Built Heritage Investment Scheme

Questions (286)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

286. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the next round of the built heritage investment scheme and historic structures fund is due to reopen; if the overall funding for the grant will be increased and the conditions of the grant expanded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8426/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through two grant schemes which are, in the main, administered by the local authorities. These are the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) and the Historic Structures Fund (HSF). The BHIS and HSF for 2021 were launched on 12 November 2020 with a combined allocation of €6m, which is an increase of nearly 40% on 2020.

Together, both schemes will assist hundreds of small-scale, labour-intensive projects as well as a number of larger-scale projects to repair and conserve our historic built environment. The projects will also give significant support to local jobs in conservation, traditional skills and construction, providing a vital boost to local economies during challenging times.The 2021 Historic Structures Fund will also include two new pilot streams: one for vernacular structures and another for historic shopfronts.

Full details of the schemes are available on my Department’s website and on the website of each local authority. Due to Level 5 Covid-19 restriction the deadline for applications by local authorities, and direct applicants to the Department, has been extended to Friday 12 March 2021. Intending applicants are advised to contact their relevant local authority for details of local deadlines.

The operation of the schemes is kept under review and the terms and conditions will be considered in the next review, which is due to take place this summer. This review will inform the schemes for 2022, which will be announced towards the end of the year.

Land Development Agency

Questions (287)

Alan Kelly

Question:

287. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide a copy of all minutes of meetings of the board of the Land Development Agency since January 2020. [8451/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The publication of Board meeting minutes is a matter for the Land Development Agency (LDA) Board.

The LDA have advised my Department that Board meeting minutes are to be published on the LDA website - www.lda.ie - after a period of six months following the relevant meeting. Direct requests to the LDA for more recent board meeting minutes, in advance of their online publication, may be facilitated subject to commercial sensitivity and the application of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

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.

Land Development Agency

Questions (288)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

288. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the Land Development Agency has completed an assessment of the suitability of the State-owned site at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin for housing; if so, if it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8469/21]

View answer

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.

The LDA have informed my Department that they are currently engaging with the Irish Prison Service in relation to the site at Thornton Hall. An engineering and capacity survey has been carried out by the LDA. However, as the requirements for the Thornton Hall site are currently under deliberation, the LDA do not plan to release this report at this time.

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.

Local Authority Housing

Question No. 290 answered with Question No. 253.

Questions (289)

Martin Browne

Question:

289. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the guidelines that local authorities must follow when contacted by a person who has had to leave their local authority home to escape domestic violence; if there are clear guidelines on their entitlement to a HAP package; if there are clear guidelines on whether they are deemed as having given up a local authority house thereby removing them from the housing list; if there are guidelines on whether the spouse should remain at home while the victim has been forced to leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8492/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Responsibility for the development and provision of services to support victims of domestic violence rests with my colleague the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and I understand that the delivery of these services is managed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

In terms of housing services, in 2017, my Department issued policy and procedural guidance to local authorities relating to the role they can play to assist victims of domestic violence. The guidance is also a useful reference for service providers working in the sector, highlighting where they can be of greatest assistance to their clients, covering a range of scenarios that may arise for victims of domestic violence currently in receipt of social housing support and those seeking social housing supports. These include provisions whereby a household may transfer out of their existing tenancy and into a new tenancy agreement with the local authority or they may access an independent tenancy in the private rented sector utilising the various housing supports offered by the State.

In relation to entitlement to a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) package, in order to qualify for HAP, a household must be qualified for social housing support by their local authority, which means the household must qualify to go on the local authority housing waiting list. HAP tenants find their own accommodation in the private rented market and are advised that this accommodation should be within the HAP rent limits provided to them by the local authority.

The guidance document outlines that victims of domestic violence that had been in a joint local authority tenancy can be eligible for re-entry to the waiting list where a deed of separation is in place. Where such a deed does not exist housing authorities may use discretion to allow applications, the guidance document does not address whether the spouse should remain at home while the victim has been forced to leave.

A housing authority may also provide short-term emergency housing to persons who are unable to return to their homes because of domestic violence on a humanitarian basis without having to assess their eligibility for social housing support or include them on the authority’s waiting list for housing supports.

The guidance was introduced with the objective of supporting a partnership approach by statutory agencies in respect of the delivery of domestic violence services, particularly in relation to helping to prevent and reduce the occurrence of related homelessness and facilitating the provision of long term accommodation for victims of domestic violence.

Furthermore, Section 3 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997 provides that a local authority tenant can apply to the District Court for an excluding order against a person, including a joint tenant, who is engaging in anti-social behaviour. A housing authority may also apply for the excluding order where it believes that the tenant is deterred or prevented by violence, threat or fear, either to himself or herself or to persons associated with him or her, from pursuing an application for an excluding order. Anti-social behaviour for this purpose is defined to include any behaviour which causes or is likely to cause any significant or persistent danger, injury, damage, alarm, loss or fear to any person in the house, including violence, threats, intimidation, coercion, harassment or serious obstruction of any person and behaviour which causes any significant or persistent impairment of a person’s use or enjoyment of his/her home.

Question No. 290 answered with Question No. 253.

Teagasc na Gaeilge

Questions (291)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

291. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Mairéad Farrell den Aire Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta cé na comhairlí condae agus cathrach atá ag cur ranganna Gaeilge ar fáil dá bhfoireann agus cé acu nach bhfuil ag déanamh amhlaidh; agus an gcreideann sé gur cheart go mbeadh ranganna Gaeilge á gcur ar fáil don fhoireann ag comhairlí áitiúla uile an Stáit. [8540/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Níl an t-eolas seo ar fáil i mo Roinn. Bheadh an t-eolas ábhartha ar fáil ó údaráis áitiúla aonair. Níl aon fheidhm ag mo Roinn mar gheall gur ceist eagraíochta é a bhfuil ar gach údarás áitiúil plé leis.

Faoi alt 159 den Acht Rialtais Áitiúil, 2001, tá gach Príomhfheidhmeannach freagrach as na socruithe soláthair foirne agus eagraíochta atá riachtanach chun tabhairt faoi fheidhmeanna an údaráis áitiúil a bhfuil sé nó sí freagrach astu.

Foráiltear san Acht go n-ullmhaíonn comhlachtaí poiblí scéim teanga ina sonraítear na seirbhísí a sholáthróidh siad:

- trí mheán na Gaeilge

- trí mheán an Bhéarla, agus

- trí mheán na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla

Tá gach údarás áitiúil tiomanta dá n-oibleagáidí reachtúla a chomhlíonadh faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, 2003 agus ullmhaíonn siad Scéim reachtúil ina sonraítear na seirbhísí i nGaeilge a bheartaíonn sé a sholáthar don phobal.

Spreagann mo Roinn na húdaráis áitiúla go léir páirt réamhghníomhach a ghlacadh sa phróiseas seo.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions Nos. 294 and 295 answered with Question No. 256.

Questions (292, 293)

Pauline Tully

Question:

292. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of affordable homes that have been built in County Cavan in each of the past five years; the number planned for 2021; the funding allocated each year to the local authority to supply affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8558/21]

View answer

Pauline Tully

Question:

293. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of affordable homes that have been built in County Monaghan in each of the past five years; the total amount planned for 2021; the total funding allocated each year to the local authority to supply affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8559/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 292 and 293 together.

The Programme for Government, 'Our Shared Future', commits to putting affordability at the heart of the housing system. On 22 December 2020, Government approved the priority drafting of the Affordable Housing Bill 2020, the General Scheme of which I published on 20 January last.

The Bill includes provisions to underpin three schemes which will prioritise the increased supply of affordable homes through (1) affordable homes delivered by local authorities utilising the Serviced Sites Fund, (2) a new affordable purchase shared equity scheme for private homes, and (3) the introduction of a new form of tenure in Cost Rental.

The statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase by local authorities is Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. To support the delivery of these, €310 million is made available under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) to provide facilitating infrastructure on local authority lands. With a maximum of €50,000 funding available per home, at least 6,200 affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated under the fund. To date, Serviced Sites Funding of almost €188 million has been approved in principle in support of 38 projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of approximately 4,000 affordable homes.

All SSF proposals are considered on the basis of economic analyses submitted by local authorities. These are undertaken to confirm affordability challenges in a given area, project viability, and the local authority's ability to deliver affordable homes with at least a 10% discount on open market values. To date, economic assessments of Cavan and Monaghan have not provided a basis for SSF applications.

In relation to the Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme announced in Budget 2021 (for private developments), provisions for this measure formed part of the Affordable Housing Bill. This scheme will be targeted at first time buyers of new build homes who would otherwise not be in a position to buy a home. The detailed design aspects of the scheme, including eligibility criteria and price caps, is currently ongoing, and will be informed by our continued engagement with all relevant stakeholders. However, I can confirm that it is anticipated that this scheme will be available on a national basis to eligible households.

In addition to these measures, both the Rebuilding Ireland Homeloan and the Help to Buy Scheme are other affordability measures available to eligible households seeking to purchase homes.

Questions Nos. 294 and 295 answered with Question No. 256.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (296, 297)

Pauline Tully

Question:

296. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of applicants for Rebuilding Ireland home loans from County Cavan; the who that have been successful; the number who have been refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8562/21]

View answer

Pauline Tully

Question:

297. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of applicants for Rebuilding Ireland home loans from County Monaghan; the number who have been successful; the number who have been refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8563/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

The Housing Agency provides a central support service which assesses applications for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan on behalf of local authorities and makes recommendations to the authorities to approve or refuse applications. Each local authority must have in place a credit committee and it is a matter for the committee to make the decision on applications for loans, in accordance with the regulations, having regard to the recommendations made by the Housing Agency.

The most recent figures, as at the end of January 2021, from the Agency on the numbers of applications that it has assessed and recommended for approval/decline for Cavan County Council and Monaghan County Council since the scheme began, are included in the below table:

Local Authority

Applications Assessed

Recommended to Approve

Recommended to Decline

Cavan County Council

30

11

19

Monaghan County Council

94

28

66

The next stages in the process are approval and drawdown from the local authority.

My Department regularly publishes information on the number and value of (i) local authority loan approvals and (ii) local authority loan drawdowns. Local authority approval means that an official letter of offer has been sent to a borrower (and therefore relates to a specific property and loan amount).

Figures for 2019 and the first two quarters of 2020 are available at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/42d2f-local-authority-loan-activity/#local-authority-loans-approvedpaid

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (298)

Pauline Tully

Question:

298. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the amount of funding allocated to each local authority under the Covid-19 support scheme for local authorities; the deficit expected for each local authority in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8564/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on rates collection was potentially the most serious financial impact on the local government sector, which Government addressed by allocating €900m to the rates waiver scheme in 2020. This was a key priority of Minister O'Brien and I upon taking office last year. Subsequently, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform sanctioned the allocation of any unused funds from the 2020 waiver to local authorities in recognition of the income losses they faced as well as their additional expenditure as a result of the pandemic .

The loss of other local authority income also impacted the sector and it is recognised that additional costs were incurred. Local authorities were advised to capture all related costs in their financial systems to aid financial analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on the local government sector.

My Department is finalising arrangements to pay €71m to local authorities in relation to the loss of income and is currently analysing the additional costs incurred. It is intended that when this analysis is complete, further payments to local authorities will be made.

As regards deficits, local authorities are required to finalise their Annual Financial Statements for 2020 by 31 March 2021.

Vacant Properties

Questions (299, 300)

Pauline Tully

Question:

299. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he has invited Cavan County Council to make an application for the vacant properties voids programme; if such an application has been submitted; the amount of funding his Department plans to allocate to the authority; the expected timeframe for release of the funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8565/21]

View answer

Pauline Tully

Question:

300. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he has invited Monaghan County Council to make an application for the vacant properties voids programme; if such an application has been submitted; the amount of funding his Department plans to allocate to the authority; the expected timeframe for release of the funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8566/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 299 and 300 together.

The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including pre-letting repairs to vacant properties, the implementation of a planned maintenance programme and carrying out of responsive repairs, are matters for each individual local authority under Section 58 of the Housing Act 1966.

Since 2014, Exchequer funding has also been provided through my Department's Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. This funding was introduced originally to tackle long term vacant units and is now increasingly targeted to support authority's to ensure minimal turnaround and re-let times for vacant stock.

My Department will continue to support local authorities in their work in this area. As in previous years, all local authorities will be asked to make a funding application under the 2021 programme in respect of their vacant stock which will receive due consideration and funding allocations will issue to all local authorities in due course.

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

Commercial Rates

Questions (301, 302)

Pauline Tully

Question:

301. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of businesses in the Cavan County Council area that have had their commercial rates waived; the number that have requested a waiver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8567/21]

View answer

Pauline Tully

Question:

302. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of businesses in the Monaghan County Council area that have had their commercial rates waived; the number that have requested a waiver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8568/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 301 and 302 together.

One of the earliest priorities for Minister O'Brien and I was to secure exchequer funding to support a waiver of commercial rates for businesses impacted by the pandemic, while simultaneously supporting local authorities.

€900m was allocated by Government to fund the cost of a rates waiver from 27 March to 27 December 2020. This meant that for eligible businesses their commercial rates were funded by Government for nine months of 2020. This was an unprecedented measure, which offered support to businesses and financial certainty to local authorities.

The waiver applied to the majority of ratepayers, with a small number of categories excluded, such as utilities, banks, large supermarkets and corporates, whose businesses had not generally been as severely impacted by the pandemic. However, in acknowledgement that some ratepayers in the excluded categories may have closed during the initial period of the public health restrictions or were otherwise adversely affected, ratepayers in these categories may also have been eligible, if they could demonstrate that the pandemic had a significant negative impact on their business. Ratepayers were advised to engage with directly their local authority in this regard.

Payments to the local authorities in respect of the 2020 waiver were completed in early 2021. A total of approximately €730m was distributed among the 31 local authorities.

Cavan County Council received a total of €5,968,334.74 for approximately 1689 accounts, with 4 valid appeals.

Monaghan County Council received a total of €6,137,861.96 for approximately 2040 accounts, with 5 valid appeals.

In order to continue supporting businesses and other ratepayers, and in recognition of the ongoing impacts of COVID 19 and the associated public health restrictions, the Government recently announced that a more targeted commercial rates waiver will be applied in the first quarter of 2021 to businesses most seriously affected by ongoing restrictions. €160 million has been allocated to meet the cost of this waiver and details were issued to local authorities on 27 January 2021. Automatic eligibility is extended to retail, hospitality including hotels, pubs and restaurants, leisure and entertainment, personal services such as hairdressers and barbers, health services and various other categories. Businesses in other sectors may engage directly with their local authorities if they can demonstrate serious financial impact and may also qualify for this waiver.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (303)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

303. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when he last met the chief executive of each local authority; and the dates of the meetings. [8600/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Details of my engagements, including my meetings with the Chief Executives of each local authority are published on my Department's website at www.gov.ie/en/collection/5f6f1-ministers-diaries/#minister-darragh-obriens-diaries.

Commercial Rates

Questions Nos. 305 and 306 answered with Question No. 256.

Questions (304)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

304. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the criteria businesses must meet to be eligible for a commercial rates waiver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8620/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Given the ongoing impacts of COVID 19 and the associated public health restrictions and in order to continue supporting ratepayers and local authorities, the Government recently announced that a commercial rates waiver will be applied in the first quarter of 2021 to businesses most seriously affected by ongoing restrictions. €160 million has been allocated to meet the cost of this waiver. Details were issued to local authorities on the 27 January.

The 2021 waiver is necessarily more targeted than was the case with the nine month waiver in 2020 and is aimed at businesses closed or very seriously impacted by current restrictions. Automatic eligibility is extended to retail, hospitality including hotels, pubs and restaurants, leisure and entertainment, personal services such as hairdressers and barbers, health services and various other categories.

In recognition of the fact that there may be ratepayers excluded from the waiver that were severely impacted by the pandemic, up to 7.5% of the overall allocation is included for these ratepayers. Businesses in excluded sectors may engage directly with their local authorities if they can demonstrate serious financial impact and may also qualify. These applications will be reviewed by local authorities on a case by case basis.

As has been the case since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department will continue to engage with the local government sector and with individual local authorities on the financial impacts of the pandemic. As with all public health measures and associated supports, the waiver of commercial rates will be kept under review.

Questions Nos. 305 and 306 answered with Question No. 256.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (307)

Alan Dillon

Question:

307. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of applicants on the RAS and HAP housing lists respectively in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8645/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) do not have dedicated housing lists.

HAP is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. In order for a household to qualify for HAP, they must first be assessed as eligible for social housing support by their local authority. Any household assessed as eligible for social housing is immediately eligible for HAP and those households must source their own accommodation in the private rental sector. At the end of Quarter 3, 2020, Mayo had 1,345 households in receipt of HAP.

RAS places responsibility on local authorities to meet the accommodation needs of people who are in receipt of Rent Supplement for 18 months or longer, and who are assessed as having a long-term housing need. The scheme is delivered by local authorities who source accommodation from the private market and from Approved Housing Bodies. Prior to their transfer, households awaiting RAS continue to be supported by the Rent Supplement Scheme. At the end of Quarter 3, 2020, there were 802 tenancies supported under RAS in Co. Mayo.

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, conducted in June 2019, shows that 68,693 households were assessed as qualified for and being in need of social housing support. It should be noted that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 assessment was delayed and conducted in November. Work is ongoing and the summary report of the 2020 assessment will be published in due course.

Full details in relation to the 2019 assessment are available on my Department's website at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/publication/29da7-summary-of-social-housing-assessments-2019-key-findings/ .The SSHA 2019 shows that there were 1,205 households on the Mayo County Council social housing waiting list.

For those households on a housing waiting list, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 requires that all housing authorities make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer.

Legislation also provides that both HAP and RAS are considered to be forms of social housing support. Households in receipt of HAP and RAS are, therefore, not eligible to remain on the main housing waiting list. However, acknowledging that some households on the waiting list, who avail of HAP and RAS, have expectations that they would receive a more traditional form of social housing support, recipients can avail of a move to other forms of social housing through a transfer list.

The practical operation of transfer lists is a matter for each local authority to manage, on the basis of their own scheme of letting priorities, and the number of persons on the housing transfer list is also a matter for each individual local authority.

HAP and RAS continue to be effective and secure forms of social housing support, and remain a significant part of the suite of social housing options currently available across the country.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (308)

Alan Dillon

Question:

308. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of social housing developments under construction, at design phase or approved by Mayo County Council; the number of units, location and expected completion date in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8646/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department publishes a 'Social Housing Construction Status Report' on a quarterly basis, which provides details of all social housing developments in each local authority, including Mayo County Council. The last report covering the period up to Quarter 3 of 2020 is available at the following link: https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-obrien-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q2-2020-2/. The data for Quarter 4 of 2020 is currently being compiled and will be included in the next quarterly report to be published soon.

The information published sets out the projects that have been completed, are currently under construction or are at planning and design phase. The precise timing of the completion of projects in Mayo is a matter for the County Council who manage the projects on an ongoing basis. The information in the Status Reports also includes the location and number of housing units for each project.

Wastewater Treatment

Questions (309)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

309. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when ministerial consent will be granted for the Arklow wastewater treatment plant to go ahead given that consent was sought in December 2020; if he will expedite this process to enable construction to take place as soon as possible given the significant environmental implications if this project is delayed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8670/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. The prioritisation and progression of individual projects is a matter for determination by Irish Water.

Under section 16 of the Water Services Act 2013 (as amended by section 46 of the Gas Regulation Act 2013), Irish Water is required to seek the consent of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage given with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to enter into capital commitments. Irish Water must seek Ministerial consent prior to entering into any individual capital commitment (or a series of individual capital commitments in respect of a project) of a value in excess of €20m. This is a financial control and not a project consent.

In the context of the updated Public Spending Code for evaluating, planning and managing the public investment in the project as it proceeds through its lifecycle, consideration is also being given to the appropriate application of the Code having regard to the current lifecycle stage of the project.

The capital commitment consent request is currently under active consideration and a decision will issue in due course.

Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Register of Electors

Questions (310)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

310. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will establish a single electoral commission to oversee the compilation and maintenance of the electoral register; if the voter registration process will be simplified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8696/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government - Our Shared Future commits to the establishment of an Electoral Commission and the completion of a modernisation process for voter registration.

Work on both of these reforms is in underway and they are provided for in the general scheme of the Electoral Reform Bill, which was approved by the Government in December 2020. The general scheme provides for the establishment of a statutory, independent electoral commission, which will have an oversight role in relation to the electoral register.

The modernisation of the electoral registration process will involve a series of reforms including the introduction of rolling (continuously updated) registration; the simplification of forms and processes; the gradual roll-out of an online option for registration; a single, national electoral register database; and a move to a system of identity data verification using PPSNs. Other changes include enabling pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds; provision for anonymous registration in certain specific circumstances and the abolition of the edited register. Together, these reforms will simplify and streamline the process of registration, making it easier for people to register to vote and update their details.

The general scheme of the Electoral Reform Bill was circulated to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage and is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (311)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

311. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to the fact that county councils are disregarding general practitioners letters relating to the health conditions of housing applicants, that they are insisting on consultants letters which are either expensive to procure or require appointments for which there are long waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8697/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

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 Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe an application form for social housing support that requires that a household applying on a basis of medical grounds must provide a consultants certificate specifying the nature of the medical condition or disability, and if applicable an occupational therapist's report in respect of any specific accommodation requirements. This is to ensure that the local authority has sufficient information in order to make an accurate determination of an applicant’s housing need.

Decisions on the qualification of specific persons for social housing support and the allocation of that support are a matter solely for the local authority concerned.

Furthermore, Section 22 of the Act requires all housing authorities, as a reserved function, to make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer, the allocation of which would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the households. Allocation schemes may contain provisions for exceptional or emergency cases, allowing immediate housing outside of normal waiting list priorities, should circumstances warrant it.

My Department is currently in the process of reviewing the social housing application form and the requirement to provide a consultants certificate is being examined as part of the process. I would expect to be in a position to make a decision on any proposed amendments to the application form in due course.