Project Ireland 2040 Expenditure

Questions (731, 757)

Martin Heydon

Question:

731. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the annual profile of expenditure of the Project Ireland 2040 urban regeneration fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53731/19]

View answer

Dara Calleary

Question:

757. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of funding to be allocated to the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund over the lifetime of National Development Plan 2018-2027; the amount allocated in each year over the 2018 to 2020 period to the fund; the amount of funding allocated for each approved project in 2018 and 2019, in tabular form; and the amount issued in payments to date. [53060/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 731 and 757 together.

The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) is a flagship element of Project Ireland 2040.  The URDF was established to support more compact and sustainable development, through the regeneration and rejuvenation of Ireland’s five cities and other large towns, in line with the objectives of the National Planning Framework and NDP. This is to enable a greater proportion of residential and mixed-use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and towns and to ensure that more parts of our urban areas can become attractive and vibrant places in which people choose to live and work, as well as to invest and to visit.  

Through the Fund, successful applicants are being offered targeted integrated support for applicant-led projects that will contribute to the regeneration and rejuvenation of our cities and towns.  

The 88 projects approved under the first call offer a good regional spread, and span a number of themes.  While the advancement of each project is, in the first instance, a matter for the successful applicant my Department is working closely and actively with them to ensure that the projects receiving URDF support come to fruition as soon as possible. The list of approved projects and details of the allocations are available to view on my Department's website at this link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/urdf_-_2019_funding_allocations_0.pdf  

€58 million was allocated in 2019 to support these projects.  Necessary work in putting in place appropriate governance and financial frameworks, has meant that the level of activity was somewhat constrained and this will be accelerated in 2020.  Therefore, some €33.5m of the 2019 allocation will be carried over into 2020.   Spending in 2019 is currently being finalised and considerable spend within the revised allocation is anticipated.  

There is an Exchequer commitment of €550 million for the Fund to support these and other similar projects up to the end of 2022.  Under the National Development Plan (NDP) a total of €2 billion will be made available to the URDF up to 2027. Annual expenditure during the lifetime of the Fund is dependent upon expenditure on approved projects and any approved under future calls for proposals, while remaining within the overall funding made available under the NDP.  A second call for proposals will issue shortly.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Questions (732, 756)

Robert Troy

Question:

732. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the publication of the updated wind energy guidelines; and his views on whether it is completely unacceptable the updated guidelines have not been brought forward at this stage. [53578/19]

View answer

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

756. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the wind energy guidelines promised for mid-2019 will be finalised and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52974/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 732 and 756 together.

My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines in line with the “preferred draft approach” which was announced in June 2017 by the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.

As part of the overall review process, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised Guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of European Union Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive. SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process.

As part of the SEA process, I launched a ten week public consultation on the draft revised Wind Energy Development Guidelines on 12 December 2019. Full details of the consultation are available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/guidelines/wind-energy/public-consultation-revised-wind-energy-development-guidelines.

Finalised Guidelines will be prepared following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions received during the consultation phase, and the conclusion of the SEA process.

When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála, must have regard to guidelines issued under section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Questions (733)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

733. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of active HAP tenancies in quarters 2 and 3 of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52597/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals.  At the end of Q3 2019, nearly 67,000 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 50,000 households actively in receipt of HAP support and over 29,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. 

The following table sets out the active HAP tenancies in Q2 and Q3 by local authority:

Local Authority  

Active HAP Tenancies End Q2 2019  

Active Hap Tenancies Q3 2019  

Carlow County Council

743

746

Cavan County Council

322

337

Clare County Council

1,344

1,362

Cork City Council

2,546

2,658

Cork County Council

3,228

3,383

Donegal County Council

1,734

1,773

Dublin City Council

2,904

3,172

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council

468

512

Fingal County Council

1,581

1,702

Galway City Council

1,544

1,629

Galway County Council

1,093

1,163

Kerry County Council

1,076

1,148

Kildare County Council

2,109

2,118

Kilkenny County Council

883

871

Laois County Council

788

849

Leitrim County Council

237

250

Limerick City and County Council

2,264

2,289

Longford County Council

306

325

Louth County Council

2,890

2,980

Mayo County Council

1,201

1,247

Meath County Council

1,915

2,020

Monaghan County Council

579

572

Offaly County Council

855

865

Roscommon County Council

391

402

Sligo County Council

712

736

South Dublin County Council

2,701

2,702

Tipperary County Council

1,792

1,806

Waterford City and County Council

1,863

1,906

Westmeath County Council

780

852

Wexford County Council

1,222

1,296

Wicklow County Council

1,197

1,349

Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE)

4,993

5,361

Total

48,261

50,381

  

 My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review, which I consider to be a key vehicle for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme outlined under Rebuilding Ireland.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Questions (734)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

734. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of HAP or RAS tenancies that have terminated in each of the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and in the first three quarters of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52598/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals.  At the end of Q3 2019, nearly 67,000 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 50,000 households actively in receipt of HAP support and over 29,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. 

HAP supported tenancies are agreed between the landlord and the tenant. It is important to note that the local authority is not a party to the tenancy and has no role in its agreement. There is no limitation placed by the scheme on the length of tenancy that can be supported by  HAP. However, as with other private rental tenancies, the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended) governs the relationship between landlord and tenant and the length of the tenancy is a matter that must be agreed between the landlord and tenant in that context.

At the end of Q3 2019, a total of 16,544 households were reported on the HAP Shared Services Centre system as having exited HAP. This included tenant led exits; compliance exits; transfers to other forms of social housing; and landlord exits. This report is based on cessations, as submitted by local authorities.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) has been an important contributor to social housing supply since its introduction on a pilot basis in 2005. From its commencement to the end of Q3 2019, some 35,965  households have been transferred from Rent Supplement to RAS.  At the end of Q3 2019, 13,147 private RAS tenancies were supported by local housing authorities, in addition to a further 5,141 RAS tenancies being jointly supported by Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) and local housing authorities.

Details of the number of Closed/Exit Tenancies by year are set out in the following table:

Year     

No. of  HAP Closed/Exit Tenancies     

No. of RAS Closed/Exit Tenancies     

2016

1,425

1,660

2017

3,181

1,539

2018

5,711

1,728

2019 (Q3)

5,915

1,541

        

In cases where a HAP supported tenancy ends, the tenant can find alternative accommodation and retain their eligibility for HAP support or the local authority may decide to offer another form of social housing support to the tenant in accordance with their scheme of letting priorities.   

My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP and RAS schemes under review. In general, I am satisfied with their operation and I consider them to be a key vehicles for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme outlined under Rebuilding Ireland.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Questions (735)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

735. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of HAP tenancies in each of the years 2017, 2018 and the first three quarters of 2019 that were transfers from rent allowance supported tenancies or RAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52606/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals.  At the end of Q3 2019, nearly 67,000 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 50,000 households actively in receipt of HAP support and over 29,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. 

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. It is available in all local authority areas and its introduction ensures that all social housing supports can be accessed through the local authorities.

HAP will replace Rent Supplement (RS) for those with a long-term housing need, who qualify for social housing support. However, RS will remain available through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to households as a short-term income support. The strategic aim is to complete the majority of transfers from long-term RS to HAP by end 2020, as outlined in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. 

HAP provides fast, flexible housing support to all eligible households in the area of their choice. Individuals, who in the past were reluctant to avail of full time work as they would lose their Rent Supplement support, can now move to HAP and avail of full-time employment and retain their housing support, with an adjustment in their differential rent.

Year

Additional households supported at year end

Number of rent supplement transfers

2017

17,916

4,131

2018

17,926

3,329

2019 (end Q3)

12,853

2,210

My Department is supportive of any option which would avoid a situation where a local authority tenant could become homeless.  In 2018, local authorities were informed that they may consider transferring Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) tenants to HAP support in exceptional circumstances only and subject to the agreement of the tenant.  HAP may only be considered as an alternative housing option for the RAS household in circumstances where the local authority have exhausted all available options to retain an existing RAS contract or to secure alternative accommodation for the tenant under the RAS scheme, or using stock arising from their own supply for the tenant.  In addition, the tenant must be willing to accept HAP and understand what a transfer to HAP means before such a transfer is put in place.  

 To the end of Q3 2019, 36 transfers from RAS to HAP had been recorded by local authorities.

My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review, which I consider to be a key vehicle in meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme outlined under Rebuilding Ireland.

Homeless Persons Data

Questions (736, 770)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

736. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of adults and children that have spent time living in emergency accommodation or have registered as homeless in each year since 2014; the length of time they have been in emergency accommodation or homeless by headings (details supplied) in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52608/19]

View answer

Joe O'Brien

Question:

770. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of children nationwide that have experienced at least one month of homelessness since the beginning of 2016. [53189/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 736 and 770 together.

My Department publishes a monthly report on homelessness. The monthly report is based on data provided by housing authorities on a regional basis and produced through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System.  The report captures details of individuals utilising State-funded emergency accommodation arrangements that are overseen by housing authorities.  The most recent homelessness figures show that 6,688 adults and 3,826 associated dependants, including 1,733 families, accessed emergency accommodation nationwide during the final week of October. Monthly reports from 2014 onward are available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/homelessness/other/homelessness-data.

The monthly reports submitted by the local authorities to my Department do not currently provide detailed information on the length of time spent by individuals and families in emergency accommodation. However, the latest information drawn from a separate local authority performance reporting mechanism shows that 38% of adults in emergency accommodation at the end of September 2019 had been there for less than six months.  Additional data provided by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, again as at end September 2019, shows that 60% of families and 55% of dependants had been in emergency accommodation for less than a year.  The reports submitted to my Department by the local authorities will be enhanced early next year to provide additional information in this regard.

The following table sets out the duration of time spent by adults in emergency accommodation in each region at the end of Quarter 3 2019.

  Quarter 3 Duration in Emergency Accommodation - Regional Breakdown

Area

< 6 months

 -

> 6 Months

 -

Regional Total   

 -

Amount

%

Amount

%

 

Dublin

1,408

33%

2,893

67%

4,301

Mid-East

170

55%

137

45%

307

Midlands

19

21%

73

79%

92

Mid-West

166

55%

137

45%

303

North-East

90

57%

69

43%

159

North-West

37

71%

15

29%

52

South-East

135

55%

110

45%

245

South-West

270

48%

296

52%

566

West

159

37%

269

63%

248

Totals

2,454

38%

3,999

62%

6,453

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Questions (737, 738)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

737. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of landlords under HAP that had payments stopped due to tenants ceasing payment to councils; the steps he is taking to reduce same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52675/19]

View answer

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

738. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether the HAP agreement between landlords and tenants is fit for purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52676/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 737 and 738 together.

Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals.  At the end of Q3 2019, nearly 67,000 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 50,000 households actively in receipt of HAP support and over 29,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. 

The tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, (as amended); the local authority has no role in this agreement. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Act to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants. HAP supported tenancies are afforded the same protections available to all private rented tenancies.

HAP tenants are required to sign a rent contribution agreement to pay a weekly rental contribution to the relevant local authority, in line with the local authority’s differential rent scheme. As set out in the rent contribution agreement, this weekly rental contribution must be paid by them so that they remain eligible for the HAP scheme.

The HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages the collection of all HAP tenants’ differential rents, on behalf of the relevant local authority, and the payment of all HAP rents to landlords on behalf of tenants supported by the HAP scheme. The HAP SSC applies a very clear communication policy if rental arrears issues arise. This policy includes regular and early written communication with tenants, landlords and the relevant local authority.

Apart from issuing the formal notification letters, there would always be attempts to contact the tenants by phone and by email to settle accounts and avoid escalation of the debt process. Depending on the particular arrears in question, both the relevant local authority and the landlord are informed when an account has not been cleared and of possible suspension and/ or cessation of the HAP payment.  

To date, the approach taken by the HAP SSC has been very effective with minimal levels of rent arrears arising for HAP tenants. At the end of Q3 2019, the scheme has a 97% differential rent collection rate, with minimal arrears arising for tenants or local authorities. Therefore, only a very small number of tenants have fallen into difficulty with their differential rent. Since HAP was rolled out in 2014, HAP support has been ceased for 1,065 tenancies due to tenant differential rent non-payment. This represents less than 2% of all tenancies set up during that period.

Tenancy sustainment is a very important factor in relation to keeping households in their homes. There are a number of avenues for a tenant experiencing financial difficulty including early engagement with the relevant local authority or the Community Welfare Officer.

Notwithstanding the assistance available to tenants, there is a fundamental need for a tenant to acknowledge and make the maximum effort to fulfil their personal responsibilities and requirements in relation to contributing to their accommodation costs and to engage early when difficulties arise. The rent contribution that a household is asked to pay is calculated by the local authority having regard to the financial circumstances of the household and affordability. The HAP scheme is funded through a combination of the contributions from households and exchequer funding, so it is absolutely critical that additional unnecessary burden is not placed on the exchequer to offset non-payment of differential rent.

As the HAP scheme grows, the SSC are continuously working to improve systems and processes, including debt management processes. My Department, with the assistance of stakeholders, including the Housing Agency, HAP Practitioners from local authorities and also the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, will continue to work with the SSC to ensure that the debt management process is reasonable and effective and that the appropriate tenancy sustainment options are in place.

Rent Pressure Zones

Questions (739)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

739. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if rents on properties within a rent pressure zone can be increased by more than 4% in one year in circumstances in which a new company has taken over a development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52753/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning and Development and Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2016 introduced the  Rent Predictability Measure to moderate rent increases in those parts of the country where rents are highest and rising, resulting in great difficulty for households finding affordable accommodation. In these areas, called Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ), rents can only increase by a maximum of 4% per annum. The annual rent increase restriction applies to both new and existing tenancies, irrespective of a change of landlord.

Water Services Funding

Questions (740, 741)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

740. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the decisions for funding for the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021 will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52796/19]

View answer

Lisa Chambers

Question:

741. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason for the delay in the decisions for funding for the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52797/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 740 and 741 together.

On 8 February 2019, I announced details of the eight measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021 (MARWP).

Local authorities were subsequently invited to submit their bids for the funding of schemes or projects under Measures 1 through 7, in their functional areas.  An Expert Panel was put in place to support the evaluation process and its membership includes Departmental, stakeholder and independent representation. Following an evaluation process, the Expert Panel made recommendations to my Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria which are set out in the framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals.

On 14 October this year, based on these recommendations, I announced approval of projects and schemes under the MARWP for 2019. Local authorities were informed of the details on the same date.

Work is now at a very advanced stage in finalising the detailed schemes for Measure 8 of the Programme, which relates to the provision of assistance to householders in relation to on-site domestic water supplies and waste water treatment systems. This includes the development of two revised schemes to replace existing schemes.

In order to ensure the integrity of the new schemes it has been necessary to seek legal advice, and the relevant unit within my Department is currently in the final stages of confirming the required legal text. I expect that the necessary Regulations dealing with the financial assistance arrangements and related administrative matters will put in place shortly and this will enable a circular letter, terms and conditions, guidance and the application form to issue to local authorities shortly thereafter.

Water Services Funding

Questions (742)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

742. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if an application (details supplied) for the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021 will be awarded; if so, when; if not, the reason for refusal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52798/19]

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 their bids for the 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 6 – Community Connection (Water and Wastewater) Networks. This new measure facilitates the continued expansion of the coverage of piped water supplies and central wastewater collection systems by extension off the public (Irish Water) network where it is technically and economically viable to do so.

Mayo County Council made a number of bids under the measure, including a proposal for the Community Water Connection (community water connections were previously called public group water schemes) at the location referred to in the details provided.

I included the proposed Community Water Connection in the approvals and allocations that I announced in October. It is now a matter for the Council to advance the project in partnership with the applicants.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Questions (743, 744)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

743. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the proposed water scheme for the areas of Murrisk, Lecanvey, Kilsallagh and Louisburgh, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52799/19]

View answer

Lisa Chambers

Question:

744. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the proposed plans for a water supply to the areas of Murrisk, Lecanvey, Kilsallagh and Louisburgh, County Mayo; if the areas are included in the plans; if the areas will receive an adequate water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52800/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 743 and 744 together.

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 invited to submit their bids for the funding of schemes or projects in their functional areas. Mayo County Council made a number of bids under Measure 6 including for a proposal for Murrisk Community Water Connection (formerly called public group water schemes). The area of the proposal included Murrisk, Lecanvey and Kilsallagh (but not Louisburgh). I would note that water supply to the Louisburgh area is a matter for Irish Water. 

The estimated cost of the proposed 350 house project was €4.725 million, or €13,500 per house. Grants of up to 85% of cost are available for Community Water Connections subject to a maximum grant of €7,650 per house (this means that the effective cost limit per house for this project is €9,000).

Although the project is approved in principle, the estimated cost needs to be significantly reduced. I understand that Mayo County Council is working in partnership with Irish Water to examine ways to reduce the estimated costs, and have met recently to discuss this issue. I am advised that the local authority is now considering the matter and will be writing to my Department regarding same in the near future.

There is a commitment from my Department to see this proposed project through and for work to commence, however, this is subject to a significant reduction being achieved in the estimated cost.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (745)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

745. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the emergency management and fire and public safety Bill will be brought forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52880/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I intend to bring forward legislation to amend the existing Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 next year to  

a) update the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003,

b) place relevant elements of emergency management practice at national and local level on a statutory footing, and,

c) revise the legislative approach to certain aspects of funfair public safety in Ireland.

The Bill will represent the culmination of a significant body of work carried out in my Department over a number of areas during the past number of years. The legislation is being informed by three main areas of work and I expect that progress under each will facilitate publication of the Bill in Quarter 1 2020.

On 27 June 2017, following the fire in London’s Grenfell Tower, I tasked my Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) with convening and coordinating a high-level Task Force to lead a re-appraisal of fire safety in Ireland.  Its Report was submitted to me in May 2018, entitled “Fire Safety in Ireland: Report of the Fire Safety Task Force”. It contains conclusions on the state of fire safety in Ireland and recommendations for moving forward.

The Task Force report makes a range of recommendations for improvements to fire safety in buildings, and to provision of fire services in Ireland. In response to the recommendations, the NDFEM Board has brought forward a number of initiatives, including proposals for regulatory provisions and guidance for ensuring fire safety in buildings, and for fire services. 

The proposed legislation will ensure that these changes can be made as expeditiously as possible. The legislation will also allow for the updating of the legislation that underpins the excellent work being carried out by Irish Fire Service. It will help ensure that we can continue to deliver a modernised Fire and Rescue Service responsive to the particular demands of modern society.

The Report of the first phase of the Grenfell Tower fire was published on October 30th 2019. My Department has taken the lead in co-ordinating the analysis of the Report in an Irish context. Consideration is ongoing and will feed into the proposed legislation should it be deemed necessary and appropriate.  

In relation to Emergency Management, the Deputy will be aware that my Department is the lead Government Department for response to Severe Weather and Flooding emergency scenarios. I recently brought a comprehensive report to Government - “A Review Report on Severe Weather Events" - which reported on the response to severe weather events for the period from August 2017 to August 2018, including ex-Hurricane Ophelia (October 2017) and storm Emma (March 2018).

Overall, the Report concluded that the response effort was generally effective in terms of a “Whole-of-Government” approach involving local and community response, national co-ordination and provision of public information, and was well-received by the public. I am satisfied with the progress already made in implementing those recommendations falling within the remit of my own Department and the proposed legislation will facilitate further work.

With regard to public safety, my Department is in the process of finalising a review of the issue of safety at funfairs. The broad objective of the Review is to assess whether in light of recent events in Ireland and elsewhere, the current safety regime as it applies to funfairs remains fit for purpose. The review which involved significant stakeholder engagement, covers aspects of legislation relating to regulation of fairground equipment and funfairs as currently set down in section 239 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, and includes an examination of international practice in the area of regulating public safety at funfairs and more generally. A key part of the Review will be how learnings from the funfair safety system can be applied in a broader public safety and emergency management context and any associated legislative changes needed to effect this.

Mortgage to Rent Scheme Data

Questions (746)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

746. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of properties successfully purchased through the national mortgage-to-rent scheme since its launch in 2012, by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52886/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

There are currently two Mortgage to Rent (MTR) schemes funded by my Department.

A Local Authority MTR scheme exists whereby a local authority can acquire ownership of properties with unsustainable local authority mortgages, thus enabling the household to remain in their home as social housing tenants.  From the scheme's inception in 2013 to the end of Q3 2019, 467 households have benefited under the scheme remaining in their homes as social housing tenants.

Information in relation to Local Authority MTR scheme transactions during its pilot phase in 2013 and annual transactions following the national roll out of the scheme in 2014 to the end of 2018, broken down by local authority area, is available on my Department’s website at the following link: 

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

A further 32 households benefited from the scheme in the period Q1 to Q3 2019 as detailed in the following table:

Local Authority

No. of LAMTR transactions Q1 to end Q3 2019

Expenditure

Donegal

1

€122,402.70

Dublin City Council

26

€4,939,763.82

Sligo

1

€101,879.45

Tipperary

2

€115,999.25

Waterford

2

€261,585.50

Total

32

€5,541,630.72

The second MTR scheme provides for an Approved Housing Body (AHB) or a private company to acquire ownership of a property with an unsustainable private mortgage, which also enables the household to remain in their home as a social housing tenant. 

From the introduction of the private MTR scheme in 2012 to the end of October 2019, a total of 606 cases have been completed and a futher 1,125 are actively being progressed.   The number of completed MTR cases is increasing every month, with a 76% increase in the number of cases completing in the period January to October 2019 (161) compared to the same period in 2018 (91).  The MTR process from application stage to completion stage is also operating more speedily as a result of the streamlining initiatives that have been undertaken. 

The following table below details the number of MTR transactions completed in the years 2012 to 2018 and up to the end of October 2019:

Year

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019 (To End October)

TOTAL

Number of MTR transactions competed

1

21

29

96

70

91

137

161

606

The Housing Agency, who administer the MTR scheme on my Department's behalf, publishes, on a quarterly basis, detailed statistical information on the operation of the MTR scheme.  This information is available on the Agency's website at the following link:

https://www.housingagency.ie/our-services/housing-supply-services/mortgage-to-rent.aspx.  

A Review of the MTR scheme, published on 8 February 2017, introduced a range of amendments to the eligibility criteria and administration of the scheme in order to improve its operation.  The Review, which is available at http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/changes-in-mortgage-to-rent-scheme/, explored the avenues and impediments to participation in the scheme and recommended a number of actions to make the scheme work better for borrowers.  My Department and the Housing Agency has worked with all stakeholders to ensure that the actions set out in the Review are effectively implemented to benefit a greater number of households.  In that context, the eligibility requirements of the scheme were widened to include a greater number of borrowers and a larger number of property types.  Increasing awareness and understanding of the scheme has been a priority and a new website, www.mortgagetorent.ie, dedicated to guiding and advising borrowers has been developed.  In addition, new structures and arrangements have been put in place to encourage a greater number of entities to take part in the scheme.

While it will continue to be the case that not all MTR applications will progress into completed transactions for varied reasons, the implementation of the resulting actions from the Review means that MTR is available to provide a long-term solution for more households in mortgage distress, where appropriate. 

Both MTR schemes are part of the overall suite of social housing options and an important part of the mortgage arrears resolution process.

My focus, and that of the Government, is to ensure that as many households as possible remain in their homes where possible.  I would encourage borrowers to engage with the Abhaile Service, the national mortgage arrears resolution service, which is available free of charge to the borrower.  The unique element of Abhaile is that it brings together, for the first time, the full range of supports and services required by borrowers in home mortgage arrears.  A dedicated adviser will work with the borrower and their lender to find the best solution for their particular situation.  MABS act as the gateway for the service and can be contacted by telephoning (076)1072000 or by accessing their website at: www.mabs.ie/abhaile.

For those borrowers in danger of losing their home who are ineligible for the MTR scheme but qualify for social housing support, it is recommended that they engage as early as possible with their local authority regarding their long-term housing needs.

Local Authority Housing Data

Questions (747)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

747. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount paid by each local authority in annual management charges for tenants living in social housing built by private developers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52892/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department does not hold this type of information which is a matter for individual local authorities.

Housing Provision

Questions (748, 749, 750, 751, 752)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

748. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the annual rent which will be paid in the first year for a development (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52894/19]

View answer

Thomas Pringle

Question:

749. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the current market rental rate for a development (details supplied); the rate he views as acceptable; the way in which the figures were arrived at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52895/19]

View answer

Thomas Pringle

Question:

750. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the process by which a development (details supplied) was leased under the enhanced long-term social housing leasing scheme; and the role played by a company. [52896/19]

View answer

Thomas Pringle

Question:

751. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the financial modelling used in relation to the leasing of a development (details supplied); the projected range of overall costs that will be borne by his Department over the course of the 25 year lease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52897/19]

View answer

Thomas Pringle

Question:

752. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the research carried out into the relative cost of leasing a development (details supplied) under the enhanced long-term social housing scheme as compared to the cost of building public housing on public land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52898/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 748 to 752, inclusive, together.

A range of housing options are necessary to ensure a supply of accommodation to meet different types of social housing need. Harnessing the off-balance sheet potential of private investment in social housing is an important objective of the Government and the social housing targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland over the period to 2021 reflect the ambition in that regard.

 Of the 50,000 social housing homes to be delivered under Rebuilding Ireland, 10,000 are targeted to be leased by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) under leasing arrangements from a range of different sources. All homes delivered under leasing arrangements are funded under my Department’s Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP), which has an annual budget in 2019 of almost €155million, which covers the ongoing cost of existing contractual arrangements and the cost of new leases commenced within the year.

The Enhanced Leasing Scheme has been developed by my Department, together with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), the Housing Agency and local authorities, in order to harness the potential of private sector interest in social housing delivery in a new set of long-term leasing arrangements, in a manner designed to leverage off-balance sheet funding opportunities in accordance with Rebuilding Ireland objectives.  A key aspect of the Enhanced Long Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme is that the proposer will finance 100% of the cost of delivering the homes and remain responsible for the ongoing management and maintenance of the properties, including all building life-cycle costs.  

A number of financial and economic studies carried out during the development of the enhanced leasing scheme supported the rationale for the provision of social housing through mechanisms such as the leasing and renting of privately owned accommodation. At the time of the Government decision in 2015 to develop a new leasing scheme, consideration of costs and comparative costs was undertaken which informed the Government decision to proceed at that time.  A further set of costings were undertaken to inform the Government agreement to move forward and launch the enhanced leasing scheme in January 2018. These costings were undertaken using information on average lease costs, at that time, and the expected level of take-up of the scheme, which is targeted at 2,500 units by end 2021. 

The costs of the Enhanced Lease are included in the Government's commitment to multi-annual funding to deliver on the targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland. The exact and full financial costs per unit will vary across local authority areas and are subject to a range of variables, including the agreed market rents and payable rent, management and maintenance costs, administration costs and differential rent recoupment.

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

Whilst it is clearly beneficial to build on local authority own land, there are instances where such land is not available. Consequently, to purchase the land on the open market would significantly add to the overall development costs.  In this context, it is important to note that leasing in general is designed to complement local authority own build programmes, not replace it, and to do so in a manner that does not require additional capital expenditure, i.e. it is off-balance sheet.

 A spending review and analysis of current expenditure on housing supports was carried out by the Irish Government Economic & Evaluation Service (IGEES) staff within the Department of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform in 2017 and 2018.  Amongst other findings, the report found that while relative cost efficiency is an important consideration in terms of the mix of delivery, it is not the only consideration and leasing must be viewed in the context of policy objectives and wider issues. This is particularly important in the current climate where it is essential to ensure the highest possible supply in the shortest possible time. In this context, as well as relative costs, a number of other considerations must be taken into account in terms of the overall mix of delivery including the speed of delivery, the quality and appropriateness of accommodation, sectoral capacity and flexibility.

With respect to the assessment of individual proposals, all submissions are made directly to the Housing Agency and are subject to a range of criteria as set out in the terms and conditions for entry into the scheme and the proposals are assessed in accordance with the criteria set out therein. The terms and conditions for entry are available on the Housing Agency's website at the following link:

 https://www.housingagency.ie/housing-information/information-property-owners-and-landlords

 Proposers are required to provide a brief summary of their strategy to source committed funding to meet their development and lease obligations to include, without limitation, delivery of homes and delivery of the services under the lease and include all relevant financial information for assessment (including life-cycle costs, maintenance costs etc.).  The Housing Agency, which has responsibility for overseeing and managing the assessment process, assesses this information in consultation with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) in order to ensure that the proposer has the capability to deliver both the units themselves and their obligations under the lease. This assessment is carried out in advance of any acceptance into the scheme and the signing of any agreements but, in the first instance, a Local Authority is required to asses a proposal and a) indicate whether the proposal is suitable and appropriate for social housing in the area in which it is situated and, b) whether it agrees with the proposed Open Market rents for the properties.

In accordance with the Government decision, the provider will be paid up to 95% market rate. The market rent must be evidenced by a valuation prepared by a qualified valuer and each valuation must refer to 3 comparable properties in the locality as evidence of the market rent for the property.  The local authority will assess the rent against their own rent database and available market information to determine whether it is acceptable or not.  Where there is a disagreement on the relevant Open Market Rent, an Independent Valuation will be carried out by a suitably qualified practitioner appointed by the Housing Agency.

Local authorities will also determine the overall suitability of the proposed properties, having regard to the standard of the properties, the requirement for social housing in the area and the criteria set out in each authority’s Development Plans, including in particular sustainable communities’ considerations.

 When a local authority is considering an Enhanced Leasing proposal, it has regard to its own construction programme, land availability and a range of other factors as follows: 

- Specifics of the proposal at hand;

- Availability of land in the immediate vicinity;

- Demand for social housing in the area;

- Capacity of the local authority to deliver a capital construction programme;

- Capacity of local authority to maintain the properties; and

- Ability to deliver at speed comparable to what is being proposed. 

The units secured in the referenced development represent good value for the local authority and will provide immediate, secure, high quality social housing for many households, including many families potentially living in emergency accommodation, in an area of extremely high social housing demand. In broad terms, leasing offers the opportunity to secure high quality long-term social housing in areas or developments that may not otherwise be available for social housing and this proposal is testament to that – the families living in this accommodation will benefit from its highly accessible location and good quality public transport links.  The annual rent paid by the local authority for these units is fully in line with the terms of the Enhanced Leasing Scheme, as set out in the Government’s decision in 2018, and the proposal was assessed in accordance with same, as with all Enhanced Leasing proposals and includes a deduction for the Part V obligation on the site. 

 My Department closely monitors the comparable delivery costs of all enhanced leasing proposals, having regard to the development and all life-cycle risks that are retained by the property owner for the life of the property, the ongoing costs of the lease payments (including any Part V deductions), the ability of the local authority to meet its housing needs through its own build programme and the overall targets clearly set out under Rebuilding Ireland for build, acquisition and leasing programmes.  The proposal was assessed in these terms, in addition to the wider policy and delivery objectives, and I am satisfied that process followed was in line with the terms of the Enhanced Leasing Scheme and that the housing needs of these families are best met through this proposal.