Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (567)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

567. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21417/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will consider the appeal in light of all the evidence submitted. It is expected that a decision will issue to the person concerned within the next week.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matte for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (568)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

568. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application will be processed for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21418/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for invalidity pension (IP) was received from the gentleman concerned on 04 December 2017. This gentleman is in receipt of a state pension with effect from 17 March 2017 and has been awarded IP with effect from 09 March 2017 to 16 March 2017.

Payment of arrears due from 09 March 2017 to 16 March 2017 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue to his nominated bank account on 17 May 2018. The gentleman in question was notified of this decision on the 11 May 2018.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Rent Pressure Zones

Ceisteanna (569)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

569. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason Limerick city is not designated as a rent pressure zone despite an increase of 17.1% in rents in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20816/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004, as amended, provides that the Housing Agency, in consultation with housing authorities, may make a proposal to the Minister that an area should be considered as a Rent Pressure Zone. Following receipt of such a proposal, the Minister requests the Director of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to conduct an assessment of the area to establish whether or not it meets the criteria for designation and to report to the Minister on whether the area should be designated as a Rent Pressure Zone. For the purpose of the Act, ‘area’ is defined as either the administrative area of a housing authority or a local electoral area within the meaning of section 2 of the Local Government Act 2001. There is no provision for any other type of area to be designated as a Rent Pressure Zone.

For an area to be designated as a Rent Pressure Zone, it must satisfy the following criteria set out in section 24A(4) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as inserted by section 36 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016):

(i) The annual rate of rent inflation in the area must have been 7% or more in four of the last six quarters; and

(ii) The average rent for tenancies registered in the area with the RTB in the last quarter must be above the average national rent (the National Standardised Rent in the RTB’s Rent Index Report) in the last quarter (€1,054 per month in Q4 2017).

On 21 March 2018, the RTB published its Rent Index Report in relation to Quarter 4 2017, which includes a summary of the data used as the criteria for designating Rent Pressure Zones in relation to all Local Electoral Areas in the country. This allows all interested parties to see exactly where their area stands in relation to average rent levels and increases and possible designation.

The data from the Rent Index Report relating to Limerick City are detailed in the following table:

Local Electoral Area

Quarters >7%

Average 2017 Q4

(€)

Limerick City East

3

€1,039.82

Limerick City North

6

€862.98

Limerick City West

4

€961.48

In each of the three Limerick Electoral Areas, the average monthly rent is below the national standardised rent of €1,054 per month. Therefore, none of the Local Electoral Areas of Limerick City met the criteria for designation.

The Housing Agency will continue to monitor the rental market and may recommend further areas for designation. Where, following the procedures set out in the Act, it is found at a future date that additional areas meet the criteria, they will be designated as Rent Pressure Zones.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (570)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

570. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20856/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has no record of contracts for goods or services from DXC Technology in the period since 2010.

The table provides details of payments made in respect of contracts for goods or services from HP Inc. and HP Enterprise since 2010.

My Department has a Memorandum of Understanding in place with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in respect of ICT services and certain goods and services included below were procured on behalf of that Department. The third column shows the amounts recouped from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under this arrangement.

Year

HP Inc.

HP Enterprise

Recoupment from Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

2010

29,170.22

-

-

2011

2,075.63

-

-

2012

70,879.66

-

-

2013

73,521.45

-

-

2014

95,179.18

-

4,789.24

2015

99,537.41

-

29,861.23

2016

----

106,725.50

-

2017

797.79

115,212.21

35,725.24

2018 (to date)

---

112,547.45

33,764.23

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (571)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

571. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason an instruction was issued to local authorities that rural council houses built on sites purchased at a nominal price from the applicants' families should only be built in exceptional circumstances; the number of the circular in which the instruction was given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20882/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As housing authorities, local authorities are responsible for the identification of the social housing need in their area and for the development of appropriate responses to the need identified. No instruction has issued from my Department to local authorities regarding single rural dwellings and such developments can be part of a local authority's social housing construction pipeline, where identified and prioritised by the authority.

Local authorities now have substantial pipelines of new social housing projects, ranging from larger scale developments to single rural dwellings. Details can be seen in the quarterly Social Housing Construction Status Reports published by my Department. The most recently available report sets out the position as at end quarter 4 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/. I am keen that all local authorities advance all projects as speedily as possible and I have assured them that funding is available to fully support their efforts in this regard.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (572)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

572. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the works that have been undertaken in relation to the establishment of an independent planning regulator; when it will be operational; the steps residents or their organisations can take in the interim if they have concerns regarding breaches to development plans or local area plans, LAPs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20891/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016, which provides for the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator, is currently progressing to Report Stage in the Seanad. Once it is enacted, I will be in a position to set an establishment date for the Office.

My Department has been making such preparations in advance of the establishment of the Office as are possible, while awaiting the enactment of the legislation. An implementation plan has been drawn up, funding is in place and a steering group is being set up within the Department to guide the practical set up of the Office. Once appointed, the Regulator will continue the work that my Department has been engaged in to set up the Office.

In relation to potential breaches of development plans, it should be noted that my Department continues to monitor the preparation of plans by local authorities in order to ensure that they are consistent with established national planning policies and legislative requirements. In the case of any identified breaches of national planning policy requirements, I have the authority, under section 31 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, to direct a local authority to take appropriate corrective measures. Section 31 provides for a statutory consultation exercise, including public notices, and the receipt of submissions from the general public before any direction is finalised.

Where a member of the public has a concern about a specific planning decision, they can appeal that planning decision to An Bord Pleanála in the normal way.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (573)

John Curran

Ceist:

573. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons that have been excluded from the homeless housing list by local authority in tabular form as a result of receiving temporary accommodation in private rented houses using emergency accommodation funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20898/18]

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.

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. In two of the regions, individuals and families who were being accommodated in private houses/apartments rented by the local authorities were removed from the March report with the agreement of the relevant authorities. Details of the number of individuals in these properties are set out in the following table:

Region/local Authority

Adults

Dependents

Dublin Region Homeless Executive

39

85

North East Region (Louth)

100

111

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. My Department is continuing to engage with local authorities on this matter.

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.

Social and Affordable Housing Funding

Ceisteanna (574)

John Curran

Ceist:

574. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funding owed by his Department to each local authority for social housing projects in tabular form; the projects and associated funds which have now been owed for more than three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20899/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 239 of 26 April 2018 in which I provided details on housing capital expenditure claims from local authorities being processed by my Department at that stage.

My Department provides funding to local authorities on an ongoing basis as projects are progressed. As such, the position in respect of claims changes constantly as claims are received, validated and processed for payment. Funding only becomes owed to a local authority once all of the necessary documentation has been received and checked and the claims involved are deemed to be in order for payment - the payment processing is then generally completed within a matter of days. If the Deputy is concerned regarding the position concerning a specific claim from a local authority, I will have the matter explored further on receipt of the relevant information.

Total expenditure on capital and current housing programmes to date in 2018 is €468m.

Electoral Register

Ceisteanna (575)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

575. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to bring forward reform in order that persons that are naturalised after the deadline for inclusion in the supplementary register but before polling day can exercise their right to vote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20910/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Eligibility for inclusion in the supplement to the register is determined by eligibility on the date of the application to the registration authority. For practical and administrative reasons there has to be a cut-off point in advance of polling day for the receipt of applications for inclusion in the supplement to the register so that they can be processed by registration authorities.

The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2015 addressed an anomaly that previously prevented naturalised citizens from registering to vote in their capacity as Irish citizens where they had not become citizens by the qualifying date for the register (1 September annually). The 2015 Act enables such naturalised citizens to apply for inclusion in the supplement to the register but they must do so before the closing date that applies generally for inclusion in the supplement.

Mindful of the practical considerations and the need for a cut-off point prior to polling day, I currently have no plans to change electoral law to enable the registration of persons in circumstances where they are naturalised after the deadline for inclusion in the supplement to the register of electors but before polling day.

Water Charges

Ceisteanna (576)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Ceist:

576. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will address a matter (details supplied) raised in correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20918/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I have previously addressed this matter in my reply to Question No. 448 of 1 May 2018.

Article 9 of the Water Framework Directive requires member states to take account of the principle of the recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs, in accordance with the 'polluters pays principle'. Cost recovery must have regard to an economic analysis of the costs associated with the provision of water services, including long-term forecasts undertaken for the purpose of Article 5 and Annex III of the Directive.

Article 9 also sets out the need to ensure adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently, and for an adequate contribution of the different water users (industry, households and agriculture) to the recovery of costs. Furthermore, Article 9 allows members states, where it is established practice, to not apply the provisions of cost recovery where this does not compromise the purpose and objectives of the Directive.

In summary, it is necessary to ensure that cost recovery systems are in place that are adequate to meet the long-term investment needs for the provision of safe drinking water and adequate urban waste water treatment in order to meet required public health and environmental needs, and also that these systems promote efficient water use and avoid wastage.

The recommendations of the special Oireachtas Committee, which provided for the suspension of domestic water charges and the funding of normal domestic water usage through general taxation, including application of an excess charge for water use above an agreed threshold, and the supporting legislation enacted through the Water Services Act 2017 address the requirements of the Directive and, in particular, ensure that water resources will be used efficiently and not wasted.

In relation to the previous River Basin Management Plan which covered the period 2009 to 2015, it gave a commitment to the introduction of legislation that would enable local authorities to charge domestic water users for water services in a manner which provides incentives for efficient water use and which recovers an adequate contribution of the costs of water services. The River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 published recently updates this position by reflecting the legislative position in the Water Services Act 2017.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Ceisteanna (577)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

577. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of recipients of the housing assistance and homeless housing assistance payments by area and household income at the time of entry to the scheme at 12 and 24 months in the scheme as appropriate. [20922/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. It is available in all local authority areas and its introduction now ensures that all social housing supports can be accessed through the local authorities, allowing tenants to take up full-time employment and keep their housing support, subject to adjustment of their differential rent.

The qualification criteria for social housing support are set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and in the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended, and are applied by all housing authorities in assessing individual households for support.

The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe maximum net income limits for eligibility for social housing supports in each housing authority, in different bands according to the area, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy. There are currently three bands – with maximum income limits per individual (main applicant) set at €35,000, €30,000 and €25,000 (the limits are higher for households with multiple adults and with children).

Each housing authority is responsible, under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966, for determining the rent for its dwellings, subject to complying with broad principles laid down by this Department. Authorities set out how their rent is determined in their Differential Rent Schemes, the administration of which is a matter for each housing authority; I as Minister have no role in relation to this matter. The reviewing of local authority housing rents and the collection of rents from tenants is also a matter for individual local authorities.

There are currently over 36,000 households in receipt of HAP and over 20,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. A breakdown of the number of households supported by HAP in each local authority area at the end of Quarter 3 2017 is available on my Department's website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision.

Quarter 4 data will be published on the website shortly.

Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional shared service in respect of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, on behalf of all local authorities. This HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord.

Neither my Department nor the SSC hold details in relation to the household income of HAP recipients.

Housing Agency Data

Ceisteanna (578)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

578. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the types of land controlled or owned by the Housing Agency (details supplied); the amount that is zoned residential; and the local authorities in which the land parcels are located. [20967/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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.

The map is the result of the collation of data by my Department from local authorities, the Housing Agency, and other State and Semi-State bodies. All of the mapped sites can be viewed at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/rebuilding-ireland-land-map/.

The Rebuilding Ireland mapping project is, by its nature, iterative and requires regular updating by local authorities and other land owners to ensure changing circumstances are reflected. In addition, 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 in due course.

The Rebuilding Ireland map represents a vital initial step in shaping and informing a significant policy shift towards maximising the State land potential to contribute to key housing and planning policies such as securing more compact and sustainable growth, as signalled in Project Ireland 2040, which requires significantly more effective land management in key development areas.

Against that background, 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. Detailed arrangements in relation to the functions, powers and mechanisms for the establishment of the Agency are currently being developed by my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, with a view to their finalisation and implementation at the earliest available opportunity.

Vacant Properties

Ceisteanna (579)

John Deasy

Ceist:

579. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if, in the context of the Action Plan for Housing, his Department has reviewed a study (details supplied) which showed there were nearly 1,800 vacant houses and almost 1,500 vacant flats in Waterford city at the time. [20972/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The report referred to was published in October 2013 and my understanding is that the data therein was sourced from the Census of Population 2011.

I note that the results of Census 2016 (which took place on 24 April 2016) show that vacancy levels in urban areas had decreased compared with the previous Census, while in rural areas vacancy generally remains high. The data provided by the Census is a valuable starting point for the work of my Department but as it includes short-term vacancy (e.g. property for sale or between tenancies on the night of the Census) and complex vacancy issues (e.g. probate), it is important to build on that data to derive the more targeted data that local authorities need in order to tackle vacancy effectively.

Waterford City and County Council are particularly proactive regarding vacancy and their housing staff carried out a survey on housing units in 17 small areas in August 2017 to verify the level of vacancy in urban, rural and semi urban areas. In total, 2,039 properties were surveyed and this indicated that 241 properties were vacant. Waterford City and County Council is continuing to engage with owners of those properties to advise on the funding initiatives and schemes available to facilitate the re-introduction of those properties into the liveable housing stock.

My Department is working with the CSO, the Housing Agency and the local government sector to identify the subset of the headline vacancy figures provided by the Census that represent housing units capable of being brought back into use quickly, particularly in areas of high housing need. The key focus is to enable local authorities to quickly identify any vacancy hotspots in their areas so that existing empty housing stock can be re-used and provide much needed homes.

To this end, my Department will shortly be conducting a pilot field survey in specific local authorities, including Waterford City and County Council, based on a uniform methodology developed with the CSO, Housing Agency and the local government sector. This pilot survey will aim to identify vacant homes that are recoverable into the useable housing stock. On completion of the pilot field-based survey and examination of its outputs, consideration will be given to rolling out the survey further across other areas.

Project Ireland 2040 Funding

Ceisteanna (580)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

580. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if Drogheda is eligible to apply for grants which are designed to specifically target urban regeneration in view of the fact that some grants are only available to towns that are classified as hubs and gateways under Project Ireland 2040 and Drogheda is, therefore, excluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21027/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Project Ireland 2040 provides for the establishment of a €3 billion Regeneration and Development Fund: €2 billion for urban regeneration and development purposes, focusing on cities and towns in excess of 10,000 in population, which would include Drogheda, complemented by a €1 billion fund for rural regeneration of smaller towns and villages, which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development.

The €2 billion Urban Regeneration and Development Fund is not restricted to the locations identified as Gateways and Hubs in the previous National Spatial Strategy. It 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 and the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

Ceisteanna (581)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

581. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if legislative changes to a local authority housing scheme (details supplied) are being considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21028/18]

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.

The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015 governing the Scheme provide for a number of specified classes of houses to be excluded from sale, including houses provided to local authorities under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, houses specifically designed for older persons, group Traveller housing and houses provided to facilitate people with disabilities transferring from institutional care to community-based living.

Local authorities may also, within the provisions of the Regulations, exclude certain houses which, in the opinion of the authority, should not be sold for reasons such as proper stock or estate management. It is a matter for each individual local authority to administer the Scheme in its operational area in line with the over-arching provisions of the governing legislation for the scheme, and in a manner appropriate to its housing requirements.

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.

County Development Plans

Ceisteanna (582)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

582. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the county development plan for County Meath will be completed; when the regional social and economic strategies will be completed; the reason the progress on same has been delayed; and the steps he is taking to resolve the issue. [21073/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The completion timeframe for the review of the Meath County Development Plan is a matter for Meath County Council. My Department is aware that the local authority has paused its review of the development plan, pending the completion of a Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) over the remainder of this year, which will act as a key co-ordinating strategy for the various local authority development plans in the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly area.

If the Meath County Development Plan review was to proceed at the current time, it would be developed and consulted upon before the availability of up-to-date detailed demographic and other data which will emanate from the RSES process.

It should also be noted that the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016, which has recently completed Committee Stage in the Seanad, contains a proposed amendment that would in effect allow for the pausing of development plan reviews in certain circumstances, such as have arisen in Meath County Council's case, and require the initiation of reviews of recently adopted development plans to ensure effective alignment of statutory plans at national, regional and local levels.

In the circumstances, Meath County Council was confronted with the choice between proceeding with a review of a development plan without the necessary supporting data and having to review the plan if the proposed amendments in the Planning Bill as outlined above were adopted and ultimately enacted, and putting in place a brief pause while that information is developed and made available.

My Department has been in written communication with Meath County Council on foot of its decision and has acknowledged the practical and strategic policy factors that it has taken into account in coming to its decision.

My Department is also continuing to engage with the three Regional Assemblies on an ongoing basis throughout the formulation and publication of the NPF and preparations of the corresponding RSES. A draft RSES for each of the Regional Assembly Areas is expected to be approved by each Assembly for the purpose of public consultation by June/July 2018, with expected adoption dates of the final RSESs at the start of 2019.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (583, 588)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

583. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason the official information booklet and website published for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme does not clearly state information (details supplied) in relation to the deposit criteria of the home loan application process; if the official information and website will be updated to include same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21130/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

588. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme is excluding persons that may have an insufficient history of saving having secured a deposit sum from relatives and so on; if such exclusions run contrary to the purpose of the scheme and past statements in relation to helping young first-time buyers struggling to secure loans from traditional sources while being in rented accommodation that is costing a significant portion of their earnings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21246/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 583 and 588 together.

The new Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan Scheme is designed to enable credit worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first-time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise have been able to afford at a higher interest rate.

To support prudential lending and consistency of treatment for borrowers, a Loan to Value ratio of 90% applies to the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan as per the Central Bank's prudential lending guidelines. Therefore, in order to avail of the loan, applicants must have a deposit equivalent to 10% of the market value of the property.

Applicants must provide bank or similar statements (such as post office, credit union etc.) for a 12-month period immediately prior to making an application, clearly showing a credible and consistent track record of savings. The cash savings should be no less than 3% of the market value of the property. Gifts are permissible up to 7% of the market value of the property, where their source is verified.

Exceptions to the above can be made where an applicant/applicants can clearly demonstrate a consistent and credible record of savings or rent payment through their bank account which at a minimum is equal to:

- In the case of a fixed rate loan, the proposed monthly loan repayment, or

- In the case of a variable rate loan, the proposed stress-tested monthly loan repayment.

For prospective purchasers of newly-built properties, the availability, through the Revenue Commissioners, of the Help to Buy Initiative for first-time buyers may provide additional assistance to prospective applicants for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.

Regarding the information available to prospective applicants on the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan website, I am aware of issues concerning the inclusion of the specific deposit requirements on the website. I have recently met with the Chief Executives of the two main agencies involved in the implementation of the scheme, the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency, and I have requested that they address a number of issues to improve the operation of the scheme, including the provision of additional information on-line in relation to the deposit requirements of the scheme. This will give potential applicants a clearer indication of the deposit amount that they are required to have under the terms of the scheme.

Local Authority Members

Ceisteanna (584)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

584. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason for setting the number of councillors to be returned to Cork City Council at 31 in the terms of reference to boundary committee no. 2 in view of facts (details supplied). [21145/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The number of elected members for each local authority area is set out in Schedule 7 of the Local Government Act 2001, as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014. The reviews of local electoral areas now underway are based on there being no change in the total number of elected members in any of the thirty-one local authorities.

In the case of Cork specifically, I understand that the change in the population of the city and county that will arise from the proposed boundary alteration will result in the ratio of population to councillors being broadly similar in both local authorities, whereas currently the ratio in the county is much higher than in the city.