Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Questions (389, 390)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

389. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the level of funding awarded under the LIHAF scheme to each local authority nationwide; the progress to date in respect of the spending of such funds by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38697/20]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

390. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the expenditure to date of the funding awarded to Kildare County Council under LIHAF; the extent to which all the funding has been spent or are in hand thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38698/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 389 and 390 together.

The Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) was designed to support housing supply by relieving critical infrastructure blockages. 30 projects were approved with an overall budget of €195.7m, €146.8m Exchequer funded and the remainder funded by local authorities. Full details of the approvals are available online at www.rebuildingireland.ie/LIHAF.

Of the 30 projects, 2 projects will not proceed. Kildare County Council has confirmed that the Naas Inner Relief Road will not progress and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has confirmed that the Clay Farm project will now not proceed.

Currently, 5 LIHAF projects have completed infrastructure construction. Up to the end of October 2020, 12 projects are at infrastructure construction stage or have been approved to move to same. Of the remaining 11 projects, one is expected to have a tender approved in Q4 2020 and go to construction in Q1 2021.

10 are not yet ready to go to infrastructure tender stage, a precursor to receive approval to proceed to construction. Of these ten, five are advancing through the detailed design and planning stage and the remaining five projects are currently under review. My Department while reviewing these projects will consider requests from local authorities for extensions to the funding agreements as and when they arise.

In terms of LIHAF funding drawdown, thus far, most infrastructure projects have been at the design, planning and procurement stages, and the bulk of expenditure will arise during the construction phase. This is reflected in the level of expenditure to end October 2020, with approximately €52.279 million in Exchequer funds drawn down (matched by a further 25% local authority funding bringing the total expenditure to €69.705m). The table below details the exchequer funding drawn down up to end of October 2020.

Local Authority

Project Name

Drawdown of LIHAF funding Exchequer Contribution to end of October 2020 (€)

Clare

Claureen, Ennis

157,919

Cork City

Old Whitechurch Road

7,439,757

Cork City

South Docks

2,300,316

Cork City

Glanmire

606,240

Cork County

Midleton (Water-rock)

388,645

Cork County

Carrigaline

450,000

Dublin City

Dodder Bridge

637,480

Dublin City

Belmayne and Clongriffin

415,421

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

Cherrywood

2,939,404

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

Woodbrook Shanganagh

0

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

Clay Farm

0

Fingal

Donabate Distributor Road

10,780,000

Fingal

Oldtown Mooretown

4,020,000

Fingal

Baldoyle Stapolin

2,199,322

Kildare

Naas

470,190

Kildare

Maynooth

430,620

Kildare

Sallins

654,584

Kilkenny

Ferrybank

350,000

Kilkenny

Western Environs

5,577,215

Limerick

Mungret

2,131,399

Louth

Newtown Drogheda

88,577

Louth

Mount Avenue Dundalk

172,945

Meath

Ratoath

1,297,186

Meath

Farganstown, Navan

3,743,972

South Dublin

Kilcarbery/Corkagh Grange

883,846

South Dublin

Clonburris SDZ

31,053

South Dublin

Adamstown

2,072,178

Waterford City and County Council

Gracedieu

112,234

Waterford City and County Council

Kilbarry

1,845,714

Westmeath

Brawny Road, Athlone

82,500

Local Authority Housing

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51

https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/energy-efficiencyretrofitting/energy-efficiency-retrofitting-programme

https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/grantsfinancial-assistance/disabled-persons-grant-and-improved-works-lieu-schemes-units

Questions (391)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

391. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of existing local authority houses that have been refurbished or upgraded in each of the past three years to date by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38699/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The relevant details are being compiled and will be provided to the Deputy in accordance with Standing Orders.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51
As part of each local authority’s own management and maintenance of their housing stock, it is a matter for the authorities to address maintenance or improvements to their housing stock from within their own resources. My Department does not have data on this but it may be available from the local authorities themselves. Refurbishment and upgrade of local authority houses is also carried out through specific funding programmes supported by my Department.
One such exchequer funding programme is for the retrofitting of local authority homes to make them more energy efficient. An annualised breakdown of the properties retrofitted under the programme per local authority, is available on my Department's website at the following link:
https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/energy-efficiencyretrofitting/energy-efficiency-retrofitting-programme.
My Department has also supported local authorities to refurbish vacant social homes and return them to productive use under the ‘Voids Programme’. The number of properties supported under this programme by local authority between 2017 and 2019 were as follows -

Units Returned to use in 2017

Units Returned to use in 2018

Units Returned to use in 2019

Carlow

8

38

14

Cavan

31

14

9

Clare

47

43

62

Cork City

81

74

69

Cork County

48

205

70

Donegal

168

86

43

Dublin City

543

495

495

Fingal

121

48

22

South Dublin

87

61

89

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

31

50

83

Galway City

11

3

3

Galway County

37

45

39

Kerry

90

98

61

Kildare

8

27

11

Kilkenny

16

15

13

Laois

4

12

23

Leitrim

0

30

22

Limerick

13

24

75

Longford

0

3

19

Louth

7

13

5

Mayo

22

20

5

Meath

52

59

22

Monaghan

38

52

13

Offaly

7

10

18

Roscommon

3

2

2

Sligo

40

100

40

Tipperary

107

63

72

Waterford

52

20

55

Westmeath

40

23

7

Wexford

34

8

29

Wicklow

11

24

13

Exchequer funding for 90% of costs, is provided by my Department to local authorities to adapt their social homes to meet the needs of certain tenants under the Disabled Persons Grant scheme. The scheme applies to works that are necessary to address the needs of older people or people with a disability. Data on the number of properties supported under this programme by local authority between 2017 and 2019 is available on my Department’s website at the following link:
https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/grantsfinancial-assistance/disabled-persons-grant-and-improved-works-lieu-schemes-units.
Lastly, my Department funds programmes of regeneration and remedial works in a number of targeted areas around the country. These programmes involve significant levels of funding support with a focus on new build programmes. Some remediation and upgrade of existing properties is also involved, and the number of properties upgraded under these programmes over the period 2017 to 2019 is as follows –

-

2017

No. of units refurbished

2018

No. of units refurbished

2019

No. of units refurbished

Cork City

0

0

26

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

3

0

0

Galway County

14

0

0

Kerry

2

3

4

Kildare

0

0

34

Limerick City & County

112

159

228

Monaghan

0

0

2

Sligo

6

0

16

Wicklow

27

33

8

Traveller Accommodation

Questions (392)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

392. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the extent to which funding made available to each local authority in respect of Traveller accommodation over the past five years has been spent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38700/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Please find below allocation and expenditure in respect of Traveller accommodation for each of the local authorities for the past five years, inclusive of the spend to 19 November, 2020. In 2020, to facilitate ease of access to funding my Department is not allocating specific budgets to individual local authorities. Instead, it is open to all local authorities to apply for and drawdown funds at any time through the year and this is actively encouraged by my Department. The Traveller-specific budget for 2020 is €14.5m.

Allocation

Drawdown

Allocation

Drawdown

Allocation

Drawdown

Allocation

Drawdown

Drawdown

Local Authority

2016

2016

2017

2017

2018

2018

2019

2019

2020*

Carlow

130,000

0

207,905

71,450

167,740

0

70,000

381,898

206,986

Cavan

8,600

9,398

13,729

13,729

30,000

0

95,458

94,500

13,114

Clare

200,000

0

169,194

42,444

853,250

13,250

635,000

669,389

152,505

Cork City

400,000

301,796

1,108,344

97,000

310,000

180,250

275,799

42,319

1,469,797

Cork County

30,000

0

110,000

93,156

251,197

0

258,390

184,745

Donegal

82,000

74,532

147,613

15,100

121,800

52,775

161,816

0

225,413

Dublin City

1,405,198

762,342

414,829

734,209

1,321,558

744,400

1,628,695

895,197

1,216,292

Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown

419,095

129,552

1,500,000

1,857,313

673,686

1,099,940

0

32,834

637,165

Fingal

26,842

0

26,847

17,420

851,189

886,957

0

848,957

63,688

Galway City

40,000

0

209,000

95,102

176,996

0

0

0

580,699

Galway County

117,000

123,816

625,000

0

1,080,100

267,032

1,412,596

670,440

402,727

Kerry

57,000

255,730

28,566

28,566

15,350

62,538

77,200

75,131

5,929

Kildare

200,000

0

80,000

0

80,000

29,510

1,000,000

360,231

236,868

Kilkenny

377,500

431,714

582,162

563,040

201,682

60,067

21,682

408,856

59,588

Laois

0

0

0

0

30,000

0

0

0

192,520

Leitrim

18,800

12,794

98,875

59,933

159,614

54,306

178,390

0

138,951

Limerick City & Co.

81,000

21,209

69,576

219,918

858,739

470,997

1,015,179

1,424,782

1,759,833

Longford

2,900

0

2,922

0

2,922

0

2,922

0

Louth

0

444,484

237,087

220,048

17,039

3,810

132,531

341,863

259,334

Mayo

0

0

0

0

30,000

0

0

0

35,688

Meath

120,000

76,877

129,000

5,750

65,000

0

75,000

91,790

29,165

Monaghan

0

0

0

0

400,000

54,745

100,000

0

216,074

Offaly

73,000

37,775

847,917

101,616

49,379

10,999

815,117

692,329

317,552

Roscommon

50,000

10,808

52,617

123,191

230,000

102,274

253,084

73,843

67,765

Sligo

0

0

161,249

9,931

1,046,095

282,883

1,435,913

1,131,397

1,051,287

South Dublin

63,000

26,397

1,024,289

0

869,643

1,284,101

130,557

106,719

Tipperary

900,000

1,399,370

327,492

399,337

25,655

42,003

25,655

0

99,401

Waterford City & Co.

263,000

13,545

545,000

22,610

317,280

472,726

170,000

77,562

14,549

Westmeath

208,000

48,000

0

0

150,000

0

100,000

0

114,326

Wexford

96,000

87,695

6,880

0

498,801

0

335,000

52,870

Wicklow

46,000

0

52,648

43,773

209,620

88,783

104,533

0

Reserve

85,065

221,258

905,665

2,489,484

Total allocation

5,414,935

8,778,742

11,094,335

10,510,516

TOTAL

5,500,000

4,267,834

9,000,000

4,834,636

12,000,000

6,264,345

13,000,000

8,657,652

9,567,214

* (year-to-date to 19th November, 2020)

Local Authority Funding

Questions (393)

Thomas Gould

Question:

393. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the remainder of the €900 million grant for rates waivers promised to assist local authorities with any shortfall in budgets in 2020 can be used to meet additional expenditure that will be occurred in 2021 such as increased pension contributions and increased costs due to public service pay agreements. [38724/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department has engaged extensively with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform over recent months concerning the financial challenges facing local authorities as a consequence of the pandemic.

€600m was allocated by Government to fund the cost of a six-month waiver of rates from 27 March to 27 September 2020. To strengthen this support, and in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government 'Our Shared Future' to set out how rates would be treated for the remainder of 2020, Government subsequently extended the waiver for three months, at an additional cost of €300m. This brings to €900m the financial support to fund the cost of a waiver of commercial rates, which is an unprecedented measure that offers support to both businesses and to local authorities.

The administration of the six-month waiver and three-month extension will be completed in December, at which point the final cost of the waiver is will be clearer. If there is an underspend, as there is expected to be based on returns received to date, the surplus funding will be available for distribution to local authorities to help reduce the burden of income losses in other areas and to assist with Covid-19 specific costs incurred in 2020.

Cork City Council has also been notified of an allocation of €6.8m from my Department for 2021, to help meet the additional costs that will arise as a consequence of the national pay agreements next year. This allocation relates specifically to increases in pay and pensions costs resulting from the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest legislation and relating to the Public Sector Stability Agreement.

Local Authority Funding

Questions (394)

Thomas Gould

Question:

394. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the sum to be given to Cork City Council for the rates waiver; and the additional sum to be granted to the local authority to assist in meeting its budget deficit. [38725/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Recognising the difficulties faced by businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Programme for Government – “Our Shared Future” committed to set out how commercial rates would be treated for the remainder of 2020. One of the earliest priorities of Minister O'Brien and I was to secure funding to provide a waiver of commercial rates for businesses impacted by the pandemic, while simultaneously supporting local authorities.

€600m was allocated by Government to fund the cost of a six-month waiver of rates from 27 March to 27 September 2020. The Government subsequently announced a three month extension of the waiver until 27 December 2020, at an additional cost of €300m. This brings to €900m the financial support to fund the cost of a waiver of commercial rates, which is an unprecedented measure that offers support to businesses and certainty to local authorities.

Full details of payments to date are available at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/covid-19-coronavirus/support-businesses-impacted-covid-19-through-commercial-0

The local authority budget process for 2021 is now underway. In that context, Minister O'Brien and I recently wrote to each local authority to advise that, in light of the fact that the future trajectory of Covid-19 is unclear, it is not currently possible for Government to make open-ended commitments in respect of commercial rates or other income pressures that may arise in 2021. However, as has been the case since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department will continue to engage regularly and constructively with the local government sector and with individual local authorities on the financial impacts of the pandemic and other matters arising.

Property Registration Authority

Questions (395, 396, 397, 398)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

395. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the total number of employees in the Property Registration Authority is in the region of 550 employees; the precise number employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38734/20]

View answer

Marc MacSharry

Question:

396. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if approximately 230 employees are currently remote working enabled and who are therefore working from home; the precise number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38735/20]

View answer

Marc MacSharry

Question:

397. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the remainder of staff at the Property Registration Authority numbering approximately 320 employees are split into two teams, namely team A and team B; if these teams work part-time across the six locations operated by the PRA, with team A and B working a two-day week and three-day week alternating from team to team and week to week; if the employees while working a short week continue to be paid their full salaries based on a full working week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38736/20]

View answer

Marc MacSharry

Question:

398. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the attention of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has been drawn to and has approved a situation in which employees are working a two to three-day week in certain instances but yet being remunerated for a full working week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38737/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 395 to 398, inclusive, together.

The services provided by the Property Registration Authority (PRA) support the work of legal practitioners and underpin the effective operation of the property market. On foot of the restrictions introduced by the Government on 21 October last, I understand that the PRA implemented its Business Continuity Plan Level 5 response for the continued provision of essential services, which continues to facilitate physical/social distancing and meets public health requirements.

I understand that the current number of staff employed by the Property Registration Authority (PRA) is 571, representing 528 full-time equivalents (FTE). There are currently 245 (258 FTE) staff working from home in addition to the continuation of temporary alternative arrangements for 307 (279 FTE) staff attending the work premises, though this can vary week-to-week depending on business needs. Home working is a balanced with the requirement to continue to provide the most effective and efficient services to the public.

It should be noted that the current arrangements are temporary and are in line with the Government’s Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 and with the Guidance and FAQs for Public Service Employers during COVID-19.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

Questions (399)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

399. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the review will be published for the 2016 tenant (incremental) purchase scheme. [38748/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

A review of the first 12 months of the Scheme’s operation has been undertaken. In addition, the Programme for Government commits to maintaining the right of social housing tenants to purchase their own home with some changes to eligibility. The review and the commitments in the Programme for Government are being examined as part of the work on the broader social housing reform agenda. I expect to be in a position to finalise changes to the Scheme once the work on these reform measures is complete.

Local Authority Functions

Questions (400)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

400. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the review of the Meath County Development is being conducted to a large degree online due to Covid-19 restrictions; if he is satisfied that this is a legitimate and appropriate approach, particularly as it relates to the casting of votes by elected members; if he has received or issued advice in relation to the matter; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38752/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department is aware of the matter raised, having received correspondence from the Chief Executive of Meath County Council on behalf of the elected members of the Council, further to meetings of the County Council, that included consideration of meeting procedure in respect of the County Development plan preparation process.

The Department’s Planning Division has engaged with Meath County Council in this regard and a comprehensive response addressing the various issues raised was issued by a senior official to the Chief Executive of Meath County Council on 09 November 2020, a copy of which will be circulated with the official record.

I am satisfied that the current legislative framework makes provision for the intended approach by Meath County Council, taking account of the public health advice.

Letter

Fire Stations

Questions (401)

Dara Calleary

Question:

401. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the provision of a fire station (details supplied) in County Mayo. [38775/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The existing five-year Fire Services Capital Programme managed by my Department comes to an end this year. That programme has seen more than €60 million invested in fire appliances and specialist equipment, building or upgrading of prioritised Fire Stations, upgrading Communications and Mobilisation systems and improvements to Training Centres.

A new capital programme for the period 2021-2025 is currently being finalised which I anticipate will allow us to continue to invest further in our Fire Services. Following extensive engagement with fire authorities, a number of proposals for station works etc. have been received. Projects previously included in the 2016-2020 Programme which were not completed but which remain priorities for local authorities will be considered for inclusion in this Programme.

The proposals are evaluated and prioritised on the basis of the:

- Area Risk Categorisation of the fire station (population, fire risks, etc.)

- Established Health and Safety needs, and

- State of development of the project (is site acquired, etc.?)

In recognition of the current economic situation faced by the State as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the speed and extent to which proposed expenditure can stimulate local economies will also be a key consideration in the first few years of the new programme.

I hope to be in a position to make an announcement regarding this new programme in the near future. Following that my Department will continue to work closely to ensure that important fire services projects are progressed as expeditiously as possible during the coming period.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (402)

Denis Naughten

Question:

402. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage further to Parliamentary Question No.17 of 22 July 2020 and his commitment on the day, if he will furnish guidance to homeowners for the cutting of trees and hedges in the NBP intervention area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38786/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

On foot of a commitment given in reply to Parliamentary Question No 17 of 22 July 2020, my Department communicated with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment in relation to hedge cutting in the context of the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

I understand from that Department that the NBP Project identifies where tree trimming may be required through site surveys and that such tree trimming will not be carried out until the deployment stage as premises are being passed with fibre, within the periods allowed, avoiding the bird nesting period, etc. Conducting the surveys in advance means that National Broadband Ireland ( NBI), who were awarded the contract for the NBP can identify roadways, lanes and so forth where trimming is required to lay the fibre and plan well ahead, scheduling these works to coincide with the period where tree trimming is allowed. At the same time, I understand from that Department that while tree trimming may arise in a very limited number of cases, it is not typically needed for a connection as the fibre can often be threaded through overhanging trees. Nor is this matter viewed as in any way impeding the rollout programme.

Housing Provision

Questions (403)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

403. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to address the challenges faced by the many persons who are over the income thresholds for social housing but do not earn enough secure a mortgage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38821/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In Budget 2021, the total funding made available for the delivery of housing programmes was €3.3 billion. This represents an increase of €641m or 24% on 2020 and the single biggest spend on housing by any Government, and will be the largest build programme in the history of the State.

From this sum, €110 million was ring-fenced for two new national schemes to deliver more affordable housing: the Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme, and the Cost Rental Equity Loan facility to help deliver Cost Rental homes. Both of these programmes will begin in 2021.

€75 million will be allocated to the affordable purchase shared equity scheme. I intend to target the scheme at first time buyers, who are seeking to buy a new home but who cannot quite secure the full mortgage amount to do so at the present time. Subject to the final qualifying criteria, the scheme would see the State take a limited equity stake in a property, in order to help more people meet the cost of buying a new home with their available mortgage.

To this end, significant preparatory work has already been carried out by my Department working primarily with the Housing Agency and the Department of Finance. Intensive engagement continues with key stakeholders informing the final detailed parameters of the scheme, as well as with home builders to seek to increase the output of new homes in response to the new scheme.

In addition, €35m has been allocated to the new Cost Rental Equity Loan (CREL) facility to support Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to deliver approximately 350 Cost Rental homes at scale from next year. Added to the 50 Cost Rental homes that will be delivered in Enniskerry Road, Stepaside in Q3 2021, it will accelerate delivery in this new sector in advance of the Land Development Agency's planned future output and the work of local authorities. This scheme will leverage the proven expertise and capacity of the AHBs, demonstrated in their development and management of social housing units.

The CREL scheme will see financing made available to AHBs on favourable terms to cover 30% of the costs for Cost Rental homes. CREL funding will be provided on similar terms to the existing Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF) model which is extensively used by AHBs for social housing. In terms of the remaining 70% of capital costs, subject to appropriate conditions, it is anticipated that long term competitive financing will be made available to the AHBs by the Housing Finance Agency. This will allow cost-covering rents to be set a lower level and so making them more affordable for tenants. Further details on the scheme will be announced in due course.

It is envisaged that the homes delivered under these schemes, supported by Government investment, will be made available to applicants who meet defined eligibility criteria. The precise eligibility conditions are currently being developed in light of the on-going policy analysis outlined. I intend to bring forward any necessary provisions to underpin these schemes in a forthcoming Affordable Housing Bill which will be brought to Government in the coming weeks.

In addition to these new schemes, I will also progress and accelerate the local authority led scheme to deliver more affordable homes for purchase and rent on public land. The statutory basis for the delivery of affordable new housing for purchase on local authority lands is Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which was commenced in June 2018. Following engagement with the local authority sector, it is my intention to bring forward a number of legislative amendments to underpin this scheme in a forthcoming Affordable Housing Bill.

The broad parameters of the local authority led Affordable Purchase Scheme will be as follows:

- aimed at first-time buyers who are low to middle households;

- homes purchased under the scheme will be subject to a maximum statutory discount of 40% (relative to the market price), with the final price of the affordable homes to be linked to the cost of provision, on a site by site basis, and

- the local authority maintains a fully repayable equity share in the properties equivalent to the percentage discount given

Furthermore, €310m is available to local authorities for Serviced Sites infrastructure funding that will support the delivery of up to 6,200 new homes that will be made available under this scheme. The first SSF project that will be deliver affordable homes will be Boherboy Road in Cork City in early next year.

It is envisaged that the homes delivered under all of the above schemes will be made available to applicants who meet defined eligibility criteria. The precise eligibility conditions are currently being developed in light of the on-going policy analysis outlined. I intend to bring forward any necessary provisions to underpin these schemes in a forthcoming Affordable Housing Bill which will be brought to Government in the coming weeks.

The Land Development Agency (LDA) will also play an increasingly significant role in the delivery of more affordable housing, as promised in the Programme for Government. The LDA is currently developing 9 sites that have near-term delivery potential for 3,600 new homes, the majority of which will be for Cost Rental and affordable purchase. It is also engaged in the progression of a number of other sites with potential for significant housing output. In the longer term, it will assemble strategic land-banks from a mix of public and private lands, making these available for housing in a controlled manner, which will bring essential long-term stability and sustainability to the Irish housing system.

Other measures, such as the Help to Buy Scheme and the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, are also available to eligible purchasers nationally to make home ownership more affordable.

An enhanced Help to Buy scheme was announced as part of the €7 billion July stimulus package, which was extended to December 2021 as part of Budget 2021. This allows first-time buyers purchasing a newly-built home – or building one themselves – to claim back up to €30,000 paid in income tax and DIRT on bank deposit interest over the last four years. Full details of the Help to Buy initiative are available on the Revenue website.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a Government-backed mortgage which is for first-time-buyers nationwide to purchase a new or second-hand home or to self-build. This scheme offers loans on competitive terms to those who are unable to secure a commercial bank loan. Full details of the scheme are available on the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan website.

Student Accommodation

Questions (404)

Holly Cairns

Question:

404. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the steps he is taking to ensure student renters have additional rights including the establishment of a legal definition of rental deposits, limiting rental deposits to the value of one month’s rent and implement a deposit protection scheme which would see deposits lodged with an independent third party such as the Residential Tenancies Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38885/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Residential Acts 2004 - 2020 do not prescribe specific terms and conditions regarding the payment of rents or deposits for inclusion in individual letting agreements in the private rental market including the student-specific accommodation sector. Contract law governs such arrangements.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 provided for, among other things, the establishment of a tenancy deposit protection scheme to be operated by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

There have been significant changes in the rental market since the 2015 scheme was first envisaged and designed. For example, the 2015 scheme was intended to be financed by the interest payable on deposits lodged; this is no longer viable, given the current financial market conditions. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that disputes relating to deposits are no longer the most common dispute type referred to the RTB.

Financing the operation of the scheme is an important consideration, particularly in terms of ensuring that the likely outcomes of a new scheme are achieved efficiently and effectively and that the best value from public funds is secured. Careful consideration is therefore required to introduce any necessary reforms and enhancements to the 2015 scheme, with a view to considering whether and how to introduce a re-designed scheme that is fit for purpose and suitable for current and future rental and financial markets.

Any review of the scope and provisions of a Deposit Protection scheme will need to take account of changes in the residential sectors since the 2015 Deposit Protection Scheme legal provisions were enacted, to inform any necessary legislative change. Consideration will need to be given as to whether or not it is feasible to proceed to revise and implement a deposit protection scheme at this time, or to defer to a later point in time, when the RTB's Change Management Plan has been fully implemented and more robust data and information is available for consideration.

Residential Tenancies Board

Questions (405)

Holly Cairns

Question:

405. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on providing additional investment in the Residential Tenancies Board in order that it can proactively investigate cases and to ensure properties are registered with the board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38886/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2020, to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants.

Additional powers and functions were conferred on the RTB by provisions in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) 2019 Act, which came into effect from 1st July 2019. The key provisions of the Act make it a criminal offence for landlords to implement rent increases that contravene the law, that do not adhere to the new definition of a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation for the purpose of an exemption from the 4% p.a. rent increase restriction, or fail to cooperate with an RTB investigation, or fail to register and update tenancies with the RTB.

The Act provides powers to the RTB to investigate and administratively sanction (up to €30,000) landlords who engage in improper conduct including non-compliance with the rent increase restriction in RPZs and allows the RTB to initiate an investigation without the need for a complaint to be made. The RTB actively pursues landlords for non-registration.

An increase of €2M in Current Exchequer Funding was provided to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) for 2020 , bringing the total amount of funding for operational costs for the RTB to €9M and a further additional €2M in Current Exchequer funding for RTB operational costs has been secured in Budget 2021.

The RTB received santion for an additional 29 staff in 2019 in order that it would be resourced to deliver on its broadened mandate and sanction for a further additional 5 staff was granted in July 2020 following the Residential Tenancies and Valuations Act 2020.

The increase in funding and staff provided to the RTB is designed to ensure that the new legislative provisions introduced in both 2019 and 2020 are fully and focrefully implemented.

The Residential Tenancies and Valuations Act 2020, which provides protection for tennats impacted economically by Covid-19, has further expanded the RTB’s mandate and added to the complexity of its operations.

There has been significant engagement with tenants and landlords around the Covid-19 Emergency Legislation and the 2020 Act to educate and support landlords and tenants on the provisions of the new legislation, including a number of Guidance and FAQ documents and a mailshot leaflet issued to every landlord and tenant registered with the RTB. It is envisaged that as we move through Covid-19 and deal with the social and economic impact of the pandemic that more measures, including legislative changes, will be required for those tenants and landlords impacted by issues such as rent arrears, overholding and evictions. Increased activities will be required to engage fully with the sector and support tenants and landlords during these difficult times, including the provision of increased direct supports and continued targeted education and awareness campaigns.

I want to confirm my overall support for the RTB and the best way I can do this is by providing it with the resources it requires to be effective.