80. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to extend the commercial rates waiver into the first quarter of 2021. [38477/20]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 80-99
80. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to extend the commercial rates waiver into the first quarter of 2021. [38477/20]View answer
99. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the way in which local authorities in counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath will be supported financially going forward to carry out their respective works plans in 2021 in view of the loss of income from the commercial rates waiver for businesses in order to survive during Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37719/20]View answer
115. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the position on financially supporting local authorities due to the deficits in their budgets caused by Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38398/20]View answer
117. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to ensure that no services suffer as a result of the loss of revenue being experienced by local authorities in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. [38278/20]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 99, 115 and 117 together.
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, which took the form of a credit in lieu of rates. 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 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 both businesses and to local authorities.
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.
Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 62.
81. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) will be supported to engage his officials and the HSE to carry out of a historic landscape assessment and a conservation plan on the Brú Chaoimh in Cork Street, Dublin 2. [38270/20]View answer
My Department's Built Heritage Division is aware of the significance of the built heritage of Brú Chaoimhín and has recorded several buildings there on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH). With regard to the safeguarding of protected structures, Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000 gives primary responsibility to local authorities to identify and protect architectural heritage by including particular structures on their respective Records of Protected Structures (RPS). Inclusion on the RPS places a duty of care on the owners and occupiers of protected structures and also gives planning authorities powers to deal with any development proposals affecting them. I understand that Dublin City Council has included these buildings on its Record of Protected Structures (RPS).
The question of planning permission for development at that location is a matter between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Dublin City Council.
The National Monuments Service has been engaged for some time with the HSE, as owner of the site, in relation to the proposals to undertake certain conservation works at the burial ground mentioned in your email. On foot of those discussions, also involving Dublin City Council, the HSE commissioned a condition assessment and conservation report of the graveyard last year. This accords with best practice as a first step in managing such a heritage site.
The making of a landscape assessment and conservation plan for the buildings is also a matter for the HSE itself. However, the Heritage Council published ‘Historic Landscape Characterisation in Ireland: Best Practice Guidance’, in 2013, which may be of assistance. The Heritage Council may also be able to assist through its Community Grants Scheme, which it will be running in 2021. Details will be announced by the Heritage Council in due course.
83. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the findings of the review of co-living; and if these findings point to the need to end the practice of same. [38264/20]View answer
I have been clear in my intention to review the provisions on Shared Accommodation or “Co-living” as set out in section 5.0 of Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments Guidelines for Planning Authorities, which were published by my Department in 2018. Paragraph 5.24 of the guidance committed the Department to monitor the emerging shared accommodation sector, with a view to issuing further technical updates of the Sustainable Urban Housing guidelines document with regard to co-living, given the relatively new nature of this form of accommodation.
Accordingly, my Departmental officials have completed a report on co-living development, which I have carefully considered, having regard to the broader context. Further to review of the report, my preferred approach is to update the 2018 Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments, Guidelines for Planning Authorities , to restrict future commercial co-living development with a Specific Planning Policy Requirement (SPPR) for a presumption against grant of permissions for Co-Living/Shared accommodation. I have now issued a circular advising local authorities, An Bord Pleanála and the Office of the Planning Regulator (23/11/20) advising them of this, noting in particular that given:-
- the scale and location of co-living developments permitted and proposed to date;
- the need for a local authority-led evidence-based approach, to guide any further provision of this form of accommodation, which may be informed by the Housing Need and Demand Assessment (HNDA) process, which is currently being developed;
- potential impact on land values if the number of proposals were to continue to increase in the current housing market conditions; and,
- Government policy and priorities as set out in the new Programme for Government “Our Shared Future”, with a strong emphasis on expanded social and affordable rented housing sectors;
I am of the view that there is now a sufficient quantum of co-living units either permitted or subject to consideration within the planning system, to demonstrate and prove the co-living concept, without impacting housing provision generally.
My officials are now preparing a technical update of the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments, Guidelines for Planning Authorities 2018, document, solely in relation to the ‘Shared Accommodation’ (Co-living) aspects of the guidance. This process will also include requisite environmental considerations. When this process is complete, the updated document will be issued as Ministerial guidance under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) and will replace the previous 2018 apartment guidelines document.
Planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála are required to have regard to ministerial guidelines in the course of carrying out their functions, and are required to apply certain provisions of the guidelines, that may be stated as Specific Planning Policy Requirements. The report prepared by my officials is currently available on the Department’s website at: www.housing.gov.ie and when complete, the updated apartment guidelines document will be issued to all planning authorities and to An Bord Pleanála.
84. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the level of capital investment in social housing in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38290/20]View answer
Budget 2021 provides for an unprecedented level of funding for housing, with €3.3 billion being made available for the delivery of housing programmes next year. This comprises a total of €2.031 billion in capital funding and €1.276 billion in current funding.
The investment will ensure that the housing needs of over 28,500 households are met in 2021, including the delivery of 12,750 new social homes through build, acquisition and leasing programmes, which will be primarily funded through the capital provision. The majority of these homes, 9,500, will be new builds with the remainder a combination of strategic acquisitions and lease schemes.
The capital provision being provided for Housing in 2021 also supports the Programme for Government commitments to provide measures for good-quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price, including through the introduction of a new national Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme and fast tracked Cost Rental options.
In addition, significant capital funding is being provided to support the provision of Traveller Accommodation, supports for older people and people with a disability and funding to support people within their existing homes, through a range of important upgrading and retrofitting programmes.
Further specific details in respect of the 2021 capital and current funding provisions for housing programmes are set out in the Budget 2021 Expenditure Report which is available at the attached link:
85. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if additional funding will be made available to provide sewerage mains in unsewered villages in County Clare. [36518/20]View answer
Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of public water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels.
As part of Budget 2021 the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage secured funding of over €1.4 billion to support water services. This includes €1.3 billion in respect of domestic water services provision by Irish Water. This overall investment will deliver significant improvements in our public water and wastewater services, support improved water supplies right across Ireland, including rural Ireland, and support a range of programmes delivering improved water quality in our rivers, lakes and marine area.
The Programme for Government commits to supporting the take-up of Irish Water’s Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme which is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in its Capital Investment Plan.
It should be noted that Irish Water is subject to independent economic regulation by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities – the CRU – which determines the revenue required by Irish Water to meet its efficient operating and capital costs to ensure that Irish Water operates in an efficient manner in delivering its services to customers.
Therefore, Irish Water brought forward proposals for a Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme, as part of its Capital Investment Plan 2020-2024 to the CRU for consideration. The Programme is intended to support of a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the National Planning Framework.
I understand from Irish Water that an allocation of €97.5m for this programme was approved by the CRU. I also understand that projects are now commencing design, and that investment under the Programme will begin to deliver in the coming years. Irish Water is working with local authorities across the country in ensuring the investment supports the growth of identified settlements where these are prioritised in line with the local authority development plans.
In addition to the major investment delivered by Irish Water, my Department also funds rural water investment under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme. This Programme supports investment in community based Group Schemes as well as supports for the improvement of wells and septic tanks. The current investment programme is based on recommendations from the Working Group established in April 2018 to conduct a review of rural water services. There is a two-strand approach to the considerations of the Working Group. Strand 1 considered the composition and distribution of funding for under the Rural Water Programme, while Strand 2 is considering the long-term future resourcing of the rural water sector more generally. The issue of wastewater infrastructure in villages not serviced by Irish Water is a matter which the Working Group will consider as part of its work. The Department expects a further report from the Group in 2021.
It may be helpful to note that Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email at Oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.
86. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to put measures in place to support the refurbishment of vacant property in towns and villages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38203/20]View answer
My Department is 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 available to owners to bring vacant housing stock back into use including:
- The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) assists 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. I have recently announced an increase in the funding limit for the refurbishment of properties from €40,000 to €60,000. Since its introduction the scheme has facilitated 185 homes being brought back into use and tenanted; and
- The Buy and Renew initiative particularly focuses on older vacant homes to help tackle the problem of dereliction and improve the appearance of the community with the added value of delivery social housing units. It provides the option for suitable properties to be purchased rather than leased. Since its introduction it has facilitated local authorities to deliver circa 600 vacant properties for social housing purposes.
In addition, 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 on the Department's website at: https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/home-ownership/vacant-homes/vacant-homes
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.
Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 72.
87. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the implications for vacant housing stock of the increased limits to be applied under the repair and leasing scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38287/20]View answer
The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) was developed to assist private property owners and local authorities or approved housing bodies (AHBs) to harness the accommodation potential that exists in vacant dwellings across Ireland. Subject to the suitability of the dwelling for social housing, the cost of the necessary repairs will be met upfront by the local authority or an AHB with the cost of the repairs being recovered from the property owner by offsetting it against the lease payment.
At end Q2 2020, a total of 185 dwellings had been brought back into use under the scheme across a range of dwelling types, including over the shop properties, former bedsits, city centre terraced houses, and one off rural dwellings.
Given the value of the scheme to local authorities and its role in tackling vacancy, it is a key objective to increase delivery under the scheme. I have therefore, increased the current RLS funding limit of €40,000 to €60,000 for all properties. I am confident that the increase in the maximum funding available will result in additional output under the scheme as well as having additional benefits in terms of regeneration, employment and investment in local areas.
The budget allocation for RLS in 2020 is €10.7 million, targeting the delivery of 150 homes. I have secured an increased allocation of €11m for the scheme in 2021 targeting the delivery of 170 homes.
89. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on clustered development within rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38297/20]View answer
Towns and villages across Ireland are facing many challenges, in terms of decline in population, viability of services and community facilities. The Government has provided a strong national policy response through The National Planning Framework (NPF) and the Action Plan for Rural Development, which identify the need to reverse these trends and revitalise rural towns and villages by attracting new residents.
Under the NPF, National Policy Objective 15 fully supports the concept of the sustainable development of rural areas. It seeks to encourage growth and arrest decline in areas that have experienced low population growth or decline in recent decades, while also highlighting the need to manage certain areas around cities and towns that are under strong urban influence and under pressure from uncoordinated and ribbon-type development. This is crucial to avoid over-development of those areas.
National Policy Objective 15 is supplemented by National Policy Objective 19 , which aims to ensure that a policy distinction is made between areas experiencing significant overspill development pressure from urban areas, particularly within the commuter catchment of cities, towns and centres of employment, and other remoter and weaker rural areas where population levels may be low and or declining.
The NPF acknowledges that rural settlements are not suitable for a suburban or a high density approach to development and tailored design approaches are needed. The NPF also recognises that in rural Ireland many people seek to have an opportunity to build their own homes. Under National Policy Objective 18b my Department is committed to developing a programme with local authorities, public infrastructure agencies such as Irish Water and local communities for the provision of serviced sites for housing to attract people to build their own homes and live in small towns and villages.
Some local authorities have developed their own guidance, tailored to their own specific circumstances, in respect of clustered development in working towards delivering on the NPF, and in line with objectives outlined in Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies. For example, in 2018, Tipperary County Council published Design and Best Practice Guidelines for Cluster Housing Schemes in Rural Ireland, which seeks to address difficult challenges faced in providing new viable housing within rural villages that are experiencing population decline and reduced access to services and community facilities.
Under the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing 2005, planning authorities are required to frame the planning policies in their development plans in a balanced and measured way that ensures the housing needs of rural communities are met, while avoiding excessive urban-generated housing. Given developments in the interim, including inter alia , the publication of the NPF in 2018, the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines require updating, in a broader rural development and settlement context. Clusters are one of the key areas for consideration in the context of rural settlement patterns and the viability of Ireland’s towns and villages, and provide an alternative to the dispersion of single housing in rural areas. It is intended to examine clustered developments as part of this review. My Department has commenced scoping this work and I expect a draft by the end of this year.
90. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the current review of allocation schemes will take into account the requirement under law to promote Irish as the community language in Gaeltacht areas. [38298/20]View answer
As part of the broader social housing reform agenda and the ongoing work of my Department, there are various reviews underway, including a review of income eligibility for social housing support and other ongoing review and analysis of various social housing policy matters. However, there is no review of allocation schemes, nor is any change envisaged in that area at this time.
Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 65.
91. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a plan of public, cost rental and affordable housing will be implemented on the Oscar Traynor site and the timeframe for the implementation of same. [38269/20]View answer
100. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if Dublin City Council will bring forward a revised private, social and affordable housing scheme in respect of a site (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38069/20]View answer
105. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will bring forward proposals to back the building of public houses on public lands and examine the supports necessary for local authorities to do so in the view of the recent vote by Dublin City Council on the Oscar Traynor site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38324/20]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 91, 100 and 105 together.
The Programme for Government confirms the priority to increase the supply of social and affordable homes. In the first instance, it is a matter for housing authorities to bring forward optimum proposals for the delivery of housing on their sites maximising the potential from the suite of delivery mechanisms and Exchequer funding streams available from my Department.
Dublin City Councillors voted last week not to support the transfer of lands required to progress the proposed development of 853 homes on the Oscar Traynor Road site. The proposal included 253 social homes to be funded under the Department’s capital programme. In addition to this, Serviced Sites Funding of up to €8.6m was available to the Council to assist in the delivery of 172 affordable homes on the site.
This site, together with O’Devaney Gardens and Emmet Road in Inchicore has long been prioritised for housing development by the Council via its ‘Housing Land Initiative’ and the approach and tenure mix for the delivery of these homes had been agreed by the Council previously.
I note that the Council rejected a proposal by members to defer the vote on the issue and to first consult with my Department, the developer selected by the Council and DCC's consultative Group. Given the decision I requested, and received a report on the matter from the Council Management. It has confirmed that, in light of the decision taken, they will now engage further with councillors as to how this site should be developed. The Council has highlighted that given the complexity and scale of the site it could take some time to develop a new agreed approach.
It is critical, particularly given that this area has the highest social housing waiting list in the State, that the delivery of a large number of homes on this key site is progressed as soon as possible. I have encouraged the Council to make every effort to put plans to deliver housing on this key site back on track.
In relation to the provision of social and affordable housing, five months ago, we launched the Programme for Government, which includes a range of commitments including to increase the social housing stock by more than 50,000, with an emphasis on new builds and to progress a state-backed affordable home purchase scheme to promote home ownership.
The Government has since backed these objectives in Budget 2021, with €3.3 billion in total funding being made available for the delivery of housing programmes. This overall investment will see the social housing needs of over 28,500 households being met in 2021 - this includes 12,750 new social homes to be delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes.
Capital funding of €468 million was specifically provided to cover affordability measures including a new national Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme, accelerated and expanded delivery of Cost Rental and accelerated delivery of affordable housing on Council sites using Services Sites Funding.
Taken together, this will see a fundamental refocusing towards the delivery of social and affordable housing.
I would urge Dublin City Council to bring forward realistic and deliverable proposals for the delivery of much needed homes from this site as quickly as possible. My Department will support Dublin City Council in this endeavour.
93. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when he plans to publish the report prepared by his Department on the tenant purchase (incremental) scheme 2016; if, in view of the delay in reforming the scheme, he will consider announcing changes to the scheme as a stand-alone measure rather than as part of a bundle of other reforms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38360/20]View answer
130. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the review of the tenant purchase scheme. [38404/20]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 130 together.
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. If it is appropriate to bring some measures forward before others I will consider that, having due regard to any implications that amendments in one area of policy may have for other social housing matters.
Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 48.
Question No. 96 answered with Question No. 68.
94. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he has had any engagement with local authorities regarding the safe practice of Christmas markets in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38067/20]View answer
While I have responsibility for broad oversight of the local government system and specific responsibility for certain local government functions and services, I have no function in relation to the operation of Christmas Markets.
Local authorities are entirely independent corporate entities having full responsibility under law for the performance of their functions. The matter of the conduct of casual trading in public places, including Christmas markets, if they take place in a designated public area, is a matter that is proper to each local authority while taking full account of the wider public health guidance and advice from the Department of Health and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in the context of the ongoing implementation and management of public health measures.
Under Section 6 of the Casual Trading Act 1995, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment delegates power to local authorities to ‘make bye-laws in relation to the control, regulation, supervision and administration of casual trading in its functional area’.
97. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the proposed process for the development of the former Meath hospital site by the LDA; the potential proposal or scheme his Department have been informed of either written or verbal for this site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38473/20]View answer
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.
The LDA are working on a 0.75 acre site at the Meath Hospital in Dublin 8, currently in the ownership of the HSE. The LDA have advised my Department that it is estimated that this site can deliver 100 housing units when the development is complete. The project is currently at the design review stage and pre-planning application work is ongoing.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 80.
98. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the establishment numbers for the retained fire service; and the number of existing number across all fire authorities in the State. [38395/20]View answer
As previously indicated to the Deputy in response to PQ 17303/20 on July 21st last, my Department does not routinely collect the data in the format requested.
The position is that the provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003. My Department supports the fire authorities through setting general policy, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for equipment and priority infrastructural projects.
Fire services are provided in Ireland by local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003. At the moment there are 31 fire authorities which provide fire prevention and fire protection services for communities through 27 service delivery structures. Local authority fire services are delivered by approximately 3,300 local authority staff engaged at 218 fire stations nationwide, with 16 of these stations being full-time stations, a further 4 are mixed full-time and retained, and 198 retained stations.
My Department does not routinely collect the data in the format requested by the Deputy. However, as part of on a broader review exercise currently in progress a breakdown, based on data supplied by local authorities, of the number of firefighters in each fire authority as at July 2020 is set out in the table below.
Total no. of operational staff in stations
Limerick City & County