NAMA Operations

Ceisteanna (37)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

37. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of social housing units that have been delivered by the National Asset Management Agency to date, the number he expects the agency to deliver between now and the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37494/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Since December 2011, my Department and the Housing Agency have been engaged with NAMA identifying properties that might potentially be suitable for social housing purposes. More detailed information on this engagement, including a breakdown of units delivered by local authority is available on the website of the Housing Agency at www.housing.ie/NAMA.

Since the process began, up to end of September 2015, a total of 1,600 NAMA residential properties have been delivered for social housing use, comprising of 1,241 completed properties and a further 359 contracted where completion work is on-going. A further 486 properties are considered as being active transactions whereby terms are agreed or active negotiation is on-going by all parties concerned or where a detailed appraisal is being carried out. An additional 440 properties are to be further appraised. I expect that this process, once complete, will deliver in excess of 2,000 units for social housing purposes in total.

Local Government Reform

Ceisteanna (38)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

38. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his position on the amalgamation of Cork City Council and Cork County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38319/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 1520 to 1525, inclusive, of 22 September 2015 in which I indicated that further consideration would be given to all of the details contained in the report of the Cork Local Government Committee. This process of deliberation is on-going and a further announcement on the matter will be made in due course.

Pyrite Remediation Programme

Ceisteanna (39)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

39. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will undertake a comprehensive review of the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme; if he will address common problems and difficulties that have emerged, in particular relating to the need for a more flexible approach to dwellings that have a building condition assessment of less than 2 and the approach taken when other structural problems, including fire safety issues, emerge as part of the remediation. [37239/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The pyrite remediation scheme, which was first published by the Pyrite Resolution Board in February 2014, was developed having regard to, inter alia, the recommendations set out in the Report of the Pyrite Panel (July 2012) and the relevant provisions of the Pyrite Resolution Act 2013. The full conditions for eligibility are set out in the scheme, which is available on the Board’s website at www.pyriteboard.ie. It is a condition of eligibility under the scheme that an application to the Board must be accompanied by a Building Condition Assessment, carried out by a competent person in accordance with I.S. 398-1:2013 Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material - Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol, indicating a Damage Condition Rating of 2. There are no proposals to amend this eligibility criterion.

While a review of the pyrite remediation scheme is not under consideration, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has commenced a review of I.S. 398 -1:2013 in the light of practical experience since the standard was first introduced in January 2013. This standard sets out the national procedures for the assessment of pyritic damage and for the testing of pyrite in the subfloor hardcore material of dwellings and is a key document in both the operation of the Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 and the pyrite remediation scheme.

The NSAI's current programme indicates that this initial stage of the review, which involves the gathering of submissions from an expert committee established for the purposes of the review, should be completed by end 2015. I understand that the expert committee, having considered the review submissions, will then make recommendations for the NSAI's consideration regarding an appropriate course of action; this may include either a recommendation to leave the standard unchanged or a recommendation in support of a programme for the revision of the standard. Subject to the recommendations being accepted by the NSAI, a work programme will be prepared for implementation by the expert committee.

A review of I.S. 398 -2:2013 Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material - Part 2: Methodology for remediation works is also scheduled and will follow a similar programme.

Building Regulations

Ceisteanna (40)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

40. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to address MICA affected homes in County Donegal; if he will adopt a similar approach to that taken with pyrite affected homes in the east of the country to offer support to those affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38224/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

While I fully appreciate and acknowledge the extremely difficult and distressing situations that certain homeowners in Donegal are facing on account of damage to the structural integrity of their homes, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the relevant contracting parties, i.e. the homeowner, the builder, the materials supplier and/or their respective insurers. In this regard, I believe that the parties responsible for poor workmanship and/or the supply of defective materials should face up to their responsibilities and take appropriate actions to provide remedies for the affected homeowners.

In the event that the contracting parties cannot reach a settlement by negotiation, the option of seeking redress in the Courts can be considered. In this context, my Department understands that legal proceedings have been instigated in a number of cases relating to this problem.

My Department has prepared a technical report for my information in this matter. This report was prepared following my visit, earlier this year, to a number of the affected homes to view first-hand the damage caused and had regard to test reports made available to my Department by a number of homeowners in order to provide a more detailed and scientific insight into the problems that have emerged. In this regard, the technical report is under consideration and I intend to complete my deliberations in this matter shortly.

Pyrite Issues

Ceisteanna (41)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

41. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on HomeBond's refusal to address structural defects on the grounds that a property has pyrite, including cases where such damage is unrelated to pyrite; if he has had, or plans to have, discussions with HomeBond on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37240/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

HomeBond is a private limited company providing structural guarantees for new houses; since November 2008, the HomeBond Insurance scheme is underwritten by Allianz Insurance. As is the case for any private company, its operations are a matter for its management and Board of Directors. As a private company, my Department has no role or function in its operations and cannot direct HomeBond to take a particular course of action. In this regard, I have no proposals to meet with HomeBond.

The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme to be implemented by the Board with support from the Housing Agency. The pyrite remediation scheme is a scheme of "last resort" and is limited in its application and scope to dwellings which have significant damage attributable to pyritic heave established in accordance with I.S. 398-1:2013 Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material - Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol. Issues which are outside the scope of the pyrite remediation scheme, which is to remediate substantial damage caused by pyritic heave, cannot be addressed under the scheme.

Where matters not covered by the pyrite remediation scheme are noted during the preparation of remedial works plans, the Housing Agency will advise homeowners, as soon as it is possible, to obtain their own independent advice in such matters. Where a structural warranty is in place which provides cover for these defects then it will be incumbent upon the warranty provider to remedy these defects following a valid application from the homeowner in accordance with the terms and conditions of the structural warranty.

My Department is aware that building defects, which are outside the scope of the pyrite remediation scheme, have been identified in a number of dwellings during pyrite remediation works under the scheme. In this context, the Pyrite Resolution Board and the Housing Agency will continue to seek contributions from all parties, including HomeBond, who may have a liability in respect of dwellings which are the subject of applications under the pyrite remediation scheme as those applications are progressed and the contracts for remediation works to affected homes are advanced.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (42)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

42. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to revise the planning legislation on the taking in charge of housing developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38315/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

My Department is currently reviewing, in the context of the forthcoming Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, the current provisions in section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, relating to the taking in charge of housing estates by planning authorities with a view to improving and streamlining the taking in charge procedures. A particular focus of the review will be the time limits for the taking in charge of housing estates with a view to expediting the process. My Department is consulting with planning authorities in this regard.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (43)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

43. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether there is now a housing accommodation and homelessness emergency affecting a vast number of our citizens, including those on housing lists, persons in homeless services, Travellers, asylum seekers in direct provision and other persons threatened with homelessness because of rising rents or mortgage arrears and a formal national emergency should be declared around these issues; that such an emergency should prompt stepping outside the European Union fiscal rules to enable the necessary mobilisation of extra funds and investment to resolve this crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38232/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The long-term solution to homelessness is to increase the supply of homes. In November 2014, I launched the Government’s Social Housing Strategy 2020. This six-year strategy sets out to provide 35,000 new social housing units at a cost of €3.8 billion and restores the State to a central role in the provision of social housing through, inter alia, a resumption of direct building on a significant scale by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies.

A significant number of other measures are being taken to address homelessness by securing a supply of accommodation to house homeless households and mobilise the necessary supports in order to deliver on the Government's target of ending involuntary long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. These measures have been identified in the Government's Implementation Plan on the State's Response to Homelessness (May 2014) and in the Action Plan to Address Homelessness (December 2014). Substantial progress has been made in implementing these plans. Progress in implementing these plans is reported through the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform. The plans and progress reports are available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/SpecialNeeds/HomelessPeople/.

These Plans represent a whole-of-Government approach to dealing with homelessness and the implementation of measures identified in these plans is being overseen by a group of senior officials drawn from key State agencies concerned including my Department, the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Health Service Executive, Tusla the Child and Family Agency, the Irish Prison Service and housing authorities.

Data on individuals in emergency accommodation is provided through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS). Lead housing authorities provide monthly reports on homelessness which identify the number of people utilising State-funded emergency accommodation on a regional and county basis. These monthly reports also provide details of the breakdown of the individuals and the numbers of families and dependents that are in emergency accommodation. These monthly reports are available on my Department’s website at the link provided above. Housing authorities have no function with regard to asylum seekers in direct provision and accordingly such individuals are not recorded by housing authorities.

With regard to funding for homeless services, as confirmed in the Budget announcement, I have secured funding of €70 million for homeless services in 2016. This is an increase of approximately 32% on the 2015 allocation and a 55% increase on the 2014 allocation.

This, together with the significant resources being devoted to support the implementation of the Social Housing Strategy, provide clear evidence of the urgency which the Government attaches to addressing issues in relation to homelessness, and the clear prioritisation of the resources required.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (44)

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

44. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status of the homelessness crisis; the Government's plans to tackle the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37455/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The long-term solution to homelessness is to increase the supply of homes. In November 2014, I launched the Government’s Social Housing Strategy 2020. This six-year strategy sets out to provide 35,000 new social housing units at a cost of €3.8 billion and restores the State to a central role in the provision of social housing through, inter alia, a resumption of direct building on a significant scale by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies.

A significant number of other measures are being taken to address homelessness by securing a supply of accommodation to house homeless households and mobilise the necessary supports in order to deliver on the Government's target of ending involuntary long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. These measures have been identified in the Government's Implementation Plan on the State's Response to Homelessness (May 2014) and in the Action Plan to Address Homelessness (December 2014). Substantial progress has been made in implementing these plans. Progress in implementing these plans is reported through the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform. The plans and progress reports are available on my Department's website at the following link:

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/SpecialNeeds/HomelessPeople/.

These Plans represent a whole-of-Government approach to dealing with homelessness and the implementation of measures identified in these plans is being overseen by a group of senior officials drawn from key State agencies concerned including my Department, the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Health Service Executive, Tusla the Child and Family Agency, the Irish Prison Service and housing authorities. This Homelessness Policy Implementation Team's next meeting is scheduled for mid-November following which I expect the next quarterly report to be prepared and submitted to the Cabinet Committee, after which it will be made available on my Department's website.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (45)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

45. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on his and his Department's meetings with local authorities on the provision of housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38326/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

A clear governance structure is in place to oversee the implementation of the Social Housing Strategy. I, along with my colleague Minister of State Paudie Coffey, co-chair the high-level Oversight Group which is made up of key stakeholders including Chief Executives from local authorities.

A Project Board is in place, chaired by my Department, to lead on the implementation process and to report to the Oversight Group. There are five work streams, again headed by my Department, that lead on each of the major areas of work under the Strategy. The Project Board ensures that the overall work programme is co-ordinated and managed effectively.

In order to drive delivery and implementation of the Strategy in Dublin and Cork specific arrangements have been put in place. The four chief executives from the Dublin local authorities are members of the Dublin Social Housing Delivery Task Force and the two chief executives from the Cork local authorities are members of the Cork Social Housing Group. My Department is represented on both Groups and progress from both is reported to the Oversight Group.

There is active participation by local authority Chief Executives and/or Housing Directors of Service on all of the governance structures outlined above.

Notwithstanding the regular and structured interaction with senior management from local authorities on the implementation of the Strategy, I met with all local authority Chief Executives and Directors of Housing on 14 July and again on 30 September to review progress on delivery under the Strategy and to discuss future delivery, supported by the significant increase in resources available.

The meetings provided an opportunity for a productive exchange of views and reinforced the shared commitment of central and local government to full and speedy implementation of the Social Housing Strategy, utilising all available channels of delivery.

In addition, following publication of the Strategy my Department has undertaken a number of information workshops and seminars on the Social Housing Strategy with both officials and Elected Members of local authorities.

Minister Coffey and I remain committed to working collaboratively with local authorities throughout the country and will continue to be vigilant and responsive to the challenges of delivering the ambitious targets set under the Strategy. My Department also engages regularly with local authorities, both individually and collectively, on housing issues and further engagements of this kind will continue, in support of accelerated social housing delivery.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (46)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

46. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of new social housing units that have been made available in each local authority area in 2015 to date and that will be made available before the end of 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38220/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Social Housing Strategy 2020 provides a comprehensive response to the need for social housing and targets the provision of over 110,000 social housing units to 2020, through the delivery of 35,000 new social housing units and meeting the housing needs of some 75,000 households through the Housing Assistance Payment and Rental Accommodation Scheme.

In line with the Strategy, 7,400 new social housing units have been targeted for provision in 2015 through the following means:

- 3,000 units under the Social Housing Leasing Initiative - leases, rental agreements and agreements with Approved Housing Bodies to facilitate leasing, build and acquisition;

- 2,000 Rental Accommodation Scheme; and,

- 2,400 units that will be built and acquired by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies and vacant properties that will be returned to productive use.

In addition, a further 8,400 households will be assisted through the Housing Assistance Payment.

Provisional outturn figures to end Q3 indicate that over 7,600 units have been delivered and I expect to see increased activity in delivery and drawdowns by local authorities in the next two months. Information on social housing units constructed and acquired in respect of all local authorities is published on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/HousingStatistics/FileDownLoad,15291,en.xls.

Delivery by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies is being closely monitored by my Department. Minister of State Coffey and I met with all local authority Chief Executives and Directors of Housing recently to review progress in this regard.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (47)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

47. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views regarding Ireland's failure to pledge funding to the Green Climate Fund, the main multilateral funding mechanism for fostering climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37498/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

While the Green Climate Fund is a key channel of mobilising climate finance, it is not the only channel. Despite our recent difficult economic circumstances, Ireland has maintained flows of public climate finance, delivering approximately €34 million in grants annually from our Overseas Development Aid (ODA) programme, mainly to our key partner countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. Irish Aid also works in Liberia, Palestine, South Africa, Timor Leste and Zimbabwe.

While having regard to economic and budgetary constraints, together with Ireland's obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact, Ireland has established an interdepartmental technical working group to actively consider and present options for scaling up mobilisation of climate finance in the period to 2020, including via the Green Climate Fund. I announced on Budget Day an initial contribution of €2 million to be made to the Green Climate Fund in 2016. On-going work includes consideration of both public and private finance options as well as policy instruments, aiming to develop a credible pathway towards Ireland's contribution to the US$100bn by 2020 commitment by developed countries as a whole.