Departmental Staff Data

Questions (617, 618)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

617. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of officials in his Department working on housing by the area of work, policy and so on; the number of officials by grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50016/19]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

618. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of officials in his Department working on housing who have experience working in organisations at the front-line of the housing and or homeless sector by the area of work, policy and so on; the number of officials by grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50017/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 617 and 618 together.

There are two Divisions within my Department which deal specifically with Housing issues; the Housing Policy, Legislation and Governance Division and the Housing Delivery Division. Both Divisions are managed by an Assistant Secretary General.

The Housing Delivery Division supports a significant number of actions under the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness - Rebuilding Ireland . This includes Homelessness and Social Inclusion Supports, Traveller Accommodation, Affordability and Cost Rental, the oversight and management of the Social Housing Capital and Current Programmes. The Division is also responsible for implementation and management of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

The Division currently has a staffing complement of 144 which is set out by grade in the following table.

Grade

Number

Assistant Secretary General

1

Principal Officer

7

Principal Adviser

1

Senior Adviser

4

Assistant Principal

25

Architectural Advisor

5

Quantity Surveyor Grade 1

5

Supervising Housing Inspector

2

Architectural Engineering Inspector

10

Higher Executive Officer

21

Administrative Officer

6

Executive Officer

38

Clerical Officer

19

The Housing Policy, Legislation and Governance Division develops policy and legislation in relation to Housing generally and also in relation to the rental market. In addition, the Division is responsible for the development of funding mechanisms and the development of policy and regulation for Approved Housing Bodies.

The Division currently has a staffing complement of 42 which is set out by grade in the following table.

Grade

Number

Assistant Secretary General

1

Principal Officer

5

Assistant Principal

13

Higher Executive Officer

9

Executive Officer

7

Clerical Officer

5

TOTAL

40

The Housing Divisions also have close ties to the Planning Division and provide extensive support on a number of critical construction related issues, such as cost of construction, viability of apartment buildings and productivity in the building industry generally, including the impact of Brexit. It should also be noted that the Housing Divisions work closely with the Water and Local Government divisions in respect of the provision of services and the implementation of Government's housing policies.

As part of its recruitment practices, my Department endeavours to assign staff to the most appropriate business units based on their skills, qualifications and experience. Many of our professional and technical staff - and some of our administrative staff - have experience in the Local Authority sector as well as the broader housing sector and industry. However, specific information in respect of individuals' experience in front line organisations in the housing and homelessness sectors is not readily available.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (619)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

619. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the real life experience of homelessness that is taken into account in the policy formation of his Department; if his officials liaise with charities and service users; if not, the reason therefore; if he will consider same going forward; if so, the organisations which will be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50018/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government. Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness includes a range of measures relating to the provision of emergency accommodation and the range of supports to be provided to households experiencing homelessness.

In 2018, the Government increased the funding available to local authorities to provide homeless services by over 25% to €146m. This funding will increase by a further €20m to €166m in 2020. Under the delegated funding arrangements in place between my Department and the housing authorities, a significant proportion of the homeless budget is provided, under contract, to NGOs involved in the delivery of homeless services. For example, in 2018, services amounting to approximately €78.5m were contracted by the housing authorities to NGO service providers. As such, the NGOs are key service delivery partners with my Department and the housing authorities.

I regularly meet with management and staff of the NGOs and have visited many of the services operated by the NGOs. I have also met with many of the individuals and families accessing these services. My Department is working with the local authorities on the implementation of the National Quality Standards Framework for homeless services. The Framework, which has been fully implemented in the Dublin region, is being introduced nationally over a 12-month period since 1 July 2018. A central element of the Framework is the focus on the service user, and in particular, that the service users needs and views are sought and responded to at all levels of service delivery.

Earlier this year, my Department established the National Homelessness Consultative Forum, which includes representatives of the largest NGOs delivering homeless services and representatives from each of the regional Homeless Consultative fora nationally. This Forum provides a formal structure for engagement between the Government Departments and State Agencies involved in the delivery of homeless services and the NGO service providers.

Housing Policy

Questions (620)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

620. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the real life experience of renting taken into account in policy formation of his Department; if his officials liaise with organisations and tenants; if not, the reason therefore; if he will consider same going forward; if so, the organisations which will be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50019/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department engages with NGOs and sectorial bodies as part of the process of policy development. The Strategy for the Rental Sector in Ireland was published in December 2016 and has benefited from a public consultation process involving a stakeholder event in Dublin and almost 500 written submissions received from a broad range of stakeholders.

The subsequent enactment of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 benefitted from input from the sector, including the key Non-Government Organisations working in housing and homelessness.

In particular, the 2019 amendments to legally tighten the tenancy termination provisions and to significantly extend the tenancy termination notice periods were informed by the experiences in the rental sector, as highlighted by the NGOs. For example, 180 days (approx. 6 months) notice period must now be provided by a landlord to terminate a tenancy of between 3 and 7 years’ duration. Landlords are now also required to copy a tenancy termination notice to the RTB within 28 days of the expiry of the required tenancy termination notice period.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (621)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

621. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to put in place one-stop-shop assessment centres with multi-agency participation making the best use of modern technology for families presenting as homeless. [50053/19]

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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 local level. Statutory responsibility for the provision of accommodation and related services rests with individual housing authorities. Decisions on the range of accommodation and support services to be provided are a matter for the individual housing authorities in consultation with the statutory Management Group of the relevant regional joint Homelessness Consultative Forum.

Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness includes a range of measures to support individuals and families experiencing homelessness. One measure is to ensure that ‘one-stop-shop’ assessment centres are put in place with multi-agency participation making the best use of modern technology for families presenting as homeless. The objective of such centres is to ensure assessment and supports are provided to families with children presenting as homeless to ensure every effort is made to keep them in their current homes or to ensure appropriate homeless and other support services are provided.

In Dublin, where the issue of homelessness is most pronounced, a ‘one-stop-shop’ assessment centre is in place for families presenting as homeless. The centre is led by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and has multi-agency participation including the four Dublin housing authorities, Tusla, the Family Mediation Services, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Justice and Equality, tenancy protection services and expert NGOs. The services concerned work together to assess and support families with children presenting as homeless, to ensure every effort is made to keep them in their current homes or to ensure appropriate homeless and other support services are provided. In addition, Housing Support Officers, working out of the centre, are assigned to individual families in emergency accommodation, to assist and support families to move on to long-term tenancies. Similar assessment and support services are also in place across all housing authorities and local authorities work closely with other Government Departments and Agencies to ensure that the households and families experiencing homelessness receive the supports that they require.

Child Protection

Questions (622)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

622. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to roll out nationally the Dublin region protocol for appropriate responses to child protection and welfare concerns among families in emergency accommodation. [50054/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government. Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness includes a range of measures relating to the provision of emergency accommodation and the range of supports to be provided to households experiencing homelessness.

My Department does not provide homeless service directly but contributes Exchequer funding towards housing authorities expenditure on the operational costs of homeless accommodation and related services. Funding is provided on a regional basis, whereby it is delegated to a lead authority in each region. Under funding arrangements, protocols have been put in place with each lead authority in the region. Under these protocols, the roles and responsibilities of housing authorities are set out, which include responsibilities in relation to the safety of children accessing emergency accommodation. Housing authorities are required to ensure that they are fully compliant with all statutory and non-statutory obligations arising from the Children First Act 2015 and all other legislation relating to the child safety. Housing authorities are also required to ensure that requirements relating to child safety and protection are fully communicated to all service providers in receipt of Exchequer funding.

In addition, arising out of a commitment made in Rebuilding Ireland, a specific course on child protection was developed in partnership between the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and Tusla. The DRHE has been providing Child Protection training to Private Emergency Accommodation staff, which covers their legal responsibilities under child protection legislation, reviewing the reasonable grounds for concern and the thresholds for reporting and reporting concerns where appropriate. Child protection booklets have been distributed to operators of private emergency accommodation. Child safety is also an integral element of the National Quality Standards Framework for Homeless Services, which is fully operational in Dublin and is being rolled out nationally over a 12-month period from 1 July 2019.

Housing Policy

Questions (623)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

623. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to implement national procedures to enhance inter-agency arrangements regarding the release and accommodation of sex offenders. [50055/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

One of the actions contained in the Rebuilding Ireland, Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is that the State will implement national procedures to enhance inter-agency arrangements regarding the release and accommodation of sex offenders.

The Sex Offenders Risk Assessment and Management (SORAM) process is in place to provide a multi-agency, consistent response across all local authority areas in housing sex offenders. A Sex Offender Liaison Officer (SOLO) has been appointed within each of the nine homeless regions to ensure that the discharge of convicted sex offenders from the prison services into the community is managed effectively and that their accommodation needs are addressed in an appropriate manner.

Housing for People with Disabilities Provision

Questions (624)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

624. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the National Housing Strategy for People with Disabilities 2011-2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50057/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability (NHSPWD) 2011-2016 was affirmed in Rebuilding Ireland and extended to 2020 to continue to deliver on its aims. Implementation of the Strategy is being driven primarily by the Housing Agency by means of a dedicated sub-group with representatives from my Department, the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Department of Health, local authorities, the Irish Council for Social Housing and various disability representative organisations. The Housing Agency Subgroup, established in 2012, is progressing a range of priority actions, and this is continuing under the extended timeframe of the Strategy.

As the NHSPWD was reaffirmed under Rebuilding Ireland up to 2020, both my Department and the Department of Health are currently in discussions around developing the next Housing Strategy for People with Disabilities post 2020. Development of a new strategy will include extensive consultation with all stakeholders and it is likely that this work will begin in early 2020.

Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Questions (625)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

625. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to increase the capacity through increased borrowing and access to HFA financing for participating local authorities to provide matching funding for the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund. [50059/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) was designed to activate housing supply by putting in place the enabling public infrastructure necessary to ensure that large scale development could take place on key sites in urban areas of high housing demand. Approval was given for 30 projects under LIHAF in 2017 and it is anticipated that these projects will stimulate the development of up to 20,000 housing units across 14 local authorities.

Funding of €200 million was provided under LIHAF, of which €150 million was made available via the Exchequer with local authorities matching up to €50 million. The final 30 projects received approval with an overall budget of €195.7m, of which €146.8m will be Exchequer funded, with the remainder funded via local authorities. Details on all of the LIHAF projects by local authority area and budget allocation are available at www.rebuildingireland.ie/LIHAF.

In terms of LIHAF expenditure, most projects have been at the design and planning stages, and this is reflected in the level of expenditure to date. However, more projects are now progressing to construction stage and it is expected that the expenditure will increase significantly towards in 2020 to reflect the increased construction activity.

Drawdown of LIHAF grant funding from the Department commenced with €1.603m in Exchequer funding provided in 2017, a further €6.814m in 2018 and approximately €17m to date in 2019. Each of these Exchequer amounts was matched by 25% local authority funding.

Officials in my Department are in ongoing contact with the participating local authorities and to date no significant issues have been raised with my Department regarding access to, or the provision of, matching funding. The HFA has confirmed that it has not received any applications for LIHAF funding from Local Authorities. However, the HFA has confirmed that it is in a position to assist local authorities with low cost, long term fixed rate finance, should they wish to access same.

Housing Finance Agency Funding

Questions (626)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

626. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to establish bodies such as approved housing bodies in the higher education institutions sector to access Housing Finance Agency funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50060/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland provides for the establishment of dedicated delivery structures, such as Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) sector to access Housing Finance Agency (HFA) funding.

The HFA held bilateral meetings with each of the seven Universities to introduce the HFA and to assess potential demand and timelines to delivery. During the meetings, the HFA outlined the choice available to the HEIs to either: a) establish AHBs to access finance from the HFA or b) to borrow directly from the HFA.

The HFA provided the Universities with information on the procedures to establish a new AHB. Feedback suggested that the HEI preference was to borrow directly from the HFA once the necessary Commencement Order had been passed. This is considered to be a more straightforward approach.

Section 51 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 then amended the Housing Finance Agency Act 1981 to enable the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) to lend to Institutes of Higher Education for the provision or management of student accommodation, including the acquisition of land for this purpose.

This provision became operational on 3 July 2017. Long term finance at very competitive fixed or variable rates is now available for HEIs from the Housing Finance Agency.

As outlined in the HFA Annual Report 2018, three universities have had loan applications approved totalling €167m for the provision of 1,428 new student bedrooms.

Local Authority Housing Rents

Questions (627)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

627. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to review the disparate systems of differential rents for social housing across local authorities. [50062/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 provides for the introduction of a national rents framework for social housing tenants. Considerable work has been carried out by my Department in developing a draft of such a framework, which has as its main aim the harmonisation of local authority rents, including a set of standardised income disregards, whilst retaining the general principle of rents related to household income.

This work was examined further in the light of the broader commitment given in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, to review the disparate systems of differential rent for social housing in place across local authorities. The overall objective is to ensure that housing supports are fair and sustainable and prioritise those on lowest incomes.

I intend to bring a comprehensive package of social housing reform measures to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the review will be progressed as part of this package.

Housing Agency Portfolio

Questions (628)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

628. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of acquisitions by the Housing Agency under funding to find and acquire suitable portfolios of vacant properties per annum. [50063/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

A key priority in the Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is to provide direct capital funding to the Housing Agency to facilitate the acquisition of suitable portfolios of properties for social housing from financial institutions and investors (Actions 1.1, 2.5 and 5.6).

An acquisitions fund of €70 million, which is a revolving fund, was established with effect from 1 January 2017 with the objective of acquiring some 1,600 units over the period to 2020 for social housing use. This has enabled the Housing Agency to actively engage with banks and investment companies in relation to the acquisitions of properties. The fund is replenished by the Agency through the sale of units primarily to the Approved Housing Body (AHB) sector and the funds received will then be recycled back into the fund for future acquisitions.

This is intended to be a short term to medium term initiative, targeting the vacant property portfolios of financial institutions and investment companies and is a direct response to the current shortage that would be designed to complement, not displace, ongoing targeted acquisition activity by local authorities and AHBs. Through the provision of direct access to capital funding for the Housing Agency, the aim is to simplify the current acquisition process for vacant portfolio purchases; speed up the process and to encourage investors to make additional supply available.

Up to end Q2 2019, a total of 645 properties had been purchased by the Agency using the Fund and placed on caretaker leases. In addition, a further 63 properties are in the process of proceeding to purchase close or being placed on caretaker leases or transferred to Local Authorities, which is close to 50% of its original objective of the Fund. The onward sale of 322 of these units to AHBs has been completed in full.

The year by year breakdown as reported for Rebuilding Ireland is as follows:

Year

No. of units made available to AHBs

2017

36

2018

481

2019 (up to end Q2)

128

In addition to the above, and in order to maximise the number of vacant properties held by financial institutions that could be harnessed for social housing, the Housing Agency is separately engaging on an agent basis with financial institutions and local authorities. To end Q2 2019 a total of 283 properties have been bought directly by local authorities from these institutions, with a further 146 proceeding through to sale.

This effectively means that in total, more than 1,000 properties held by financial institutions have been brought back into use for social housing since 2016 as a result of the intervention of the Housing Agency more generally.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

Questions (629)

Dara Calleary

Question:

629. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if an application for funding by a water supply scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo has been received; if the scheme will be considered for funding in the next round of allocations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50145/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

On 8 February this year, I announced details of the measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. In parallel to the announcement local authorities were invited to submit bids for funding schemes or projects in their functional areas, with the deadline for receipt of proposals set as 14 March 2019.

The new multi-annual programme includes Measure 4 – New Group Water Schemes. This measure supports social and economic development in rural towns and villages and their hinterlands by providing new group water schemes where public water supply schemes or individual/private wells are not the most viable options.

Mayo County Council made a number of bids under Measure 4 including for a proposal for Letterbrick Group Water Scheme. The estimated cost of the proposed 24 house scheme was €469,000 or €19,542 per house.

An Expert Panel was put in place to support the Department in its bids evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brought independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which was done on a national prioritised basis. The Panel’s membership included Departmental, stakeholder and independent representations.

The Panel made recommendations to my Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria, which were set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. In particular, the Framework sets out that grants of up to 85% of cost are available for new group water schemes subject to a maximum grant of €7,650 per house - this means that the effective financially viable cost limit per house for a scheme is €9,000. A supplemental grant can be considered in exceptional cases subject to the recommendation of the Panel and Departmental approval.

The Panel, in considering the bid for the proposed Letterbrick scheme, concluded that at €19,542 per house it was not financially viable when viewed against the criteria in the Framework. In the circumstances the Panel did not recommend a supplementary grant.

The Panel recommends that the local authority engages with the promoters to consider alternative lower cost solutions (e.g. private wells for which, subject to terms and conditions, a separate grant is available).

In considering the recommendations of the Expert Panel I accepted these in full when announcing the approvals and allocations under the multi-annual rural water programme on 15 October 2019.

The current approved allocations are for the 2019-2021 funding cycle of the programme. It is envisaged that the next cycle of the programme will commence in 2022 when bids will again be sought. The Letterbrick scheme will be eligible to make an application to the Council again in 2022 if so required by the scheme.

Housing Loans

Questions (630)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

630. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of Rebuilding Ireland home loan applications by county made to date in 2019, in tabular form; the number of applications finalised; the number approved; the local authorities that have closed the scheme or placed applications on hold due to a lack of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50177/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing Agency provides a central support service which assesses applications for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan on behalf of local authorities and makes recommendations to the authorities to approve or refuse applications. Housing Agency recommendations are then considered by the Credit Committee in each local authority, which issues loan approvals.

Each local authority must have in place a Credit Committee and it is a matter for the Committee to make the final decision on applications for loans, in accordance with the regulations, and having regard to the recommendations made by the Housing Agency.

I have asked the Agency to compile figures on the numbers of applications that it has assessed and recommended to approve since the scheme began. In 2018, the Housing Agency assessed 3,036 valid applications. Of these, it recommended 1,550 for approval. For 2019, as of end-October 2019, the Housing Agency have assessed 2,271 valid applications of which 1,133 have been recommended for approval.

Local Authority

Total Applications Assessed

Total Applications Recommended for Approval

Carlow County Council

73

28

Cavan County Council

24

9

Clare County Council

87

36

Cork City Council

217

96

Cork County Council

414

209

Donegal County Council

51

22

Dublin City Council

610

368

Dún Laoghaire - Rathdown County Council

142

78

Fingal County Council

756

424

Galway City Council

109

58

Galway County Council

194

63

Kerry County Council

144

59

Kildare County Council

200

107

Kilkenny County Council

61

31

Laois County Council

125

61

Leitrim County Council

19

5

Limerick City & County Council

143

85

Longford County Council

55

26

Louth County Council

152

59

Mayo County Council

82

32

Meath County Council

324

212

Monaghan County Council

64

21

Offaly County Council

58

23

Roscommon County Council

59

23

Sligo County Council

72

34

South Dublin County Council

373

194

Tipperary County Council

152

67

Waterford City & County Council

115

39

Westmeath County Council

56

34

Wexford County Council

161

80

Wicklow County Council

215

100

Total

5,307

2,683

My Department publishes information on the overall number and value of (i) local authority loan approvals and (ii) local authority loan drawdowns. Local authority approval means that an official letter of offer has been sent to a borrower (and therefore relates to a specific property and loan amount). Information on the RIHL for Quarter 2 2019, including in relation to the number and value of mortgage approvals and drawdowns, is available on the Department's website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-prices-loans-and-profile-borrowers/local-authority-loan-activity.

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme was initially being developed, it was estimated that the drawdown of loans would be approximately €200 million over three years. However, this loan product has proved to be more successful than initially anticipated. In the context of the scheme’s success my Department engaged with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance with regard to the allocation for 2019.

I engaged early as I said I would. While discussions commenced in October 2018 on additional funding, the first tranche of €200m was only fully drawn down in August of this year. My Department wrote to all 31 local authorities on 15 August 2019 sanctioning an additional €363 million in funding for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. This brings total funding for the Loan to over €563 million for 2018 and 2019 combined. As a result of this extra funding, no local authorities have required further funding for 2019.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Questions (631, 632)

Brendan Smith

Question:

631. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the timeline for the completion and publication of the review of income eligibility limits for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50178/19]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

632. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to increase substantially the income eligibility limits for social housing in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan in which the present limits are much too low and are denying persons and families the opportunity to apply for social housing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50179/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 631 and 632 together.

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, PRSI 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 under way. 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.

The Government has introduced a number of affordability measures to support people who wish to purchase their own homes. In particular, following a review of the previous two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, a new loan offering, known as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, was introduced with effect from 1 February 2018. 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 have otherwise been able to afford at a higher interest rate.

As with previous local authority house purchase loan finance, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is available to first time buyers only. This is to ensure the effective targeting of limited resources.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

Questions (633)

Brendan Smith

Question:

633. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if additional funding will be provided for the housing voids programme in 2020; if he will reduce the local contribution demand on local authorities to source such funding in view of the constrained financial circumstances for many local authorities; his plans to ensure that adequate funding is provided to local authorities to ensure that vacant council houses are brought back to habitable standards with the minimum delay in view of the demand for social housing and long waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50180/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including pre-letting repairs to vacant properties, the implementation of a planned maintenance programme and carrying out of responsive repairs, are matters for each individual local authority under the Housing Acts.

Exchequer funding is also provided through my Department's Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. This funding is to ensure that vacant units are actively targeted, with minimal turnaround and re-let time and to allow insulation retrofitting to be undertaken.

My Department will continue to support local authorities in their work in this area and, for example, in 2019 some €27.3 million has already been approved for the Voids Programme. However, there is a commitment under Rebuilding Ireland that local authorities will introduce a preventative maintenance approach to the management of their housing stock and it is logical that this will be significantly funded by the rental income from that same housing stock. My Department is in discussions on this with the City & County Management Association on behalf of the local authorities. In line with their statutory responsibilities, it is important that all local authorities, including elected Councillors, make appropriate funding provision for such work to their housing stock using their rental income which, alongside Voids Programme funding, will ensure quick re-letting of vacated housing and the adequate maintenance of all local authority housing stock.

Departmental Funding

Questions (634)

Peter Burke

Question:

634. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funding allocated within a town (details supplied) and its surrounds in each of the years 2011 to 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50243/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department has a wide and diverse business agenda, covering a broad range of functions, including local authority housing, voluntary housing, homeless services, estate regeneration, energy efficiency retrofitting, housing grants, rural water schemes, urban renewal/regeneration, and fire services. In order to achieve its business objectives, my Department allocates significant resources to an extensive range of organisations, including local authorities, state agencies, and other bodies. Some allocations, depending on the programmes concerned, are made on a national or other non-county basis. In these circumstances, the information requested is not readily available in my Department and its compilation would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work.

Across all schemes and funding sources my Department provided the amounts outlined in the table below to Westmeath County Council in the years 2011 to August 2019.

LOCAL AUTHORITY

WESTMEATH

2011

34,306,260.87

2012

29,143,483.16

2013

29,694,545.45

2014

22,307,706.34

2015

20,224,801.05

2016

25,166,944.73

2017

28,144,126.30

2018

35,028,703.90

To 30 Aug 2019

27,121,414.63

I can also confirm that my Department issued approval to Westmeath County Council to enter into an availability agreement for 17 homes on a phased basis, in respect of the Moate Retirement Village, Moate, Co. Westmeath on 25 November 2019.

If the Deputy wishes to seek more specific information regarding allocations under the individual schemes overseen by my Department I will endeavour to provide more information. Detailed information should of course be available from Westmeath County Council.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

Questions (635)

Frank O'Rourke

Question:

635. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funding that will be made available to Kildare County Council for group sewerage schemes via capital funding or grant schemes in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50274/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

On 8 February this year, I announced details of the measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021.

Local authorities were subsequently requested to submit their bids for the funding of schemes or projects in their functional areas.

An Expert Panel was put in place to support the Department in its bids evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brought independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which was done on a national prioritised basis. The Panel’s membership included Departmental, stakeholder and independent representations.

The Panel made recommendations to my Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria, which were set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals.

The new programme contains two funding measures for group sewerage schemes.

Measure 5 - Transition of Existing Group Water Schemes and Existing Group Sewerage Schemes to Public (Irish Water) sector. Kildare County Council did not submit any projects or schemes for consideration for funding under this measure.

Measure 6 (b) - Community Connection to Wastewater Networks. This pilot measure was designed to facilitate the continued expansion of central wastewater collection systems by extension off the public (Irish Water) network. The scheme was limited to supporting 6 demonstration projects. In total local authorities made bids for funding for 46 Community Wastewater Connection projects, with 3 coming from Kildare County Council. However, expert panel did not recommend supporting those projects when considered against the criteria for the measure in the Framework including the number of houses involved, overall cost, unit cost (per house) and information provided in the bid.

Experience gained from the demonstration projects which are being supported will inform future policy and funding in this area.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (636)

Tom Neville

Question:

636. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of the affordable purchasing scheme. [50279/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In line with the commitments in Rebuilding Ireland to support the delivery of discounted homes to buy or rent, this Government has allocated €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) over the period 2019 to 2021. This funding will provide for infrastructure to support the delivery of some 6,200 more affordable homes on local authority lands. SSF is being made available in areas where local authorities have demonstrated a requirement for affordable housing and a viability to deliver such housing on their sites.

Land utilisation and activation is, in the first instance, a matter for the local authority and its elected members including the development of its land for the delivery of more affordable private housing. To date, based on applications received under SSF Calls for Proposals, I have allocated SSF funding of €127 million, in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, for infrastructure works that will see the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes. I anticipate that a further Call for Proposal under the SSF will issue to local authorities in 2020.

Full details of the projects approved under the 1st and 2nd SSF calls can be found at the following links:

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-10-local-authority-sites-affordable-housing-serviced-sites-fund/ .

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-funding-of-e84m-to-support-delivery-of-1770-affordable-homes-under-the-ssf/ .

Homes delivered under the SSF are subject to the provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 which was commenced in June 2018. Under Part 5 housing authorities may make dwellings available for the purpose of sale to eligible households under affordable dwelling purchase arrangements and may acquire, build or cause to be built, or otherwise provide/facilitate the provision of, dwellings for this purpose. A housing authority may also enter into arrangements with an Approved Housing Body or a public private partnership in order to provide dwellings for sale to eligible households.

In order to be eligible for affordable dwelling purchase arrangements, a household’s income must be such that it is inadequate to meet the repayments on a mortgage for the purchase of a dwelling to meet the accommodation needs of the household, because the payments calculated over the course of a year would exceed 35% per cent of the annual income of the household, net of income tax and pay related social insurance. Eligibility is also generally limited to first time buyers. The maximum discount on market value that may be given to an eligible purchaser is 40%.

Each housing authority was required to make a scheme of priority to set out the priority to be applied as between eligible applicants for affordable dwelling purchase arrangements. I made regulations on this matter, and a number of other matters, earlier this year (the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 (Part 5) Regulations 2019).

When a dwelling is made available to a purchaser under an affordable dwelling purchase arrangement a charging order is made by the housing authority charging the dwelling (for a period that cannot be less than 25 years from the date of sale) with an amount equal to the difference between the purchase money and the market value of the dwelling at the date of the discharge of the charge, expressed as a % of said market value. Payments may be made by the purchaser to reduce this amount during the charged period (after the first 5 years). The amount outstanding on the charge must be repaid in full at the end of the charged period.

The selling price of discounted dwellings made available for purchase by a housing authority under the affordable dwelling purchase arrangements will be influenced by a number of factors, particularly the overall cost of each particular development (taking into account inputs such as the local authority land value and Serviced Sites Fund), which can vary significantly from one site to another, the tenure mix involved and the local housing market.

A number of other matters require to be prescribed under Part 5 (e.g. minimum amount of payments by the purchaser during the charged period) and I intend to make these Regulations in the coming months.

In addition to SSF, funding of €200m has also been made available under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), which is also designed to activate housing supply by putting in place the enabling public infrastructure necessary to ensure that large scale development could take place on key sites in urban areas of high housing demand. 30 projects received final approval, at a total cost of €195.71 million, of which €146.69 million will be funded by the Exchequer with local authorities funding the balance. These projects will stimulate development of approximately 20,000 housing units across 14 local authorities and approximately 7,800 of these homes will be offered at a discount on open market prices.

These schemes will complement other key Government affordability initiatives, such as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, and the Help to Buy Scheme, which have supported over 16,500 households nationally.