Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 91.

Housing Policy

Questions (101)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

101. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the terms of reference for his Departmental review on shared/co-living established following his appointment; the membership of the committee; the number of meetings that have taken place; the persons and organisations that were consulted during the course of the review; his views on the interim recommendations in the report as reported in a newspaper (details supplied). [38469/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No [36465] on today’s Order Paper which sets out the position in relation to this matter.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (102)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

102. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the analysis his Department has carried out into the effectiveness of the strategic housing development process in the provision of social and affordable housing; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the strategic housing development process would result in the proliferation of student beds and co-living rather than housing that meets local need; if not, the reason therefore; if so, the reason the policy was progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38366/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act, 2016 introduced new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for Strategic Housing Developments 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 for determination.

Under planning legislation, the decision as to whether to grant permission on a strategic housing development planning application, with or without conditions, is a matter for the Board. In making decisions on a planning application the Board must consider the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, having regard to the provisions of the development plan, any submissions or observations received from the public and the statutory consultees, and any relevant Ministerial or Government policies, including any guidelines issued by my Department.

Under Section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the 2000 Act), I, as Minister, am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or the Board is or may be concerned.

Since the new SHD arrangements came into operation up until end October 2020, the Board had received 265 SHD applications and had decided 230 cases. The Board had granted permission in 168 cases in respect of a total of 44,042 housing units (comprising 12,229 houses, 24,839 apartments and 6,974 build to rent), as well as 195 shared accommodation units and 11,934 student bed spaces under the SHD arrangements. Student accommodation, for which there is a pressing need, accounts for just 21% of housing units and bed spaces granted permission with the vast majority of permissions granted relating to housing units.

Strategic Housing Developments are subject to the social housing obligations as required under section 96 the 2000 Act.

In relation to housing affordability generally, the total funding being made available for the delivery of housing programmes was €3.3 billion in Budget 2021. From this sum, €468 million has been specifically provided to support housing affordability measures. This includes the Serviced Sites Fund, the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan and the Land Development Agency (LDA).

In addition to these programmes, and to deliver on our Programme for Government commitments to provide measures for good-quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price, €110 million has been ring-fenced for a new national Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme and a new Cost Rental Equity Loan facility to help deliver Cost Rental homes both of which 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 Cost Rental housing at scale from next year. Added to the 50 Cost Rental homes that it is projected 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 intended to bring forward any necessary provisions to underpin these schemes in a forthcoming Affordable Housing Bill.

Commercial Rates

Questions (103, 125)

Joe Carey

Question:

103. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if consideration will be given to a special allocation of funding to Clare County Council to compensate for the shortfall given the further projected shortfall in commercial rates for Clare County Council from Moneypoint power station in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38475/20]

View answer

Joe Carey

Question:

125. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if consideration will be given in 2021 to providing Clare County Council with additional funding in view of the projected shortfall in commercial rates income as a result of the ongoing revaluation of Moneypoint power station and following on from the positive decision to give a special allocation of €2.5 million in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38474/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 125 together.

The impact of the reduction in commercial rates income to Clare County Council in 2021, as a consequence of the revision of the valuation of Moneypoint Powerstation, is acknowledged. I can confirm that once off support funding of €2.5 million has been allocated to help Clare County Council mitigate the loss. The allocation referred to in the question is in respect of 2021 and will be paid to Clare County Council over the coming weeks and can be accrued to the local authority's 2021 revenue account.

Housing Policy

Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 91.

Questions (104)

David Stanton

Question:

104. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on the fact that mandatory high-density housing requirements in rural towns are acting as a disincentive for the provision of housing developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38188/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

It is a key objective of Project Ireland 2040, which includes the National Planning Framework (NPF), to encourage a shift in the pattern and format of future development towards more compact urban growth, as a mechanism to support proper planning and sustainable development and as a measure to address climate change. The National Planning Framework is endorsed in the current Programme for Government, which also includes a commitment towards a ‘town centre first’ principle, in support of more balanced regional and rural development.

Rather than introduce new or increased requirements, both the NPF and the Programme for Government underpin pre-existing requirements for residential density. The National Planning Framework restates the commitment to implement statutory planning guidelines on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas, published by my Department in 2009.

The Guidelines on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas generally require densities in the range of 35-50 dwellings per hectare (dph) on outer suburban/greenfield sites. The Guidelines also provide scope for densities below 35 dph on more peripheral sites, specifically in smaller towns and villages, in particular to assist in delivering more sustainable alternatives to dispersed rural housing. These requirements have been established Government policy for a significant period of time, dating back to the late 1990’s.

Given that individual county development plans prioritise key towns, including county towns and many larger towns, for future development with significant population growth targets, achieving densities of 35 dph and over is important in such locations generally. Not achieving such densities means that such towns will become even more spread out and car dependent, with negative implications for tackling climate change and for promoting and sustaining public transport systems or even for the provision of cycling and walking networks.

Moreover, achieving densities of at least 35 dph is essential in providing housing choice for the more diverse range of smaller households presenting today, including couples who may wish to downsize, creating the flexibility for households to stay in their neighbourhoods/towns as their housing requirements change. Such densities are achievable through a mix of some individual homes, coupled with a significant level of semi-detached and some terraced housing.

My Department continues to have ongoing engagement with the Local Authority sector, including individual local authorities, on a wide range of policy issues, including those relating to planning, which may include residential density. While there is scope to further examine density requirements in the context of sustainable settlement, it is my view that current policy is not a disincentive to the provision of appropriate housing developments in our towns.

Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 91.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (106)

James Lawless

Question:

106. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to publish the electoral reform Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38285/20]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Government approved the drafting of the General Scheme of an Electoral Reform Bill on 20 October 2020. The general scheme will address commitments in the Programme for Government - Our Shared Future relating to the establishment of a statutory, independent electoral commission, the modernisation of the electoral registration process and the regulation of online political advertising during election periods. It will also include proposals aimed at assisting with the holding of electoral events where Covid-19 restrictions are in place.

I expect that the general scheme will be brought to Government in the coming weeks and, subject to Government approval, it will be then sent to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage so that the pre-legislative scrutiny process can commence. It is then likely to take a number of months to draft the Bill prior to submission to Government for approval for publication.

Housing for People with Disabilities

Questions (107)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

107. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if there is a system of quotas or statutory imposed ratios in the provision of housing for persons with disabilities; the average length of time persons with disabilities are spending on housing waiting lists compared to persons on housing waiting lists who do not have disabilities. [38202/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The allocation of social housing support to qualified households is a matter for the local authority concerned, in accordance with its allocation scheme made in accordance with Section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and associated Social Housing Allocation Regulations 2011, as amended. This legislation requires all local authorities, as a reserved function, to make an allocation scheme which specifies, among other things, the manner of, and the order of priority for, the allocation of dwellings to households on the housing and transfer lists.

Local authorities assess an application for housing supports from people with disabilities in the same manner as other applications but take account of the specific needs outlined by that person in their application for supports. If specific adaptations are required to accommodate an applicant for social housing supports the applicant submits a report from an Occupational Therapist. There is no system of quotas or statutory based ratios for the allocation of housing to people with disabilities.

The National Housing Strategy for people with a Disability (NHSPWD) 2011-2016 and associated National Implementation Framework were jointly published by my Department and the Department of Health. They set out the Government’s broad framework for the delivery of housing for people with disabilities and were developed as part of a coherent framework in conjunction with the Government’s mental health policy and congregated settings report. Building on the Programme for a Partnership Government commitment to meet the housing needs of people with disabilities, the NHSPWD has been extended to 2020 to continue to deliver on its aims.

One of the key measures achieved in 2016 under the NHSPWD was the establishment of Housing and Disability Steering Groups (HDSGs) in all housing authorities, to achieve a coordinated and integrated approach to meeting the housing needs of people with a disability at local level. These are chaired by Directors of Housing in each authority and include HSE and disability representative organisations. Each HDSG has prepared a local Strategic Plan for its own City/County area, to develop specific local strategies to meet identified and emerging need over the next five years. These Plans, along with the annual Summary of Social Housing Assessments, will allow local authorities to plan more strategically for the housing needs of people with a disability and will support the delivery of accommodation using all appropriate housing supply mechanisms.

This is a more targeted and responsive way to meet any actual housing adaptation need identified rather than, for example, designating a specific number of new social housing builds for people with a disability that may need further or different adaptations based on the individual need of the person allocated the home.

My Department does not collate the information on the waiting list requested by the Deputy. However, details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area is provided in the annual statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA). The most recent summary, from June 2019 shows that 68,693 households were qualified for, and in need of, social housing support. Of this number, 4,126 households or 6% were those who had a specific need for housing based on disability. According to figures collated by the Housing Agency, in 2019 there were 2,389 allocations of social housing to households with disability as a primary basis of need. This represents 12% of total allocations for 2019. This demonstrates that local authorities are making progress in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities on the social housing waiting list.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (108)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

108. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when construction will commence on the glass bottle site, Ringsend, Dublin 4 in order to provide much needed social and affordable housing. [38288/20]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The regeneration of Poolbeg West is the next important step in transforming the Docklands area, given its strategic location east of Grand Canal Dock, with close proximity to important bridge connections to Dublin Port and North Lotts. The residential potential within the available lands is for a maximum of 3,500 additional residential units.

National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is the responsible agency for the progression of this site in line with the requirements of the NAMA Act. In relation to the wider activation of these lands, I understand that in July 2020, NAMA has named a consortium of Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) and Colony Capital (Colony) as the Preferred Bidder to acquire the 80% shareholding with NAMA retaining a 20% shareholding.

A condition of the planning scheme, as modified by An Bord Pleanála on 9 April 2019 is the provision of 15% social and affordable homes on this site in addition to the 10% statutory under Part V arrangements.

My Department remains committed to working with Dublin City Council, any relevant Approved Housing Bodies and the receiver and/or developers of the SDZ area to progress this site, subject to agreement on all the normal and relevant terms, including value for money aspects.

Specific questions regarding NAMA are more appropriate to my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (109, 124)

Brendan Smith

Question:

109. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will improve income eligibility limits for social housing for areas such as Cavan and Monaghan where the existing limits are low at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38280/20]

View answer

Alan Dillon

Question:

124. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the ongoing review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area will be complete; when the details of same will be made available to the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38322/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 124 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.The 2011 Regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy. The 2011 Regulations do not provide local authorities with any discretion to exceed the limits that apply to their administrative areas.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 in 2011 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 underway. The review will 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.

Local Authority Housing

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 78.

Questions (110)

James Lawless

Question:

110. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to further develop the buy and renew scheme to facilitate the delivery of housing stock. [38286/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Buy and Renew scheme supports local authorities in purchasing and renovating homes in need of repair which can then be made available for social housing use. The initiative particularly focuses on older, vacant homes to help tackle vacancy and dereliction. Since its introduction, local authorities have delivered some 600 additional social homes through the scheme.

The scheme provides a valuable opportunity to our local authorities to deliver new social homes and I am also aware that it can be a valuable tool for the work of the Vacant Homes Officers. Working with local authorities my Department is examining potential improvements to the Buy and Renew scheme.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 78.

Office of the Parliamentary Counsel

Questions (112)

Richard Bruton

Question:

112. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the arrangements which have and are being made to ensure that priority access to legal drafters is assigned to the marine planning legislation without which the development of offshore renewable energy will be held back; and if he will outline a timed roadmap for its presentation for consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas. [37955/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Office of the Parliamentary Council have provided dedicated experienced drafting resources to work with my Department officials (together with colleagues in the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications who lead on offshore renewable energy provisions) to ensure that work on the Marine Planning and Development Management bill continues as a priority.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage are scheduled to undertake pre-legislative review of the Bill on the week beginning 23 November 2020.

Following pre-legislative scrutiny, my Department will be working towards having the legal text published early in the New Year.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (113)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

113. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the urban regeneration and development fund support for Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38397/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under Call 1 of the Urban Regeneration and Development Kerry County Council was initially allocated €2,256,700 in respect of public realm works in Tralee Town Centre.

The advancement of this URDF supported project is, in the first instance, a matter for Kerry County Council. However, my Department is in regular contact with the Council regarding this important project. The Council has reported very good progress on the project and in that context a request for additional URDF support has recently been approved with the provisional allocation now increased to €2,606,511.

Under Call 2 of the URDF, which was launched earlier this year, Kerry County Council submitted a proposal seeking further URDF support for Tralee.

This is one of seventy-six complex proposals received under Call 2, with every local authority submitting at least one proposal for URDF support, and each of which will require detailed assessment.

This assessment process is in train at present. Before the end of the year I intend to announce a new tranche of approved proposals, which will augment the existing pipeline of projects from Call 1 and contribute to the achievement of Programme for Government commitments and the objectives of the National Planning Framework and Project Ireland 2040.

Derelict Sites

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 80.

Questions (114)

Thomas Gould

Question:

114. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if funding will be made available to local authorities for compulsory purchase of derelict sites to utilise these to bolster social housing stock. [37908/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department can provide full funding to local authorities for sites on which they bring forward suitable new social housing construction projects, including sites acquired by compulsory purchase orders. I am keen to see our local authorities expand their ownership of suitable sites for new social housing and with the record funding levels we have secured for new social housing delivery in 2021, we are in a position to support new projects including the associated site costs. It would be important for local authorities to engage with my Department directly and through the Housing Delivery Co-ordination Office on this important issue.

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 80.

Septic Tanks

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 80.

Questions (116)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

116. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to review the septic tank grant guidelines which are implemented by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37236/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Following on from the recommendations contained in the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services report in April 2017, a Working Group was established to conduct a review of the wider investment needs relating to the rural water services.

As part of its work, the Working Group recommended a number of revisions to the existing grant scheme that provided support towards the remediation, repair, or upgrading works to, or the replacement of, domestic wastewater treatment systems. This scheme was limited to providing financial support for homeowners where septic tanks had been subject to inspection by the relevant local authority in accordance with the EPA's National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems. In particular, the income limits for support under the scheme were abolished and the grant rates increased.

The Working Group also recommended introducing two new grant schemes to support the attainment of water quality objectives in 'prioritised areas for action' and ‘high status objective catchment areas", as identified in the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021.

These revised and new grant schemes were introduced by my Department earlier this year.

In implementing the revised arrangements the Department has undertaken to conduct a review of the grant schemes after one year of operation to ensure their alignment with policy objectives.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 80.

Departmental Legal Costs

Questions (118)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

118. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the expenditure of his Department and An Bord Pleanála in each year since January 2017 in respect of all legal services provided in appeal and judicial review applications instituted against his Department and or An Bord Pleanála by case in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38470/20]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department seeks, where possible, to minimise legal costs and avails of the services of the Chief State Solicitor's office, the Attorney General's Office and the State Claims Agency in terms of the provision of legal advice and representation of the Department in planning related Judicial Review court cases and any subsequent appeals. Costs of legal services for Planning Judicial Review court cases and any subsequent appeals for the period requested, met by the Department, is as set out below.

2017

2018

2019

2020

Legal Services

€7,803.41

0

0

€9,310.27

Under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, I am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or the Board is or may be concerned, except in very specific circumstances.

The legal expenses of An Bord Pleanála is a matter for the Board. Arrangements have been put in place by all bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas. This provides a speedy, efficient and cost effective system to address queries directly to the relevant bodies. The contact email address for An Bord Pleanála in this regard is Oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie.

Constitutional Amendments

Questions (119)

Paul Murphy

Question:

119. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to hold a referendum on the right to water and public ownership of the water infrastructure. [31331/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government provides that the Government will refer the issue of the environment, including water, and its place in the Constitution, to a relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee for consideration. I and my Department will engage with the relevant Committee when work proceeds on this issue.