National Development Plan

Question No. 213 answered with Question No. 211.

Question No. 214 answered with Question No. 204.

Questions (212)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

212. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of his plans to progress the legislative underpinning for a joint urban area plan for Drogheda between Louth and Meath county councils in order for the urban area of Drogheda to develop in line with National Development Plan 2018-2027 objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2475/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Provisions were included in the Local Government Bill 2018 to establish a statutory structure for local authorities to work together to ensure the proper planning and development of certain cross-boundary urban centres that significantly straddle two local authority boundaries.

The proposed legislation would apply to any area defined as an ‘urban area’ lying within the administrative area of more than one local authority that, according to a Census of Population, has a population of between 5,000 and 100,000 and where the population applicable to each of the component local authorities’ amounts to at least 15% of the total or 5,000 persons whichever is lower. Urban centres that would immediately meet these criteria are Athlone, Bray, Carlow, Limerick City, Portarlington, Waterford City and Drogheda.

Legislation to establish Urban Area Committees was approved by Government and included at Committee Stage of the Local Government Bill 2018, however it was defeated in the Seanad. A number of issues of concern were raised during the passage of the Bill including the membership number and structure of the Committees and the need to include adjoining Municipal Districts in the finalisation of a local area plan for an Urban Area Committee.

The provisions initially tabled in the context of the Local Government Bill 2018 have now been updated to take account of those issues previously raised in the Oireachtas and it is hoped to bring forward these provisions to provide for the setting up of Urban Area Committees in the coming months.

Question No. 213 answered with Question No. 211.
Question No. 214 answered with Question No. 204.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (215)

Bríd Smith

Question:

215. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will consider suspending planning applications, appeals and submissions during the current phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, given the difficulties persons have contacting and interacting with various Departments and personnel during level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2575/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The planning system continues to operate during the current Level 5 restrictions subject to appropriate safety protocols and services operating online where feasible.

For the purpose of giving legal effect to the current Level 5 restrictions announced by the Government, new Regulations have been made by the Minister for Health entitled the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 (S.I. No. 701 of 2020) which will continue in operation until 31 January 2021. These Regulations include "statutory planning system activities, insofar as they cannot be carried out remotely" as an “essential service” specified at paragraph 14, Part 2 of the Schedule to the Regulations concerning public administration, emergency services and defence. This enables the staff of planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to travel to and from their offices as may be required for the performance of their statutory functions. It also enables such staff to perform related statutory functions including site visits and inspections as well as enforcement activity subject to public health and social distancing requirements.

In addition, for the purpose of facilitating continued public participation in the planning process during the Level 5 restrictions, regulation 4(1) of the above Regulations provides that an applicable person shall not leave his or her place of residence without reasonable excuse. Regulation 4(2) in this regard provides that such reasonable excuse includes to attend the offices of a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála to engage in a statutory planning process (including making or inspecting a planning application or appeal, making an observation or submission or participating in a Development Plan process) or inspect a site notice.

Furthermore, it should also be noted in this context that planning authorities are required under the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Section 38) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 180 of 2020) to upload planning applications and related documentation onto their internet websites within 5 working days of receipt or, where exceptional circumstances exist, as soon as practicable thereafter.

These measures enable members of the public to view documentation online and at planning offices and facilitate planning applications, appeals or other submissions to be made during the Level 5 restrictions. These arrangements may include provision for attendance by appointment so that public health and social distancing requirements can be observed by both staff and customers.

In addition to the above measures, section 5 of the Planning and Development, and Residential Tenancies, Act 2020 gives the Government the option, at the request of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, to make ‘emergency period’ orders, during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, which orders could extend certain statutory periods applying under the Planning and Development Acts and Building Control Acts. The objective of this temporary contingency measure is to ensure that the integrity of the planning regime, especially its public participation elements, and certain decision making and enforcement systems of the building control regime, are not compromised.

While it is not intended to request the Government to make such an emergency period order at this time, having regard to the other measures in place, my Department in consultation with the County and City Management Association continues to monitor the ongoing situation in planning authorities across the country and is keeping the situation under review.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (216)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

216. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the cost of the mortgage protection insurance for Rebuilding Ireland home loans differ by local authority; if so, the various rates in tabular form; if provision will be made to source alternative insurance outside the schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2580/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The local authority mortgage protection insurance (MPI) scheme has applied to all house purchase loans approved by local authorities after 1 July 1986, including the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan introduced on 1 February 2018. Local authority mortgage protection insurance is charged at the rate of 0.555%, this rate does not vary between local authorities.

It is obligatory for all local authority borrowers who meet the eligibility criteria to join the scheme, which is a group policy. Altering this condition would have a negative impact on the scheme and increase the cost for all existing borrowers.

A local authority housing loan applicant who is not eligible for the local authority MPI scheme must source a suitable comparable individual MPI policy from the market. The level of coverage/benefits provided under the alternative MPI should be similar to that available under the Local Authority Group MPI.

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

The scheme is subject to periodic review and competitive tendering in accordance with the terms of EU Directives relating to the award of public service contracts. This is to ensure that the most appropriate cover at the best value for money is secured for local authority borrowers over the entire life of their mortgages.

The most recent public procurement competition for the provision and administration of this MPI scheme was conducted by the Office of Government Procurement. The contract resulting from this open tender competition came into effect from 1 January 2017 and is due to expire on 31 December 2021.

Mayoral Election

Question No. 218 answered with Question No. 211.

Questions (217)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

217. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he plans to proceed with the election of a mayor in Limerick in May 2021. [2649/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government - Our shared Future commits to the development of legislation to allow the first directly elected mayor in Limerick to be elected in 2021. My Department is working towards that objective, as a priority. Indeed, proposals will shortly be brought to Government seeking approval to draft legislation that will facilitate the holding of the first direct election for Mayor in Limerick.

Question No. 218 answered with Question No. 211.

Housing Provision

Questions (219)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

219. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the progress by the Land Development Agency, LDA, on developing social and affordable housing on lands at Shanganagh Castle, Shankill, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2664/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

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

In partnership with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, the LDA have been granted planning permission for the development of 597 homes on a 17.8 acre site in Shanganagh. It is intended that approximately 34% of the units in this development will be for social housing, 51% will be cost rental and 15% will be for affordable purchase.

It is expected that construction will start on this site by mid- 2021.

As with all State bodies operating under the aegis of my Department, arrangements have been put in place by the LDA through which Oireachtas members can request information directly from the Agency in relation to operational matters - in this regard, the LDA may be contacted directly at oireachtas@lda.ie.

Housing Data

Questions (220)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

220. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the social and affordable housing developments under construction across the four Dublin local authorities; the number of units, location and expected completion date in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2665/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department has published the Q3 2020 Social Housing Construction Status Report, which provides details of all social housing developments under construction in each local authority. The report is available at the following link: https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-obrien-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q2-2020-2/.

In relation to affordable housing, in terms of affordable housing developments under construction across the four Dublin local authorities; €310 million has been committed under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) to fund infrastructure on local authority lands to support the delivery of affordable homes. At a maximum infrastructure funding amount of €50,000 per unit, this would deliver some 6,200 affordable homes. From the overall approved funding of €127 million, some €74 million has been approved for 14 projects across Dublin, and the four local authorities have indicated an intention to deliver almost 2,200 affordable homes.

The Government is also committed to delivering Cost Rental. The first 50 Cost Rental homes are under construction at Enniskerry Road, in Stepaside, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, and are due for completion in Q3 this year. Funding has been secured for a further 350 Cost Rental homes for delivery by Approved Housing Bodies nationwide this year through the new Cost Rental Equity Loan scheme, and for which applications are currently under consideration.

The Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) was designed to activate housing supply by putting in place the enabling public infrastructure necessary to ensure that large scale development could take place on key sites in urban areas of high housing demand. Funding of €200 million was originally made available under LIHAF, of which €150 million would be provided by the Exchequer with local authorities providing matching fund of €50 million. Across the four Dublin local authorities, 10 LIHAF projects are being advanced supported by an Exchequer contribution of €71m which will facilitate the construction of approximately 12,000 homes, of which 2,100 will be social homes, 1,890 will be affordable homes and 1,890 units will be cost reduced.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (221)

Holly Cairns

Question:

221. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if construction can continue on individual domestic building sites during the current ban on construction (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2671/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Government announced that additional public health restrictions would apply under Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19 on 6 January 2021. The additional restrictions required all construction activity to cease from 6pm on Friday 8 January, with a number of exceptions. These measures are set out in The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

While my Department is responsible for social housing, with regard to private housing development the Regulations provide that housing and construction works ongoing on 8 January can continue where the works required to render the property capable of occupation are scheduled for completion by 31 January 2021.

The Government will continue to review the arrangements applying to construction as part of the overall Plan for Living with COVID-19.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (222)

Holly Cairns

Question:

222. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the measures he has taken to ensure adequate services are provided for those self-isolating or quarantining to avail of essential items such as food and medicines who do not have a support network available to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2677/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

From the very start of the COVID-19 emergency, in March 2020, it was recognised that people who were cocooning, self-isolating or quarantining would need extra help, particularly if their usual networks of support would not be able to reach them. For that reason, and to put in place a safety net for such people, some of whom would be among the most vulnerable in our communities, national and local government came together with the community and voluntary sector to launch the “Community Call” initiative.

Led by the local authority, a Community Call Forum was established in each local authority area. It brings together key local players, like the HSE, An Garda Síochána, Civil Defence, community and voluntary organisations and volunteers, and local Councillors, together with national organisations, such as ALONE, and is helping to ensure that everyone who needs support is identified, the support required is carefully assessed and the appropriate support is provided, by a tried and trusted local source.

Each Community Call Forum is providing practical supports like the collection and delivery of food, meals, fuel, medication, pensions and other essential items, in strict accordance with public health advice. Dedicated helplines are in place in each local authority to answer and respond to calls for help.

Since March 2020, the Community Call helplines have answered over 60,000 calls and have made over 23,000 follow up calls.

Community Call Fora convened again following the introduction of the current level 5 public health restrictions to reassess needs in the community and to coordinate the necessary response.

Helplines remain open and full details can be found on www.gov.ie/en/publication/1f06f7-covid-19-community-call-local-authority-helpline-numbers-and-email-a/ or on the website of your local authority.

ALONE, the organisation supporting older people, is also operating a National Support Line to provide emotional support and reassurance, and practical help, to vulnerable older people: https://alone.ie/.

Transport Infrastructure Provision

Questions (223)

Gerald Nash

Question:

223. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when he will decide on the funding of the Drogheda northern port access route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2706/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Seventy six proposals were received under Call 2 of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), with every local authority submitting at least one application for URDF support. The proposal in question is one of two proposals submitted by Louth County Council.

The assessment process for proposals received under Call 2 is nearing completion, and I intend to soon announce a new tranche of URDF supported 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.

Building Control Management System

Questions (224)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

224. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the functions of the National Building Control Office; the number of staff assigned to same; the division of responsibilities for staff; and if any other relevant information will be provided. [2715/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The National Building Control Management Project (NBCMP) is managed by the National Building Control Office (NBCO) within Dublin City Council (DCC) to provide oversight, support and direction for the development, standardisation and implementation of Building Control as an effective shared service in the 31 Building Control Authorities, through the five pillars of:

1. Training: This includes the coordination, development and management of a training programme to support building control staff in the discharge of their duties.

2. Inspections: This includes the development and implementation of a robust and consistent inspection regime in the 31 Building Control Authorities to facilitate meaningful risk-based targeted inspections of building works.

3. Compliance Support: This includes the provision of oversight and support across the full suite of Building Control Legislation to ensure transparent, professional enforcement of the relevant legislation in accordance with proper public administration.

4. Information System - Building Control Management System (IS-BCMS): This includes the development and management of the information technology-based system hosted by the Local Government Management Agency which facilitates the electronic administration of building control matters by building control authorities as the preferred means of building control administration.

5. Market Surveillance: The Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2020 (Construction Products – Market Surveillance) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 682 of 2020) appoints DCC as a competent authority for the carrying out of market surveillance functions for construction products on a national basis, i.e. across all 31 administrative local authority areas.

The National Building Control Management Project (NBCMP) is delivered through a three-tier management structure which includes:

- The National Building Control Advisory Board, which advises on the strategic direction and guidance of the NBCMP.

- The National Building Control Office (NBCO), which implements the NBCMP and manages the working groups under each of the five pillars.

- Three Regional Building Control Committees (Eastern & Midlands, Northern & Western, and Southern), which provide a network for building control officers to exchange views and share good practice, leading to a uniform high level of enforcement in the discharge of the building control function. The Committees also contribute to and participate in the working groups established under the five pillars.

The NBCO is a key element of my Department’s ongoing building control reform agenda, with its many initiatives that already provide a comprehensive roadmap for embedding a culture of real compliance within the construction industry. The reform agenda also includes amendments made to the Building Control Regulations and the ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.

Finally, in regard to the number of staff assigned and the division of responsibilities, under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.

The NBCO may be contacted by phone at 01 222 7947/7948 or by email to support@nbco.gov.ie.

Building Control Management System

Questions (225)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

225. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of building control officers in each local authority; the number of same represented as full-time equivalents; the number of inspections of residential homes under construction in numbers and as a percentage of the overall number of residential units in that administrative area; and the cost of the building control function in each local authority area in each of the years 2014 to 2020 and to date 2021, in tabular form. [2716/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.

My Department oversees workforce planning for the local government sector, including the monitoring of local government sector employment levels. To this end, my Department gathers aggregate quarterly data on staff numbers in each local authority. However, granular data, in terms of the specific role and function of each individual staff member, is not collected and consequently is not available in my Department. The relevant information would be available from individual local authorities.

The National Audit and Oversight Commission (NOAC) collects and publishes data annually on inspections of new buildings covered by valid Commencement Notices received. The latest NOAC Local Authority Performance Indicator Report 2019 (available at: https://noac.ie/noac_publications/noac-performance-indicators-report-2019/, shows that nationally almost a quarter of notified new buildings were inspected.

Construction Industry Register Ireland

Questions (226)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

226. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the construction industry register; the status of legislation to place the register on a statutory footing; the time frame for the introduction of the legislation at second stage in Dáil Éireann; if a report on the voluntary register will be provided including the number of persons and organisations registered; the number of complaints received annually since the register was established; and the number of complaints in which the finding was against the construction professional or organisation in each year. [2717/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Government is committed to placing the Construction Industry Register Ireland, or CIRI, on a statutory footing. CIRI was established on a voluntary basis in 2014 and 798 building and contracting entities are currently included on the register. The voluntary register can be viewed online at the following link: https://www.ciri.ie/register/

Government approved the General Scheme of a Bill to place the CIRI on a statutory footing on 30 May 2017 which was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Committee’s report has since been received and my Department is currently working through the Committee’s recommendations. The General Scheme, which was published in 2017, is available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/3e711-building-control/

The main objective of the proposed legislation is to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with Building Regulations within the builder community of the construction sector. The establishment of a robust, mandatory, statutory register of builders and specialist contractors is an essential consumer protection measure giving those who engage a registered builder the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator. In addition, it will complement the reforms made through the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and contribute to the development of an enhanced culture of competence and compliance in the construction sector.

The Bill will also allow for complaints against registered builders to be made on a number of grounds and provides for a range of proportionate sanctions to be imposed after investigation. The General Scheme of the Bill also provides that when the register is operating on a statutory basis, that the Admissions and Appeals Board shall publish information in relation to sanctions of registered members as it thinks fit and that CIRI shall also prepare an annual report of its proceedings under the Act. As the register is currently a voluntary register the publication of reports at this time is a matter for CIRI.

When established on a statutory basis it is proposed that the operation of CIRI will be vested in the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) in the same way that statutory registration of Architects was vested in the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), pursuant to the Building Control Act 2007. My Department is working with the Attorney General's Office with a view to achieving publication of the Bill in Q1 of this year, following which it will be introduced in the Oireachtas.

Traveller Accommodation

Questions (227)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

227. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a report will be provided on the Traveller accommodation budget spend by each local authority in 2020, by new accommodation, refurbishment of existing accommodation and site improvements to meet Covid-19 public health advice; and if any of the funding was spent on mainstream or general needs housing for Travellers. [2718/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In accordance with the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, housing authorities have statutory responsibility for the assessment of the accommodation needs of Travellers and the preparation, adoption and implementation of multiannual Traveller Accommodation Programmes in their areas. My Department’s role is to ensure that there are adequate structures and supports in place to assist the authorities in providing such accommodation, including a national framework of policy, legislation and funding.

My Department is currently finalising the collation of data for 2020 and it will be made available in due course.