Questions Nos. 1 to 16, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 17 to 34, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 35 to 40, inclusive, answered orally.

Home Loan Scheme

Question No. 42 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (41, 95)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

41. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider amending the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme to allow persons who are not first-time buyers but who do not own their current residences to avail of the scheme. [24034/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

95. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to introduce a housing loan scheme for non-first-time buyers who find themselves in changed circumstances (details supplied); and if his attention has been drawn to the large number of persons finding themselves in this situation. [23200/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 95 together.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan Scheme enables credit-worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range, where they cannot obtain sufficient mortgage finance from a commercial lender.

As with the previous local authority loan offerings, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is available to first-time buyers only. This is set out in the regulations governing the Scheme and ensures the effective targeting of limited resources. I have no plans to change this provision.

Applicants who are separated or divorced may be treated as first-time buyers, in accordance with the regulations, if they meet certain conditions, including:

- they are separated or divorced under a court order or by a separation agreement;

- the property being purchased is the first property since leaving the family home;

- they have left the family home and retain no interest in it; or

- the other party has remained in the family home.

In meeting the conditions as set out above, in particular that the other party has remained in the family home and that the potential applicant has relinquished any rights they had over that property, no financial gain should have been made by the potential applicant in exchange for relinquishing their rights to the property in this manner. Were the individual to have made a financial gain in releasing their rights to the property, such as being bought out by the other party who remains resident in it, they would be deemed to have been compensated for their interest in the property, and therefore not be eligible as a first-time buyer.

The final decision on loan approval is a matter for the relevant local authority and its credit committee on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the Regulations establishing the scheme and the credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure prudence and consistency in approaches in the best interests of both borrowers and the lending local authorities.

Question No. 42 answered orally.

Housing Assistance Payment Administration

Questions Nos. 44 to 49, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (43)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

43. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will address the perceived inadequacies with the new housing assistance payment scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23190/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme provides fast, flexible housing support to all eligible households who have the freedom to source suitable accommodation in their area of choice. Individuals, who in the past may have been reluctant to avail of full time work as they might lose their Rent Supplement support, can now move to HAP, avail of full-time employment and still retain their housing support, with an appropriate adjustment being made to their differential rent.

At the end of Q1 2019, there were more than 45,900 households having their housing needs met through the HAP scheme, with over 27,000 landlords and agents in receipt of monthly HAP payments. The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 - 2019 regulate the landlord-tenant relationship in the private rented sector and set out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. HAP supported tenancies are afforded the same protections available to all private rented tenancies.

Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it. While there is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards their monthly landlord rent, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that tenancies are sustainable and are advised not to provide HAP support to tenancies where the household would not be in a position to meet the rental costs involved.

The Homeless HAP Place Finder Service provides all local authorities with the option to pay deposits and advance rental payments for any households in emergency homeless accommodation, in order to secure accommodation through the HAP Scheme. In addition, the normal 20% discretion beyond the rent limits is increased to 50% for homeless households in the Dublin Region.

I am satisfied with the operation of the HAP scheme, which continues to play an important part in meeting social housing needs. I will, however, keep its operation, and the operation of social housing delivery streams more generally, under ongoing review.

Questions Nos. 44 to 49, inclusive, answered orally.

Election Management System

Ceisteanna (50, 82)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

50. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a functioning electoral commission will be in place; the responsibilities it would have; if each local authority will be directed to run regular voter registration drives with information on the way to vote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23453/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

82. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the timeline for the establishment of an electoral commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24004/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 82 together.

A public consultation on a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) on the Establishment of an Electoral Commission was undertaken by my Department earlier this year. The RIA sets out a number of options for establishing an electoral commission, including functions that might be assigned to it. These options and functions have regard to the recommendations in the 2016 report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on the establishment of an electoral commission.

Proposed functions for an electoral commission could include having oversight of running elections and referendums; taking over the functions of the Referendum Commission; taking over the functions of the Standards in Public Office Commission in regard to political spending and donations; responsibility for the Register of Political Parties; and having a research function. The RIA also recommends that an electoral commission be assigned responsibility for voter education and engagement programmes. Such programmes could assist the public in having a better understanding of the voting system.

Twenty-three submissions were received in the course of the public consultation process. These are being considered in my Department as part of the process to inform a preferred option for establishing a commission, which will be brought to Government for consideration. Once a preferred option is agreed, work would then commence in the Autumn on the preparation of the necessary legislation to establish an electoral commission.

In relation to voter registration, the position is that the preparation of the register of electors is a matter for each local authority, as a registration authority. It is the duty of registration authorities to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the register. In support of activity by local authorities in preparing the register of electors, my Department promotes greater awareness of the register of electors through an annual campaign of promotional posters, the use of social-media and the taking out of both newspaper and on-line advertisements. A separate initiative in relation to the modernisation of the electoral register is under way, in relation to which a public consultation has also been concluded, the submissions on which are currently being considered.