I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the committee my Department’s Estimate for 2019, as well as the Votes for the Valuation Office and the Property Registration Authority, which are also under the aegis of my Department. I am accompanied by the Ministers of State, Deputies Damien English and John Paul Phelan, who will deal with their delegated areas of responsibility. To assist the committee, we have provided a briefing note on the Department’s funding for 2019, as well as other key performance information.
Turning first to Vote 34, the Estimate before the committee sets out my Department’s budget for this year. Gross expenditure of almost €4 billion is budgeted for my Department. This represents an increase of over €600 million or 18% on the provision in 2018. The gross provision for 2019 is made up of €1.874 billion in current spending and €2.124 billion on the capital side. In addition, my Department’s programmes will benefit in 2019 from resources of some €646 million that will be available from the Local Government Fund.
I will turn first to the largest single programme, housing. This year, in the interests of presenting information in a more user-friendly format, we have expanded the number of subheads from ten in previous years to 25 in 2019. With the growth in the range of housing measures in the context of Rebuilding Ireland, it was getting increasingly difficult for people to see on the face of the Estimate the specific provisions that were of interest to them. We have more than doubled the number of housing subheads in the Estimate to cover as far as possible the full range of programmes and we have provided the comparable data for 2018.
Turning to the actual financial provisions, more than €2.3 billion is being made available in the Vote for housing programmes this year, an increase of more than €350 million on the 2018 Estimate. In addition, local authorities will fund a range of housing services to the value of €93 million from local property tax, LPT, receipts that exceed their LPT funding baseline, bringing the total housing provision to almost €2.4 billion. This investment will see the housing needs of almost 27,400 households being met this year. Of these households and housing supports, 10,000 will be new social housing homes delivered through build, acquisition and long-term leasing programmes. The remaining supports will be delivered through HAP and RAS schemes.
A critical focus of 2019 activity is on prevention of, and delivery of services for, homelessness, and an allocation of €146 million, which is up €30 million on 2018, will address the increased demand for emergency homeless services and also assist in supporting homeless households with long-term and sustainable housing solutions. In 2019, it is envisaged that in excess of 5,000 adults will exit from homelessness into sustainable tenancies through the provision of social housing homes and HAP. Housing First will continue to be rolled out, targeted at rough sleepers, and funding will also be provided to support the further roll-out of the family hub programme. Other important housing supports and services that will be funded through the increased resources in the Estimate in 2019 include €13 million in capital funding to support a range of Traveller-specific accommodation schemes, which is up €1 million on last year; €23 million to support the continuation of the mortgage to rent schemes and allow for some 560 households to be supported under the schemes, which is also up €1 million on last year; almost €72 million, up €11 million on 2018, towards supporting the national regeneration programme targeting some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities; €25 million will improve up to 3,000 social housing homes through the energy efficiency programme; €57 million, up €4 million on 2018, will be provided for home adaptations to be undertaken, facilitating people with disabilities and older people to continue to live in their own homes; €32 million, up €2 million on last year, is being provided to fund the remediation of a further 460 houses affected by pyrite; €10 million, up €2.8 million on last year, is being provided to meet the operational costs of the Housing Agency and support the agency in its expanded role in the delivery of housing services and supports; and €12.5 million, up €4.6 million on last year, will support the expanded role and functions of the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, and also accelerate the rental inspections programme by local authorities.
Budget 2019 provided for a trebling of the serviced sites fund to €310 million over the period to 2021, meaning that the minimum number of serviced site fund homes that will be facilitated over the lifetime of the fund will be more than 6,000. The 2019 contribution to this amounts to €89 million. The Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, LIHAF, will be supported by an allocation of €41 million in 2019. This will go towards 30 key public infrastructure projects, such as roads and bridges, which will unlock land for housing development that would otherwise remain stagnant.
The costs of normal domestic water services provided by Irish Water now fall to be met by the Exchequer from the Vote of the Department, rather than through a combination of current funding from the Local Government Fund and a capital contribution from the Minister for Finance, as was previously the case. In 2019, more than €1.2 billion - €562 million on the current side and €646 million on the capital side - is included in programme B of the Estimate for meeting Irish Water's costs in respect of domestic water services and providing a capital contribution towards investment. This includes an increase of €146 million for vital accelerated capital investment in water and wastewater services, as planned for under Project Ireland 2040. The group water sector continues to be an important element of the water industry in Ireland. As a reflection of this, a provision of €23 million is made in 2019 for capital spending under the rural water programme, through which funding is provided for group water schemes. This marks an increase of €3 million on the 2018 Estimate.
Following changes in recent years, principally involving motor tax receipts now going directly to the Exchequer and Irish Water being funded directly through the Department’s Vote, the Local Government Fund has returned more fully to its original purpose of funding local authorities, without the circular flows of funds that had built up over the years. In 2019, income sources into the fund are estimated to be local property tax of €470 million and a payment from the Vote of €185 million. The latter sum represents an increase of €60 million on 2018. My Department will make payments estimated at €646 million from the fund in 2019. Local property tax payments to local authorities of €503 million will account for most of this. In the local government area, capital investment in fire and emergency services in 2019 will amount to €11.2 million, which represents an increase of nearly €2 million on the 2018 Estimate. This will allow greater progress on our programme for the construction and upgrading of fire stations, the procurement of fire appliances and other essential specialised equipment and the provision of enhanced communication facilities.
In the planning area, €58 million in capital funding is being provided as the initial tranche of the new €2 billion urban regeneration and development fund, which has been established under Project Ireland 2040. The aim of this fund is to transform our cities and towns and help to achieve sustainable growth in these areas. The provision of €58 million for the fund takes account of the fact that among the measures the Government has identified to help to meet the increased costs in 2019 of the national children's hospital is an updated profiling of expenditure under the fund, which has indicated that €139 million of drawdown could be re-profiled from 2019 to 2020 without causing delays to projects. More than €20 million has also been allocated to resource the start-up of the Land Development Agency in 2019. A further €2.4 million is provided to meet the operating costs of the new Office of the Planning Regulator. Further areas of expenditure set out in the 2019 Estimate include meeting the capital and current costs of An Bord Pleanála, at €18.5 million, and Met Éireann, at €30.4 million.
In 2017, the Government decided to assign to my Department responsibility for Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Valuation Office and the Property Registration Authority. A provision of €15.8 million is made in Vote 34 for Ordnance Survey Ireland. The other two organisations have separate Votes, amounting to €14 million for the Valuation Office and €31 million for the Property Registration Authority. These bodies are to merge to form Tailte Éireann and work is proceeding in my Department on this important project. I have kept my remarks as brief as possible. I have focused on some but by no means all spending areas to allow for a full discussion on the programmes and funding of my Department and related organisations this year. The Ministers of State and I will be happy to deal with matters that members wish to raise.