Social and Affordable Housing Funding

Ceisteanna (302)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

302. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a decision has been made on a turnkey housing application by a person (details supplied); if a stage payment arrangement can be put in place to deliver the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20592/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The local authority in this case recently sought funding approval from my Department for this social housing turnkey project, following successful negotiations with the developer, and that funding approval has been given.  As is standard with turnkey projects, the majority of the payment, apart from an initial deposit, is on completion of the housing units in a 'turnkey' condition.  I understand that the local authority would have an interest in the 'staged delivery' of this project if possible, which would both allow early delivery of some of the housing units and also early payment to the developer on completion of such units.

Housing Estates

Ceisteanna (303)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

303. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the preparation and finalisation of a national protocol with regard to taking estates served by developer-provided infrastructure, DPI, in charge will be finalised in order that local authorities can proceed to take these estates in charge (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20601/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The taking-in-charge of housing developments is a matter for the relevant local authority under section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended). My Department launched the National Taking-in-Charge Initiative (NTICI) in April 2016 to trial new approaches and working methods in supporting and accelerating overall national and local action on the taking-in-charge process of housing estates, including estates with developer-provided water services infrastructure (DPI).

Under the terms of the NTICI, which was underpinned by €10m in funding, developments subject to valid taking-in-charge applications, were eligible for inclusion in the call for funding proposals under Circular FPS 3/2016, which is available at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/circular_fps3_2016_national_taking_in_charge_initiative_3.pdf.

Findings and recommendations from the NTICI process will be included in a report on the initiative that I intend to publish shortly. The publication of the NTICI report will be of value to local authorities and other stakeholders in applying the lessons from the pilot authorities, in a more general roll-out of a streamlined approach to taking-in-charge.

The recently published National Development Plan includes provision of €31 million for the period 2018-2021 for developer-provided infrastructure. This is clear evidence of the Government's commitment to transition from the pilot phase under NTICI to a programme phase, commencing with an estimates provision of €3m in 2018 on which further details will be announced in due course.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (304)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

304. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of employees within his Department in receipt of a salary below the living wage of €11.70 per hour. [20618/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Payment of salaries to staff of my Department is made in line with pay scales approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Currently, there are two members of staff in my Department earning a salary below the amount of €11.70 per hour.  This figure will reduce as and when the staff concerned progress along an incremental scale.

Departmental Agencies Staff Data

Ceisteanna (305, 306)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

305. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the disaggregation of salary scales or levels among agency workers within or through his Department. [20624/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

306. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of workers employed through his Department under the status of agency worker. [20630/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305 and 306 together.

My Department does not employ agency staff. Accordingly, the issues raised do not arise.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (307)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

307. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there is funding or exemptions available to convert a shop into an apartment or housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20649/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Action 5.9 of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness and Action 6 of the Action Plan for Rural Development committed to reviewing planning legislation to allow the change of use of vacant commercial units in urban areas, including vacant or under-utilised areas over ground-floor premises, into residential units without having to go through the planning process. To give effect to this action, my Department brought forward the necessary revisions to the planning regulations through the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2018 which were signed and brought into operation on 8 February 2018.  A copy of the Regulations is available on the Irish Statute Book website at the following link:

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2018/si/30/made/en/pdf.

The planning exemptions under these Regulations operate for a limited period until 31 December 2021 and apply to commercial buildings which have been lying vacant for at least 2 years.  The exemptions relate primarily to works to the interior of such buildings and a number of restrictions apply to these works, including that a maximum of 9 residential units can be provided in any one building, and that certain minimum standards relating to floor areas, storage space and the provision of natural light are met for each unit.  In addition, development works undertaken need to comply with the requirements of the Building Control Regulations, such as fire safety, structural stability and ventilation etc.  Additional work is also underway on further streamlining, and providing guidance on, the building control regulatory requirements in relation to the conversion of vacant premises (including vacant over the shops spaces) into residential use. 

In the event that a converted property was to be made available for social housing, it may be eligible for funding under the Repair and Lease Scheme.  A property owner can obtain further information in this regard from their local authority.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

Ceisteanna (308)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

308. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will publish the new tenant purchase scheme without further delay. [20676/18]

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.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (309)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

309. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of staff engaged in the housing delivery office per annum since its establishment; the average length of service in the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20689/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In line with the commitment under Action 2.9 of Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, a dedicated Housing Delivery Office (HDO) was established within my Department, in August 2016, to support the accelerated delivery of housing across the social and private sectors, and tenure spectrum, in an integrated and timely manner. Working with the broader Housing and Planning Divisions in my Department, other key agencies, local authorities and the construction sector, the HDO supports the roll-out of complex projects, including identifying and resolving barriers to delivery, and monitors progress across key sites as they progress.

At the time of its establishment, the HDO comprised a team of 4 people with extensive expertise in project management, finance, planning and local government, including staff seconded from the local government sector and the National Development Finance Agency. Having carried out a range of initial initiatives, and taking account of the fact that some assignments to the office were time-limited, the HDO was refocused in September 2017 to work more closely on supporting local housing delivery and land management. In that context, the current team of 3, with service ranging from 3 to 20 months, works closely with the extensive range of highly experienced officers within the wider housing and planning areas of my Department and local authorities, across key disciplines such as architecture, planning, engineering and building control, project and construction management, quantity surveying, capital programme delivery and administration. As with all critical areas of activity in my Department, the resources available to the HDO are kept under regular review in the context of ongoing evolution of the Office's role.

Rental Sector

Ceisteanna (310)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

310. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding his plans for a national deposit scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20692/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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

There have been significant changes in the rental market since the 2015 scheme was first envisaged and designed. For example, the draft scheme was originally intended to be financed by the interest payable on deposits lodged; this is no longer viable, given current financial market conditions. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that disputes relating to deposits are no longer the most common dispute type referred to the RTB.

Financing the operation of the scheme is an important consideration, particularly in terms of ensuring that the likely outcomes of a new scheme are achieved efficiently and effectively and that the best value from public funds is secured. Careful consideration is therefore required to introduce any necessary reforms and enhancements to the 2015 scheme, with a view to considering whether and how to introduce a re-designed scheme that is fit for purpose and suitable for current and future rental and financial markets. 

On foot of the consideration of the existing provisions and other matters, I anticipate that any necessary legislative changes can be progressed through the Oireachtas later this year.

Homeless Persons Data

Ceisteanna (311)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

311. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the criteria used to calculate homelessness figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20693/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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, are published on my Department's website and can be accessed using the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/homelessness/other/homelessness-data.

As the Deputy will be aware, 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 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.

Housing Assistance Payment Administration

Ceisteanna (312)

John Brassil

Ceist:

312. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the rent caps for the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme will be reviewed and revised up to reflect the increase in average rental prices across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20697/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The HAP rent limits were increased significantly in July 2016, including by up to 60% in some areas. The Government also provided flexibility to each local authority to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the maximum rent limit, where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions.

Additional discretion of up to 50% above rent limits is available to assist in housing homeless households in the Dublin Region. The additional discretion available to homeless households recognises the difficulty this cohort of households face in sourcing and securing properties in a highly competitive rental market.

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. In those cases, the average rate of discretionary payment being used was 15.2% above rent limits provided. Data for Q1 2018 will shortly be available.

The available data indicates that there is no need to increase the rent limits at this time - indeed any such increase could have negative inflationary impacts. I am satisfied that, in general, the HAP scheme continues to operate well in a challenging rental market, but I will continue to keep the matter under review.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (313)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

313. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons that have applied to Westmeath County Council for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan; the number approved; the eligibility criteria; if they are uniformly applied across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20788/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 89 of 8 May 2018.

The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its Credit Committee on a case-by-case basis.  Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants.  Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee may appeal that decision to the local authority.  Details of the appeals process can be obtained from the relevant local authority. 

Details of eligibility criteria and other useful background information can be found on the dedicated website: http://rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie/eligibility/.