Housing Policy

Ceisteanna (51)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Ceist:

51. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his housing strategy for County Donegal over the next five year period; the proposed number of units planned to be built in the county for the five year period 2020 to 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23252/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In order to properly plan for future population and housing growth on a regional and county basis, the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 provides for the co-ordinated and timely incorporation of the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the Regional Spatial Economic Strategy (RSES) for each of the three regional assembly areas, into the relevant City or County Development Plan.

Under the Act, each local authority is required to review or vary its county development plan, within six months of the making of the relevant regional strategy. The Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the North-Western Regional Assembly area, which includes Donegal, is currently at amended draft stage. It is envisaged that the Regional Strategy, after a final round of public consultation, will be approved during Autumn 2019. Further to this, Donegal County Council will be required to either commence or vary their Development Plan, including their Housing Strategy for the County, with the process being completed by 2020/21, to cover the period to 2026/27.

In this regard National Policy Objective (NPO) 37 of the National Planning Framework requires each local authority to carry out a Housing Need and 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 Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended).

This process will assist local authorities in ensuring that long-term strategic housing needs are met across all types and tenures within their functional area, in both urban and rural locations. 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. In tandem with the preparation of the HNDA methodology and guidance, my Department is also currently revising and updating Guidelines for Development Plan preparation, which will also be finalised by the end of the year.

In this context, it will be a matter for Donegal County Council, having regard to the outcome of the processes outlined, and supported by updated guidance from my Department, to identify and ensure that their strategic housing needs are met in the years ahead.

Rental Sector Strategy

Ceisteanna (52)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

52. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the volume of cost-rental housing projects he expects to advance in the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24005/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Two ‘pathfinder’ cost rental pilot projects are currently being progressed. The first, at Enniskerry Road in Stepaside, will deliver 155 homes, 50 of which will be cost rental. The cost-rental element of the project is being supported by €4.5m in funding under the Serviced Sites Fund. Construction is due to commence on the project later this month.

Further work is underway in relation to the second project, which is located at St. Michael’s Estate, Emmet Road in Inchicore, which is estimated to have the potential to accommodate approximately 470 homes in total, some 350 of which will be cost rental homes. Dublin City Council is continuing to work on its plan for this site and has appointed a dedicated project manager and a team to advance the development. Professional advisers have also been engaged to assist with the preparation of an Urban Design Framework Plan.

These Cost Rental pilots will act as the first examples of how this model can work in an Irish context. They will provide very valuable lessons for the design of a wider policy framework, and will help to shape the contractual model and specifications for future larger-scale projects. Officials from my Department are currently developing the policy framework for this broader cost rental model, in conjunction with the Land Development Agency, the Housing Agency, and other bodies, with a view to progressing further sites to the development stage. The policy framework will also benefit from input from the European Investment Bank, with which my Department has recently concluded an agreement for advisory services, drawing on the EIB's cost rental experience in other countries.

Homeless Persons Supports

Ceisteanna (53)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

53. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if children living in emergency and homeless accommodation will be provided with a travel card to allow them use public transport outside of the school term free of charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22200/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government and the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan includes a range of measures which reflect that priority. In particular, Rebuilding Ireland includes specific actions relating to the provision of emergency accommodation and the range of supports to be provided to households accessing such accommodation.

Under Rebuilding Ireland, my Department is funding an initiative to provide homeless families residing in temporary emergency accommodation in the Dublin Region with access to free public transport for essential school journeys. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) oversees the implementation of this initiative and, working in partnership with the National Transport Authority, has put arrangements in place for the provision of Leap cards to the families concerned. These Leap cards provide for free public transport for school-going children and accompanying adults, where necessary. The cards are distributed through the Family Homeless Action Teams, which are also funded by the DRHE.

As the Leap cards were introduced to support essential school journeys, there are no plans to extend the provision of the cards outside of the school term. However, the Community Welfare Service of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may consider, on a case-by-case basis, the needs of an individual household in respect of exceptional transport costs.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (54, 67, 79)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

54. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he plans to increase the income eligibility limits for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23632/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

67. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of the income eligibility limits for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23880/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

79. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he plans to increase the income eligibility limits for social housing in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23633/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54, 67 and 79 together.

Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

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

Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI and the universal social charge. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once off in nature.

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.

Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.

However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is under way. The review will also have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (55)

James Browne

Ceist:

55. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which he plans to reduce the social housing waiting lists in County Wexford; his plans to provide additional affordable housing in the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23192/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland aims to deliver over 50,000 additional social housing homes through build, acquisition and leasing programmes and also aims to support some 88,000 additional households through the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme and the Rental Accommodation Scheme, over the 6 year period of the Plan.

Very significant progress has been made in delivering on Rebuilding Ireland's targets, including in County Wexford. This is reflected in the reductions recorded on the social housing waiting list in Wexford, with the number of households on the list reducing by 567, or over 20%, between 2016 and 2018, with just under 2,000 additional housing supports provided in the county since 2016. The target for 2019 is for the delivery of an additional 931 housing supports in County Wexford, comprising 353 homes through build, acquisition and leasing programmes and 578 households to be supported through the Housing Assistance Payment and Rental Accommodation Scheme, which will have a significant impact on further reducing Wexford's housing list.

A substantial focus of all stakeholders is to increase supply through new build activity. At end 2018, Wexford County Council has a social housing construction programme of 58 projects, yielding almost 700 homes. This pipeline continues to grow with regular approvals for new schemes. I am confident that the actions, targets and resources available under Rebuilding Ireland provide a strong platform for continuing to reduce the number of households on waiting lists in Wexford and across the country.

In order to support local authorities in delivering affordable homes, €310 million is being made available from 2019 until 2021, under the Serviced Site Fund (SSF). The SSF will fund facilitating infrastructure, on local authority sites, with a maximum funding rate of €50,000 per affordable home. The first call under the SSF issued to 11 local authorities in urban areas in June 2018, where an affordability issue was identified.

Following an economic assessment process, a second call issued under the SSF to 19 local authorities last month, including Wexford. The closing date for applications under this 2nd call was 17 May 2019. A total of 30 submissions were received from 15 local authorities, including Wexford County Council, and these applications are currently being assessed, with a view to issuing approvals later this month.

I and my Department will continue to work with all stakeholders in order to accelerate further the significant increase in the delivery of homes across all tenures in Wexford and nationally.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (56)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

56. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the degree to which research has been undertaken by his Department to ascertain the value of an invigorated local authority loan system with a view to providing ready access to affordable housing for young couples (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23997/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan (RIHL) has been in operation since 1 February 2018 under the Housing (Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan) Regulations 2018. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the RIHL provides first time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not have otherwise been able to afford at a higher interest rate.

The scheme allows low-income first time buyers aged between 18 and 70 who cannot secure a mortgage from a commercial lender, to access sustainable mortgage finance that is designed to enable them to purchase a new or second-hand property, or undertake a self-build, within a suitable price range. Applicants must be in continuous employment for a minimum of two years (primary earner) or one year (secondary earner). For single applicants, the income limit is €50,000, rising to €75,000 for joint applicants. The maximum price range for the value of a house that can be purchased under the scheme is €320k in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow and €250k elsewhere.

Based on the competitive borrowing achieved by the Housing Finance Agency, local authorities can offer a first tranche of fixed rate annuity finance to eligible borrowers at rates of 2.0% and 2.25% per annum, for twenty five and thirty years, respectively. Placing ceilings on the value of properties that may be purchased and aligning the terms of the loan with the Loan-to-Value elements of the Central Bank prudential lending rules guard against possible inflationary impacts on the market.

Towards the end of last year I asked my Department to undertake a review of the scheme's operation. In carrying out the review, the Department has consulted with a number of local authorities, the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency. The review also has regard to the views raised by public representatives since the scheme's commencement. In making any recommendations in relation to the operation of the scheme, the review must also take account of the need to ensure that lending issued under it is provided on a prudential basis, so as to protect the financial interests of both borrowers and local authorities.

The review has been submitted to me and I am currently examining it.

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was initially being developed, it was estimated that the drawdown of loans under the scheme would be approximately €200 million over three years. From the data collated on the scheme to date, the RIHL has proven to be more successful than initially anticipated, as a result of which, the scheme would require a further tranche of funds to be borrowed by the HFA in order to enable its continuation.

My Department is currently in discussions with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance with regard to the amount of a second tranche of funding for the scheme, which I anticipate, will be finalised soon. When these discussions are concluded, I will be in a position to make an announcement on the matter.

However, 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.

Separately, I have commenced the relevant provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 to provide a statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase. I also signed regulations on 12 March 2019 under which local authorities make their Schemes of Priority, which provide the administrative framework through which affordable homes will ultimately be allocated under the scheme.

Prioritising geographical areas for operation of the scheme is informed by economic assessments which local authorities have completed in relation to the affordability issues in their areas. Delivery of affordable housing is to be supported using the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) which will utilise a budget of €310 million to provide site infrastructure support to help make available approximately 6,200 affordable homes over the next three years. An initial 10 projects have been approved for €43 million of funding under the first call for proposals under the Fund. A second call issued on 9 April 2019, in response to which 30 submissions were received from 15 local authorities. These are currently being assessed by my Department and I intend to announce approvals under this second call in the coming weeks.

Planning Guidelines

Ceisteanna (57, 88)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

57. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when new rural housing guidelines will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23881/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

88. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the revised rural housing planning guidelines will issue taking into account the Flemish Decree judgment of the European Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23999/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 88 together.

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.

Taking account of the engagement with the European Commission regarding revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines 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 Guidelines that take account of the relevant European Court of Justice judgment.

Housing Assistance Payment Administration

Ceisteanna (58)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

58. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will re-evaluate the HAP limits for Gorey, County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24028/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

A key principle of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme is that eligible households source their own accommodation in the private rented sector. The accommodation sourced by tenants should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on household size and the rental market within the area concerned.

Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household. It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis.

At the end of Q1 2019, 35.7% of the total number of households being supported by HAP were benefiting from the additional flexibility. When the additional discretion available to homeless households in the Dublin Region is removed, 28.9% of households nationally were benefiting from the additional flexibility.

In the Wexford County Council area, at the end of Q1 2019, 25% of households were benefiting from additional discretion, with the average rate of discretion being 16.3% above the applicable rent limits.

I am satisfied that the existing arrangements under the HAP scheme provide adequate flexibility and discretion to local authorities, where necessary, to support households in securing accommodation. Accordingly, I have no plans at present to increase HAP rent limits, a course of action which could have inflationary effects on rents and thereby have a potentially detrimental impact on the wider rental market, including for those households who are not receiving HAP support.

Housing Estates

Ceisteanna (59, 75)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

59. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the timeframe for the implementation of the national taking in charge initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24001/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

75. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there is further information required by his Department which is needed to approve the new national taking in charge initiative; when he expects to invite applications for project bids under the scheme from local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24000/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 75 together.

Findings and recommendations from the National Taking In Charge Initiative (NTICI) were included in a report on the initiative that was published by my Department in December 2018. The report is available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/national_taking_in_charge_initiative_report_dec2018.pdf.

The publication of the NTICI report is of value to local authorities and other stakeholders in applying the lessons from the pilot authorities, in a more general roll-out of a streamlined approach to taking-in-charge, including through coordination with capital works by Irish Water. In this regard, my Department is liaising with Irish Water in relation to the report.

Ultimately, progression of individual developments through the taking-in-charge process is a matter for the relevant housing developer, the residents in each such development and the relevant local authority, following the procedures laid out in section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended).

The National Development Plan, published last year, includes provision of €31 million for the period 2018-2021 for developer-provided infrastructure, commencing with a provision of €6 million in 2019. The multi-annual programme will be initiated through the invitation of project bids from local authorities followed by their evaluation by an Expert Panel, set up by my Department, to independently evaluate the bid projects to be approved for funding. It is expected that the invitation of project bids from local authorities will issue shortly, with approval of projects for this first cycle multi-annual programme to take place once proposals submitted have been assessed. My Department's focus has been on progressing the multi-annual rural water programme and priority will now be given to commencing the multi-annual programme for developer-provided infrastructure.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Review

Ceisteanna (60, 91)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

60. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the review of the tenant purchase scheme will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23879/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

91. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the revised terms of the tenant incremental purchase scheme 2016 will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23998/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 91 together.

The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015 set 1 January 2016 as the commencement date for the introduction of the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme for existing local authority houses. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

In line with the commitment given in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been completed and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations.

Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review shortly. I intend to bring a comprehensive package of social housing reform measures to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the Review of the Tenant Purchase Scheme will be progressed as part of that process.

Local Authority Housing Funding

Ceisteanna (61)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

61. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to ensure that Meath County Council has sufficient funding to meet the housing needs of the county; his views on whether the fact that County Meath is the lowest funded local authority in the country is inhibiting Meath County Council in seriously addressing the local housing demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23490/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is firmly focused on increasing housing supply and supporting those in society with the greatest housing need, particularly those in need of social housing supports. The significant progress being made in these areas is outlined on the Rebuilding Ireland website at www.rebuildingireland.ie.

Overall, the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan will increase the supply of new homes to 25,000 per annum by 2020; deliver an additional 50,000 social housing homes over the period 2016 to 2021; and meet the housing needs of a further 88,000 households through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

The implementation of Rebuilding Ireland is a key Government priority supported by significant annual investment. For 2019 alone, funding of almost €2.4 billion is being provided for all housing programmes, a 25% increase on the 2018 allocation. This investment will see the housing needs of almost 27,400 households being met, of which 10,000 will be new social housing homes delivered through build, acquisition and long term leasing programmes, with the remaining supports being delivered through HAP and RAS schemes.

Local authorities deliver a wide range of public services, including those in relation to housing. They derive their income to meet the delivery of these services from a variety of sources, including commercial rates, charges for goods and services and funding from Central Government.

Local authorities vary significantly from one another in terms of size, population, public service demands, the scale and timing of particular infrastructural investments and other income sources; funding levels in the past have reflected this variety. Therefore, it is not possible to compare absolute levels of funding received in local authority areas, as to do so would not reflect the significant differences that exist between them. Indeed, it is a matter for each local authority to maximise local income sources and manage its own spending, in the context of the annual budgetary process.

Funding is available to support every local authority in delivering on their social housing targets and my Department will engage with any local authority in a position to deliver beyond its targets. Over the past three years, Meath County Council has received total funding of over €122 million to meet the cost of its housing programmes.

In 2018, the Council delivered 437 social housing homes through build, acquisition and leasing programmes, with an additional 767 households being supported through HAP and RAS, resulting in the needs of over 1,200 households being met across all delivery schemes in 2018. Indeed, over the 2016 to 2018 period, the first three years of Rebuilding Ireland, more than 3,000 households in County Meath have had their housing needs met.

The level of progress being made is reflected in social housing waiting lists, which have reduced by 22% nationally, from 91,600 households to 71,858, between 2016 and 2018. In Meath, the number of households on waiting lists decreased by some 20% in one year alone, falling from 2,453 in 2017 to 1,966 in 2018.

In relation to social housing construction activity, my Department publishes comprehensive status reports, on a quarterly basis, on all social housing construction schemes for all local authority areas. The most recent of these reports covers the period up to the end 2018 and contains information on the progress of over 19,134 new social housing homes nationally progressing through planning, design and construction, as well as homes delivered to end 2018. The report, which is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q4-2018/, shows that Meath County Council, together with the Approved Housing Bodies with which it is working, has a social housing construction programme of 68 projects already complete or at planning, design, tender or construction stage, which will deliver 950 homes when complete. This programme continues to be added to on an ongoing basis.

Commercial Rates

Ceisteanna (62, 69)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

62. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to deal with the rising cost of business rates in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17741/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Ceist:

69. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans for reforming the commercial rates system in view of the fact that the current system is perceived to be outdated, archaic and an unfair burden on many businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23253/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 69 together.

Rates income is critical to meet the cost of services provided by local authorities. Local authorities levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation pursuant to the Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015. The annual rate on valuation (ARV) is applied to the valuation of each property, to obtain the amount payable in rates. The ARV is a reserved function decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget.

My Department has in recent years requested local authorities to exercise restraint in setting ARVs and they have responded positively in this regard. The national average ARV has not changed significantly in recent years. The national average ARV decreased slightly each year from 2010 to 2015 and has increased slightly each year from 2016 to 2019.

In overall terms, while economic activity has been expanding significantly in recent years, the overall rates income of local authorities nationally has remained relatively unchanged. The rates payable by individual businesses may change because of the impact of the revaluation programme being undertaken by the Commissioner of Valuation, or as a result of a stand-alone revision of a property's valuation.

Reasons for valuation increases may be that the valuation of some properties had not been revised to take account of improvements or extensions for some time, or where the valuations were historically low in comparison with the general level of valuations on the valuation list. In overall terms, I understand that of the revaluations conducted to date under the revaluation programme, approximately 60% of ratepayers have had their liability for rates reduced and approximately 40% have experienced an increase. Additionally, gradual rates harmonisation across new local authority areas, following the merger of town and county councils in 2014, may have led to increases in certain areas.

The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his statutory functions and the setting of valuations for rating is his sole responsibility. I have no function in relation to decisions in this regard. The Valuation Office is currently engaged in a national revaluation programme, on a phased basis, the first revaluation of that scale, encompassing all rating authority areas, in over 160 years.

The revaluation provisions in the Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015 provide a modern statutory framework for the revaluation of all rateable property within a rating authority area so as to reflect changes in value due to economic factors, differential movements in property values or other external factors such as infrastructural changes in the vicinity of a property and changes in the local business environment.

Having up to date and consistent valuations, reflecting current market conditions, is critical to ensure that the levying of commercial rates is on a fair, equitable and consistent basis across all economic sectors and parts of the country and is the purpose of the national revaluation programme. The revaluation process includes comprehensive communication and appeals mechanisms.

In order to ensure that the revaluation promotes equity across sectors and areas, but is also a revenue neutral exercise in overall terms, the Minister may limit the total amount of rates collectable within the local authority in the year following a revaluation to that collected in the previous year, subject to minor adjustments.

In order to further improve the regime for the levying and collection of commercial rates, the Local Government (Rates) Bill 2018 is currently before the Oireachtas. The Bill is a key priority of my Department and, when enacted, will facilitate more effective and streamlined rates collection procedures. Included in the provisions of the Bill are:

- the removal of the requirement for ratepayers to pay their annual bill in two instalments (moieties) and provision to allow ratepayers to pay rates by instalments or through a payment plan agreed with the local authority;

- schemes for the abatement of rates on vacant properties;

- the levying of interest on unpaid and overdue rates; and

- the rendering of unpaid rates to be a charge on relevant property.

Additionally, the Bill includes provisions to allow a local authority to introduce rates alleviation schemes, which would include schemes to support the implementation of the Government's Realising Our Rural Potential: The Action Plan for Rural Development.

Further measures are currently being examined with a view to their introduction to the Bill at Committee Stage

Local Authority Housing Data

Ceisteanna (63)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

63. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the social housing direct build target for 2019 for Galway city and county councils; the number of social homes constructed in the local authority areas to date in 2019; the number of social housing direct builds in the local authorities in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24007/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Earlier this year, I met with local authority Chief Executives to discuss the progress made in their local area, in terms of delivering on the social housing targets under Rebuilding Ireland.

In 2018, 4,251 new build social housing homes were delivered, a very significant 85% increase on the 2,297 new builds in 2017. The target for 2019 is substantially increased further, to over 6,200 homes. With this in mind, ambitious targets for this year have been set for each local authority, details of which are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at : http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/social-housing-targets-2019/.

A full breakdown of 2018 delivery across all the programmes for each local authority is available at: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-eoghan-murphy-publishes-breakdown-of-social-housing-delivery-in-2018-on-a-local-authority-basis/. Q1 2019 data is being finalised and will be published on the Rebuilding Ireland website shortly.

The Deputy can be assured that I and my Department are committed to continuing to support the Galway local authorities in delivery of housing. In that regard, I established a Galway Social Housing Task Force, chaired by Ms. Geraldine Tallon, former Secretary General, earlier this year and I look forward to that Task Force progressing its work over the coming months.

Traveller Accommodation

Ceisteanna (64)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

64. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount spent by each local authority to date in 2019 from its Traveller accommodation budget. [24033/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In accordance with the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, housing authorities have statutory responsibility for the assessment of the accommodation needs of Travellers and the preparation, adoption and implementation of multi-annual Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs) in their areas. My Department’s role is to ensure that there are adequate structures and supports in place to assist the authorities in providing such accommodation, including a national framework of policy, legislation and funding.

Housing authorities submit funding proposals for individual Traveller-specific projects and developments on an annual basis. These projects are assessed on a case-by-case basis in my Department in advance of allocations being made. In addition, further funding may be considered by my Department throughout the year in the light of progress across the programme generally. There is regular contact between my Department and housing authorities in order to try to ensure maximum progress and drawdown.

The amount drawn down by housing authorities to date in 2019 for Traveller-specific accommodation is set out in the following table.

LOCAL AUTHORITY

Drawdown 2019 (to date) €

CARLOW

-

CAVAN

-

CLARE

326,000

CORK CITY

-

CORK COUNTY

167,000

DONEGAL

-

DUBLIN CITY

174,000

DUN LAOGHAIRE-R.DOWN

-

FINGAL

11,000

SOUTH DUBLIN

107,000

GALWAY CITY

-

GALWAY COUNTY

72,000

KERRY

-

KILDARE

-

KILKENNY

171,000

LAOIS

-

LEITRIM

-

LIMERICK CITY & COUNTY

346,000

LONGFORD

-

LOUTH

-

MAYO

-

MEATH

78,000

MONAGHAN

-

OFFALY

139,000

ROSCOMMON

-

SLIGO

197,000

TIPPERARY

-

WATERFORD CITY & COUNTY

54,000

WESTMEATH

-

WEXFORD

-

WICKLOW

-

TOTAL

1,842,000

Housing Assistance Payment

Ceisteanna (65)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

65. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some landlords or their agents are refusing to rent to HAP recipients due to the fact they are adding HAP to the income of the recipient (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23825/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

At the end of Q1 2019, there were more than 45,900 active tenancies being supported under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme.

While a landlord or an agent acting on behalf of a landlord is not legally obliged to enter into a tenancy agreement with a HAP recipient, on 1 January 2016, the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 introduced “housing assistance” as a new discriminatory ground. This means that discrimination in the provision of accommodation or related service and amenities against people in receipt of rent supplement, HAP or other social welfare payments is prohibited.

HAP is a form of social housing support under which local authorities make monthly payments on behalf of tenants directly to landlords in respect of rent, subject to the terms and conditions of the scheme. Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional shared service on behalf of all HAP local authorities. The HAP Shared Service Centre (SSC) manages the collection of all HAP tenants’ differential rents, on behalf of the relevant local authority, and the payment of all HAP rents to landlords on behalf of tenants supported by the HAP scheme.

HAP tenants source their own accommodation in the private rented market and are advised that this accommodation should be within the HAP rent limits provided to them by the local authority. The rent limits are related to specific household types and to the rental market in the area. HAP is a form of social housing support that allows tenants to work full-time and retain their housing support so in many cases, people may make choices about affordability taking this into consideration.

There is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards the monthly rent to their landlord. However, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that tenancies are sustainable and are advised not to provide HAP support to tenancies where they are not satisfied that the household would be in a position to meet the rental costs being sought.

Home Building Finance Ireland Establishment

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 54.

Ceisteanna (66)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

66. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his Department is still working with the Department of Finance on the HBFI loan scheme; if updates can be given about the scheme with regard to the input of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24029/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Home Building Finance Ireland comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

HBFI was established in December 2018 to lend to small and medium sized builders and developers for commercially viable residential developments, particularly those situated outside the State's major urban centres. HBFI has been provided with access to €750 million of funding from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, which is expected to facilitate the delivery of 7,500 units over the next five years.

Since its formal launch, I understand that HBFI has engaged actively with small and medium sized builders and developers. HBFI has already approved a number of separate loan facilities and drawdown of funds relating to the first approvals is expected to take place shortly. HBFI has also briefed officials in my Department in relation to the scheme and information in relation to the scheme is available at www.hbfi.ie/.

I understand that HBFI intends to publish information on its lending activities on a half-yearly basis, with the first such report to be published in July covering the period to the end of June 2019. Further information in this regard may be available from my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 54.

Election Management System

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 62.

Ceisteanna (68)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

68. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will bring forward measures to ban or severely restrict the use of posters during election campaigns in order to reduce plastic waste; and if not, the reason therefor. [23732/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Election and referendum posters are regulated by law under the Litter Pollution Act 1997 (as amended) and by electoral law. Electoral law provides that every notice, bill, poster or similar document having reference to a Dáil, Presidential or European election or to a referendum shall bear upon its face the name and address of the printer and publisher thereof. Failure to comply with this provision is an offence. The Electoral Acts do not regulate the content of electoral material, including election posters, either during or outside of electoral campaigns.

The Litter Pollution Act (section 19(7)) provides that election or referendum posters may be erected/exhibited for a specified time period prior to and after a polling date. Failure to comply with this provision is also an offence. This legislation ensures that posters are only displayed for a finite and reasonable period.

There is no requirement in law that posters at an election or referendum must be erected. It is open to political parties, candidates or other groups to decide whether or not to do so. There is also no requirement in law that posters must be made of plastic or have a plastic component. Again it is open to political parties, candidates or other groups to decide whether or not to use plastic materials in their posters.

While electoral law is subject to ongoing review, I have no plans in the short term to revise the legislation in regard to the physical composition of election posters or to the erection of election posters.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 62.

Planning Guidelines

Ceisteanna (70)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

70. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to include a clear target date for the phasing out of both oil and gas boilers as part of the NZEB planning guidelines due to be published. [23891/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The European Union (Energy Performance Of Buildings) Regulations 2019 set higher building energy performance standards for dwellings, in accordance with the Nearly Zero Energy Building requirements (NZEB) contained in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

These Regulations apply to works in connection with the design and construction of a new dwelling, where the relevant works commence or take place, as the case may be, on or after 1 November 2019 except where –

- an application is made on or before 31 October 2019 for planning permission or approval pursuant to the Planning and Development Act 2000 and where substantial work has been completed by 31 October 2020; or

- a notice pursuant to the provisions of Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 has been published on or before 31 October 2019 and where substantial work has been completed by 31 October 2020.

These regulations will continue to support the phase out of fossil fuel boilers in new dwellings by advancing the energy and carbon dioxide emissions performance requirements of new dwellings to Nearly Zero Energy Buildings standards. The NZEB requirements make it more attractive for builders and homeowners to further incorporate renewable technologies and move away from traditional fossil fuels. The Central Statistics Office analysis of Building Energy Rating data demonstrates this shift away from fossil fuels; electrical systems make up 38% of heating systems in new dwellings with this percentage growing steadily each year.

Rent Controls

Ceisteanna (71)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

71. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider introducing rent controls for Gorey, County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24026/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Act 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 for designation 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.

Up until recently, for an area to be designated a Rent Pressure Zone, it must have satisfied 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 (€1,134 per month in Q4 2018).

However, on 30 May 2019, I signed the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 (Commencement) Order 2019 which appointed 31 May 2019 and 4 June 2019 as the dates on which specified provisions of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect, including provisions in respect of the average rent qualifying criterion for RPZ designation.

Using RTB data, (i) the rent of a dwelling in the Greater Dublin Area (Kildare, Wicklow and Meath) will now be compared to the average rent across the country, excluding Dublin rents; and (ii) the rent of a dwelling outside of the Greater Dublin Area will be compared to the average rent across the country, excluding the Greater Dublin Area rents.

The RTB Rent Index Report includes a summary in Table 9 of the data used to establish whether each Local Electoral Area fulfils the criteria for designation as a Rent Pressure Zone. This ensures transparency in relation to the position of individual areas in terms of average rent levels and increases.

Further information on Rent Pressure Zones and designations is available on my Department's website at https://www.housing.gov.ie/PUBLICATIONS, by searching 'rent pressure zones - information'.

The data from the Rent Index Report for Q4 2018 relating to the local electoral area of Gorey, County Wexford is detailed in the following table.

Local Electoral Area

Quarters > 7%

Average 2018 Q4

Gorey

5

€868.02

In Gorey, while more than 4 of the last 6 quarters have seen rent inflation of 7% or greater, the average monthly rent is below the national standardised rent of €1,134 per month. Therefore, the Local Electoral Area of Gorey did not meet the criteria for designation.

The Q1 2019 RTB Rent Index, which is due to be published later this month, will allow the Housing Agency to recommend areas to be considered for designation using the new criteria as set out in the 2019 Act. Where, following the procedures set out in the Act, it is found that additional areas meet the new criteria, they will be designated as Rent Pressure Zones.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Ceisteanna (72)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

72. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the individual, annual and weekly HAP targets set by his Department for Galway city and county councils for 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24006/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme commenced in Galway County Council on 16 November 2015, and in Galway City Council on 1 February 2016. At the end of Q1 2019, the total numbers of active HAP tenancies in those areas were 1,052 in Galway County and 1,465 in Galway City.

Rebuilding Ireland sets annual national targets for additional HAP-supported tenancies. A target was set to support an additional 16,760 households through HAP in 2019 and, at end Q1 2019, an additional 4,399 HAP tenancies had been set up.

Individual weekly targets have been set for all local authorities in order to ensure delivery of the annual HAP targets, set nationally under Rebuilding Ireland, and to allow for the appropriate and orderly financial planning of the exchequer allocation to the scheme. The following table sets out the annual and weekly HAP targets for Galway City and County Councils for 2019.

-

Annual HAP Target

Weekly HAP Target

Galway City Council

491

9

Galway County Council

322

6

My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review. In general, I am satisfied with the operation of the HAP and I consider it to be a key vehicle for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme outlined under Rebuilding Ireland.