Questions Nos. 56 to 66, inclusive, answered orally.

Local Authority Housing Data

Ceisteanna (67)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

67. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons joining local authority housing lists nationally in 2017; and when the volume of house building by public and approved housing bodies can be expected to deal with the waiting lists in view of the numbers in need of housing. [4582/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area, are set out in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments.  The most recent summary, which was carried out in 2017, details the number of households on all local authority waiting lists, as at 28 June 2017.

The 2017 summary, which was published recently, shows that 85,799 households were assessed as being qualified for and in need of social housing support.  This represents a decrease of 5,801 households or 6.3% compared to the 2016 summary.

In terms of meeting the need of households on waiting lists across the country, Rebuilding Ireland set ambitious targets for social housing delivery.  Last year, an additional €500 million was secured during Budget 2018 negotiations, to increase the social housing delivery ambition from 47,000 to 50,000 social housing homes by end 2021. Combined with the target to deliver 88,000 tenancies under the Housing Assistance Payment  and Rental Accommodation Schemes, this means that we will meet the needs of over 138,000 individuals and families over the lifetime of the Rebuilding Ireland plan.

I recently published details of the 2017 provisional social housing outputs in 2017. During last year,  just under 26,000 households had their social housing need met, well ahead of the target of just over 21,000. It should be noted that to date under Rebuilding Ireland, just under 45,000 households have had their social housing need met. We will continue to maintain a clear focus  on delivery each year to 2021, ensuring that the ambitious targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland are fully achieved.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (68)

James Browne

Ceist:

68. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to address the lack of housing supply in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4483/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Wexford, like many other local authorities around the country, has experienced a low level of construction activity both public and private over the last number of years. However, Rebuilding Ireland is focused on accelerating delivery of housing across all tenures and a comprehensive programme of action is well underway.

One of the most significant areas of the Government's attention has been on social housing, which will see investment of more than €6 billion to deliver 50,000 social housing homes through build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing, over the period to 2021. In relation to social housing developments, the latest status report at end Q3 2017 for construction projects is available on my Department's website. The report shows a significant level of activity being undertaken by Wexford County Council, in conjunction with Approved Housing Bodies, across 38 projects, delivering in the region of 390 homes. In addition, the Council is undertaking feasibility work on  a number of further  projects, with the potential to deliver almost 180 additional homes.

In relation to full year outputs for 2017, provisional details on the number of social housing homes delivered across the country, were published on 15 January 2018. A breakdown of these homes in terms of build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing, across all local authority areas, including Wexford, will be made available shortly, following completion of the necessary validation process.

In addition to the provision of adequate funding, the availability of suitable lands for development is key to ensuring the delivery of sufficient housing supply.  All local authorities have been requested to prepare Strategic Development and Management Plans for residential lands in their ownership to ensure they are brought forward for development at the earliest opportunity. The Plans for Wexford will be reviewed by my Department once received.

Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Ceisteanna (69, 100, 107)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

69. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, scheme; the way in which projects under tranche one are progressing; if excess funds are available; when tranche two will be opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4580/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

100. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the details of agreed costs for LIHAF sites and all grant agreements that have been signed and approved will be published; the costing and sales prices in addition to the legal binding agreements that apply to all grant approved and grant agreed locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4346/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

107. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of units to be developed in schemes benefitting from LIHAF; and the number of these units that will be sold in ranges (details supplied) by Dublin and outside Dublin respectively. [4584/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69, 100 and 107 together.

Up to 34 infrastructure projects, at a total cost of €226 million, received preliminary approval for funding in March 2017 under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF). Local authorities were allowed to proceed to design phase on all of these projects, pending final approval and sign-off of a grant agreement between my Department and Local Authorities.

To date, I have given final approval for 29 of the 34 infrastructure projects which will activate supply of almost 18,000 housing units on previously inaccessible sites, and grant agreements in respect of those projects have been signed.  The cost of these projects is €177 million, of which €133 million will be funded by my Department and €44 million will be funded by local authorities.  Discussions on the remaining projects are being finalised or have been moved for consideration under LIHAF 2 later in 2018.

While it will not be possible to publish the local agreements reached by local authorities with developers regarding all of the associated sites, due to the commercially sensitive nature of that information, I intend to publish summary details on all the approved and advancing projects in February, once final positions regarding the remaining projects in the first tranche have been reached.

My Department is monitoring the progress of the projects and most are at the planning stage with regard to design, planning and public procurement of the public infrastructure that is being funded.  Construction works commenced for one project (Donabate Distributor Road) in December 2017 and I expect other projects to commence construction this year. 

Funding of €1.67 million was drawn down in respect of projects in 2017 which was mainly in respect of design costs and it is expected that this will increase substantially in 2018 as projects move to the construction stage.  Funding for LIHAF is ring-fenced within the overall housing budget and will be available for local authorities to drawdown over the lifetime of the projects.  Through proactive management of the broader housing programme, the LIHAF underspend in 2017 was diverted to other housing activities, ensuring that the funding available in 2017 was fully applied to housing priorities.

Within the 18,000 new homes being advanced on LIHAF sites, it is expected that increased numbers of social housing over and above the 10% under Part V will be provided. Subject to the planning process and the eventual development applications made, it is estimated that approximately 3,000 of the 18,000 new homes will be for social housing purposes, made up of Part V units and additional social housing which will be provided on the 13 State-owned sites benefitting from the LIHAF-funded enabling infrastructure.  In addition, it is estimated that 1,500 affordable homes will be provided.

As required under the scheme criteria and conditions, a key focus has been to ensure that there is a proportionate dividend for the State’s investment in infrastructure, as demonstrated by either provision of housing at scale at certain prices, a proportionate reduction in house prices across all of the homes being facilitated or a specified number of homes which will benefit from a larger price reduction. In relation to the 29 sites for which grant agreements have been signed, and subject to completion of the planning process, the number of houses committed to be delivered on each site will be set out in the following table.

Based on the information provided by the local authorities in their local agreements and analysis of current house prices in the areas concerned, and recognising the commercial sensitivity around some of the details in the agreements reached, the approved projects outside Dublin are projected to have new homes for sale towards the lower end of the bands identified, while the projects in Dublin are projected to have starter homes available towards the upper end of those bands.

Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Local Authority

Project name

Total Cost

Projected housing delivery by 2021

Clare

Claureen, Ennis

3.66

200

Cork City

Old Whitechurch Road

9.89

600

Cork City

South Docks

15.50

620

Cork County

Midleton (Water-rock)

5.50

520

Cork County

Carrigaline

0.60

400

 Cork County

Glanmire

5.90

300

Dublin City

Dodder Bridge

15.75

1500

Dublin City

Belmayne Clongriffin

3.00

850

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

Cherrywood

15.19

2000

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

Clay Farm

4.70

350

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

Woodbrook Shanganagh

4.16

1242

Fingal

Donabate Distributor Road

15.50

1200

Fingal

Oldtown Mooretown

4.90

800

Fingal

Baldoyle Stapolin 

6.18

500

Kildare 

Sallins

0.93

250

Kildare

Naas

6.00

800

Kildare

Maynooth

14.50

800

Kilkenny

Ferrybank

0.62

200

Kilkenny

Western Environs

6.76

530

Limerick

Mungret

10.50

400

Louth 

Newtown Drogheda

1.22

200

Louth 

Mount Avenue Dundalk

3.33

212

Meath

Ratoath

3.15

266

Meath

Farganstown, Navan

5.68

400

South Dublin

Kilcarbery / Corkagh Grange

4.39

1000

South Dublin

Clonburris SDZ

3.00

1000

Waterford City and County Council

Gracedieu

1.32

200

Waterford City and County Council

Kilbarry

3.39

400

Westmeath

Brawny Road, Athlone

1.83

200

Vacant Properties Data

Ceisteanna (70, 110, 111, 116)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

70. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the fact that certain Dublin local authorities have yet to list properties on their vacant site register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4579/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

110. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of entries on the vacant sites register of each local authority on 1 January 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4337/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

111. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he is satisfied that the vacant site levy will work with regard to releasing viable land for development; his plans to work with the Department of Finance with a view to amending the vacant site levy in order to establish an immediate tax on land banking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4575/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

116. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the action he is taking to require local authorities to comply with the requirement for them to list vacant sites on their vacant sites register by January 2018 in order that the levy which will come into force in January 2019 can be applied; if he has received an explanation as to the reason a significant number of local authorities have no sites on their register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4248/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70, 110, 111 and 116 together.

The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 introduced a new measure, the vacant site levy, which is aimed at incentivising the development of vacant, under-utilised sites in urban areas.  Under the Act, planning authorities are required to establish a register of vacant sites in their functional areas, beginning on 1 January 2017.  Planning authorities will be issuing notices to owners of vacant sites by 1 June 2018 in respect of vacant sites on the register on 1 January 2018, indicating that the levy will apply to those sites on 1 January 2019. 

The primary purpose of the levy is to act as an incentive for the bringing forward of vacant under-used sites for development, for residential or regeneration purposes.  I would hope that as many vacant sites as possible will be developed for these purposes, thereby avoiding liability to the levy.

Under the provisions of the Act, the levy will be applied by planning authorities, commencing on 1 January 2019 in respect of sites which were vacant and on the vacant site register on 1 January 2018 and will subsequently be applied on an annual basis thereafter, as long as the site remains on the vacant site register in the preceding year.

Planning authorities are empowered to apply an annual vacant site levy of 3% of the market value of relevant vacant sites where a site:

- exceeds 0.5 hectares in area,

- was, in the planning authority’s opinion, vacant or idle in the preceding year, and

- is in an area identified by the planning authority in its development plan or local area plan for residential or regeneration development.

All levies due on an individual site will remain a charge on the land concerned until all outstanding levies due are paid. Accordingly, under the vacant site levy provisions, there will be a cumulative effect associated with not activating a site for development purposes for each year that a site remains vacant or idle.

Planning authorities are presently engaging in the necessary preparatory work, prior to the application of the levy with effect from January 2019 in respect of sites identified on their vacant site registers in 2018.  As required under the Act, this includes the identification of specific vacant sites for entry on the register, the registered owners of the sites in question and undertaking site valuations of the registered sites.

My Department does not maintain a central register of vacant sites as each local authority administers the vacant site register in respect of their functional area. However, on foot of a recent review of the on-line vacant site registers across all local authority areas, I understand that there are collectively 238 sites currently on the local registers. 219 of these sites were entered on the local vacant site registers on 1 January 2018 and will therefore be subject to the levy in 2019, unless development works are activated in the interim.  In the Dublin area, 98 sites will, as things stand, be subject to the levy in January 2019.

My Department has actively engaged with local authorities in relation to the implementation of the vacant site levy, holding information seminars for local authorities on 25 May 2016 and 8 November 2017, and issuing a circular letter to planning authorities on the detailed arrangements in relation to implementation of the levy on 1 July 2016.  My Department will continue to monitor implementation of the levy to ensure that it is being fully used, in line with its intended purpose of incentivising the development of vacant or under-utilised sites in urban areas and so that the full potential of the measure can be realised.

Following a commitment given in Budget 2015, a public consultation was conducted by the Department of Finance on the issue of unused zoned and serviced land with a view to examining what taxation measures might be taken to penalise land owners who do not develop such land.  On considering the outcome of the public consultation and further to the enactment of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, the Department of Finance determined that no new tax intended to encourage the development of residentially zoned and serviced land - separate to the vacant site levy - would be introduced at that time.

However, as announced in the recent Budget 2018, it is proposed to increase the rate of levy from 3% to 7% of the market valuation of relevant sites with effect from January 2020 in respect of sites included on the local vacant site registers in 2019. Legislative provision for this increase will be tabled by way of Seanad amendment to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016, which is presently at Dáil Report Stage.

Mayoral Election

Ceisteanna (71)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

71. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans for a plebiscite on directly elected mayors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4549/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Programme for Partnership Government includes a commitment to consider directly elected mayors in cities as part of a broader range of local government reform measures aimed at strengthening local democracy. In response to this commitment, a policy discussion report on metropolitan governance for Ireland's cities is at an advanced stage of preparation. At this point in time, I expect that this report will be submitted to Government in the coming weeks, after which it will be sent to the Oireachtas for consideration.

At its meeting of 26 September 2017, the Government agreed, as part of an indicative schedule for a number of referendums over the next 18 months, that a plebiscite on directly elected mayors would take place in October 2018. My Department is prioritising the drafting of the legislation required to give effect to this decision and it is included in the Government's legislation programme as a Bill to be published in the first half of this year.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (72)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

72. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider promoting schemes of private serviced sites in all areas nationally on which first-time persons seeking homes for the first time could build their own homes to specific specifications as was the case in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4601/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local authorities already have powers to make low-cost sites available to individuals, who are qualified for social housing support, and collectively, to voluntary or co-operative not-for-profit housing associations.

Separately, I am providing funding of €25 million, over 2018 and 2019, for a targeted programme, where the local authority will make low-cost serviced sites available to approved housing bodies or co-operative housing associations in specific areas for affordable housing.

This approach has worked well in Ballymun between Dublin City Council and the O’Cualann Co-Operative. Through the Council providing fully serviced land at a nominal value, the price at which homes could be offered to eligible purchasers was significantly reduced. I would like to see this approach delivered on a greater scale in other areas, subject to an overall national set of criteria.  My Department is currently drawing up the criteria for access to the Exchequer-funded scheme, taking account of broader policy on affordable housing, and will be seeking submissions from local authorities in the coming weeks.

Last week, I also announced  the introduction of a new  Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan which will be available with effect from tomorrow, 1 February 2018. This will enable credit-worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties within a suitable price range. 

Finally, first-time buyers can also avail of the Help-To-Buy Scheme, which is intended to  alleviate some of the challenges faced by first-time buyers in providing  the required 10% deposit of the market value of the property.

Social and Affordable Housing Data

Ceisteanna (73)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

73. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of social housing units built under Rebuilding Ireland per annum in counties Carlow and Kilkenny in each of the years 2016 and 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4342/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland is focused on accelerating the delivery of housing, with an investment of more than €6 billion to deliver 50,000 social housing units through build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing, over the period to 2021.

One of the Governments key priorities has been the accelerated delivery of social housing homes and provisional details of the 26,000 households, who had their social housing need met in 2017, were published on 15 January 2018. A breakdown of these numbers across all local authority areas, including Carlow and Kilkenny, will be made available following completion of the necessary validation process. It is expected that these will show an increase in the number of units built in Carlow and Kilkenny from what is recognised as low build levels in 2016.

The latest status report at end Q3 2017 for social housing construction projects shows a significant level of activity being undertaken by both Carlow and Kilkenny County Councils in conjunction with Approved Housing Bodies across 53 projects, delivering in the region of 757 homes.  

In addition to the provision of adequate funding, the availability of suitable lands for development is key to ensuring the delivery of sufficient housing supply.  All local authorities have been requested to prepare Strategic Development and Management Plans for residential lands in their ownership to ensure they are brought forward for development at the earliest opportunity. The Plan for Kilkenny County Council has been received and is under review, while that for Carlow County Council is awaited.

Deposit Protection Scheme Establishment

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 64.

Ceisteanna (74)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

74. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the statutory provision to establish a deposit protection scheme will be implemented; his plans to ensure that the maximum deposit required by landlords will be not more than one month's rent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4338/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 provides for, among other things, the establishment of a tenancy deposit protection scheme to be operated by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

The Government is fully committed to the principle of ensuring effective protection of deposits.  I have asked my Department, in consultation with the RTB, to undertake a detailed examination of the current legislative provisions, which have not yet been commenced, to identify any improvements and further legislative provisions that may be required to take account of the changed  circumstances since the development of the 2015 scheme. My aim is to ensure that any Deposit Protection Scheme to be introduced will operate effectively, efficiently and will respond to the needs of both tenants and landlords.

Definition of what should constitute an appropriate amount of a deposit will be considered in the context of the aforementioned examination of the 2015 deposit protection scheme. The normal practice is that one month's rent is paid to a landlord as a security deposit. A deposit is considered to belong to the tenant but the landlord can establish a right to keep the deposit in the following circumstances: rent arrears; damage to the property above normal wear and tear; outstanding utility bills and other charges; or if the tenant has not given sufficient notice of termination.

I expect that, on foot of the examination of the existing provisions, any necessary legislative changes can be progressed through the Houses of the Oireachtas this year.

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 64.

Action Plan for Rural Development

Ceisteanna (76)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

76. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which his Department proposes to review planning legislation to allow the change of use of vacant commercial properties in cities, towns and villages including vacant or underutilised areas over ground floor premises into residential units without having to go through the planning process as outlined in point 6 of the Action Plan for Rural Development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54715/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Action 5.9 of Rebuilding Ireland and Action 6 of the Action Plan for Rural Development commit to reviewing planning legislation to allow the change of use of vacant commercial units in urban areas, including vacant or under-utilised areas over ground-floor premises, into residential units without having to go through the planning process.  

My Department drafted the necessary revisions to the planning regulations to give effect to this action and draft exempted development regulations in this regard, titled the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2018, were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 13 December 2017.  The draft regulations were considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on 23 January 2018 and subsequently received a positive resolution approving them from both Houses of the Oireachtas on 25 January. 

The Regulations will operate for a limited period until 31 December 2021 and will apply to commercial buildings which have been lying vacant for at least 2 years.  The exemptions relate primarily to works to the interior of such buildings and a number of restrictions will apply to these works, including that a maximum of 9 residential units can be provided in any one building, and that certain minimum standards relating to floor areas, storage space and the provision of natural light are met for each unit.  In addition, development works undertaken will need to comply with the requirements of the Building Control Regulations, such as fire safety, structural stability and ventilation etc.   In that regard, a Working Group has been established to examine the range of regulatory requirements applying to the redevelopment of vacant properties and is expected to finalise a report and guidance in Q2 2018.

I intend to make the regulations in the coming days, thereby bringing the exemptions into operation.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Ceisteanna (77)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

77. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of new housing assistance payment, HAP, recipients from June 2016 to July 2017; the status of each on the social housing waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4545/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

There are currently more than 32,000 households having their housing needs met via the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Data regarding the number of households set up on HAP is published on my Department's website and is available up to the end of quarter 3  2017. Data for quarter 4 is currently being finalised and will be published shortly. The total number of new HAP tenancies established during the period referred to in the Question was 15,139.

In relation to the status of HAP recipients on the social housing list,  consistent with the provisions in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014, HAP is considered to be a social housing support and consequently households are not eligible to remain on the main housing waiting list. However, acknowledging that some households on the waiting list, who avail of HAP, have expectations that they would receive a more traditional form of social housing support, Ministerial directions have issued to ensure that, should they so choose, HAP recipients can avail of a move to other forms of social housing support through a transfer list.

Furthermore, local authorities were also directed that HAP recipients, who apply to go on the transfer list, should get full credit for the time they spent on the waiting list and be placed on the transfer list with no less favourable terms than if they had remained on the waiting 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.  The setting of such schemes is a reserved function of the local authority and as such is a matter for the elected members.

Local Authority Staff Recruitment

Ceisteanna (78)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

78. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to establish direct employment of construction workers by local authorities to ensure speedy delivery of secure homes for those in need; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4424/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, it is the Chief Executive of the Council who is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority.

Outside of agreed workforce planning numbers, a local authority must apply to my Department for sanction approval for staff. My Department works closely with all local authorities and staffing sanction requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis with priority given to housing-related posts, as well as those relating to health and safety and economic development.  Additional supports are being made available to local authorities to meet staffing costs associated with the delivery of their social housing build programmes.

Direct employment of construction workers is a matter for each Chief Executive to consider giving due regard to the most appropriate model for service delivery.

Local Authority Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (79)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

79. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to raise the income thresholds for eligibility for social housing; his further plans to review the way in which these thresholds are being implemented in local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4420/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe maximum net income limits for eligibility for social housing support for each local authority, in different bands according to the area, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy, published by my Department.

The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band are based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. The limits also reflect a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn and thereby promote sustainable communities.

As part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports has commenced. I expect the results of this review to be available for publication later this year.

Local Authority Housing Data

Ceisteanna (80)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

80. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the expenditure from his overall budget which has been set aside to be provided to the 31 local authorities, excluding housing bodies, in 2018 and 2019 for the construction of social housing; the expected number of social housing units that will be delivered by each local authority excluding housing bodies for 2018 and 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4577/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Within the overall €6 billion investment framework for Rebuilding Ireland, a funding provision of €1.9 billion is provided for the delivery of housing programmes in 2018.  This represents a 36% increase over 2017 expenditure and will ensure that 25,500 new households have their housing need met this year. 

In 2018, some 5,000 new social housing homes will be delivered through a range of construction programmes, supported by overall capital funding of €1.14 billion, including a funding provision of almost €640 million for the local authority capital programme. A further 900 social housing homes will be acquired and 2,000 social housing homes will be leased for households currently on social housing waiting lists.

In relation to 2019, the budgetary allocations for the delivery of individual housing programmes will be determined in the context of the annual estimates process, from within the overall €6bn in funding that has been ring fenced by Government to support the delivery of Rebuilding Ireland.

At the second Housing Summit, held on January 22nd, I asked each Local Authority Chief Executive to furnish a report by mid-February, confirming and setting out how their Local Authority will deliver on its social housing targets over the coming years. It is my intention that the targets will be published as soon as possible thereafter, and progress made by each Local Authority in terms of delivery against these targets will then be published on an ongoing basis, providing greater accountability and driving delivery.

In relation to social housing construction activity, my Department publishes comprehensive status reports, on a quarterly basis, in relation to social housing construction schemes for all local authority areas, showing details such as their locations and a range of information relating to their advancement.  The most recent of these reports covers the period up to the end of quarter 3 of 2017. It includes information on the delivery of over 12,000 new social housing homes, which were approved and progressing through planning, design, and construction, or have been completed in 2016 and to the end of quarter 3 of 2017. The report also showed that there were over 3,600 new homes on site and under construction and a further 2,000 new homes with approval to appoint contractors, and move onto the construction phase. The report can be accessed on my Department's website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/quarter-3-social-housing-construction-status-report/.

In relation to the 50,000 social housing homes that will be delivered under Rebuilding Ireland out to 2021, almost 33,500 will be delivered through build activity and some 6,500 delivered through acquisitions, with the remaining 10,000 delivered through long-term leasing initiatives, as set out in the following table.

Year

Build

Acquisition

Leasing

2016

2,260

1,755

225

2017

3,200

1,250

600

2018

4,969

900

2,000

2019

6,385

1,025

2,130

2020

7,716

800

2,631

2021

8,907

800

2,450

 Totals

33,437

6,530

10,036

The following table shows the elements of the build activity of almost 33,500 social homes, including those that will be built directly by local authorities and AHBs, as well as properties constructed for social housing through Part V and refurbished properties/voids, together with some 6,500 acquisitions, over the period 2016 to 2021.

Delivery

Build

Acquisition

Local Authority

 16,328

1,480 

AHB

 8,960

5,050

Refurbished properties/Voids

 3,459

 -

Properties constructed for social housing through Part V

 4,690

 -

 Total

 33,437

 6,530

Local Authority Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (81)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

81. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the moneys that have been made available to and drawn down by Galway City and County Councils to expedite the turnaround of vacant local authority houses and apartments; if Government policy in respect of vacant local authority houses and apartments has been communicated to local authorities; the reporting requirements expected of the local authorities for these empty premises; the latest reports received by his Department in relation to the number of vacant local authority houses and apartments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4425/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Voids Programme, introduced in 2014 by my Department, provides additional support to local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. The purpose of the Voids Programme is to ensure that vacant units are actively targeted, with a view to minimising the turnaround and re-let time of these units and return them to use in an energy efficient condition. Between 2014 and 2017, funding of some €3.7m has been provided to Galway City Council and Galway County Council, which brought 300 vacant houses back into productive use.

-

Units Returned 2014 - 2017

Funding 2014 - 2017

Galway City

91

€1,166,875

Galway County

209

€2,537,321

Without substantial refurbishment under construction contracts, these social homes would have been left vacant and not part of the active social housing stock.

Departmental circulars have issued to local authorities advising that returning vacant housing stock to use, in as short a time as possible, continues to be a priority. Effective management of voids is a key aspect of achieving best practice and value for money in housing management. It is a matter for each local authority to manage their housing stock and to put forward suitable properties for inclusion in the programme.

My Department does not keep data on the length of time a local authority dwelling is vacant. Statistics in relation to social housing are compiled by the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) in its annual reports on Performance Indicators in Local Authorities. These statistics are set out by local authority and include the percentage of such dwellings that were vacant at the end of the year, with the most recent report relating to 2016. This report is available at the following link: http://noac.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2016-PI-Report.pdf.

It should be noted that there is no direct relationship between the figures provided in the NOAC report and my Department's figures. The Department's data refers to the number of social homes funded under the voids programme and not the number of units vacant on the last day of the year in each local authority, which is the basis of the figures provided in the NOAC reports.

Housing Data

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 63.

Ceisteanna (82)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

82. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of residential units that are under construction in a location (details supplied) in both Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council and due for completion during 2018; the number of these that will provide social housing units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4344/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In June 2014, the Government established a Housing Supply Coordination Task Force for Dublin under Construction 2020 - A Strategy for a Renewed Construction Sector.  The remit of the Task Force includes the monitoring of relevant housing data on the supply of viable and market-ready approved developments.

The data collated by this Task Force on the aggregated planning permissions and planning applications across the four Dublin local authorities are mapped and available to view on my Department's website, at the following link: 

http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/construction-2020-strategy/dublin-housing-supply-task-force/housing-supply-coordination-task.

The mapping is based on data obtained from the four Dublin local authorities and further information in relation to residential units under construction, including social housing units to be provided within relevant developments under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 or otherwise, may be available from the relevant local authorities.

In relation to the wider social housing programme, my Department’s social housing construction programme at the end of Quarter 3 2017 provides details of 772 schemes which will deliver 12,300 social homes. Of this, there were 191 schemes on-site nationwide, delivering 3,660 homes, with a further 1,939 homes due to go on site imminently. The Q3 2017 construction status report is available on my Department's website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/quarter-3-social-housing-construction-status-report/.

In 2018, 3,800 new social homes will be built directly by local authorities and approved housing bodies, an increase of 1,800 compared to last year.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 63.

Approved Housing Bodies

Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 61.

Ceisteanna (84)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

84. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of approved housing body units nationally his Department is paying rent on at 92%; the number of approved housing body units nationally his Department is paying rent on at 95%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4578/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) have a critical role in the delivery of new social housing as identified in Rebuilding Ireland, and as evidenced by the range of funding support mechanisms available from my Department and local authorities to support this ambition.

One of these supports is the Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF), which assists AHBs in accessing private or Housing Finance Agency (HFA) finance for the purchase, construction or refurbishment of units, which are then made available for social housing purposes through the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP).  This loan facility can support up to 30% of the eligible capital cost of the project, where the units will be provided to local authorities for social housing use under long-term lease arrangements known as Payment and Availability Agreements (P&As). The on-going costs of these agreements are funded by my Department under the SHCEP.

In addition, AHBs can direct lease dwellings from private owners, and subsequently enter into a P&A agreement directly with a local authority to make that dwelling available to that local authority for social housing purposes. My Department recoups the cost of these P&A agreements with AHBs to the local authorities under the SHCEP.

The level of payment to AHBs under P&A agreements may be set at up to 92% of market rent and is agreed through negotiation with the local authority. In the case of the acquisition or construction of apartment complexes, where there are service charges that would result in a net additional cost to the AHB, the availability payment may be set at up to 95% of market rent. An availability payment in excess of 95% of market rent may be approved by my Department on a case by case basis in exceptional circumstances where there are additional costs accruing to the AHB in respect of the management and maintenance of the units.  The rent discount is applied to take account of the fact that the property owner is paid for vacant unoccupied periods, rent is paid in advance and the normal landlord tasks associated with filling voids are eliminated.

At end 2017, the number of AHB dwellings in respect of which my Department is making a payment under a P&A agreement at 92% of market rent is 1,740; payments in respect of a further 979 dwellings are made at the rate of 95% of market rent. These figures include dwellings funded by my Department under the Mortgage to Rent scheme.

In addition, the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is a social housing support, operating since 2005, targeted at households who have been in receipt of Rent Supplement long term (i.e. greater than 18 months) and have been assessed as having a social housing need. The scheme is delivered by local authorities who, under the RAS model, source accommodation from the private market and, in general, enter into a tenancy agreement with the landlord and the RAS recipient. AHBs can also contribute to the scheme; in some instances, an AHB may either lease a property directly from a private owner and enter into a RAS agreement with a local authority, or alternatively, an AHB may own the property and similarly make it available to the local authority for a RAS tenant, under a RAS contract with the local authority. Where possible under RAS tenancies, as per guidelines set out by my Department, an 8% discount on market rent is secured on the basis of the security of the RAS payment. At end December 2016, there were 4,467 AHB tenancies existing under RAS. A breakdown of the exact discounts secured in respect of individual tenancies is not available.

The Government is committed to continuing to support AHBs to contribute to the delivery of increased social housing and the achievement of the targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland.

Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 61.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Ceisteanna (86)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

86. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to allocate funding to local councils for the completion of unfinished estates in which the developer is no longer in business. [4533/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The 2016 Annual Progress Report on Unfinished Housing Developments, published in March 2017, highlighted that the number of ‘unfinished’ developments had reduced by over 85%, from just under 3,000 developments in 2010 to 420 developments in 2016, with 248 developments resolved in 2016 alone.

Funding of the resolution process is now centred around investment by housing providers and their funders as well as income from bonds and securities. I have no plans to allocate further funding to local authorities in this regard.

Of the 420 remaining estates identified in the 2016 report, 35% of these are occupied.  All information on the remaining unfinished housing estates (including the names of all 420 estates and a breakdown of the figures by county and by occupancy rates) is available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/unfinished-housing-developments/national-housing-development-survey/unfinished-housing.  The 2016 Annual Progress Report is also available on my Department's website.

The level of unfinished housing developments remaining is expected to show a further reduction when the 2017 Annual Progress Report is published by my Department later in Q1 2018.