Carer's Allowance Data

Ceisteanna (216)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

216. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of carer's allowance applications in 2017; the number approved originally; the number refused and subsequently approved under review; the number approved under appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27102/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The following are the numbers of Carer’s Allowance applications made in 2017 (‘registered’), the number of claims awarded in the year (‘awarded’), and the number of applications rejected in the year (‘rejected’). Note that some of the awarded and rejected outcomes are in respect of claims registered prior to 2017, and that the same claim may appear in both the ‘awarded’ and ‘rejected’ columns in some instances.

Carer’s Allowance applications, full year 2017

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

23,800

17,290

8,599

62.8% of the 3,416 carer’s allowance appeals which were finalised in 2017 had a favourable outcome for the appellant, i.e. they were either allowed in full or in part, or resolved by way of a revised decision by a Deciding Officer/Designated Person. This is marginally higher than the overall favourable outcome rate of 60.1% for the total of 23,220 appeals which were finalised in 2017 in respect of all social welfare payments.

There are a number of reasons a decision which was refused at first instance might be successful on appeal and it is not necessarily the case that the first decision was wrong.

Where new evidence is provided with an appeal, the original decision may be revised by the Deciding Officer or Designated Person. This is particularly the case in appeals relating to illness and disability payments as appellants routinely supply additional medical evidence which they did not submit to the Department at initial claim or review stage.

This was the case in 36.4% of favourable carer’s allowance appeal outcomes in 2017.

Where the decision is not revised in the Department in light of the appeal contentions, further evidence is often provided by the appellant as the appeal process proceeds. In addition, the Appeals Officer may gain insights when they meet the appellant in person at oral hearing which may also influence the outcome of the appeal.

Favourable Appeal Outcomes 2017

Appeal Receipts

Revised Deciding Officers

Decisions

Allowed by Appeals Officer

Partly Allowed by Appeals Officer

Total Favourable

Decisions

Carers Allowance

3,200

780

1,204

161

2,145

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Ceisteanna (217)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

217. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of invalidity and disability payment applications in 2017; the number approved originally; the number refused and subsequently approved under review; the number approved under appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27120/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The following are the numbers of Carer’s Allowance applications made in 2017 (‘registered’), the number of claims awarded in the year (‘awarded’), and the number of applications rejected in the year (‘rejected’). Note that some of the awarded and rejected outcomes are in respect of claims registered prior to 2017, and that the same claim may appear in both the ‘awarded’ and ‘rejected’ columns in some instances.

Invalidity Pension and Disability Allowance applications, full year 2017

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

Invalidity Pension

10,458

8,976

4,579

Disability Allowance

23,657

17,469

12,022

73.1% of the 1,348 Invalidity Pension appeals which were finalised in 2017 had a favourable outcome for the appellant, i.e. they were either allowed in full or in part, or resolved by way of a revised decision by a Deciding Officer/Designated Person. Meanwhile, 73.1% of the 4,934 Disability Allowance appeals which were finalised in 2017 had a favourable outcome for the appellant.

These rates are higher than the overall 60.1% favourable outcome rate for the 23,220 appeals which were finalised in 2017 in respect of all social welfare payments.

There are a number of reasons a decision which was refused at first instance might be successful on appeal and it is not necessarily the case that the first decision was wrong.

Where new evidence is provided with an appeal, the original decision may be revised by the Deciding Officer or Designated Person. This is particularly the case in appeals relating to illness and disability payments as appellants routinely supply additional medical evidence which they did not submit to the Department at initial claim or review stage.

This was the case in 65% of favourable invalidity pension appeal outcomes and 15.6% of favourable disability allowance appeal outcomes in 2017.

Where the decision is not revised in the Department in light of the appeal contentions, further evidence is often provided by the appellant as the appeal process proceeds. In addition, the Appeals Officer may gain insights when they meet the appellant in person at oral hearing which may also influence the outcome of the appeal.

Favourable Appeal Outcomes 2017

Appeal Receipts

Revised Deciding Officers

Decisions

Allowed by Appeals Officer

Partly Allowed by Appeals Officer

Total Favourable

Decisions

Invalidity Pension

1,381

691

365

7

1,063

Disability Allowance

5,077

563

2,975

70

3,608

Irish Water Funding

Ceisteanna (218, 235)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

218. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the additional funding which will be allocated to Irish Water in 2018 to address curtailed upgrades of water infrastructure including the continuing discharge of raw sewage into the sea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27034/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

235. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which Irish Water has access to sufficient capital to ensure adequate investment in the infrastructure in respect of water and wastewater; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27084/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 235 together.

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels.  Irish Water’s primary function is to provide clean safe drinking water to customers and to treat and return wastewater safely to the environment.  In providing these critical services Irish Water plays a role in enabling social and economic growth, protecting the environment and the health and safety of the public. 

The report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services published in April 2017 and approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas together with the Government approved recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, primarily involve, inter alia, all State funding to Irish Water in respect of domestic water services, as determined through the regulatory process, being channelled in future through my Department's Vote.  The future funding of Irish Water in respect of domestic water services will therefore be from general taxation, in the form of a payment for domestic water services, based on the purchase of water covering the entirety of domestic water consumption, other than excessive use, and a contribution to replace the financing of the domestic component of capital investment previously funded by debt and a capital contribution from Central Funds. 

Irish Water is being provided with a funding provision of €1.1 billion through my Department’s Vote in 2018 to meet the cost of domestic water services, of which €500m relates to capital investment, the latter representing the major component of the overall planned capital investment of over €600m in cash terms by Irish Water in 2018. 

The first ever Water Services Policy Statement, prepared in line with the Water Services Acts, which I launched on 21 May 2018, outlines a clear direction to strategic planning and decision making on water and wastewater services in Ireland.  It identifies key policy objectives and priorities for the delivery of water and wastewater services in Ireland over the period to 2025.  The Water Services Policy Statement sets out a series of high-level policy objectives across the three thematic areas of Quality, Conservation, and Future Proofing, which must be pursued when planning capital investment and framing current spending plans.  It will provide the context within which necessary funding and investment plans by Irish Water will be framed and agreed. 

On foot of this Water Services Policy Statement, Irish Water’s forthcoming Strategic Funding Plan will set out the costs of providing domestic and non-domestic water services and the recovery of those costs. It will distinguish between operational and capital expenditure, and provide projections of income over the multi-annual period 2020-2024 inclusive, which will align with the next full regulatory period.  Subject to my approval of the Strategic Funding Plan, it will feed into the allowed revenue determination for Irish Water by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), as the economic regulator of Irish Water, and ultimately feed into future annual estimates and budgetary processes. 

Irish Water’s next Investment Plan for the five year period from 2020 to 2024 will set out the financial plan for capital investments to support its strategic objectives, as set out in the Water Services Strategic Plan and the forthcoming Strategic Funding Plan, to deliver improvements to water services throughout Ireland where they are needed most.  Irish Water’s Water Services Strategic Plan (WSSP) published in October 2015 already sets out a high level strategy over 25 years to ensure the provision of clean safe drinking water, effective management of wastewater, environmental protection and support for economic and social development. 

Irish Water will also take account of developing subsidiary programmes within its investment plan to assist in implementing the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan, including the forthcoming Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies as well as ongoing reviews of County Development Plans and Local Area Plans. 

Irish Water continues to develop and implement a long-term investment perspective in order to strategically address the deficiencies in the public water and wastewater system.  The utility is implementing the capital investment programme which prioritises investment decisions to ensure that it utilises available funding most effectively by making investments that deliver the best possible improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure and services, while maximising value for money. 

A substantial proportion of investment by the State through Irish Water over the next ten years will be focused on programmes to improve compliance with relevant public health and environmental standards.  This will involve implementation of the measures contained within the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 and the achievement of the outcomes identified.  

Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives.  The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Housing Policy

Questions Nos. 220 and 221 answered with Question No. 80.

Ceisteanna (219)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

219. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the cost rental pilot project has gone out to tender; when construction is due to begin; the number of units due to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26725/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 603 of 19 June 2018, which sets out the position in relation to this matter.

Questions Nos. 220 and 221 answered with Question No. 80.

Maritime Spatial Planning

Ceisteanna (222)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

222. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding the timeline for implementation and extent of marine protected areas. [23799/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I am committed to introducing enabling legislation to provide for the formal creation and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).  It is intended to bring forward legislation for the designation and protection of MPAs once the legislative work on the prohibition of microbeads plastics has been completed.

I also intend to establish an expert advisory group whose terms of reference will include the development of a process for the identification, designation and recommendation of candidate marine areas which require protection.  Work is ongoing to determine the appropriate composition of the group and relevant selection criteria and I anticipate that a broad range of relevant stakeholders will be represented.  It is envisaged that the input of specialist experts from Government Departments, State agencies, the environmental NGO community and academia will be invited as well as that of commercial and recreational users of the marine space. Once established, this expert group will assist me in establishing the designation of various types of MPAs by Regulation, including their geographical delineation and the provision of the necessary special protection measures required for each MPA.   

A significant number of protected areas have already been designated under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. These include a number of special areas of conservation and special protected areas. The proposed legislation intends that new types of marine spatial protection measures will be added to the existing measures and, over time, provide for the designation of a coherent and representative network of marine protected areas.  

I am not therefore in a position to advise on the exact timeline or total extent of MPAs to be designated at this point in time but confirm that once the immediate work in relation to the drafting and implementation of the microbeads legislation is complete, legislation on MPAs will be advanced.

Solar Energy Guidelines

Ceisteanna (223, 224)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

223. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the regulations by which planning permissions for commercial solar energy installations are assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23916/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

224. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his Department is formulating regulations regarding the construction of solar power projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23915/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 224 together.

There are no specific planning guidelines in place in respect of solar farms. Proposals for individual solar farm developments are subject to the statutory requirements of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) in the same manner as other proposed developments. Planning applications are made to the relevant local planning authority with a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Under the Act, each planning authority's development plan must set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned. Section 10 of the Act requires a development plan to include, inter alia, objectives for the provision or facilitation of the provision of infrastructure, including energy facilities, and many local authorities have developed renewable energy strategies for their areas in this context.

In making decisions on planning applications, planning authorities and the Board must consider the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, having regard to the provisions of the local development plan, any submissions or observations received and relevant Ministerial or Government policies, including any relevant guidelines issued by my Department. Planning authorities must then make their own decisions based on the specific merits or otherwise of individual planning applications. 

While I am satisfied that the planning code is sufficiently robust to facilitate the assessment of individual planning permission applications for solar farm developments, I have indicated that I will keep the matter under review, in consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, and his Department which leads on renewable energy policy.

In this regard, our two Departments are exploring the potential for enhancing national planning guidance on solar energy, taking account of solar energy projects being assessed by planning authorities and the scope for future development of the sector in the context of developing renewable energy policy.  On foot of this engagement between our two Departments, where the need for specific planning guidance for solar farms is identified, my Department will develop such guidance as deemed appropriate.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (225)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

225. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the proposed affordable housing scheme; when details of and the opening of the scheme will be announced; if an affordable housing scheme will be operated in Galway city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26943/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 25 and 26 on today's Order Paper, which broadly sets out the position in relation to this matter.

In addition, before embarking on the development an affordable purchase or rental programme, it is important that local authorities carry out a fundamental economic and financial assessment of the housing purchase and rental markets in their respective functional areas, working with my Department and the Housing Agency to assess what affordability intervention, if any, is warranted.

I will shortly be issuing guidance to local authorities in this regard.

Student Accommodation

Question No. 227 answered with Question No. 75.

Ceisteanna (226)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

226. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the aids, incentives or grants available for the provision of low density student accommodation at private residences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26944/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department does not provide direct financial aid, incentives or grants for the provision of student accommodation at private residences.

However, under Action 4.10 of Rebuilding Ireland which is also mirrored in Action 18 of the National Student Accommodation Strategy, which relates to the provision of student accommodation, my Department and the Department of Education and Skills provide funding to the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) to support ongoing activities and programmes aimed at assisting students in finding accommodation and towards the administrative/research costs associated with identifying appropriate accommodation.  

This funding also provides for the USI-led ‘Homes for Study’ campaign. This initiative essentially funds a website and activities to match students with accommodation in the form of rooms in private houses. 

In addition, under the general ‘rent-a-room’ scheme, an exemption for up to €14,000 in rental income per annum for homeowners is available.  Further information on the 'Homes for Study' initiative is available at the following link: homes.usi.ie/.

Question No. 227 answered with Question No. 75.

Weather Events Response

Ceisteanna (228)

John Deasy

Ceist:

228. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the emergency funding applied for by Waterford City and County Council to repair damage incurred during Storm Emma will be forthcoming. [26951/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The recoupment of unbudgeted expenditure by local authorities related to response and clean-up activities associated with severe weather and flooding has been established practice since the severe flooding that affected the country in 2009 and is seen as an important enabler of an effective and prompt local authority response. A total of €1.772m has been made available to Waterford City and County Council for this purpose since 2009.

My Department wrote to all local authorities on 29 March this year inviting claims for recoupment of the exceptional costs associated with the response to and clean-up following the severe cold weather and snow that affected the country from 23 February to 5 March this year.

Claims have now been received from the local authorities including Waterford City and County Council and are currently being examined between my Department and local authorities, a process which it is expected will be completed next month, after which recoupment to individual local authorities will be made.

Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee Report

Ceisteanna (229)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

229. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when an order under section 23 of the Local Government Act 2001 will be issued to establish new local electoral areas; his plans to make changes separate from the relevant Boundary Commission report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27002/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I established two independent Local Electoral Area Boundary Committees on 13 December 2017 to review and make recommendations on local electoral areas having regard to, among other things, the results of Census 2016 as well as the commitment to consider reducing the size of territorially large local electoral areas as set out in A Programme for Partnership Government (May 2016).  The Committees were tasked with reporting to me within six months of their establishment and, last week, I received both reports within the required timeframe.  These reports are now published on my Department's website at the following links:

Boundary Report 1

Boundary Report 2

Work will now commence within my Department on the preparation of the necessary orders to give effect to the Committees' recommendations in relation to local electoral areas.  It is anticipated that these orders will be made in the Autumn of this year.  The local electoral areas to be specified in these orders, and the number of members to be elected for each electoral area, will apply at the next local elections which are due to be held in late May 2019 in tandem with the elections for the 2019-2024 European Parliament.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

Ceisteanna (230)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

230. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the legislation for improvements he is planning in relation to the estate management and housing maintenance functions of the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27038/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The responsibilities of local authorities in relation to estate management and housing maintenance are set out in the Housing Act 1966 and I have no plans at present for further legislation in this area.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (231)

John Lahart

Ceist:

231. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the fact that a person (details supplied) who has been on the housing list of a local authority and then moved to the housing list of a different local authority loses all the time built up on the waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27061/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In accordance with Regulation 5 of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 (as amended), a household may apply for social housing support to one housing authority only, which may be the authority for the area in which the household normally resides or with which it has a local connection, or the authority that agrees, at its discretion, to assess the household for support. 

In determining whether a household has a local connection with its area, a housing authority must have regard to whether a household member:

- lived in the area for a continuous five- year period at any time in the past,

- is employed in the area or within 15 km of the area,

- is in full-time education, or attending specialist medical care in the area, or

- has a relative (defined in the Regulations) living in the area for two years or longer.

A household meeting either the residence or local connection criteria may specify up to three areas of choice for receipt of support and, if qualified, will be entered on the housing waiting list.

As indicated above, it is not possible for a household to apply to more than one housing authority for social housing support at a time. Furthermore, it is not possible for a household on the waiting list of one housing authority to transfer its application to another authority and to carry the time spent on the previous list.

 As part of the broader Social Housing Reform agenda, my Department is examining ways of creating a more flexible and responsive system of housing support. The issue of allowing households scope to move between local authority housing lists will be looked at in this context.

Land Availability

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 218.

Ceisteanna (232, 233, 234)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

232. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the degree to which he has sought or received from each local authority an indication of the availability of building lands for immediate housing purposes within each such administrative area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27081/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

233. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which he has sought and received information relating to the land banks owned by various local authorities; the extent to which local authorities have utilised the land in their possession for housing purposes in view of the urgency of the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27082/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

234. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if local authorities have sought additional capital for the acquisition of building lands on which it may be proposed to build local authority houses as opposed to through the aegis of approved housing bodies; the degree to which previous owned local authority lands have been utilised exclusively for local authority house building purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27083/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 to 234, inclusive, together.

I refer to my reply to Question No. 51, Reference No. 21671, on today's Order Paper which broadly set out the position in relation to this matter.

In addition, as part of the development of their ambitious multi-annual housing programmes, local authorities are required to consider the availability of land for housing in their area. Having identified a need to acquire additional lands, local authorities may seek to borrow the required finance from the Housing Finance Agency. My Department then recoups the land costs and any associated loan interest charges to the local authority, as part of the normal social housing project approval process. 

In accordance with Section 106 of the Local Government Act 2001, as amended, the decision to borrow is a reserved function of the elected members of the local authority concerned, who have direct responsibility in law for all reserved functions and are accountable for all expenditure by the local authority.  As such, it is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary process, having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources.

Section 106 of the Act also provides that local authorities must obtain the consent of the appropriate Minister to undertake borrowing. In this regard, sanction to borrow for housing land acquisition is submitted by the local authority to my Department, who provide an assessment of the financial viability of potential loans insofar as individual local authorities are concerned, and an assessment as to whether the borrowing can be accommodated within the context of the fiscal rules. My Department is currently reviewing that loan approval process. 

Finally, as regards housing delivery more broadly, the Residential Land Availability Survey 2014, published in February 2015, determined the location and quantity of lands that may be regarded as being undeveloped and available for residential development purposes at 31 March 2014 in each local authority area.  This survey measured the total amount of lands, whether owned privately or by the local authority, that have been identified for housing development in the various local authority development plans and that are the highest priority for development.

The area of such lands amounted to 17,434 hectares which, given a range of densities appropriate to whether the areas are in small villages or larger towns and cities and as determined by the relevant local authorities, could support the construction of over 414,000 dwellings.  On that basis, I am satisfied that adequate lands are available to facilitate residential development in line with Rebuilding Ireland. The Residential Land Availability Survey 2014 is available on my Department’s website at:  http://www.environ.ie/planning/residential-land-availability/residential-land-availability-survey.

A further Residential Land Availability Survey will be undertaken in due course.

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 218.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (236)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

236. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the building of sufficient rapid build homes will be authorised to deal with the emergency housing problem now emerging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27086/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is working closely with all local authorities in relation to increasing and accelerating the delivery of a range of social housing programmes and supports, including through the use of rapid build methodologies.   

Local authorities have been advised that rapid build approaches should increasingly become the norm in terms of delivering social housing projects; ultimately, we will likely reach a point where there will be no differentiation between traditional and rapid build approaches.  

Dublin City Council is also 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.  

To support delivery, the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) put in place a framework of Rapid Delivery contractors in 2017. This framework is available for all Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to use 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 and AHBs have also been asked to consider, in particular, schemes which are suitable for early commencement, particularly in terms of their approved planning status. 

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.    

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.

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 Q1 2018 report will be published shortly.

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

Local Authority Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (237)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

237. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the income limits appertaining to eligibility for local authority houses and loans will be revised upwards in view of the extent to which such applicants are excluded and forced into the private rental market which they cannot afford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27087/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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

The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.

As part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports has commenced. The Housing Agency is carrying out the detailed statistical work on behalf of my Department and I expect the results of this review to be available for publication in late Summer 2018.

Following a review of the two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, on 1 February 2018, a new loan offering, known as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was launched.  The new loan enables creditworthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range.  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 be able to afford at a higher interest rate.

The income limits which are set out in the Housing (Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans) Regulations 2018 state that single applicants for the loan must not be earning greater than €50,000 gross per annum.  The combined income of joint applicants must not be greater than €75,000 per annum.  There are no set minimum income limits; however, applicants do need to have sufficient borrowing and repayment capacity and must be capable of repaying the mortgage in accordance with the statutory credit policy underpinning the loan.  These income limits are unchanged from the previous local authority loan offerings.

Full details of the loan's eligibility criteria and other information is available from the dedicated Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan website: http://rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie/. 

Any person who meets the eligibility criteria may apply for a loan regardless of whether or not they are on the local authority housing list or qualified for social housing support.

Building Regulations

Ceisteanna (238, 239, 240, 241)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

238. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if, in the context of providing a redress scheme for persons that have found themselves living in poorly built houses or houses not compliant with the standards applicable, it will be ensured that the construction industry, the insurance sector and planning authorities accept their share of the responsibility in view of the fact that fire and building regulations need to be observed and applied at all times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27088/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

239. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of instances in which failure to comply with fire and building regulations have been identified in housing schemes constructed during the boom period; his views on whether each of the participating bodies including the construction sector, the insurance sector and the local authorities have a precise role and responsibility which must be observed at all times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27089/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

240. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he is satisfied that adequate structural guarantees now exist in the building sector to protect the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27090/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

241. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which building control and fire regulations were ignored during the boom period; the means by which it is expected to address the issue with a view to protecting the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27091/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 to 241, inclusive, together.

In response to the emergence of building defects in dwellings, my Department and representatives from the local government sector reviewed the existing building control regulatory framework, in collaboration and consultation with industry stakeholders. This has led to a multi-faceted Building Control Reform Agenda, which commenced implementation in 2014 with the introduction of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014.

Under these Regulations, the owner of a building must assign competent persons to design, build, inspect and certify building works he/she has commissioned. They in turn, must account for their contribution through the lodgement of compliance documentation, inspection plans and statutory certificates. The roles and responsibilities of owners, designers, builders, assigned certifiers, etc. during building works are set out in the Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works, which is available at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/2016-10-21_code_of_practice_for_inspecting_and_certifying_buildings_and_works_final_version.pdf. This has brought clarity and accountability, a focus on compliance with Building Regulations and a new order to bear on construction projects.

Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities, who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts and who are independent in the use of their statutory powers.

The National Building Control Management Project (NBCMP) was set up to provide centralised oversight, direction and support for the development, standardisation and implementation of building control as an effective shared service in the 31 Building Control Authorities. Under this project, the Building Control Management System (BCMS) was developed and rolled out. A Framework for Building Control Authorities was prepared to standardise work practices. A compliance support facility has been established and a training programme is being developed. Also, and most fundamentally, steps are in place for the continued strengthening of the inspection regime in Building Control Authorities to carry out meaningful risk-based targeted inspections of building works.

The Government has also approved the General Scheme of the Building Control (Construction Industry Register) Bill to establish a mandatory statutory register for builders and specialist sub-contractors. The main objective of the Bill is to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with the Building Regulations within the Builder community of the construction sector. The establishment of a robust, mandatory, statutory register of builders and specialist sub-contractors provides consumers with assurance that they are dealing with competent and compliant operators. 

These reforms have already brought, and, through their full implementation, will continue to bring, a new order and discipline to bear on construction projects, creating an enhanced culture of compliance with the Building Regulations.

The reduced risk of defective buildings has provided insurance underwriters with sufficient confidence to introduce new latent defect type products in Ireland, despite a general retrenchment and conservatism in the wider insurance industry. These new products are first party insurance policies which cover damage and breaches of building regulations claims, to varying degrees. This means that the purchaser does not have to make a claim through the builder but can submit a claim directly to the insurer. This would be of particular benefit to a homeowner in circumstances where the builder or developer has ceased trading.

My Department is planning to engage further with Departments and Agencies with responsibility for insurance and consumer protection and industry stakeholders in order to ensure that homeowners and buyers are aware of products and options that are available to them when purchasing a new home.

However, it is important to note that under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. As such, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. It is incumbent on the parties responsible for poor workmanship and/or the supply of defective materials to face up to their responsibilities and take appropriate action to provide remedies for the affected homeowners.

My Department does not hold a central record of building failures that have emerged. However, the Government has supported homeowners through a number of expert reports and investigations into legacy problems such as the Report of the Pyrite Panel (June 2012) and the Report of the Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks (June 2017). I also published a Framework for Enhancing Fire Safety in Dwellings (August 2017), which is intended to be used as a guide by the owners and occupants of dwellings where fire safety deficiencies have been identified, or are a cause for concern.

Where apartment buildings that are defective from a fire safety perspective come to the attention of the local authority fire services, they work with management companies and other stakeholders to ensure that appropriate levels of fire safety are achieved to minimise the risk to life. Actions are taken on the basis of case by case fire safety assessments.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and in recognition of fears expressed for fire safety, the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department was tasked with co-ordinating a high-level Task Force to lead a re-appraisal of fire safety in Ireland.  The Task Force's report, which was published recently, is available at the following link:

Report of the Fire Safety Task Force

The report makes a number of recommendations in relation to fire safety in apartment buildings, including, including: 

- the registration of fire stopping sub-contractors;

- the roles and responsibilities of Building Management Companies e.g. to review and maintain fire safety arrangements, to keep a Fire Safety Register, to advise residents on what to do in the event of a fire alarm (in particular the evacuation arrangements); and

- that local authority Fire Services should offer training to Building Management Companies on key life safety issues.

The National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management has been mandated to carry through the recommendations of the report which are within my Department's remit and to oversee and report on the implementation of the report's other recommendations.