Questions Nos. 1 to 18, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 19 to 30, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 31 to 38, inclusive, answered orally.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (39)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

39. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that the fast-track process operated by An Bord Pleanála is removing time and costs for builders and developers; his views on the fact that only one application has been granted to date; if comments (details supplied) will be clarified in view of the fact that the board received 37 valid pre-application and subsequently received 17 planning applications and has issued decisions in respect of three cases to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9681/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 provides for new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHDs), of 100+ housing units or student accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more, to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála for determination.

As part of the new arrangements and prior to making a planning application, a prospective applicant must make a request to the Board to enter into mandatory pre-application consultation regarding a proposed SHD.  At the end of the consultation, the Board issues its opinion as to whether the documents submitted with the consultation request constitute a reasonable basis for a planning application to be submitted or alternatively require further consideration and amendment in order to constitute a reasonable basis for an application.

All SHD pre-application consultations to date involved:

- liaising with planning authorities;

- holding tri-partite meetings involving the Board, the local planning authority and the developer; and

- forming an opinion.  

All these consultations have adhered to the timelines outlined in the Act. 

Further to the submission of a planning application to the Board for a proposed SHD, the Board is required to make a determination on each such application within a period of 16 weeks.  As of 21 February 2018, the Board had received 16 planning applications and had issued decisions in respect of 3 cases, each of which were made within the statutory mandatory timeframe.  The nature of the decision on individual cases is a matter for the Board and is not a matter in which my Department can become involved.

I am satisfied that the new fast-track SHD arrangements are being implemented in an effective and efficient manner.

Questions Nos. 40 to 42, inclusive, answered orally.

Housing Assistance Payment

Ceisteanna (43)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

43. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will review the housing assistance payment limits in view of a recent report (details supplied) on rent increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9534/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The increased rent limits introduced by the Government in 2016, together with the additional discretion available to local authorities to exceed the maximum rent limit by up to 20%, are allowing HAP households to find suitable accommodation. On average in 2017, 350 additional tenancies were supported by HAP each week, with over 33,000 households currently having their housing needs met under the scheme.

From available data, at the end of Q4 2017, 22.4% of the total number of households being supported by HAP were benefiting from the additional flexibility. When the additional discretion available to homeless households in the Dublin Region is removed, 16.7% of households nationally were benefiting from the additional flexibility, meaning that less than one in six tenancies required additional support above the defined HAP rent limit. In those cases, the average rate of discretionary payment being used was 15.2% above the relevant limit.

HAP is only just about to complete its first full year of operation on a national basis. Increasing the HAP rent limits in particular local authority areas could have further inflationary effects, leading to a detrimental impact on the wider rental market, including for those households who are not receiving HAP support.

My Department closely monitors the level of discretion being used by local authorities, taking into consideration other sources of data, including Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) rent data published on a quarterly basis. I am satisfied that the maximum rent limits, together with the additional flexibility available to local authorities, are generally sufficient to support the effective operation of the HAP scheme. However, I will continue to keep the matter under review.

Planning Issues

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 42.

Ceisteanna (44, 79)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

44. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to initiate an independent inquiry into potential planning irregularities at a location (details supplied) in County Wicklow in each of the years 2001 to 2012. [9582/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

79. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that all potential irregularities concerning the planning process at a location (details supplied), in County Wicklow were fully addressed by the review conducted on the behalf of his Department by a person. [9583/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 79 together.

The compulsory acquisition of land at Three Trouts, Charlesland, Greystones, by Wicklow County Council was the subject of an independent review by a Senior Counsel that was commissioned in June 2012 by the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. This review was undertaken following representations made by three elected members of Wicklow County Council.

In carrying out the non-statutory review involved, Senior Counsel visited the lands involved, had access to all relevant Council files and engaged directly with relevant elected members and officials of the Council, both through meetings and written correspondence as necessary. He noted, for the record, that in carrying out the review, he had received full co-operation from all the parties referred to.

The review found that there was no deviation by the Council from the relevant legal requirements and administrative requirements or practices. The report of the review was published in April 2013. The conclusions and recommendations of the review were fully accepted by the then Minister and continue to stand. The report remains available to view on my Department's website, the link for which I will arrange to have circulated with the Official Report. http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad%2C32866%2Cen.doc

Subsequent correspondence was received from a number of parties, including current and former members of Wicklow County Council, on a range of issues, including matters relating to the lands in question. This correspondence has been examined in detail by my Department and once this process is concluded, my Department will be replying to the parties concerned.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 42.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

Ceisteanna (46, 63)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

46. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to enable persons avail of the tenant purchase scheme that may not have a weekly income apart from a social welfare payment but are in a position from their own means or through family financial support to purchase their council family home; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the criteria of the scheme is denying such families the opportunity to retain their homes in family ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9716/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

63. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to improve the criteria for the tenant purchase scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9717/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 63 together.

The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016.  The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

The minimum reckonable income for eligibility under the scheme is determined by the relevant local authority in accordance with the detailed provisions of the Ministerial Direction issued under Sections 24(3) and (4) of the 2014 Act. In the determination of the minimum reckonable income, local authorities can include income from a number of different sources and classes, such as from employment, private pensions, maintenance payments and certain social welfare payments, including pensions, where the social welfare payment is secondary to employment income.

The minimum income criterion was introduced in order to ensuring the sustainability of the scheme.  Applicants must demonstrate that they have an income that is long-term and sustainable in nature. This ensures that the tenant purchasing the house is in a financial position, as the owner, to maintain and insure the property for the duration of the charged period, in compliance with the conditions of the order transferring the ownership of, and responsibility for, the house from the local authority to the tenant.

In line with the commitment given in Rebuilding Ireland, a review of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase Scheme’s operation, including the income eligibility criteria referred to by the Deputy,  has been undertaken. The review has incorporated analysis of comprehensive data received from local authorities regarding the operation of the scheme during 2016 and a wide-ranging public consultation process which took place in 2017 and saw submissions received from individuals, elected representatives and organisations.

The review is now complete and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations including one relating to the issue of the minimum reckonable income criterion which the Deputy has referred to. In finalising the report some further inter-Departmental consultation was necessary and due consideration had to be given to possible implementation arrangements. These matters are now almost completed and I expect to be in a position to publish the outcome of the review shortly.

Land Issues

Ceisteanna (47, 78, 95)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

47. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of land owned by the Housing Agency nationwide; the amount of this land zoned capable of residential development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9700/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

78. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of land owned by local authorities nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9715/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

95. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of zoned land capable of residential development owned by local authorities nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9699/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 78 and 95 together.

The active management of the publicly-owned housing land bank is part of a range of complementary actions being progressed under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, designed to accelerate and increase housing output.  To this end, details of some 1,700 hectares of land in local authority and Housing Agency ownership were published on the Rebuilding Ireland Housing Land Map, with the potential to deliver some 42,500 homes nationally. A detailed database and GIS map of these sites showing their location, size, boundaries and other information can be accessed on the Rebuilding Ireland website.

In addition to this mapping exercise, all local authorities and the Housing Agency have been requested to prepare Strategic Development and Management Plans for housing lands in their ownership, with particular emphasis on prioritising those sites with the greatest potential to deliver housing at scale, in the short to medium term. These plans are close to finalisation and will be published on the websites of the respective local authorities and the Housing Agency, in due course.

The delivery of additional social and affordable homes, to buy or rent, will rely on the State developing the full potential of its residential land bank. In relation to social housing developments, as at end Q3 2017, there were 772 schemes, involving some 12,300 homes, at various stages of delivery on local authority and Housing Agency lands. This Construction Status Report is also available on the Rebuilding Ireland website and Minister Murphy will be publishing an updated report shortly, reflecting the position at end 2017.

There remains further significant potential for the delivery of social and affordable homes from the public land bank. Following on from the second Housing Summit with local authority Chief Executives on 22 January, each Chief Executive has been asked to submit in early March an outline of their respective housing delivery programmes. The overall scale of delivery and timescales will be informed by these responses. In the context of my Department's role in driving and co-ordinating housing delivery, a dedicated Residential Land Management and Development Group has been established to oversee this important work.  

Finally, from a longer-term strategic perspective, as part of Project Ireland 2040, the Government announced on 16 February its intention to establish a new National Regeneration and Development Agency, which will have a role in managing the State's wider publicly-owned land bank to ensure that overall development needs, including housing, are met. The new Agency will work closely with local authorities, Government Departments, Agencies and other State and semi-State bodies to secure the best use of public lands and ensure the delivery on the objectives of the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan.

Local Government Reform

Ceisteanna (48)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

48. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the towns that will be made borough councils under local government reform plans; the additional statutory powers they will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9697/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Programme for a Partnership Government (PPG) sets out a number of requirements in relation to local government reform. In particular, the PPG envisages the submission of a report to Government and the Oireachtas on potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability, and to ensure that local government funding, structures and responsibilities strengthen local democracy.   

Proposals to address the PPG requirements are being submitted to Government for consideration, following which it is envisaged that the matters involved will be referred to the Oireachtas. Among the issues being addressed in this context is municipal governance, including the question of town or borough status as referenced in the PPG. Ahead of the completion of the process leading to the referral of the matters involved to the Oireachtas, I am not in a position to provide further information.

Commercial Rates

Ceisteanna (49)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

49. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if consideration has been given to a scheme to discount commercial rates for child care service providers as part of the ongoing efforts to make child care more affordable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8824/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015.  The Commissioner of Valuation has responsibility for valuation matters, including determination of relevant property under the Acts for the purposes of rates.  The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

The Valuation Act 2001, as amended by the Valuation (Amendment) Act 2015, provides that all buildings used or developed for any purpose, including constructions affixed thereto, are rateable unless expressly exempted under Schedule 4 of the Act.  Such exempt buildings would principally include those used for public worship, education and health care provided on a not-for-profit basis, and charitable purposes.  Included in the exemptions under Schedule 4 are properties occupied by parties that provide early childhood care and education on a not-for-profit basis, and properties that only provide the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme.  In general, the Acts maintain the long-standing position that all properties of occupiers that operate with the intention of making a profit are rateable, including all private childcare facilities.  There are no proposals under consideration for a discount of commercial rates for childcare service providers in this regard.

The Acts are quite specific about the range of exemptions that can be allowed by the Commissioner of Valuation, who has no discretionary latitude to grant exemptions not covered by Schedule 4.

There are a number of avenues of redress for an occupier of rateable property who is dissatisfied with a determination of valuation made under the provisions of the Acts. Firstly, before a determination is made, there is a right to make representations to the Valuation Office in relation to a proposed valuation.  If the occupier is still dissatisfied with the determination, there is a right of appeal to the Valuation Tribunal, which is an independent body set up for the purpose of hearing appeals against determinations of the Valuation Office. Also, there is a right of appeal to the Courts on a point of law.

Emergency Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (50, 51, 57)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

50. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps his Department is taking to support children in emergency accommodation; if he has satisfied himself with the efforts to tackle child and family homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8994/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

51. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that children and young persons living in emergency accommodation often face difficulties in accessing play or recreational facilities and the impact this has on their development; his plans to address the crisis of children living in emergency accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9021/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

57. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to address the issue of families in emergency accommodation that are limited in their food options due to inadequate storage facilities in addition to the lack of access to cooking facilities; if his attention has been drawn to the negative impact on families' daily food habits and dietary quality which can contribute to health problems for children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9022/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 51 and 57 together.

One of the key commitments contained in Rebuilding Ireland is to cease the use of hotels for accommodating homeless families except in limited circumstances. I am absolutely committed to this objective. Hotels are not a suitable or secure form of accommodation for families and especially for young children for anything other than a short period of time.

My Department and I are working with local authorities to accelerate the delivery of social housing for those who need it and while these more permanent housing solutions are being put in place, we are working with local authorities to deliver family hubs. These family hubs are a first response only but do provide more suitable, safe and supported family living arrangement.

Family hubs offer family living arrangements with a greater level of stability than is possible in hotel accommodation, with the capacity to provide appropriate play-space, cooking and laundry facilities, communal recreation space, while move-on options to long-term independent living are identified and secured. Furthermore, such arrangements will facilitate more coordinated needs assessment and support planning including on-site access to required services, such as welfare, health, housing services and appropriate family supports. In addition, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive provides ongoing training to all operators of emergency accommodation and nutrition is addressed as part of this training.

I fully recognise that families living in hotel accommodation face many challenges and that is why I want to significantly increase the accommodation available in family hubs. There are currently 20 hubs in operation (17 in Dublin, 2 in Limerick and 1 in Kildare) providing almost 500 units of family accommodation. However, I have asked local authorities to bring forward proposals for further facilities of this kind, located, as much as possible, close to the communities where families are experiencing homelessness. My Department will continue to fund and work proactively with local authorities in relation to the delivery of these hubs.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (52)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

52. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to address the shortage of affordable homes in many parts of the country for young persons, couples and families that wish to live in their local areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9698/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Government acknowledges the affordability pressures faced by some households with low to moderate incomes in particular parts of the country. It is precisely for that reason that the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness has prioritised the supply of new and more affordable homes. Importantly, all housing construction activity indicators are moving in the right direction, showing that the focus on increasing and accelerating housing supply is working.

Recognising that initiatives introduced to date are having an impact and will have a greater impact in time, I announced last month a package of initiatives to help alleviate affordability pressures faced by households, particularly in areas of high housing demand and high accommodation costs. The measures announced were the new Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, a new Affordable Purchase Scheme and a new Affordable Cost Rental Scheme. Further details on this suite of initiatives are available on the rebuildingireland.ie website.

The new affordable purchase scheme will be governed by the relevant provisions of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 which will be commenced shortly. Once the relevant provisions are commenced, I will develop, in consultation with the Housing Agency and local authorities, detailed Regulations covering the operation of the Scheme, including eligibility criteria.

In order to kick-start the delivery of affordable homes, I am providing Exchequer funding of €25 million, over 2018 and 2019, for a targeted programme, under which local authorities will make low-cost serviced sites available for affordable housing, working with Approved Housing Bodies or co-operative housing associations as appropriate.

A pilot project on the cost rental initiative is currently being progressed in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, in conjunction with the Housing Agency and Approved Housing Bodies, using publicly-owned land. I expect this pilot to go to the market later this year to secure a development partner and the best value for the State and prospective qualifying renters.

I anticipate that there is significant potential for the delivery of affordable homes on local authority lands. Following on from the Housing Summit on 22 January, I have asked local authority Chief Executives to submit in early March an outline of their respective affordable housing programmes.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (53)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

53. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans for provision of housing delivered through the cost rental model. [9714/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Against the background of the affordability pressures which exist in the rental market, particularly in certain areas, the Government is determined to make affordable or cost rental a major part of the Irish housing system.

Under this approach, rents are set at levels to recover the construction costs and to facilitate the management and administration of developments, but with only a minimal profit margin included. To this end, I announced last month a suite of affordable housing initiatives, including a new affordable rental scheme, to be based on a cost rental model.  Further details on the suite of initiatives involved are available on my Department's website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/min-murphys-statement-on-affordable-homes/.

A pilot cost rental project is currently being progressed by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, in conjunction with the Housing Agency and Approved Housing Bodies, using land owned by the Agency. I expect this pilot to go to the market later this year to secure a development partner and the best value for both the State and prospective renters.

To deliver more affordable homes, the State must develop the full potential of its residential land bank. I stressed this to local authority Chief Executives at the Housing Summit on 22 January and asked them to submit, by early March, an outline of their respective affordable housing programmes. I expect further affordable rental proposals, based on the cost rental model, to be put forward by local authorities, especially those in the main urban centres, as part of this process.

In parallel, discussions are ongoing with the European Investment Bank regarding their experiences in developing and supporting cost rental and other affordable models that could also work in Ireland.

National Planning Framework

Ceisteanna (54, 71, 712, 715, 734)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

54. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of the new regeneration and development funds as outlined in the NPF and NDP; if they will replace LIHAF; if there will be a requirement to have a significant residential element to projects supported by the funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9718/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Carey

Ceist:

71. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a centre (details supplied) is eligible to draw down funding from the newly established €1 billion rural regeneration development fund or the €2 billion urban regeneration and development fund; if so, the level of funding that could be provided for this project under either of these funding programmes; the way in which the company can advance its proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9648/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

712. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of staff that will be allocated to the National Regeneration and Development Agency; the budget for the agency per annum; the location of its headquarters; the operational timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9264/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

715. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the proposed funding for the national regeneration and development agency demonstration project in Portlaoise; when the project will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9393/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

734. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which the national planning framework will plan the future development of the north and south fringe in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9584/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54, 71, 712, 715 and 734 together.

The National Planning Framework (NPF), published together with the National Development Plan (NDP) as part of Project Ireland 2040 on 16 February 2018, sets out an ambitious high-level national vision for Ireland for 2040 and provides the framework and principles to manage future population and economic growth over the next 20 years, catering for around 1 million extra people, 660,000 extra jobs and 550,000 extra homes.

The NPF and the NDP principles will also shape the three Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSESs), being prepared by the Regional Assemblies over the course of 2018, which will link strategic planning and investment at the national level with the physical planning and local economic and community development functions of local authorities.

A key component of the RSESs, already being prepared, is the preparation of initial Metropolitan Area Strategic Plans (MASPs). In this regard, the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, working with the relevant local authorities across the Greater Dublin Area, will co-ordinate a strategic metropolitan plan for the Dublin area. Engagement with each of the four Dublin local authorities will be undertaken as part of preparing the MASP, through the RSES process.

The MASPs will inform each local authority development plan, focusing on high-level issues that affect each city as a whole across local authority boundaries, as well as setting investment priorities, ranging from planning for transport, housing and economic development to major regeneration areas and projects. Plans for the future development of individual areas will be a matter for the relevant local authority to pursue through the relevant development plan, in line with the overarching planning policy objectives of the NPF.

Implementation of the NPF will be supported by an investment of €2 billion for urban regeneration and development purposes, focusing on cities and towns in excess of 10,000 in population, and complemented by a similar €1 billion fund for regeneration of smaller towns and villages which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development.

The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund will be a competitive bid-based fund, operated in line with criteria that my Department is in the process of drawing up in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The funding for urban regeneration and development, which will become available from 2019, is additional to the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) and at this preliminary stage, it would be expected that urban regeneration initiatives leveraged by the funding being made available would include the provision of the homes required in the cores of our cities and towns.

The overall purpose of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund is therefore to achieve sustainable growth in Ireland’s five cities and other larger urban centres, complementing the similar focus of the rural regeneration and development fund being developed by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Given that Project Ireland 2040's significant policy shift towards securing more compact and sustainable urban and rural development will require significantly more effective land management in key development areas, it is proposed to establish a National Regeneration and Development Agency to assist in ensuring a more effective approach to strategic land management, particularly in terms of publicly owned land. The Agency will act as a national centre of expertise, working with and supporting local authorities, public bodies and other interests, to harness public lands as catalysts to stimulate regeneration and wider investment and to achieve compact, sustainable growth, with a particular emphasis on complex regeneration projects.

The detailed arrangements in relation to the establishment, location, staffing and powers of the Agency will be finalised as quickly as possible. At this point, however, I envisage that the Agency would be tightly focused and would seek to work primarily through the statutory powers of the stakeholders it is being established to assist, such as the local authorities who already have extensive powers to acquire, compulsorily if necessary, lands for development and to deliver infrastructure.

Social and Affordable Housing

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 50.

Ceisteanna (55, 56)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

55. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans for further social housing projects in County Meath. [9673/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

56. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of a new scheme of social housing in Kells, County Meath. [9674/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 56 together.

Social housing need, is in the first instance, a local issue and local authorities must respond to the nature and extent of that local need by devising and implementing appropriate targeted proposals that best fit the specific needs in their areas.

For that purpose, my Department has put in place the structures and funding required for the early advancement of social housing supply proposals put forward by local authorities, including Meath County Council. €6 billion in exchequer investment has been secured to support the social housing targets under Rebuilding Ireland and to deliver 50,000 social housing units through build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing, over the period to 2021.

In relation to social housing developments, the latest status report for social housing construction projects, as at end Q3 2017, contains key information on current social housing construction activity in all local authority areas. The Q3 2017 report details 772 schemes recently completed, on site, or undergoing planning, design or procurement, which will deliver some 12,300 homes.  The Report is available on my Department's website at the following weblink: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/rebuilding-ireland/minister-murphy-announces-additional-eu100m-housing-and-homelessness-2017.

The report shows a strong pipeline of activity being undertaken by Meath County Council, in conjunction with Approved Housing Bodies, across 31 projects, delivering in the region of  577 homes.  My Department will continue to work with the Council to facilitate and accelerate the delivery of social housing in the county, through the broad range of build, leasing and acquisition programmes that my Department operates.

With regard to the project in Kells referred to, my Department recently issued Stage 3 approval to enable the project to proceed to tender. It is now a matter for the Council to progress this scheme through Stage 4 tender approval, to construction.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 50.

Local Authority Members' Remuneration

Ceisteanna (58, 732)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

58. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to establish an independent reform body to examine the issue of councillors pay in line with a request made to him by a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9696/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

732. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the proposed local authority remuneration group will be established; if this group will have an independent chairperson appointed; and if the group will report back in time for recommendations to be implemented ahead of the 2019 local elections. [9545/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 732 together.

It is important that appropriate supports are available to councillors to carry out their functions. 

In that regard, I introduced, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, an allowance of €1,000 per annum for members of municipal districts and area committees with effect from 1 July 2017 to reflect their additional workload following the local government reforms of 2014. At the same time, I introduced a new vouched annual expenses allowance of up to €5,000 per annum that councillors may opt for in place of the existing unvouched fixed rate annual allowance of approximately €2,500. In addition, the representational allowance for councillors will increase in line with the reversal of pay cuts under the FEMPI Acts and increases under the Public Service Stability Agreement.

The question of ensuring that supports for councillors are sustainable and appropriate into the future will be considered further.

Fire Safety Regulations

Ceisteanna (59)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

59. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will report on alleged serious breaches of Part B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2006, in relation to homes in an estate (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9580/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance of works with the requirements of the Building Regulations, including Part B (Fire Safety), rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities, who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts and who are independent in the use of their statutory powers.

In general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. It is important to note that while my Department has overall responsibility for establishing and maintaining an effective regulatory framework for building standards and building control, it has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters.

In August 2017, my Department published a Framework for Enhancing Fire Safety in Dwellings, where concerns arise. The Framework is intended to be used as a guide by the owners and occupants of dwellings where fire safety deficiencies have been identified, or are a cause for concern. The Framework will also be of assistance to professional advisors, both in developing strategies to improve fire safety and in developing strategies to enable continued occupation in advance of undertaking the necessary works to ensure compliance with the relevant Building Regulations.

In addition, in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and in recognition of fears expressed for fire safety, the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management  in my Department was tasked with co-ordinating a high-level Task Force to lead a re-appraisal of fire safety in Ireland. The report arising from this exercise is expected to be available shortly.   

In response to the many building failures that have emerged over the past decade, my Department introduced the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 9 of 2014), which require greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction by registered construction professionals and builders, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates.  A Certificate of Compliance on Completion is jointly signed by the builder and the assigned certifier. This must be accompanied by plans and documentation to show how the constructed building complies with the building regulations and also the inspection plan, as implemented.

In addition, in May 2017, the Government approved the draft heads of a Bill to place the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) on a statutory footing and the Bill was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning, and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny.  I received the Committee’s report on 14 December 2017 and I am considering its recommendations, with a view to progressing the drafting of the Bill.

Once enacted, the Bill will provide consumers who engage a registered builder with the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator and will complement the reforms which have been made through the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations and contribute to the development of a culture of competence and compliance in the construction sector.

In relation to the Building Regulations, work has been on-going in my Department to review Part B/Technical Guidance Document (TGD) B – Fire (2006). A new Part B/TGD B Volume 2 (2017) came into force on 1 July 2017, in relation to dwellings. Important revisions in the TGD B Volume 2 include enhanced provision for fire detection and alarm systems in dwelling houses, guidance on fire safety in community dwelling houses, guidance on timber frame construction, including new provisions in respect of timber frame party walls, enhanced provisions in respect of loft conversions, new provisions for galleries in dwelling houses and other general updates. Work is currently underway on a revision to Part B/TGD B Volume 1, which will deal with all other buildings.

Water Services

Ceisteanna (60)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

60. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which persons that are experiencing faults in the water system between their property and the mains supply are to meet the cost of repairs under Irish Water's policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9704/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has been responsible for delivering public water services, which includes responsibility for infrastructure such as water supply or drainage pipes extending from a waterworks or wastewater works to the curtilage of a private property.

Under sections 43 and 54 of the Water Services Act 2007, responsibility for maintenance and replacement of any pipes, connections or distribution systems that are located within the boundary of a private property rests with the owner. This was the position that pertained prior to the establishment of Irish Water, when individual local authorities held responsibility for public water services. 

In the interests of water conservation, Irish Water developed the First Fix Leak Repair scheme to assist customers by notifying them where suspected leakage is occurring outside their house but within the boundary of their property. This is done through metering data.  The relevant policy document, as approved by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities on 5 August 2015, is published on Irish Water’s website at the following weblink - 

https://www.water.ie/for-home/first-fix/first-fix-leak-repair-scheme.pdf.

I understand that to date the scheme has resulted in repairs capable of delivering savings equivalent to a combined total of 89 million litres of water a day.  

The Report of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services (April 2017) recommended that the First Fix scheme remain in place and that further options be explored to address the issue of leaks within the boundaries of a users' property.   In this regard, I understand that Irish Water will be engaging further with the CRU in 2018 to assess how the benefits of the First Fix scheme may be applied to leaks on the customer side of unmetered properties.

I understand that the position in relation to responsibility is less clear in respect of service connection pipes between the property boundary and the public water main.  I understand that in many cases, these were not historically taken in charge or taken into public ownership by the water service authorities, and so that legal responsibility for their upkeep did not pass to Irish Water.  I have been advised by Irish Water that as a matter of practice, Irish Water will take responsibility for water pipes that are in the public realm.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (61, 64)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

61. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if funding will be provided to Laois County Council to complete the remaining unfinished estates in the county that do not have a bond in place and in which the developer is no longer in business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9694/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

64. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if funding will be provided in cases in which no bond is in place and in which a developer is no longer in business for unfinished estates in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9693/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 64 together.

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 on realising income from bonds and securities.  I have no plans to allocate further funding to local authorities in this regard.

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 shortly.  It is my understanding that Laois County Council has made significant progress in further reducing the number of unfinished developments within its remit.

Social and Affordable Housing

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 46.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 61.

Ceisteanna (62)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

62. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether the first tranche of 500 public private partnership social houses to be delivered under Rebuilding Ireland will represent value for money and will not contain the type of contractual problems evidenced following the collapse of a company (details supplied). [9687/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Social Housing Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme involves an investment with a capital value of €300 million. It is to deliver 1,500 social housing units in total, via three bundles. The first bundle, as referred to by the Deputy, comprises a total of six PPP sites, and will provide over 500 units in the Greater Dublin Area. The tender documents were issued to the three candidates in December 2017 and the dialogue period is presently on-going. Tenders for this bundle are due to be submitted in June 2018.

Regarding the value for money (VFM) for this project, the Central PPP Unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform provides guidance in relation to PPP projects. It sets out four specific VFM tests that are applied in the case of PPPs over the course of the planning and procurement process. These tests focus on assessing whether or not the PPP approach compares favourably with the alternative cost of using traditional procurement to achieve the same result. The purpose, sequence and format of the four VFM tests in the PPP approval process are set out clearly in the central PPP guidance.

Bundle 1 of the Social Housing PPP Programme is at a stage whereby it has successfully met the criteria under the first two of these VFM tests. The first of these was the Provisional PPP Assessment Report that was prepared by the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) in 2014 on behalf of the Department of Finance, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and my Department. It has also passed the Public Sector Benchmark (PSB) test, which was signed off in December 2017. Two further VFM tests will be carried out on this project prior to financial close on the final contract. As a result of this rigorous process, I am confident that this PPP project will provide value for money to the State.

This process also entails robust financial evaluation of proposed bidders at various stages, which is relevant to the Deputy's query concerning contractual problems. In addition to these evaluations, under the terms of the PPP contract, in the case of liquidation of a consortium member or an entity under the contract, the PPP consortium's funders and remaining shareholders are required to intervene and implement rectification measures to ensure the project is completed to the satisfaction of the State. These measures would also apply in the case of the PPP contracts delivered under Rebuilding Ireland.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 46.
Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 61.