Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (1351, 1358)

Colm Brophy

Question:

1351. Deputy Colm Brophy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to extend the Covid-19 emergency legislation for tenants past the initial 90-day period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6201/20]

View answer

Mick Barry

Question:

1358. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider recommending an extension of the measures to prevent evictions, serving notices of termination and rent increases due to public health measures remaining in place beyond the current deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6384/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1351 and 1358 together.

With effect from 27 March 2020, new emergency measures were introduced into law to protect tenants during the COVID-19 emergency period. Rent increases are prohibited and tenants cannot be forced to leave their rental accommodation, other than in exceptional circumstances, during the COVID-19 emergency period. Initially, these emergency laws will last for a period of 3 months, but they may be extended if the Government considers it is necessary.

Under the legislation, the process for any extension of the 3 month period involves the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government requesting the Government to make an Order, having consulted with the Minister for Health and with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.  The Government must consider it appropriate and be satisfied that it is in the public interest to extend the emergency period having regard to:

- the threat to public health;

- the highly contagious nature of COVID-19; and

- the need to restrict the movement of persons to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The consideration of whether to request the Government to make an Order to extend the emergency period will be made at the appropriate time and in accordance with the relevant legislation.

Septic Tanks

Questions (1352)

James Browne

Question:

1352. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the multi-annual rural water programme due to run from 2019 to 2021 will be implemented to allow for grants for septic tanks to be upgraded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6219/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I approved a new funding scheme for on-site wastewater treatment systems (more commonly known as septic tanks) under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021 to replace the current grant which was brought into operation by the Domestic Waste Water Treatment System (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2013.  The grant scheme is also being expanded to support the attainment of water quality objectives in what are called ‘high status objective catchment’ water areas and ‘prioritised areas for action’, as identified in the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021.

In developing the necessary regulatory and administrative changes to underpin the revised and improved grants scheme, my Department has met and consulted with key stakeholders, including the County and City Management Association, the Local Authority Waters Programme Office and the Environmental Protection Agency.

My Department also required legal advice in relation to the drafting of the regulations which are required for the new grant scheme. That process is now almost complete and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement on the commencement of the new scheme shortly. 

Private Rented Accommodation

Questions (1353)

Joan Collins

Question:

1353. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to institutional landlords availing of mortgage holidays from banks; and if so, if mortgage holidays are not being passed on to tenants but are fuelling dividends to shareholders. [6272/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department recently published a Guidance Document on COVID-19 supports for landlords and tenants which sets out the emergency rental measures and income and other supports available to tenants and landlords during the emergency period. The Guidance document is available at:

https://onestopshop.rtb.ie/images/uploads/general/COVID_Update_Guidance_Document_final.pdf. 

and a list of Frequently Asked Questions has been developed and is available at:

https://onestopshop.rtb.ie/images/uploads/Comms%20and%20Research/FAQs_on_Emergency_Legislation_Final.pdf. 

Support for buy-to-let mortgage holders with tenants affected by COVID-19 is being provided by the banking sector, including mortgage repayment breaks of up to 6 months by some financial institutions. 

Any landlord facing potential difficulties in making loan repayments because of COVID-19 is advised to contact their bank or credit servicer as early as possible. All of the existing protections for customers who face actual or potential financial difficulties continue to apply. Banks, retail credit and credit servicing firms have introduced payment breaks on mortgages, personal loans and business loans for some business and personal customers affected by COVID-19.

My Department has no information on private contractual agreements between landlords and their finance providers nor between landlords and their tenants.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (1354)

Noel Grealish

Question:

1354. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the criteria for repayment of proceeds following the sale of an affordable home by a person who had originally purchased this home from a local authority; if the same repayment rules apply for each local authority; if solicitors and auctioneers fees can be deducted before the repayment amount is calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6307/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Affordable housing arrangements under the 1999 Affordable Housing Scheme and Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, provided for the payment of a "clawback" to the local authority.  This was in the event that the affordable dwelling was sold by the purchaser within 20 years, such "clawback" being a percentage of the proceeds of the sale. The relevant provisions were set out in section 9 of the Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2002 and section 99 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, respectively.

The interpretation of these provisions is a matter for local authorities in the first instance. The repayment of the charge is a matter for the solicitor acting for the local authority and the solicitor acting for the individual selling the property to deal with.  However, it is my Department's view that these provisions do not mean that solicitors and auctioneers fees incurred by the purchaser in selling the dwelling can be deducted from the proceeds of the sale before calculating the clawback amount.

Social and Affordable Housing

Question No. 1358 answered with Question No. 1351.

Question No. 1359 answered with Question No. 1317.

Questions (1355, 1356, 1357, 1361, 1379)

Noel Grealish

Question:

1355. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the capital grants provided to Galway City Council in 2018 and 2019, respectively, under the social housing investment programme to assist in the construction and renewal of social rented accommodation for persons and families who have been assessed as in need of housing support under categories (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6308/20]

View answer

Noel Grealish

Question:

1356. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the construction and renewal of social rented accommodation for persons and families who have been assessed as in need of housing support under categories (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6309/20]

View answer

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

1357. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the capital grants provided to Roscommon County Council in 2018 and 2019, respectively, under the social housing investment programme to assist in the construction and renewal of social rented accommodation for persons and families assessed as in need of housing support under categories (details supplied). [6361/20]

View answer

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

1361. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of capital grants provided to Carlow County Council in 2018 and 2019, respectively, under the social housing investment programme to assist in the construction and renewal of social rented accommodation for persons and families who have been assessed as in need of housing support under categories (details supplied). [6540/20]

View answer

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1379. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of capital grants provided to Tipperary County Council in 2018 and 2019, respectively, under the social housing investment programme to assist in the construction and renewal of social rented accommodation for persons and families who have been assessed as in need of housing support under categories (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6870/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1355 to 1357, inclusive, 1361 and 1379 together.

My Department provides funding to local authorities to support a broad range of housing programmes, including the delivery of new social homes through build, acquisition and leasing and programmes which support maintenance, upgrades and improvement works to existing social housing stock.

The funding provided to Tipperary County Council, Galway City Council, Roscommon County Council and Carlow County Council in 2018 and 2019 in respect of the various construction programmes, social housing improvement works, Traveller Accommodation and Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability are set out in the following tables (in which "build" encompasses local authority and approved housing body build activity, regeneration and public private partnerships).

Budget 2020 provided for the largest amount of funding that Government has ever invested in housing in a single year, €2.63 billion, and this funding will support the continued delivery of the full range of housing programmes this year. The 2020 funding details in respect of the various housing programmes and the associated output targets are set out in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2020 publication, which is available at the following link:

www.gov.ie/en/collection/e20037-revised-estimates/.

A full detailed breakdown of delivery by local authority area is available on my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision. In addition, the Q4 2019 Social Housing Construction Status Report, which contains scheme by scheme information on the progress of over 26,015 new social housing homes, either currently approved and progressing through planning, design and construction, as well as homes delivered to end Q4 2019, is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q4-2019-2/.

In addition to capital assistance provided for the categories requested by the Deputy, it should be noted that my Department also provides capital assistance for the acquisition of homes for social housing, and also current funding for leasing homes, in addition to funding under the Housing Assistance Payment and the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Tipperary County Council

2018 €m

2019 €m

Social Housing Build

4.27

13.57

Traveller Accommodation

0.04

0

Social Housing Improvement Works

1.49

2.62

Private Housing Grants

2.92

2.94

Galway City Council

2018 €m

2019 €m

Social Housing Build

11.23

21.96

Social Housing Improvement Works

0.24

0.17

Private Housing Grants

1.03

0.81

Carlow County Council

2018 €m

2019 €m

Social Housing Build

6.03

14.71

Traveller Accommodation

0

0.38

Social Housing Improvement Works

0.72

0.37

Private Housing Grants

1.55

1.34

Roscommon County Council

2018 €m

2019 €m

Social Housing Build

1.62

4.06

Traveller Accommodation

0.10

0.07

Social Housing Improvement Works

0.31

0.17

Private Housing Grants

0.76

1.08

Question No. 1358 answered with Question No. 1351.
Question No. 1359 answered with Question No. 1317.

Planning Issues

Question No. 1361 answered with Question No. 1355.

Questions (1360)

Patrick Costello

Question:

1360. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated cost if the budget for the Office of the Planning Regulator increased by 12%. [6533/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), headed up by the new Planning Regulator, was established on 3 April 2019.

The OPR is responsible for the independent assessment of all local authority and regional assembly forward planning, including development plans, local area plans, regional spatial and economic strategies.  It can also review the organisation, systems and procedures used by any planning authority or An Bord Pleanála in the performance of any of their planning functions.  In addition, the OPR has powers to drive national research, training, education and public information programmes to establish best practice in planning matters and highlight the role and benefit of proper planning.

The OPR is funded from my Department's Vote and the Revised Estimates provision for the OPR in 2020 amounts to a total of €2,569,000.  If the budget allocation for the OPR was to be increased by 12%, the additional cost would amount to €308,280.

Question No. 1361 answered with Question No. 1355.

Planning Issues

Questions (1362)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

1362. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of a right of way agreement in County Cork (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6549/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Pursuant to the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) is the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the aforementioned Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

Arrangements have been put in place by all State bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas.  The contact e-mail address in respect of the PRA is reps@prai.ie.

However, with regard to the specific query, I understand that although the PRA can confirm if a right of way exists, it could not provide details of any deeds or documents relating to the registration of the right, as those would be available only to the registered owner and in order to deal with such a query, the PRA would also require details such as the folio number or the application number under which the right of way was registered.

Arts Centres

Questions (1363)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1363. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of a project (details suppled). [6570/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Cork Event Centre is included as a commitment under Project Ireland 2040 and it underlines the Government’s objectives around urban regeneration, enhanced amenity and heritage, associated quality of life standards, balanced regional development, and the regeneration and development of Cork City Centre. 

It was agreed in the context of Budget 2020 that responsibility at central Government level for making the grant aid support available for the project would transfer to my Department.  In that context, funding was allocated to my Department to support the project.  

Responsibility for the advancement of proposals for the development of the Cork Event Centre remains, in the first instance, a matter for Cork City Council.

Local Authority Funding

Questions (1364, 1391, 1397)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1364. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the measures which will be taken to alleviate funding deficits in local authorities due to the Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6573/20]

View answer

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

1391. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the measures being taken to provide funding for local authorities for lost income from commercial rates, parking charges and other sources of income due to the current Covid-19 crisis; the length of time the measures will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6991/20]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

1397. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a commitment will be given to each local authority that all funds lost to the authorities due to the pandemic will be covered by central Government and not impact on other grants and local authority funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7014/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1364, 1391 and 1397 together.

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department has taken a number of measures to assist local authorities with the financial difficulties they are experiencing.

At the outset and to minimise cash flow challenges, my Department arranged for the early payment of Local Property Tax (LPT) to all local authorities.  As a short term measure, my Department made €136m available to local authorities as cash flow support in early April, in order to ensure that vital services that local authorities deliver can be maintained.  This support was comprised of the early payment of the Local Property Tax allocation ordinarily paid from the Local Government Fund in May and July.

On 2 May 2020, the Government announced that a waiver of commercial rates will apply to all businesses that have been forced to close due to public health requirements, from 27 March 2020, for a three-month period. The costs involved, estimated to be €260m, will be met by the Exchequer. My Department is currently preparing further guidance for local authorities on this initiative.

In order to support the local government sector generally, my Department will continue to keep local authority income, expenditure and cash flow generally under review and will continue to work with all local authorities, both collectively and individually.

Planning Issues

Questions (1365)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

1365. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of and the likely delays to decisions being made in the context of local authority delays to planning permission decisions; the related timelines of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6616/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Further to the COVID-19 related restrictive (including stay at home) measures introduced on foot of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020, enacted on 27 March 2020, and subsequent extensions of the initial restrictive measures, the Government has, to date, made three Orders under section 251A of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, extending the duration of all relevant periods and timelines specified in planning legislation by a cumulative total of 56 days/8 weeks. This has been done to maintain the integrity of the planning system and to ensure that public participation requirements therein are not diminished.

The Orders made to date mean that a planning authority will have the normal period of 8 weeks, together with an additional period of up to 8 weeks, i.e. up to 16 weeks in total, to determine a planning application. The Orders also mean that an interested person will have the normal period of 5 weeks, together with an additional period of up to 8 weeks, i.e. up to 13 weeks in total, to participate in the process in relation to planning applications.  The exact calculation of the extended time period will depend on the date a planning application is submitted and the stage of the process it is at.

Following on from the Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, published on 1 May last, it is envisaged that certain decision making processes under the planning system will shortly begin to be advanced.  My Department is currently working with planning authorities in relation to the public access arrangements to be made to facilitate the public consultation aspects of the planning process, having regard to public health guidance and relevant return to work protocols relating to the local government sector. 

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (1366)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1366. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if guidance will be issued to local authorities on the need for streets and public areas in towns and villages to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised by means of deep clean to help address the Covid-19 pandemic in view of the fact that local authorities and an association (details supplied) have requested guidance on this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6631/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

While I have responsibility for broad oversight of the local government system I have no function in relation to this specific matter.

I understand that local authorities will however, in delivering their public space and street hygiene and maintenance programmes, have due regard to the direction, guidance and advice from the Department of Health and the National Public Health Emergency Team for COVID-19 (NPHET) in the context of the ongoing consideration and management of any further public health measures. 

Planning Issues

Questions (1367)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1367. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a further order will be issued to extend time periods on all planning matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6637/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

On 29 March 2020, the Government, following my request and taking account of the considerations under section 251A(5) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, made an Order under section 251A(3) of that Act which resulted in the extension of time for a range of specified or appropriate periods and timelines in the Planning Acts and associated planning regulations.

In determining the end date of the Order, a number of additional days were added beyond the end of the period of the Government’s public health ‘stay at home’ announcement to facilitate the return to normal business by planning authorities and public communication of revised arrangements in advance of the expiry of the section 251A Order. In this context, the date of 20 April 2020 was specified in the Order as the date on which the period to be disregarded under section 251A(1) of the Planning Act was to end, comprising a period of 23 days.

Arising from the decision of the Government to extend the COVID-19 related measures restricting the movement of the public until 5 May 2020, the Government on 16 April 2020 made an Order under Section 251A(4) of the Planning Act further extending the duration of all relevant periods and timelines specified in planning legislation by an additional 19 days, up to and including 9 May 2020. As the Government has since decided to extend further the COVID-19 related restrictive measures until 18 May 2020, the Government has now made an additional Order under section 251A(4) of the Planning Act extending the duration of all relevant periods and timelines specified in planning legislation by an additional 14 days, up to and including 23 May 2020.

The three Orders have the combined effect of extending the relevant planning periods and timelines by an aggregate of 56 days/8 weeks.  Notifications of these Orders, including reference to an updated FAQ document, have been issued in circular letters to all planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála. The updated FAQ document, relevant Circulars and the Government Orders, as well as additional information, are also available on my Department’s main COVID-19/Planning webpage at:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/covid-19-coronavirus/clarification-operation-planning-system-during-current-covid-19  

The planning system has a key role to play in the post COVID-19 recovery and as restrictions are unwound, I expect that the latest Order, which is effective until 23 May, will be the last such Order made under section 251A of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Planning Issues

Questions (1368)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1368. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if amended strategic housing development applications which propose to increase the number of units in previously approved developments must submit subsequent applications to the relevant local authority or An Bord Pleanála, if the proposed increase in units falls below 100 (details supplied); and if it is policy for An Bord Pleanála to accept successive amendments to previously approved strategic housing development applications. [6638/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

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

The Planning Code does not prohibit an applicant from submitting a subsequent application for a site which has already been granted planning permission. This subsequent application would be classed as a new application. Under section 4 of the Act, all applications that meet the SHD threshold criteria must be submitted to the Board for consideration. 

Furthermore, under section 146B of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, the Board can also receive and decide upon proposals to amend permissions which have already been granted in respect of SHD proposals. This possibility was not availed of by the developers of the SHD in question. Instead, they decided to submit a new application proposing to add an additional 10 housing units to the permission that had already been previously granted.

Under section 30 of the Act, I am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (1369)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1369. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when local authorities will be provided with the affordable housing regulations regarding eligibility and other matters in view of the fact that some local authorities will soon be advertising their affordable housing schemes to the public, for example, Dun Emer, Lusk, Fingal, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6640/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In relation to the site referred to in Lusk, County Dublin, I can confirm that Fingal County Council has received approval in principle from my Department for Serviced Site Funding (SSF) of €1.5 million to assist its delivery of 39 affordable homes.  The latest information from Fingal County Council indicates that a contractor has yet to be appointed to construct these homes and it anticipates that delivery of the first homes will begin in 2021.

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.  This legislation now provides the statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase in the State. Regulations in respect of the making of Schemes of Priority, advertising and application procedures were signed on 12 March 2019, and these were issued to local authorities on 22 March 2019.  The purpose of a Scheme of Priority is to set out the affordable purchase arrangements at local authority level.  This includes the methodology that will be applied by local authorities to determine the order of priority to be accorded to eligible households where the demand for such affordable dwellings exceeds the number available.  

In line with the legal requirements of the Affordable Dwelling Purchase Arrangements, further regulations will be put in place including the form of charging orders, the length of the charged period and the minimum repayment that can be made during the charged period.   When the operational procedures for the scheme are finalised, and before dwellings are made available for purchase under the scheme, a programme of communication will be undertaken by my Department and local authorities.

Local Authority Housing

Question No. 1371 answered with Question No. 1309.

Questions (1370)

Brendan Smith

Question:

1370. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funding allocated to Cavan County Council in respect of the housing voids programme in 2019; if an increased level of funding will be provided in 2020 in view of the urgent need to bring vacant local authority housing stock back to habitable use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6683/20]

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 Section 58 of the Housing Act 1966

Since 2014, Exchequer funding has also been provided through my Department's Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. This funding was introduced originally to tackle long term vacant units and is now targeted to ensure minimal turnaround and re-let times for local authority vacant stock.

In 2019, Cavan County Council was allocated funding of €426,161 to undertake the refurbishment of 36 vacant social housing homes.  My Department will be issuing a calls for proposals under the voids programme for 2020 and will consider any proposals received from Cavan County Council.

It should be noted that 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 would be funded primarily from the rental income received from that same housing stock.  My Department is in ongoing discussions with the City & County Management Association, on behalf of local authorities, in this regard.

Question No. 1371 answered with Question No. 1309.

Land Development Agency

Questions (1372)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

1372. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the Land Development Agency; the number of staff employed by the agency; the grade of each; the annual cost of salaries; the number of consultants employed by the agency; the length of their contracts; the nature of the work; the cost of the contracts to date; the number of offices used by the agency; the location and annual lease cost of each; the number of development sites in which the agency has involvement including locations size, partners and numbers of residential units projected for each site; the projected cost of each development; the level of agency financing projected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6718/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Land Development Agency (LDA) was established on an interim basis in September 2018, by way of an Establishment Order made under the Local Government Services (Corporate Bodies) Act 1971, pending the enactment of primary legislation when it will be established as a commercial State agency. 

A General Scheme of the Land Development Agency Bill to establish the LDA as a commercial state body on a primary legislative basis was approved by Government for publication, consideration for pre-legislative scrutiny and priority drafting in July 2019. The pre legislative scrutiny process is now complete and the Committee's report was received by my Department in December 2019. This report will be considered in finalising the Bill, which it is intended will be brought to the Oireachtas in the coming months.

The day to day management of the LDA is matter for the LDA Chief Executive and his management team reporting to the LDA Interim Board. Under its Establishment Order, the LDA may appoint such and so many persons to be employees as it may determine.  The LDA will report on its salary and consultancy costs in its annual financial statements in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.  In addition, as with all State bodies operating under the aegis of my Department, arrangements have been put in place by the LDA through which Oireachtas members can request information directly from the Agency in relation to operational matters - in this regard, the LDA may be contacted directly at oireachtas@lda.ie.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, on the basis of information provided by the LDA to my Department, I can indicate that the LDA currently has 17 staff, including 3 seconded from other State bodies.  It is currently actively recruiting further staff and expects to have 45 employees by the end of the year, rising to 50 in 2021.  It will have skilled staff in the areas of finance, investment appraisal, investment management, legal, procurement and property development (i.e. quantity surveyors, engineers, planners, architects etc) along with corporate and compliance support roles.  The LDA does not operate a grading system. Contracts are agreed with employees following a competitive hiring process. The LDA is forecasting its annual salary costs to be approximately €3 million by 2021 for a staff complement of 50.

As with any other body responsible for developing large scale projects, the LDA requires professional and technical advisors and these services are tendered for in line with public procurement processes. Public tenders vary in length and do not guarantee any award of services or expenditure until contracts are negotiated. Examples of professional services tendered to date by the LDA include Legal, Architect Lead Design, Project Management, HR, Procurement, Corporate Advisory, Communications.

To date professional fees incurred by the LDA on projects are predominantly planning and design fees and project management fees, according as the LDA conducts feasibility and design work on their portfolio of sites. The total costs incurred across sites is in the region of €1 million to date.  Corporate professional fees, including procurement fees, communications, recruitment, IT and legal, of approximately €500,000 have also been incurred to date during the LDA's set up phase.

The LDA currently leases office space in Ashford House, Tara Street, Dublin 2. The annual rent is €248,000 (ex VAT) with an annual service  charge of €40,000 (ex VAT).  Limerick City and County Council made accommodation available to one agency employee based in Limerick for a period, for which no rent was paid by the LDA.

The LDA currently has access to an initial tranche of 9 sites across the country that have near term delivery potential for 3,600 new homes. Further details of the sites are set out in the following table.

It is also working in partnership with other local authorities around the country. It is running a design review of the Sandy Road Regeneration Project in Galway which has the potential for up to 1,000 homes. It is also working with Limerick City and County Council on a site near Colbert Station in Limerick, funding a masterplan of the site which consists of lands owned by the Council, CIE, the Department of Education and the HSE.

It is not possible to determine total delivery costs of the projects at this stage as the design work has not yet been completed. The LDA will establish appropriate funding mechanisms for each of its projects including proposed investment from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and other sources.

Update on LDA sites

Location

Size

Projected number of units

Status

Partners

Shanganagh, Dublin  

17.8 acres

597 units, of which 200 social, 91 cost purchase, 306 cost rental

Part 10 application submitted to An Bord Pleanala in January 2020 with construction to follow subject to planning permission.

Site being developed in conjunction with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

Central Mental Hospital,   Dundrum

28 acres

1,200 units (estimated)

Pre-planning

Design team appointed.

LDA expects to   lodge a planning application in mid-2021 and begin construction in early 2022

 

Devoy Barracks, Naas

13.9 acres

210 units (estimated)

Pre-planning.  Draft masterplan prepared

 

St Kevin’s   Hospital, Cork

14.5 acres

274 units (estimated)

Pre-planning. Masterplan prepared

 

Meath Hospital, Dublin   8

0.5 acres

104

Pre-planning. Design team to be appointed

 

Hackettstown,   Skerries

16.8 acres

340 units (estimated)

Pre planning. Design team appointed

 

Castlelands, Balbriggan

60 acres

800 units (estimated)

Pre planning.

Design team appointed

 

Columb Barracks, Mullingar

24.7 acres

200 (estimated)

Pre-planning. Feasibility stage

 

Dyke Road, Galway

4.5 acres

To be determined

Pre-planning Appraisal stage

 

Housing Data

Questions (1373)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

1373. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of NARPS residential properties funded by his Department; the length of the leases on these properties; the annual cost for each year the leases have been in place to date; the estimated net present value of the leases over the duration of the current leases; the AHBs and local authorities managing the properties and tenancies at the leases; the annual cost to date of property and tenancy management; the estimated net present value of property and tenancy management over the lifetime of the lease; and the understanding of his Department as to the position with the properties at the end of the lease term. [6719/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In 2013, NAMA established a special purpose vehicle (National Asset Residential Property Services Limited ‘NARPS’), to take ownership of properties where there is an established demand for social housing and then lease them on a long-term basis to an approved housing body (AHB) or local authority. In these projects, NAMA funds the remediation of the common areas and the completion of the unfinished units, which are often the last remaining incomplete and vacant units in estates. When the units are complete, NARPS purchases the finished properties and leases them immediately to an AHB or local authority. Information in relation to the number of leases, broken down by AHB and local authority, is available on the NAMA website (updated to end-March 2020), at the following link:

 https://www.nama.ie/our-work/social-initiatives/social-housing.

All NARPS leases are 20 years and 9 months in duration. The total cost of NARPS leases in 2019 was €11,116,511 and the total cost in 2018 was €12,126,909. Leasing costs prior to 2018 are available on a cumulative basis only and, as such, it is not possible to give a breakdown of the cost of NARPS leases before that date.

The ownership of the properties remains with NARPS at the expiration of the lease term. Following a direction by the Minister for Finance in 2019, NARPS will be retained in long term State ownership. NAMA will transfer NARPS to the State at the direction of the Minister for Finance and this comprises €300 million of the projected €4 billion surplus. This reflects the current value of the portfolio, based on lease income.

The tenancy and property management of the dwellings is a matter for the relevant local authority or Approved Housing Body.

Private Rented Accommodation

Questions (1374)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

1374. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will introduce tougher sanctions for landlords who breach the legislation governing the private rented residential sector on multiple occasions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6721/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Dispute resolution is a key function of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019. Enforcement of RTB dispute determination orders has a firm legal base in those Acts. When landlords, tenants and third parties access the RTB dispute resolution service through mediation, adjudication or an appeal through a tenancy tribunal, they receive a legally binding determination order. Where non-compliance occurs, the RTB initially seeks to secure compliance by non-judicial means. Where non-compliance persists, the RTB will consider requests from  injured parties to provide legal assistance to enforce the Order.  The RTB has set out the policy and criteria it follows in this regard, which is available on its website at the following link:

https://onestopshop.rtb.ie/images/uploads/Dispute%20Order%20Enforcement/RTB_Policy_on_Enforcement_of_Determination_Orders.pdf.

Alternatively, an injured party may wish to take their own enforcement proceedings directly to the courts. A Guide to Enforcement in the District Court is also available on the RTB's website at the following link:

 https://onestopshop.rtb.ie/images/uploads/general/RTB_Guide_to_taking_Enforcement_Proceedings_A5_FINAL_VERSION.pdf.

Enforcement proceedings may involve the registration of the judgment of the Court and these judgments may then be published in the various Trade Gazettes, etc. The RTB website also displays the details of persons against whom it obtains court orders for any non-compliance with its determination orders.

If a party fails to comply with a Court order, the RTB may in certain circumstances seek further orders from the Court such as execution orders to engage the local sheriff to seize goods, orders for attachment on earnings and, in extreme circumstances, orders from the Court for attachment and committal.

The RTB has no power to prevent any non-compliant party from continuing to rent properties.  However, RTB Adjudicators and Tribunal members can award damages against a party for breaches of their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Acts. These damages, which are awarded to the other party, can be up to €20,000 depending on the severity of the offence.

A person guilty of an offence under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 is liable, in accordance with section 9 of the 2004 Act, on summary conviction to a Class B fine (currently up to a maximum of €4,000 under the Fines Act 2010 ) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. If the contravention in respect of which a person is convicted of an offence under those Acts continues after the conviction, the person is guilty of a further offence on every day on which the contravention continues and for each such offence the person shall be liable on summary conviction to a Class E fine (currently up to a maximum of €500 under the Fines Act 2010).

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 empowers the RTB to investigate improper conduct by landlords and impose sanctions under a new Part 7A – Complaints, Investigations and Sanctions – inserted into the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. In particular, unlawful rent increases in RPZs, unlawful tenancy terminations and non-registration of tenancies  can be investigated by the RTB with the imposition of a possible sanction of up to €30,000.

Section 148AD of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 sets out the matters to be considered by the RTB in deciding on any sanction to be imposed. These matters include:

- the need for any sanction to be appropriate and proportionate; sufficient to deter the recurrence of any similar improper conduct; and in the public interest to encourage compliance with the Act;

- the seriousness, duration and any re-occurrence of the improper conduct;

- any continuation of the improper conduct after the landlord was notified of the investigation concerned; and

- whether a sanction has previously been imposed on foot of a similar occurrence of improper conduct. 

I do not consider it necessary to further strengthen the RTB's sanctioning powers at this stage but I will continue to keep the matter under review.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (1375)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

1375. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a Rebuilding Ireland home loan will issue for a person (details provided) in County Dublin; if he will provide details of the process for handling such live applications during the Covid-19 period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6766/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Section 63(3) of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that, subject to law, a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions.  In addition, Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 specifically provides that the Minister's power to issue policy directions and guidelines to housing authorities in relation to their housing functions should not be construed as enabling the Minister to exercise any power or control in relation to any individual case with which a housing authority is or may be concerned.

Accordingly, I, as Minister, am precluded from intervening in relation to individual loan applications.  The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its Credit Committee on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure prudence and consistency of treatment for all applicants.

Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee may appeal that decision to the local authority. Details of the appeals process can be obtained from the relevant local authority.

It is recognised that current applicants for a Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan may be experiencing difficulties arising out of COVID-19. Local authorities are being asked to show flexibility when dealing with applicants at all stages of the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan process from application and approval, to drawdown and appeal and should extend the time periods as necessary to accommodate those who may be experiencing difficulties arising out of COVID-19 restrictions.

Nevertheless, local authorities are also required to be prudent with their lending, both for the protection of the lender and the borrower, and ensure that mortgages are only advanced based on up to date financial and employment data from applicants, as appropriate, having regard to the implications that COVID-19 has had for many businesses and employers.  In such cases, a decision on whether to withdraw or vary a loan offer is a decision for each local authority.

Loan offer and conditionality are ultimately a contractual matter between the borrower and the local authority.  As such, borrowers may wish to consult with their solicitor who can advise further on contractual matters.