Question No. 217 answered with Question No. 210.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (218)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

218. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of an application by persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17053/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is provided by local authorities in accordance with the Housing (Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans) Regulations 2018, which broadly set out the eligibility criteria to avail of the loans as well as the obligations of the local authorities and duties of borrowers in respect of the Scheme. In accordance with the regulations, as Minister, I have issued a statutory credit policy which obliges each local authority to establish a credit committee to assess and decide on applications and an appeals mechanism for those who are not satisfied with a decision of the credit committee.

To support local authorities in operating the Scheme the Housing Agency provides a central assessment service to the authorities and makes recommendations to them in respect of each application submitted to it.  The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its credit committee to make on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the Regulations and the statutory credit policy, having regard to the recommendation of the Housing Agency, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants.

Under legislation, a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions and as Minister, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any individual case with which a housing authority is or may be concerned. I am therefore not in a position to comment on or deal with an individual case.

The person concerned should therefore contact the local authority to which they applied for the loan for an update in relation to their application.

Housing Data

Ceisteanna (219)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

219. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the date, location and volume of units of all official openings for social housing schemes for local authority, approved housing bodies or other, or sod turnings he or other Ministers have partaken in since 1 May 2016, in chronological and tabular form. [17065/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The information sought is not readily available in the format requested and its compilation would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work. However, details of the official engagements attended by myself and the current Ministers of State in my Department, including events of the kind referred to, are published in the form of Ministerial Diaries on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/corporate/transparency-data/transparency-data.

Details of the official engagements of my predecessor, Deputy Simon Coveney, are archived but are also available on my Department's website at a separate link -

www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/archived/category/corporate/sub-topic/diaries/sub-type/diary/topic/ministers/type/publications

On the general issue of progress on the delivery of social housing build projects brought forward by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies under Rebuilding Ireland, my Department publishes quarterly updates in the form of a Construction Status Report, which includes project and project stage details across all local authority areas. The most recent report, which sets out the position at end 2018, is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link:

http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q4-2018/.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (220)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

220. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; when funding will be made available for the scheme to proceed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17077/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was launched on 1 February 2018 to replace the existing House Purchase and Home Choice Loan schemes, providing a new line of mortgage finance, including fixed rates over 25 to 30 years, to creditworthy first-time buyers who cannot access sufficient mortgage finance from commercial lenders.  

The HFA borrowed €200 million to fund the scheme, and it was estimated that the drawdown would be approximately €200 million over three years.  Some criticism at the time was that insufficient loans were being approved and drawn down. However, as Minister I had made a commitment to seek further funding at an early stage, if necessary, given my belief in the scheme's potential.

The scheme has been more successful than anticipated, and by the end of January, €106m had been drawn down, accounting for 53% of the available funding, at a point at which €66m would have been more consistent with the expectation of a three year draw down period.  By the end of March, draw downs have reached €127m.

My officials kept me informed regarding progress on the loan on a regular basis, and have been engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform since October 2018 when higher lending and drawdown volumes were beginning to materialise.

I informed the Dáil on 29 January 2019 of the scheme’s success and of the need for additional funding, and further indicated that my Department was in discussions with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance with regard to the allocation for 2019.   Local authorities could continue to accept applications as the total funding had not been drawn down.  A meeting with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform took place on 5 March 2019.   

Ongoing discussions between the three Departments have included consultation with the Central Bank as recently as last Friday, 5th April.  When these discussions have concluded, I will be in a position to confirm the level of allocation for 2019.  In the meantime, the scheme remains open and all local authorities have been advised to continue to receive and process applications.

In relation to the specific case the Deputy has raised, under legislation, a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions and as Minister, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any individual case with which a housing authority is or may be concerned. I am therefore not in a position to comment on or deal with an individual case.

The person concerned should therefore contact the local authority to which they applied for the loan for an update in relation to their application.

Planning Guidelines

Ceisteanna (221)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

221. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the working group will publish the outcome of its deliberations on new rural housing guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17083/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department regarding the European Court of Justice ruling in the "Flemish Decree" case, a working group was established to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.  The working group comprises senior officials from the Planning Division of my Department and senior officials from the Planning Divisions of local authorities, nominated by the local government sector.  The objective is to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives contained in local authority development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.  

Taking account of the engagement with the European Commission on the matter and subject to the completion of the ongoing deliberations by the working group, I will be in a position to finalise and issue to planning authorities revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines that take account of the relevant ECJ judgment.

Approved Housing Bodies

Ceisteanna (222)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

222. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if funding remains in place for a house building project by an organisation (details supplied) at a location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17092/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Approval in principle for a development of social homes by an approved housing body (AHB), at the location  in question, was given a number of years ago, but the project did not proceed.

Funding not utilised on a particular project is not ring-fenced if the project does not proceed.  However, it is open to the local authority or an AHB to bring forward a new proposal for any such project.

Obviously any new proposal, if differently structured, would need to be assessed on its own merits.  If it is brought forward by an AHB, it would be a matter for the local authority in the first place, to assess the proposal in terms of need, value for money, etc.

In general, my Department is supportive of viable social housing proposals which are implementable, represent good value for money and are supported by the local authority.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (223)

John Brassil

Ceist:

223. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the remaining budget allocation available for pending applications of the final allocation for 2018 approved to Kerry County Council for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17100/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was launched on 1 February 2018 to replace the existing House Purchase and Home Choice Loan schemes, providing a new line of mortgage finance, including fixed rates over 25 to 30 years, to creditworthy first-time buyers who cannot access sufficient mortgage finance from commercial lenders.  Local authorities were issued with allocations for mortgage and home improvement loans in 2018 and the amount allocated to Kerry County Council was €3.075m.  According to the latest information provided by Kerry County Council for 2018 and to the end of March 2019 it has issued €1.33m

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme was launched in February 2018, it was estimated that provision of €200m to local authorities, in loans from the Housing Finance Agency, would be sufficient to fund it for three years.  The scheme has been more successful than anticipated, and by the end of January, €106m had been issued by local authorities in loans, accounting for 53% of the available funding, at a point at which €66m would have been more consistent with the expectation of a three year draw down period.  By the end of March, loans issued by local authorities had reached €127m.

My Department has been closely monitoring the operation of the scheme since its commencement and has been engaging with the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform since October 2018 when higher lending and drawdown volumes were beginning to materialise.

I have been in discussions with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform and there have been ongoing discussions between the three Departments, which included consultation with the Central Bank as recently as last Friday, 5th April.  When these discussions have concluded, I will be in a position to confirm the level of allocation for 2019.  In the meantime, I have agreed with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure that the scheme remains open and all local authorities have been advised to continue to receive and process applications up to and including the issuing of loans.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (224)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

224. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the State contacts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract. [17117/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has no record of awarding any contracts to this company over the past seven years.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (225)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

225. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the options open to a planning authority in terms of setting conditions to restrict the full sale of a new development to an individual landlord; and the steps he is taking to ensure that local authorities are in a position to plan for a strong tenure mix, that is, a mix of both rental and purchase in new developments. [17129/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In respect of private residential developments, the issue of restricting property ownership is generally not a matter for the planning authority, as their prime concern is the appropriate design layout and impact on the spatial development of an area.

In relation to developments that specifically apply for permission as long term build to rent developments under the 2018  Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New apartments- guidelines for Local Authorities, it is a requirement that such apartment developments are owned and operated by a single entity and that individual units are not sold or rented separately for a minimum of 15 years. This requirement relates to the need for a clear management structure and shared communal facilities for this particular form of development. 

It is important to recognise the positive effects that institutional investment can have in terms of the supply of housing, not least given the scale of housing development envisaged under the National Planning Framework over the period to 2040, particularly apartment developments in the main urban centres.  

I am committed to improving security of tenure of tenants and I have brought forward additional measures in this regard for Committee Stage of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018. These include providing new powers to the RTB to investigate and sanction landlords who engage in improper conduct, including non-compliance with the rent increase restrictions in Rental Pressure Zones, which are the areas where institutional investment tends to be concentrated.

The legislation will allow the RTB to initiate an investigation without the need for a complaint to be made. It will also require the annual registration of tenancies with the RTB and significantly extend the notice periods for tenancy terminations by landlords.  

The annual registration of tenancies will provide improved data on the profile of landlords in the market, including institutional landlords, and will be of benefit to my Department in keeping the market under review, ensuring that we facilitate the positive impacts of institutional investment, while addressing any broader issues that may arise.  

In relation to tenure mix, National Policy Objective 37 of the National Planning Framework requires each local authority to carry out a Housing Need Demand Assessment (HNDA) in order to correlate and accurately align overall future housing requirements, as an evolution of their existing Housing Strategy requirements under Part V of the 2000 Act. This will assist local authorities in ensuring long-term strategic housing needs are met across all types, tenures and locations across their functional areas, both urban and rural. My Department intends to provide further guidance to local authorities later this year, to support their HNDA work as part of the review of their Development Plans. 

Local Authority Staff Data

Ceisteanna (226)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

226. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of vacant housing officers by local authority. [17131/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In August 2017, I requested all local authorities to designate vacant home officers to co-ordinate local actions to address vacancy in their functional areas and also to undertake local vacancy surveys in order to identify - through their Vacant Homes Action Plans - priority "vacancy hot-spot areas" and properties that can be quickly brought back into residential use.

Each local authority has designated a Vacant Homes Officer and I have also provided funding for each local authority (€50,000 per annum, for a period of two years (i.e. a total of €100,000 to each local authority for 2018 & 2019)) to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office. The provision of central funding will allow for focus to be given to the role of the Office in establishing a co-ordinated approach towards the implementation of their Vacant Homes Action Plans and will reinforce the capacity of the Department’s Vacant Homes Unit to liaise with and seek information/statistics from a dedicated contact point within each local authority. The Vacant Homes Office is expected to play a key role in the co-ordination of this work within the local authority.

The Vacant Homes Unit in my Department facilitated a seminar (in October 2018) to allow the network of Vacant Homes Officers meet with relevant Department Officials, ensuring that information on reactivating vacant homes into the liveable housing stock is made available to both the Department and to all Vacant Homes Officers.

Vacant Homes Officers met with the Department only yesterday at a seminar to launch the Bringing Back Homes Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings, another commitment under Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland in respect of the optimum utilisation of our existing housing stock.

Local Authority Staff Data

Ceisteanna (227)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

227. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of heritage officers by local authority. [17132/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.

My Department oversees workforce planning for the local government sector, including the monitoring of local government sector employment levels. To this end, my Department gathers quarterly data on staff numbers in local authorities. However, the data does not provide details of the specific role and function of each individual staff member.  Therefore, my Department is not in a position to provide details of the number of Heritage Officers in each local authority. This information should be available directly from local authorities.

Boat Permits

Ceisteanna (228)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

228. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the criteria and regulations governing the granting of passenger boat licences in an area (details supplied); the persons or bodies that hold these licences; and if traditional boatmen were given preference in the granting of same. [17038/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

My Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the area in question. It governs the lakes in accordance with the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932.

Commercial licences and permits to operate class P5 boats at the location in question are advertised by way of tender.  The last such tender was advertised in May 2018 and will last for a period of 2 years. It is envisaged that my Department will go out to tender again in 2020.  

Commercial and recreational boating has been a feature in this area for many decades, and has been associated with a number of families for many years. Many of the current ‘traditional’ commercial boatmen have operated since the time of those property-holders who previously claimed title to the Lakes, the late Ms Grosvenor and John McShain.  Permits are not advertised where the boatmen have this traditional right to operate.

Regarding the use of fishing/pleasure boats on the lakes in the area in question, there are 20 boat moorings.  These moorings are subject to a local lottery, and are allocated annually for a twelve month period.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

Ceisteanna (229)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

229. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if Dublin City Council applied to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for wildlife licences permitting control measures on public health and safety grounds for the scaring of seagull flocks from treated water reservoirs at Stillorgan and Ballyboden; if licences were availed of; and if she will provide information (details supplied) regarding same. [17198/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

There are provisions under the Wildlife Acts allowing for the control of bird species in certain circumstances. There is a facility under Section 42 of the Wildlife Acts whereby organisations and individuals may apply to my Department for permits, on a case by case basis, to prevent serious damage caused by individual protected animals and birds on specific lands. Permissions are only issued where there is evidence of such damage.

Dublin City Council were granted eight Section 42 permits since 2014 to control seagulls at the Stillorgan reservoir and the Ballyboden water treatment plant due to health and safety concerns; three permits were issued for the Ballyboden water treatment plant and five permits were issued for the Stillorgan reservoir  The control method involved in all cases was the use of falcons to scare seagulls and the culling of seagulls was not permitted.   

I am arranging that the Deputy is provided with all the documentation relating to these permits.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (230)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

230. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the State contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract. [17110/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I am advised that no contracts have been awarded by my Department to the company identified by the Deputy during the period specified.