Social and Affordable Housing

Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 42.

Questions (46, 49)

Brendan Smith

Question:

46. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will review the income eligibility limits for social housing; his plans to ensure that the income limits for areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan are improved without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17657/20]

View answer

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

49. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the review of income thresholds to qualify for a place on a local authority housing list will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17376/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 49 together.

Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge and Pension-Related Deductions within the meaning of Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once-off in nature.

The income bands are expressed in terms of a maximum net income threshold for a single-person household, with an allowance of 5% for each additional adult household member, subject to a maximum allowance under this category of 10%; and 2.5% for each child, subject to a maximum allowance under this category of 10%.

The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.

Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.

However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is under way. The review will also have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.

Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 42.

Social and Affordable Housing

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 46.

Questions (48)

Thomas Gould

Question:

48. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of affordable houses to be built; and the number of social houses to be completed and allocated in 2020 in Cork city. [17613/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Since 2016, my Department has been working with local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies, to deliver housing under Rebuilding Ireland. Local authorities were given 4 year overall social housing delivery targets, and they are working towards these targets to end 2021. We will be working hard, with our delivery partners, to incorporate the ambitious goals and initiatives of the Programme for Government into our targets for 2021 and beyond.

Cork City Council have an overall build, acquisition and lease delivery target of 2,067 social housing units to the end 2021 and to date have delivered over 1,700 units. Almost 300 homes are currently projected for delivery in 2020. The allocation of completed homes is a matter for individual Local Authorities.

The delivery of affordable housing is a top priority for this Government and for me, as Minister. Under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), €310 million has been allocated to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands.

The most advanced, SSF funded, affordable housing project is at Boherboy Road in Cork City. The Council has confirmed these homes are expected to be made available on a phased basis from Q1 2021. In total, the delivery of approximately 400 affordable homes in Cork City and County will be assisted by almost €22 million funding via the Serviced Sites Fund.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 46.

County Development Plans

Questions (50)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

50. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the Meath county development plan process will now be stalled in view of the commitment in the programme for Government to review and extend the National Development Plan 2018-2027; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17616/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Project Ireland 2040 comprises two principal elements, both of which were published by Government in 2018. The National Planning Framework (NPF) is Ireland’s long-term national spatial planning strategy to accommodate projected future population and economic growth over a 20-year period to 2040.

The other principal element of Project Ireland is the current National Development Plan (NDP), which sets out a €116 billion public capital investment envelope in support of the NPF, to 2027. The aligned and shared vision of the NPF in tandem with the NDP, is an integrated, ‘joined-up’ planning and investment strategy, focused on a series of ten shared national outcomes.

The Programme for Government commits to review of the National Development Plan (NDP) to be brought forward from 2022, to set out an updated NDP for the period to 2031. The Programme for Government also confirms that the updated NDP will remain aligned with the spatial planning strategy in the NPF. Accordingly, it is not proposed to review the NPF at this time.

Further to the NPF, a Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) was prepared by the Regional Assembly for the Eastern and Midland Region in 2019. In accordance with Section 11 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended, review of the Meath County Development Plan must be consistent with both the NPF and the relevant Regional Strategy. The Meath County Development Plan process is underway.

In line with all statutory planning processes in Ireland, the Meath County Development Plan process was extended for a period of 8 weeks from late March 2020 further to legislation enacted in response to the Covid 19 pandemic. This period of extension ceased during May.

Given that the NPF is not being reviewed at present, that the RSES for the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly area has been in place since 2019 and that the Meath County Development Plan review is underway, the process will not be stalled in view of the commitment to review and extend the National Development Plan.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (51)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

51. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of the 50,000 new social housing builds which will be built in north County Dublin; the yearly target for Fingal County Council in north County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17497/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government commits to delivering 50,000 new social homes over the coming five-year period. There will be a very strong and increasing emphasis on new build supply. Since taking up office I am working within my Department and with key stakeholders and delivery partners to fully understand the most up-to-date position regarding delivery across social housing programmes and in particular, the construction programme, taking the impact of Covid-19 into account and to programme future delivery taking account of policy and budgetary considerations. Once the overall annual delivery programme is agreed, it will be translated across into local delivery targets.

Residential Tenancies Board

Questions (52)

Pa Daly

Question:

52. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason the estimated spend on the Residential Tenancies Board has decreased from €12.4 million to €9.9 million in the Revised Estimates. [17499/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The figures the Deputy is referring to relate to 2019 and 2020 Exchequer funding for the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). The figure of €12.4 million relates to 2019 Exchequer funding and included a provision of €4.5 million for Rented Accommodation Inspection. This funding was a subvention from my Department for local authorities to aid their inspections of private rental accommodation and the enforcement of the minimum standards Regulations.

From 2004 to 2016, by way of Ministerial Order, a portion of the fee income collected by the RTB for the registration of tenancies was set aside to be allocated to local authorities for the purpose of the performance of their functions under the Housing Acts in relation to private rented accommodation standards inspections. Since 1 July 2016, the RTB has retained 100% of its fee income to defray its costs.

Since 2018, my Department has used the RTB subhead to provide direct Exchequer funding to local authorities to assist them with their work as it relates to inspections of rental accommodation, with the RTB having no role in either the inspections or the funding.

In 2019, my Department sought permission from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to have the Rental Accommodation Inspection aspect of the RTB subhead removed and renamed, without affecting the funding provided to the organisation, and to be set up as a separate subhead reflecting the fact that the RTB no longer has a role in the subvention of these local authority inspections.

Permission was granted and the change took effect in the 2020 Estimates with the creation of the A.25.1 Rental Accommodation Inspection subhead. So while the RTB funding appears to have decreased year on year, it is only because the inspections were included in 2019 and excluded in 2020. The Exchequer funding for operational costs incurred by the RTB has in fact increased by €2m in 2020.

The provision for rental accommodation inspections has also increased, from €4.5 million in 2019 to €6m this year.

Mortgage to Rent Scheme

Questions (53)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

53. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to increase the availability of the mortgage to rent scheme. [17641/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Mortgage to Rent (MTR) scheme introduced in 2012 is targeted at those households in mortgage arrears who have had their mortgage position deemed unsustainable by their lender under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP), who agree to the voluntary surrender of their home and are deemed eligible for social housing support. From its introduction in 2012 to the end of June 2020, 691 families have remained in their homes under the Scheme. As of end-June 2020, 1,342 applications were active.

A review of the MTR scheme undertaken in 2017 introduced a range of improvements to the eligibility criteria and its administration. In order to increase awareness and understanding of the Scheme a new website, www.mortgagetorent.ie, was developed. In addition, new structures and arrangements were put in place to encourage a greater number of entities to take part in the scheme.

The implementation of the recommendations of the Review means that MTR is available to provide a long-term solution for more households in mortgage distress, where appropriate. Building on that work, and in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, I am considering how the scheme could be further improved to meet the needs of more borrowers who require long-term support with their housing needs.

Planning Data

Questions (54)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

54. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the strategic housing developments which have been granted permission since July 2017; the number that have had commencement orders granted to them; the number of these permissions that have been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17652/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

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 Board has received 228 SHD applications up to 30 June 2020, in respect of a total of 62,546 homes (comprising 17,318 houses, 37,912 apartments and 7,316 Build to Rent homes), 13,374 student bed spaces and 600 shared accommodation bed spaces. The Board has granted permission on 137 SHD applications in respect of a total of 37,688 homes (comprising 10,204 houses, 21,709 apartments and 5,775 Build to Rent homes), 9,746 student bed spaces and 410 shared accommodation bed spaces.

Of the applications that were granted permission under the SHD arrangements, it is understood that commencement notices have been lodged in respect of 42 of these projects to date. A total of 10,392 homes were permitted in the developments in respect of which commencement notices have been lodged (comprising 4,658 houses, 5,445 apartments and 289 Build to Rent homes), as well as 5371 student bed spaces.

The recent review of the SHD arrangements highlighted that while they have generally been a success in providing a fast-track development consent process for developers of large-scale housing developments, the number of SHD permissions that have commenced development is less than might have been expected.

Having reflected on the views of the Review Group on the rate of activation of SHD sites, it is considered appropriate that developers should be sufficiently motivated to commence development on foot of an SHD permission in a timely manner, given the efficiencies that the SHD arrangements provide.

In light of the low activation rate of SHD permissions to date, the new Programme for Government – Our Shared Future commits to introducing a ‘use it or lose it’ condition for all planning applications of ten units or more as well as not extending the SHD arrangements beyond their legislative expiry date of 31 December 2021.

Local Authority Housing

Questions (55)

Brendan Smith

Question:

55. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will allocate additional funding to local authorities such as Cavan County Council and Monaghan County Council for the voids programme in 2020 in view of the financial pressures on local authorities; if he will reduce the local contribution needed for local authorities to draw down this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17656/20]

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 initially introduced to tackle long term vacant units and is now increasingly targeted at ensuring minimal turnaround and re-let times for local authority vacant stock. During 2019, expenditure of some €26.6 million was recouped to local authorities under the Voids Programme.

Cavan County Council has received €1.65 million in funding under the Voids Programme from 2014 to 2019, supporting 137 units being returned to use. Monaghan County Council received €1.97 million in funding over the same period supporting 184 units for re-let.

There is a two stage process for allocations under the Voids Programme for 2020. Firstly, on 26 May, there was an initial call for proposals for COVID-19 Voids funding for vacant units which were required for the emergency accommodation of qualified households arising from the need to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of COVID-19. The majority of works approved under this element of the programme are complete. Cavan County Council submitted 8 properties for assessment under the Covid-19 Voids Programme and have received approval for all 8 properties. Monaghan received approval for 6 units. A second call for proposals, under the non-Covid specific voids programme, will issue shortly and any funding submission received from local authorities will be actively considered.

It is important to note that there is no minimum local contribution sought from LAs under the voids programme and capped funding can optimized to cover 100% of the costs incurred.

It is also important that local authorities increasingly move toward a preventative maintenance approach to the management of their housing stock and my Department is working with local authorities to this end.

Housing Policy

Questions (56, 58)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

56. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the efforts he will make to help upgrade existing uninhabitable housing stock nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17658/20]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

58. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his Department has data on the number of existing uninhabitable housing stock nationally such as abandoned former family homes and cottages; his views on the potential in bringing this stock back to habitable standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17659/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 58 together.

My Department does not hold data on the amount of uninhabitable housing stock which exists nationally. My Department is, however, focused on ensuring that existing housing stock is utilised to its fullest extent including a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland.

In that context, Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland, set out a range of measures to assist in meeting housing needs by ensuring that our existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible. Key to this was the publication of the National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy, published in 2018, which contains a range of objectives and key actions to be pursued in partnership with stakeholders and agencies across the housing sector to address vacancy in our housing stock. The Strategy is underpinned by a number of supports and guidance available to bring vacant housing stock back into use including:

- The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS), which was to assist private property owners, local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in utilising existing vacant housing stock throughout the country. The scheme is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their properties up to the required standard for rental property. Since its introduction the scheme has facilitated 165 homes being brought back into use and tenanted.

- The Buy and Renew Scheme particularly focuses on older vacant homes to help tackle the problem of dereliction and improve the appearance of the community. It provides the option for suitable properties to be purchased rather than leased, if that is the preference of the owners. Since its introduction the Buy & Renew Scheme has facilitated local authorities purchase 529 vacant properties for social housing purposes.

- In December 2018 my Department published the Bringing Back Homes Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings. Revitalising our main streets through well-designed refurbishment of residential units, particularly above shops, could help to rejuvenate smaller town centres and city streets as well as produce more houses. The Bringing Back Homes manual is available to download at www.housing.gov.ie/housing/home-ownership/vacant-homes/bringing-back-homes-manual-reuse-existing-buildings.

To support this work at local authority level, the Department has secured funding for each local authority to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office. The provision of central funding reinforces the capacity of the Department’s Vacant Homes Unit to liaise with and seek information/statistics from a dedicated contact point within each local authority. The Vacant Homes Office plays a key role in the co-ordination of this work within each local authority.

Local Authority Housing

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 56.

Questions (57)

Martin Browne

Question:

57. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the €4 million that Tipperary County Council is borrowing to upgrade 114 houses in its stock; the impact this level of borrowing will have on the housing finances of the council going forward; if he plans to increase funding allocations for housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17627/20]

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 been provided through my Department's Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. From 2014 to 2019, expenditure of some €172 million was recouped to local authorities under this programme.

Funding under the voids programme will continue to be provided in 2020. The initial Covid-19 related specific call for proposals that issued in April will be followed up with a more general call for proposals soon. Under the initial call Tipperary County Council sought approval for 7 voids and funding of €69,497 and this was approved.

In relation to the proposed borrowing of €4m by Tipperary County Council my Department has not yet received a request for loan sanction.

In the longer run, it is important that local authorities increasingly move toward a preventative maintenance approach to the management of their housing stock and my Department is working with the Sector to this end.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 56.

Social and Affordable Housing

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 35.

Questions (59)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

59. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to increase the supply of affordable housing in County Clare. [17639/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

This Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that affordable, quality housing solutions are available to everyone in Irish society and this is reflected in the Programme for Government "Our Shared Future".

Already, under the Serviced Sites Fund, €310 million has been allocated to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands. With a maximum of €50,000 funding available per home, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated. To date, Serviced Sites Funding of €127 million has been approved in principle in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes. All Serviced Sites Fund proposals are assessed on the basis of economic analyses submitted by local authorities, which are required to verify local affordability challenges, project viability, and the ability to deliver affordable homes with at least a 10% discount on open market values.

Clare County Council submitted a project in Ballycasey, Shannon, Co. Clare under the 2nd Serviced Sites Fund call which had the potential to deliver 20 affordable homes. This proposal was categorised a ‘Project of Interest’, meaning it required further development and engagement with the Department.

In terms of affordable housing more generally, I will outline my detailed plans in the autumn, taking account of progress to date under the SSF, other measures and the input of key delivery partners.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 35.

Housing Estates

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 42.

Questions (61)

Denis Naughten

Question:

61. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the taking in charge of housing estates process will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17119/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The most recent amendments to the taking in charge provisions of the planning code were made in section 37 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 with a view to further strengthening and streamlining the taking-in-charge process.

Residential developments consisting of two or more dwellings that have been granted planning permission under section 34 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act) may be eligible (depending on the grant of planning condition) for taking in charge. The taking in charge of residential estates by local authorities is provided for under section 180 of the Act, as amended by the 2018 Act, and is a reserved function of the elected members.

Under Section 180 (1) of the Act, the planning authority is obliged to initiate taking in charge procedures where requested by either the developer or by the majority of owners of the dwellings in question. However, this is subject to the development being completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority and in accordance with the permission and any conditions attached to the permission.

I have no plans to conduct a further review of the taking-in-charge provisions of the Act at this point in time.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 42.

Local Authority Housing

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 9.

Questions (63)

Thomas Gould

Question:

63. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the average time spent on the housing list by families consisting of one or more persons with one or more children that were socially housed in Cork city in 2019 and to date in 2020. [17614/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area are set out in the annual statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA). The purpose of the SSHA is to capture the total number of households qualified for social housing support across the country whose social housing need has not yet been met, in order to better inform policy and plan for the delivery of the right types of housing support.

The most recent SSHA, conducted in June 2019, includes breakdowns across a range of categories for each local authority, including length of time on the social housing waiting list and household size and can be found on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/sha_summary_2019_dec_2019_web_1.pdf.

In relation to the specific question posed by the Deputy regarding the average time spent on the housing list by families consisting of one or more persons with one or more children that were socially housed in Cork City in 2019, allocation of social housing support is a matter for each individual local authority and information on the average length of time waited prior to such an allocation is not held by my Department.

Section 22 of the 2009 Act requires all local authorities, as a reserved function, to make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer, the allocation of which would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the households.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 9.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (65, 66)

Brian Stanley

Question:

65. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the temporary rent freeze which is currently in place for a further 30 months will be extended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17131/20]

View answer

Paul Murphy

Question:

66. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the rent freeze and evictions ban will be extended to 31 January 2021. [17644/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 66 together.

With effect from 27 March 2020, under new emergency measures introduced into law to protect tenants during the COVID-19 emergency period, tenants cannot be forced to leave their rental accommodation, other than in exceptional circumstances. The measures also prohibit any increase to rent for the duration of the emergency period. These emergency laws initially applied for a period of 3 months from the enactment of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 and were subsequently extended to 20 July by the previous Government.

On my request, after consultation with the Minister for Health, and with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Government has made an Order extending the emergency period until 1 August.

Subject to Cabinet approval, I aim to introduce residential tenancy legislation in the Houses of the Oireachtas before the summer recess to further protect tenants who have been economically impacted by the pandemic.

Housing Assistance Payment

Questions (67)

Paul Donnelly

Question:

67. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the estimated cost of supporting a tenant on the HAP scheme for 25 years, including interest calculated, and equated to the estimated cost of a local authority building a house as part of a social housing scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17654/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The average annual exchequer cost (net of tenant contribution) for a HAP tenancy is approximately €9,500. There are no management and maintenance costs associated with the properties as these remain the responsibility of the landlord. It should also be borne in mind that some of this exchequer investment may be returned to the exchequer in the form of tax revenue from the rental income generated.

My Department provides Unit Cost Ceilings (UCCs) to each local authority as a benchmark for the development and costing of new build social housing. These UCCs are based on returned data from tendered social housing schemes over an extended period, updated from published tender index information, with the most recent set of UCCs being produced in Q1 2019. The table below outlines the Q1 2019 average UCC values for houses across all local authority areas.

Houses

1 bed

2 bed

(1 storey)

2 bed

(2 storey)

3 bed

4 bed

Construction

€155,818

€165,132

€174,206

€184,685

€199,491

All-in-Cost

€201,359

€212,624

€222,582

€234,571

€252,047

Construction cost as shown is reflective of building costs (including VAT) and also includes normal site works and site development. ‘All-in Cost’ includes cost of construction, land cost, professional fees, utility connections, site investigations/surveys, VAT and contribution to public art. Abnormal costs are excluded from these figures.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (68)

Bríd Smith

Question:

68. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he will take to give security to renters and help for those with rent arrears as a result of the continuing Covid-19 crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17623/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Tenants are required to pay rent to their landlord during the COVID-19 emergency period and, in the event of tenants having difficulty doing so, they are encouraged to engage with their landlords at the earliest opportunity. They should also engage with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) as income supports and Rent Supplement are available to assist them. Further information on these supports can be found by calling the DEASP Income Support Helpline for Covid-19 on 1890 800 024 or by visiting the DEASP website at:

www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-employment-affairs-and-social-protection/?referrer=https://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/home.aspx.

My Department and the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) urge landlords to consider the negative impacts of COVID-19 on their tenants and to show forbearance where temporary rent arrears might arise.

My Department and the Economic and Social Research Institute operate a programme of collaborative research principally focused on housing economics. Under this programme, researchers from the Institute and my Department prepared a research paper exploring the short-run implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on the private rental market. The research paper is focused on rental payment affordability and the potential incidence of arrears during the first three months of the pandemic among non-supported private market renting households, that is, among renting households which do not receive a housing subsidy. Changes in consumption patterns arising from public health measures are also considered in the paper. The preliminary research findings do not identify a significant rent arrears problem emerging during the first three months of the pandemic.

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

The RTB is encouraging all customers who may require assistance or advice, including in relation to any threatened eviction, to contact them via their web chat service as there may be delays to their phone lines during the emergency period. The webchat service can be accessed at the following link: https://onestopshop.rtb.ie/contact-us/.

Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, a tenant sources their own accommodation in the private rented market. The tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended. HAP-supported tenancies are afforded the same protections as all private rented tenancies. The accommodation sourced by tenants should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on household size and the rental market within the area concerned. Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it. It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case-by-case basis.

My Department is aware that some HAP recipients are making payments directly to their landlords, beyond the amount of HAP being paid on their behalf. There is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards the monthly rent to their landlord beyond that of their HAP payment. However, decisions in relation to HAP, including the suitability of HAP accommodation, is solely a matter for the local authority concerned and local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that tenancies are sustainable and are advised not to provide HAP support to tenancies where the household would not be in a position to meet the rental costs being sought.

Where HAP tenants are not financially impacted by the COVID-19 measures, they are expected to continue to pay their HAP differential rent. However, if tenants’ circumstances change, the local authority should reassess those tenants and adjust their differential rent accordingly. Local authorities have been requested to ensure that HAP tenants newly in receipt of DEASP supports be facilitated in remaining in their HAP tenancies. If amendments cannot be made immediately to a tenant’s differential rent amount, any arrears accumulating from the date of approval of the new DEASP support should be rectified at a later date. This will not affect the HAP payment to the landlord.

The DEASP Rent Supplement scheme continues to play a key role in supporting families and individuals in private rented accommodation, with the scheme currently supporting approximately 20,580 recipients. The scheme provides short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The scheme ensures that renters experiencing a temporary loss of employment during the COVID-19 emergency can continue to meet their rental commitments.

Until the end of June approximately, 7,000 new customers have been provided Rent Supplement support since the introduction of the former Government’s COVID-19 emergency response; in addition, there are currently approximately 940 pending applications awaiting a decision or in the process of providing the necessary documentation to the officer dealing with their claim. The DEASP response to the COVID-19 emergency has ensured the flexibility of the Rent Supplement scheme via specific measures to prevent undue delays in processing applications despite the large number of new cases received over a relatively short timeframe. The 2/3 day turnaround of applications ensures that customers do not build up rent arrears and officers attempt to ensure that a person's rental obligations are met in full.

The DEASP Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme offers a safety net within the overall social welfare system by providing assistance to those whose means are insufficient to meet their own needs and those of their dependents. The main purpose of the scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance to those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes. There are several payments within the scheme including once-off exceptional needs payments which can cover rent arrears.

Where a person has a change of circumstances, such as a loss of income, they should notify the relevant local authority in the case of a HAP claim, or the DEASP for Rent Supplement to assess the level of any payment that can be made.

Subject to Cabinet approval, I aim to introduce residential tenancy legislation in the Houses of the Oireachtas before the summer recess to further protect tenants who have been economically impacted by the pandemic.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (69)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

69. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to provide reforms for those on social housing waiting lists in order that those living near the borders of local authorities have access to a wider choice of lettings near the location they live. [17637/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government provides for a package of social housing reforms, including the introduction of a social housing passport to allow households move from one local authority list to another.

It should be noted that the four Dublin local authorities already co-operate in arrangements that enable social housing applicants to apply for housing in one or two of the other Dublin authorities simultaneously. Similar arrangements apply in the two Cork and two Galway local authorities. It is also already possible for households to move and relocate between housing authority areas under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme where the household income is within the appropriate income limits.

The issue of providing for wider tenancy movements is being examined and I will look at proposals in relation to such wider movement along with the other reform package measures.

Planning Issues

Questions (70)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

70. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he plans to take to ensure that local authorities protect the status of the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas in the development and the implementation of county plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17311/20]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, (the Act) sets out mandatory objectives for local authorities, which must be addressed in the drafting of County Development Plans. Section 10(2) of the Act includes a requirement that, where there is a Gaeltacht area in the area of the development plan, the plan must include provisions for “the protection of the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Gaeltacht including the promotion of Irish as the community language”.

My Department has produced planning guidelines, ‘Development Plans, Guidelines for Planning Authorities’, to provide guidance and advice on the development and implementation of local policy to address this mandatory objective of the Act. These guidelines refer to linguistic and cultural heritage and the needs of the community in land-use terms for housing, community facilities, employment, tourism and design, including advertising and signage. For example, the Galway County Development Plan 2015-2021 incorporated a subsequent Variation to include a specific Gaeltacht area plan.

Since April 2019, the assessment of all local authority forward planning, including development plans, local area plans etc. is undertaken by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR). The oversight role of the OPR includes ensuring consistency with relevant national or regional policies and addressing all relevant mandatory objectives for County Development Plans, including the provision of Gaeltacht-specific objectives, where required.

As set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF), published in 2018, the language planning process, as prescribed in the Gaeltacht Act 2012, represents the primary driver in support of the commitment to the achievement of the objectives set out in the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 to 2030. Objective 29 of the NPF makes provision for supporting the implementation of language plans in Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas, Gaeltacht Service Towns and Irish Language Networks.