 2021.

I concur with the finding of the Review Group in this regard and propose to shortly sign an order to this effect. A report on my conclusions of the review, as well as the Review Group's Report, have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, as required by the Act and copies of both reports are available on my Department's website.

In addition, I have reflected on the views of the Review Group on the rate of activation of SHD sites, and I consider it appropriate that developers should be sufficiently motivated to commence development on foot of an SHD permission in a timely manner given the benefits the SHD arrangements provide.  Therefore, I consider that it would be appropriate to introduce a "use it or lose it" measure requiring developers to have commenced a certain level of development within a certain period of time on foot of a grant of an SHD planning permission and I intend bringing forward the necessary legislation in this regard in due course.