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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Written Answers Nos. 41-64

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (41)

James Browne

Ceist:

41. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which his Department provides social housing in line with A Vision for Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19625/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Policy responsibility for A Vision for Change, the strategy which sets out the direction for Mental Health Services in Ireland and which is being implemented by the HSE in conjunction with other agencies, is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Health.

The current National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability and associated National Implementation Framework, were jointly published by my Department and the Department of Health. They set out the Government’s broad framework for the delivery of housing for people with disabilities through mainstream housing policy and were developed as part of a coherent framework, in conjunction with the Government’s mental health policy, A Vision for Change, and the Congregated Settings Report. The partnership approach adopted under the Strategy recognises that the provision of suitable housing is only one element in supporting people with disabilities to live fully inclusive lives.

Implementation of identified actions in the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability is being driven primarily by the Housing Agency, through a dedicated sub-group comprising representatives from my Department, the HSE, Department of Health, local authorities, the Irish Council for Social Housing and various disability representative organisations. Through that forum, a Steering Group was established last year to progress actions in relation to meeting the housing needs of people with a mental health disability. Following completion of a final review of a pilot project trialling a tenancy support officer for a number of individuals transitioning from HSE owned mental health facilities in Laois/Offaly, in January this year my Department approved a funding contribution of 50% towards tenancy sustainment costs to support the national roll-out of this project over the three year period 2018 to 2020. The remaining 50% of costs are being funded by the HSE, with the approval of the Department of Health. My Department will continue to work with the HSE on housing needs for individuals experiencing mental health issues and for those who require additional housing supports.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (42, 78)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

42. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his definition of affordable housing; the way in which he will ensure that homes built on publicly owned land will be affordable to persons who are excluded by market prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19790/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

78. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his definition of affordable housing; the number of units he plans to provide in this category in the next period; the way in which these units will be delivered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19837/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 78 together.

The delivery of more affordable homes, to buy or rent, particularly in areas where people are facing the greatest affordability challenge, is a major priority for Government. While there is no single universally accepted definition of housing affordability, the widely used internationally accepted benchmark is that households, particularly low- to moderate-income households, should ideally not be paying much more than one third of their disposable income on accommodation costs.

Of course, affordability and access to affordable housing are significantly influenced by the supply of homes to buy and rent and competition in the market. Therefore, the Government has taken significant action to increase housing supply through the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. This is having a significant impact, particularly for those on lowest incomes, with nearly 26,000 households having their social housing needs met in 2017, significantly ahead of target.

More generally and in order to increase overall house-building at scale, a suite of actions are underway, including, for example, actions to fund infrastructure, streamline planning, and reduce building costs. There is evidence that these measures are working with housing planning permissions and commencements growing by 27% and 41% respectively on an annual basis, based on the latest published data.

There is also evidence of large-scale residential developments securing planning permission through the new fast-track Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process in An Bord Pleanála.

The Government is committed to ensuring that housing is affordable for households on low to moderate incomes. Recognising that people want a choice of affordable purchase and rental, depending on their stage of life and circumstances, we are progressing both through a range of initiatives.

I announced new measures in January specifically targeted at delivering more affordable homes to households generally with maximum income of €50,000 for single applicants and €75,000 for joint applicants. Based on initial estimates, the initiatives have the potential to deliver more than 3,000 new affordable homes to buy or rent, with a target delivery of at least 10,000 new affordable homes in the medium term. The emphasis initially will be on delivering affordable homes from the public land bank, particularly in urban areas where affordability issues are greatest.

Recognising that there are enabling infrastructure requirements on some sites, I am also providing Exchequer funding of €25 million, over 2018 and 2019, as a key contribution towards the delivery of more affordable housing from local authority land.

Homeless Persons Data

Ceisteanna (43, 61, 68, 69, 70, 86)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

43. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will report on the latest homeless figures; the councils that have discrepancies in their figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19781/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Barry

Ceist:

61. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the breakdown of the recently claimed overstatement of homelessness of 600, by local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19838/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

68. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the local authorities that returned incorrect data to his Department in relation to homeless figures for January and February 2018; his views on the accuracy of the figures announced on 30 April 2018 in relation to March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19789/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

69. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he is satisfied that local authorities are providing accurate data to his Department in relation to housing and homelessness figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19796/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Collins

Ceist:

70. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason he plans to amend the reporting of homeless figures from monthly to quarterly; and if he will clarify his announcement that the homeless figures are 500 to 600 less than the official reports. [19782/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

86. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will report on the latest homeless figures; the reason he is of the view these figures have been overstated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19866/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 61, 68, 69, 70 and 86 together.

My Department currently publishes data on a monthly basis on the number of homeless persons accommodated in emergency accommodation funded and overseen by housing authorities. These reports are based on data provided by housing authorities, produced through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS). The reports are collated on a regional basis.

During the compilation of the March Homeless Report, in the course of examining data from local authorities, my Department established that a number of local authorities had miscategorised individuals accommodated in houses and apartments, owned or leased by the local authorities, including in some instances people renting in the private rented sector but in receipt of social housing supports, as being in emergency accommodation. As these issues have not yet yet been fully addressed, I am not in position to provide a complete account of the extent of such practices. My Department is writing to local authorities as part of its continuing examination of the matter.

However, I can say that a total of 247 adults and 331 associated dependents, residing in houses and apartments, were categorised as being in emergency accommodation in the Dublin, South- West, Mid-West, North-East and South-East Regions. These categorisations were corrected prior to the publication of the March report. I flagged the issue that had arisen very clearly when publishing the March figures and was also clear that the figures would have been higher had the corrections I referred to not been made.

My priority as Minister is to ensure that families and individuals are moved from emergency accommodation, such as hostels, hotels and family hubs, into housing. I am satisfied that individuals and families who are being accommodated in publicly funded houses or apartments, whether it be social housing or homes leased from the private rented sector, should not be considered as living in emergency accommodation.

The issues which have emerged indicate clearly to me that we need improved reporting in this area in order to accurately reflect the numbers of households in emergency accommodation so that we can measure our progress and target our further policies and actions. My Department is examining the current reporting arrangements with a view to ensuring that the best possible data is available to support policy making. No decision has been taken on amending the existing arrangements at this stage.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (44, 53)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

44. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which he plans to fast-track the development of housing on local authority owned, State owned or State controlled land that is zoned for residential development. [19843/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

53. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the zoned land owned by the 31 local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19862/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 53 together.

The development of residential lands owned by local authorities and the Housing Agency, for social housing and, where appropriate, for mixed-tenure developments, is a major priority under the Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. 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 accommodate some 42,500 homes nationally. The map also includes details of some 300 hectares of land in the ownership of other State or semi-State bodies, with the potential to deliver a further 7,500 homes. All of the mapped sites can be viewed at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/rebuilding-ireland-land-map/.

To date, State-led residential construction has been primarily aimed at helping to meet the needs of households in the lowest income brackets, i.e. for social housing. With increased Exchequer investment to deliver 50,000 new social homes by 2021, the significant expansion of the social housing build programme is evident in the Quarter 4 2017 Social Housing Construction Status Report, which was published on 19 April. The programme includes 850 schemes (or phases) at the end of last year, delivering over 13,400 homes, a very substantial increase on the 8,430 homes in the programme a year earlier. The full report can be accessed at http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-q4-2017/.

In relation to the delivery of affordable homes, I am re-introducing an affordable purchase scheme, under the relevant provisions of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and I am determined to establish a substantial cost rental sector, in order to close the affordability gap in housing on a sustainable and long-term basis.

Local authorities are already progressing a number of large mixed-tenure developments on their sites, encompassing large volumes of social, affordable and private market housing. For example, Dublin City Council has two sites, at O'Devaney Gardens and Oscar Traynor Road, being developed on the basis of a 30% social; 20% affordable and 50% private market housing mix, with capacity to deliver over 1,200 new homes. South Dublin County Council is also progressing one of its major sites at Kilcarbery, capable of yielding almost 1,000 new homes on a 30% social and 70% private tenure mix.

In order to aid local authorities further in delivering affordable housing from their sites, I am providing funding of €25 million, over 2018 and 2019, to unlock local authority-owned lands specifically for affordable homes to buy or rent. Overall, initial estimates suggest that around 3,000 new affordable homes can be made available through a range of schemes and initiatives, with the long-term ambition for some 10,000 additional affordable homes to be provided for sale or rent, as the full range of initiatives are rolled out.

In addition, in order to relieve critical infrastructure blockages and enable housing developments to be built on key local authority and private sites at scale, total funding of €266 million is being allocated under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF). To date, I have given final approval for 30 projects under LIHAF, at a cost of some €195 million, which will activate supply of almost 20,000 homes. Grant agreements in respect of those projects have been signed. A second call for proposals will be issued shortly to invite eligible applications for the additional funding.

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. This will involve working primarily with the relevant local authorities, other public bodies and the private sector, with the scope to assemble and rationalise land holdings, whether they are publicly or privately owned, in order to enable the re-purposing of lands that may not be currently used optimally, with regard to wider and long-term public policy and planning objectives.

Mortgage to Rent Scheme

Ceisteanna (45)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

45. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to greatly expand the mortgage to rent scheme to obviate the sale of family homes by banks to vulture funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13632/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My focus, and that of the Government, is to ensure that as many households as possible remain in their homes and in this regard, a range of measures are currently being implemented across Government Departments and agencies. These actions are focused on encouraging those in mortgage distress who have not been able to engage, to reach a long term debt resolution and avoid repossession if possible.

The Mortgage to Rent (MTR) scheme introduced in 2012 and administered by the Housing Agency on behalf of my Department is targeted at those households in arrears who are eligible for social housing support, whose mortgage is unsustainable. The MTR scheme is an established part of the overall suite of social housing options and an important part of the mortgage arrears resolution process.

A Review of the Mortgage to Rent (MTR) Scheme, published on 8 February 2017, introduced a range of amendments to the eligibility criteria and administration of the MTR scheme in order for it to work better for borrowers. The Review, available at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/changes-in-mortgage-to-rent-scheme/, explored the avenues and impediments to participation in the scheme and recommended a number of actions to make the scheme work better for borrowers. My Department and the Housing Agency are working with all stakeholders to ensure that the actions set out in the Review are being effectively implemented to benefit a greater number of households. I am providing an additional €5m for the MTR scheme in 2018, which will support at least 250 additional MTR cases to be completed by AHBs working together with lenders using the MTR scheme. Additional resources can be made available to the Scheme in 2018, if required.

The MTR Review also concluded that the current financial model of the scheme may not, in its current configuration, be capable of delivering the scale of successful cases that could benefit from the scheme over time. In order to test the operability of alternative funding models for the scheme, the Housing Agency initiated a call for Expressions of Interest from bodies other than approved housing bodies (AHBs) interested in participating in a new MTR pilot scheme. Two submissions were received by the Housing Agency in response to the Expressions of Interest request. The EOI process is still on-going and I expect to be in a position to announce the outcome in the near future.

It is important also to highlight that there are no changes to the rights or obligations of a customer whose loan is sold by a bank. The Government introduced the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2015 to ensure that borrowers whose loans are sold retain the same protections which they had prior to the sale. In addition, as credit servicing firms servicing loans on behalf of unregulated entities are required to comply with the statutory Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA), all protections under the CCMA are unchanged.

Traveller Accommodation

Ceisteanna (46)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

46. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the appointment of an expert group to review the legislation underpinning the Traveller accommodation programmes. [19787/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In line with the commitment in Rebuilding Ireland, in 2017 the Housing Agency commissioned an expert, independent review of funding for traveller-specific accommodation to date. This review had regard to targets contained in the local authority Traveller Accommodation Programmes and actual units delivered, the current status of accommodation funded and funding provided for accommodation maintenance and other supports.

Following its consideration of the review, the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee agreed to the establishment of an Expert Group to examine and make recommendations on issues regarding Traveller accommodation policy, strategy and implementation. The Committee also recommended that a review of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 should be undertaken as part of the work of the Expert Group. I welcome and support such a review given that the Act is operational 20 years this year.

The Committee played a key role in determining the terms of reference for the Expert Group which have recently been finalised. It is my intention to establish the group as soon as possible with a view to it concluding its work within a short timeframe. My Department will consider any recommendations made by the Expert Group to improve the delivery of Traveller accommodation nationally and to ensure that full use is made of the increasing level of funding available for investment in Traveller accommodation.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (47)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

47. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of applications for social housing projects which have been submitted by Westmeath County Council and Longford County Council; and the stage they are at. [19853/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department publishes information on social housing construction projects via quarterly Construction Status Reports. The most recently available report, which sets out the position at end 2017 and is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-q4-2017/, provides project and stage details for all local authority areas, including Westmeath and Longford. It also includes new social housing construction projects being delivered by Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in partnership with the local authorities.

Since the period covered by the last published Construction Status Report, further construction projects have been approved and existing projects have advanced across many local authority areas, including Westmeath and Longford. This includes new local authority projects to construct 31 new social homes at Lanesborough, via a turnkey arrangement, and a 32 home project at Ennel Court, Mullingar which has been approved to have full design finalised for tendering. Projects are also being advanced on behalf of Westmeath and Longford County Councils by AHBs.

Both the local authorities and AHBs are also continuing to acquire new social homes, including vacant properties, both through permanent purchase and through long-term leasing. My Department is working closely to support both the local authorities and the AHBs with the funding of these schemes.

I recently wrote to all local authorities, including Westmeath and Longford, setting out their individual social housing targets across build, acquisition and leasing for 2018 and also for 2018-2021. Details of these targets are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-delivery-targets-for-local-authorities-2018-2021/.

Regional Assemblies

Ceisteanna (48, 461)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

48. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to review the administrative support given to regional assemblies in view of their role in the national planning framework; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19850/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

461. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to review the administrative support provided to the regional assemblies in view of their role under the national planning framework; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20092/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 461 together.

The three Regional Assemblies were established further to the Local Government Reform Act 2014 and comprise representation from the constituent local authorities in the Eastern and Midland (Dublin, the Mid-East and Midlands), Northern and Western (North-West, West and Border) and Southern (Mid-West, South-West and South-East) regions. The requisite staffing structure was formalised for each of the three Regional Assemblies to administer and carry out their functions.

Implementation of Project Ireland 2040 will be progressed at the regional level by the three Regional Assemblies who have responsibility for co-ordinating, promoting and supporting the strategic planning and sustainable development of their regions, consistent with the objectives of the National Planning Framework (NPF), through the preparation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES). Recognising the critical role that the Regional Assemblies have in the ongoing implementation of the NPF, my Department has been engaging with the three Assemblies on an ongoing basis throughout the formulation and publication of the NPF and preparations of the corresponding RSES.

I am confident that the Assemblies are currently adequately equipped to fulfill their role in the RSES process, and in the general implementation process of the NPF at the regional and local levels, in consultation with my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and local authorities, supported by the dissemination of any further advice and guidance as required. However, I will keep the matter under regular review.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (49)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

49. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the specific measures he is taking to speed up the delivery of social homes; if he has analysed the data from the Rebuilding Ireland quarterly reports in relation to the number of units approved that are still in the pre-construction phases of approval; the measures in place to progress these to construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19788/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Notwithstanding the genuine challenges that arise with construction projects of all types, I and my Department have been consistently focused on ensuring that progress is made to achieve housing delivery as quickly as possible.

My Department has worked with local authorities to review the processes and procedures for the approval of social housing construction projects and has agreed an overall target programme of 59 weeks for progressing typical social housing construction projects from initial project conception through design, planning and procurement up to contractors going on site.

More detailed guidelines have been prepared in relation to submissions to be made to my Department. The single-stage approval process for projects under €2m has been revised and my Department is working with local authorities to increase take-up. Rapid build approaches are also increasingly being used, which can save time in relation to design, procurement and construction of new social housing.

My Department also has continuous contact with local authorities around all forms of housing delivery, including regular technical meetings to review progress in respect of social housing projects and to clear any blockages as swiftly as possible.

The Deputy can be assured that my Department is committed to the accelerated delivery of all social housing projects and will work with all local authorities and approved housing bodies to ensure that quality and value for money projects are delivered efficiently and effectively. This is evident from the significant increase in new build social housing activity in 2017 and the further significant increase targeted for this year.

My Department has also established a dedicated Housing Delivery Office to support local authorities in housing delivery and this support is now an important part of the focus on accelerating housing delivery on key sites, identifying further mechanisms to accelerate delivery and supporting the roll-out of complex construction projects.

Housing Data

Ceisteanna (50)

John Curran

Ceist:

50. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of rapid build housing units that have been constructed to date as outlined in Action 1 of Rebuilding Ireland; the reason for the delays; the number of these units expected to be completed by the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19672/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under Rebuilding Ireland, a total of 208 rapid delivery homes were completed by end 2017. There are currently some 24 further rapid delivery schemes, due to yield in excess of 653 social homes, at various stages of advancement, 283 of which are scheduled for delivery in 2018.

Many of the issues around delivery that ‘standard’ social housing construction projects face, are also faced by rapid build projects, such as preparing sites, services/access to the site, community consultation, planning, etc. There are, however, savings in terms of design and construction and these advantages are growing as more use is made of the Office of Government Procurement framework contract and contractors gain more experience in implementing these projects. Under this mechanism, acceleration is delivered both by the use of the Design and Build services of these contractors and reduced construction time periods due to considerable off site fabrication. This framework is available for all local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to use.

While the framework, or indeed off-site construction, may not be suitable for all developments or sites, my Department continues to encourage and support local authorities and AHBs to consider the rapid delivery mechanism in the interest of accelerated delivery. In this regard my Department has organised information seminars for local authorities, as well as visits to rapid delivery projects under construction. Local authorities have been asked to consider, in particular, schemes which are suitable for early commencement, particularly in terms of their approved planning status.

In addition, Dublin City Council is developing a volumetric rapid build housing programme of apartment developments. This could yield in excess of 700 homes and my Department is working very closely with the Council to prioritise some of the larger apartment schemes, given the current demand.

Updated details in relation to the programme of rapid build projects are included in each Social Housing Construction Projects Status Report, which are published on a quarterly basis on the Rebuilding Ireland website; the most recent report setting out the position at end-2017, is available at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-q4-2017/.

The progress evident in this report, together with new build social housing achieved through Part V, ensured that 2,297 new build social housing homes were delivered in 2017, over three times the delivery in 2016 and very close to the 2,434 target set for 2017.

My Department will continue to work with local authorities to maximise delivery and harness appropriate opportunities to deliver on additional build units over the course of the Rebuilding Ireland Plan, including through rapid delivery schemes.

Social and Affordable Housing Data

Ceisteanna (51)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

51. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of newly built social housing units built directly by local authorities in 2017; the way in which this figure is in line with the stated goal of solving the housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19836/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under Rebuilding Ireland, a total of 50,000 social housing homes will be delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes.  In addition to this, 87,000 additional households will be supported through the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

The combination of 50,000 social housing homes and 87,000 HAP and RAS social housing supports, which will be funded by the Government out to 2021, means that over 137,000 long term and flexible options will be made available to those on the housing waiting lists under Rebuilding Ireland. There are currently 86,000 households on social housing waiting lists.

I recently wrote to all local authorities setting out their individual social housing targets across build, acquisition and leasing for 2018 and also for 2018-2021. Details of these are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-delivery-targets-for-local-authorities-2018-2021/. 

The Government, working with the local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies and other delivery agents, is already exceeding the delivery targets set for the first two years of Rebuilding Ireland. Of the combined target of 137,000 referred to above, just under 45,000 households have had their housing need met by the end of year 2 of the Rebuilding Ireland Plan – 33% of those targeted under the 6 year Plan as a whole.

Detailed data in relation to social housing delivery by each local authority for 2017, including units built directly by local authorities is available on my Department's website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/attachments/1b1-la-bld-by-area_10.xlsx .

My Department will continue to work with local authorities to maximise delivery and also harness appropriate opportunities to deliver on additional build units in 2018, including through turnkey schemes.

Social and Affordable Housing Data

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 44.

Ceisteanna (52)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

52. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of social housing units he expects to come on stream in the next year in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19797/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I recently wrote to all local authorities, including Tipperary County Council, setting out their individual social housing targets across build, acquisition and leasing for 2018 and also for 2018-2021.

In the case of Tipperary County Council, they have a target to deliver 117 new social homes in 2018 through build, acquisition and long-term leasing initiatives, with a further 154 families or individuals to be housed through the Housing Assistance Payment or the Rental Accommodation Schemes. I am keen to see Tipperary County Council and all other local authorities meet or, indeed, exceed these targets and have assured them that funding is available to support them in that regard. Full details of the targets for all local authority areas, including Tipperary, are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-delivery-targets-for-local-authorities-2018-2021/.

My Department also publishes information of the construction of new social housing via quarterly Social Housing Construction Status Reports. The most recently available report can be seen on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-q4-2017/ . This shows activity up to end-2017 and, since then, local authorities will have advanced further projects through approval onto site, with new projects also being added to the pipeline.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 44.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Review

Ceisteanna (54)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

54. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the review of the tenant purchase scheme will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19747/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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.

In line with the commitment given in Rebuilding Ireland, a review of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase Scheme’s operation 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. In finalising the report some further 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.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (55, 71)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

55. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if plans will be approved for additional housing in County Laois incorporating social housing, affordable housing and private housing in the event of the county council bringing proposals forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19636/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

71. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his Department approves new affordable housing schemes in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19637/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 71 together.

The Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is firmly focused on increasing supply and the priority for Government attention is to support those in society with the greatest housing access and affordability challenges. In that context, the focus is on meeting the housing needs of those in the lower-income categories, particularly those in need of social housing supports and other households that are most challenged from an affordability perspective, such as first-time buyers. The significant progress being made in these areas is outlined on the Rebuilding Ireland website at www.rebuildingireland.ie.

In Budget 2018, the social housing allocation was increased to over €6 billion for the lifespan of Rebuilding Ireland , with a target of 50,000 social housing homes to be delivered by 2021, and some 87,000 households to be supported through the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme and the Rental Accommodation Scheme. In 2017, almost 26,000 households had their social housing need met, significantly ahead of the target set.

I recently wrote to all local authorities, including Laois County Council, setting out their individual social housing targets across build, acquisition and leasing for 2018 and also for 2018-2021. Details of these are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-delivery-targets-for-local-authorities-2018-2021/.

In respect of social housing build targets for 2018, a strong pipeline is already in place for local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies to deliver on these targets. The 2018 build target is for the delivery of 4,969 additional social housing homes, including 3,819 local authority and AHB build units. The Quarter 4 2017 Construction Status Report, which is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-q4-2017/ , provides details of projects on a local authority by authority basis.

I announced new housing affordability measures in January of this year. We are targeting both affordable purchase and rental units to be delivered initially from local authority housing land-banks, with the potential to deliver more than 3,000 new affordable homes to buy or rent initially, with a target delivery of at least 10,000 new affordable homes in the medium to longer term.

Delivery of affordable homes will require local authorities to maximise the potential delivery of new homes from their land bank. This may include mixed-tenure developments on appropriate sites and my Department will continue to work with Laois County Council and all local authorities with regard to any social and mixed-tenure housing proposals that they bring forward, in order to maximise delivery and also harness appropriate opportunities to deliver on additional build units in 2018.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (56)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

56. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the purpose of a recent circular sent to local authorities in relation to the rights of councillors to comment on planning matters which referred to the Planning and Development Act 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19791/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The purpose of Circular PL02/2018, which issued to planning authorities on 9 March 2018, was to remind planning authorities and elected members that they are required to consider planning applications in accordance with the open, transparent and verifiable written process, set down in planning legislation. The circular also highlights that planning authorities, when making their decisions, are restricted to considering the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned.

The circular indicates that, while the Development Management Guidelines issued to planning authorities under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, recognise that elected members may be informed by planning staff of factual matters relating to particular planning applications, the provision of such information is intended to inform elected members who may wish to make substantive comments on planning applications by way of formal written submissions or observations to the planning authority.

In this regard, the circular points out that discussion of the merits of individual planning applications at Municipal District and Area Committee meetings or at full Council meetings does not form part of the statutory process for the consideration of planning applications, and that the practice could be viewed as an attempt to undermine due process and exert undue influence on the planning authority to make a decision that would not be in the interests of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned. The circular also states that the practice of discussing planning applications at relevant Council meetings could convey an erroneous impression to the public of the role of elected members in the statutory process for deciding on planning applications.

Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Ceisteanna (57)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

57. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes priced between €170,000 and €280,000 that will be delivered under the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF. [19786/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The overall aim of the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund is to increase housing supply by removing infrastructural obstacles that were preventing the development of key sites.

I have approved funding of €195 million for 30 public infrastructure projects under the first phase of LIHAF. I expect that these projects will activate delivery of up to 20,000 housing units by 2021. Over 28% of these will be social or affordable homes. A further 28% will have a LIHAF related cost reduction from their normal open market value.

I published details of the 30 approved projects on 28 March 2018, including estimates of unit numbers and indicative prices for the areas, as submitted to my Department by local authorities. This information is available at http://rebuildingireland.ie/lihaf/.

It is not possible to give the Deputy specific details on units in the price range requested, particularly as many of the projects are still progressing through the planning system, and exact details on the breakdown of unit types across projects are not yet available. However, as can be seen in the tabular information published, based on current prices, many of the projects outside Dublin are expected to have housing available in the price bracket identified by the Deputy.

In Dublin, it is expected that there will be a supply of smaller units on many of the sites at prices under €320,000 and in the bracket identified, with the quantum of these homes dependent on the housing mix granted within the planning permissions.

Projects in Dublin, such as those at Adamstown and Kilcarbery, will provide a significant boost to the supply of more affordable homes in Dublin. More generally, the accelerated delivery and scale of the housing supply increase, in terms of the numbers of new homes planned from these sites, will be key to addressing the overall supply issue that is affecting house prices.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (58)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

58. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the social housing delivery targets set for each local authority are a maximum or a minimum to achieve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19812/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

One of the key outcomes of the second Housing Summit that I held with local authority Chief Executives earlier this year was a commitment to drive greater transparency and accountability at individual local authority level on the delivery of the targets under Rebuilding Ireland.

In this regard, I recently wrote to all local authorities setting out their individual social housing targets across build, acquisition and leasing for 2018 and also for 2018-2021. Details of these are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-delivery-targets-for-local-authorities-2018-2021/.

Rebuilding Ireland, together with initiatives announced on foot of the targeted review of progress which was undertaken last year, as well as additional measures announced under Budget 2018, provides a robust framework for addressing the housing and homelessness challenges we face. My Department's focus, and that of all delivery agents, will remain on implementation and delivery to ensure that the range of objectives and targets set are achieved. A wide range of delivery mechanisms and a funding commitment of €6 billion over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland have been put in place to support the achievement of these targets.

Rebuilding Ireland is modelled on blended delivery across the main programmes of build, acquisition and leasing. While it is recognised that the pace of delivery, particularly under build activity, may vary from local authority to local authority, the range of delivery options available, combined with the support structures outlined, provide the necessary resources for local authorities and I expect all stakeholders to be fully mobilised towards meeting the target for 2018, and subsequent years.

The targets set are minimum targets for local authority delivery. I have always been clear that where potential social housing units are available and represent value for money and meet all of the other social housing delivery requirements, my Department will support local authorities to pursue such opportunities to provide additional accommodation for those on local authority housing lists.

Rental Sector

Ceisteanna (59)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

59. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if legislation to outlaw so-called renovictions (details supplied) will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19839/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Security of tenure provisions under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016 apply once a tenant has been in occupation of a dwelling for a continuous period of 6 months, with no notice of termination having been served during that time. On completion of the 6-month occupation, the tenant is entitled to specific protections under the Residential Tenancies Act as long as the tenant complies with their own obligations. One of the protections relates to the tenant’s entitlement to remain in occupation for up to 4 years from the commencement of the tenancy, where the tenancy commenced prior to 24 December 2016, and for up to 6 years, where the tenancy commenced on or after 24 December 2016.

Section 34 of the 2004 Act provides that a landlord must state a reason for the termination of a tenancy in any notice served.

It is important to note that, where a tenancy is terminated for the purposes of substantial refurbishment or renovation, if the property is complete and available for re-let within 6 months of the termination, it must be offered for letting back to the original tenant.

The landlord must confirm that the existing or current tenant has the option of commencing a new tenancy in the refurbished or renovated dwelling, if it becomes available within 6 months from the end of the notice period given (or if there is an RTB dispute on the validity of the notice, within 6 months of the end of that dispute). The duty to offer a new tenancy arises where the tenant has provided contact details.

Where a tenant considers that their tenancy may have been terminated under false pretences, such as, for example, where the reason cited is that the landlord intends to substantially refurbish/renovate, yet the tenant sees the dwelling subsequently advertised for letting with no obvious works having been completed, or is not offered first refusal of the rented dwelling within 6 months of the termination having supplied up-to-date contact details, they can take a case to the RTB. Section 56 of the Residential Tenancies Act provides for the award of damages for abuse of the termination procedure, and the RTB can make a direction that a landlord pay an amount by way of damages for the deprivation of the tenancy and/or may make a direction that the tenant be permitted to resume occupation of the premises.

On 23 November 2017, the RTB published a comprehensive set of guidelines on what constitutes substantial refurbishment or renovation for the purposes of a section 34 ground for tenancy termination. The guidelines are available on the RTB website at the following link: https://onestopshop.rtb.ie/images/uploads/Comms%20and%20Research/RTB_Guidelines_for_good_practice_on_the_substantial_change_exemption_in_Rent_Pressure_Zones.pdf.

I have asked my Department to keep under review whether there is merit in placing these guidelines on a statutory footing.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 43.

Ceisteanna (60)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

60. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to make legislative changes to ensure that persons in receipt of the housing assistance payment, HAP, are kept on the regular social housing list rather than on a transfer list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19867/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (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.

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 43.

Land Availability

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (62)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

62. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will report on the views expressed in his proposal to the public consultation conducted by the Department of Finance on the issue of unused zoned and serviced land which determined that no new tax intended to encourage the development of residentially zoned and serviced land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19863/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department did not make a formal submission in the context of the public consultation held by the Department of Finance referred to by the Deputy.

However, as the Deputy will be aware, the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 introduced the vacant site levy which is aimed at incentivising the development of vacant under-utilised sites in urban areas for residential or regeneration purposes. Under the Act, planning authorities are empowered to apply an annual vacant site levy of 3% of the market value of vacant sites, exceeding 0.05 hectares in area, which, in the planning authority’s opinion, were vacant or idle in the preceding year, in areas identified by the planning authority in its development plan or local area plan for residential or regeneration development.

As announced in 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 along with amendments to other relevant provisions will be tabled by way of Seanad Report Stage amendments to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016, which has recently completed Seanad Committee Stage.

In addition, with a view to addressing the issue of land hoarding, a number of other amendments have been tabled to the Bill, during its passage in the Oireachtas. In this regard, the principal amendment is to provisions relating to the extension of duration of planning permission. The amendment proposed would permit the extension of the duration of a planning permission only where substantial works are carried out during the initial duration of the planning permission and allow for a maximum of two extensions of the duration of a permission, the combined duration of which would not exceed 5 years. This proposed amendment is part of a package of measures which are aimed at combatting land hoarding.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 31.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (64)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

64. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the progress being made to reduce the social housing waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19608/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under Rebuilding Ireland, a total of 50,000 social housing homes will be delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes. In addition to this, 87,000 additional households will be supported through the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). When combined, over 137,000 long term and flexible options will be made available to those on the housing waiting lists under Rebuilding Ireland.

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 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.

I recently wrote to all local authorities setting out their individual social housing targets across build, acquisition and leasing for 2018 and also for 2018-2021. Details of these are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-delivery-targets-for-local-authorities-2018-2021/.

The Government, working with the local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies and other delivery agents, is already exceeding the delivery targets set for the first two years of Rebuilding Ireland. Of the combined target of 137,000 referred to above, just under 45,000 households have had their housing need met by the end of year 2 of the Rebuilding Ireland Plan – 33% of those targeted under the 6 year Plan as a whole.

Detailed data in relation to social housing delivery by each local authority for 2017, including units built directly by local authorities is available on my Department's website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/attachments/1b1-la-bld-by-area_10.xlsx .

My Department will continue to work with local authorities to maximise delivery and also harness appropriate opportunities to deliver on additional build units in 2018, including through turnkey schemes.

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