Questions Nos. 32 to 39, inclusive, answered orally.

Housing Assistance Payment Eligibility

Questions Nos. 41 and 42 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (40)

Richard Boyd Barrett


40. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to review the HAP limits in view of the difficulties those in need of housing are experiencing trying to find homes within the current limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37387/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Increased rent limits for Rent Supplement and the Housing Assistance Payment were introduced in 2016. Taking account of the additional discretion available to local authorities to exceed the maximum rent limit by up to 20%, and up to 50% in the Dublin region for those households either in, or at immediate risk of homelessness, the HAP scheme is operating effectively.

HAP is an immediately available support for those who qualify for social housing. To date in 2019, an average of 333 additional tenancies have been supported through the scheme each week, with over 50,000 households currently having their housing needs met under the scheme.

Increasing the current HAP rent limits could have inflationary effects, leading to a detrimental impact on the wider rental market, including for those households who are not receiving HAP support.

My Department closely monitors the level of discretion being used by local authorities, taking into account other sources of data, including Residential Tenancies Board rent data published on a quarterly basis. I am satisfied that the current maximum rent limits, together with the additional flexibility available to local authorities, are generally sufficient to support the effective operation of the HAP scheme. However, I will continue to keep the matter under review.

Questions Nos. 41 and 42 answered orally.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (43)

Thomas P. Broughan


43. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons on Dublin social housing waiting lists who have been relocated outside of Dublin in each of the years 2009 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the number located to each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36518/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

There is no formal relocation programme for social housing applicants from Dublin but my Department is working on plans to provide increased mobility to social housing applicants generally. There is already some mobility provided for in the larger urban areas and for HAP recipients.

Consideration is being given to the possibility of extending that mobility by expanding the numbers of areas that social housing applicants can apply for. The basic premise is that households in receipt of, or qualified for, social housing support in one local authority area could potentially transfer to, or be allocated, social housing in another local authority area.

The four Dublin local authorities already co-operate in arrangements that enable social housing applicants to apply for housing in one or two of the other Dublin authorities simultaneously. Similar arrangements apply in the two Cork and two Galway local authorities.

In addition, persons on social housing waiting lists who elect to take the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) can source accommodation through HAP in any local authority area if their income is below the social housing income limit for the area concerned. As of June 2019, 4,455 HAP recipients had sourced their accommodation in a different local authority area to the authority of application and 483 of those were on the Dublin waiting lists but sourced accommodation outside of Dublin.

My Department is committed to the principle of increasing mobility for social housing applicants and I intend to bring proposals in this regard forward in due course.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (44)

John Curran


44. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will review and introduce appropriate regulations regarding the sale of affordable homes in view of the fact it has been reported that some affordable homes in a location (details supplied) will be selling for €420,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37677/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The selling price of discounted dwellings made available for purchase by a local authority under the affordable dwelling purchase arrangements is influenced by a number of factors, particularly the overall cost of each particular development, which can vary significantly from one site to another, the tenure mix involved an the local housing market. The appropriate way to take these factors into account is ultimately through a competitive procurement process rather than through price regulation.

A transparent and exhaustive process has been undertaken over many years by Dublin City Council to allow it to identify the most effective delivery model for O’Devaney Gardens, to ensure that this key site is developed in a tenure sustainable and financially viable way. This has included a detailed procurement process which has now reached the point where a preferred bidder has been selected and through which the City Council will be able to ensure that a high quality redevelopment of the site, with significant local community facilities, will be delivered.

In addition to the 56 social housing homes already under construction on the site, almost 770 further homes are to be provided, including nearly 200 further social housing homes as well as 165 homes at more affordable process, catering for those families who may not be eligible for social housing but may still need support in meeting their housing needs. The indications are that the homes to be made available under the affordable dwelling purchase arrangements will have a discount on the open market prices of 30-40%. The referenced figure of €420,000 is understood to relate to just 4 of the 165 discounted homes planned to be made available and I understand that Dublin City Council is re-examining how the price of those homes might be reduced below €400,000. The indicative prices for all the other affordable homes are considerably less than the referenced figure and, in most cases, significantly so; in fact, the majority of the homes have indicative prices below €310,000. A couple who are each on average earnings - approx. €40,000 - would be in a position to afford most of the indicative prices quoted for the O'Devaney Gardens development.

The significant discounts which will be provided on the affordable purchase homes will mean that homes will be available to very many individuals and families on more moderate incomes who would otherwise not be in a position to own their home in the area concerned.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (45)

Maureen O'Sullivan


45. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to and his views on the concerns of residents and established communities in SDZ areas in which large scale developments are ongoing and constant; if he is satisfied that under SDZs residents are given ample opportunity to express their views on proposed developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37491/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Strategic Development Zones, or 'SDZs', are designated due to their economic or social importance to the State. Each SDZ is governed by a Planning Scheme, that must prepared as part of a process that enables local residents and communities, as well as their local elected representatives at Council level, to input and shape how the SDZ is developed.

In this way, SDZs are designed to ensure both the delivery of specified development and infrastructure, and consistency and certainty in the future development of an area, for all stakeholders, whether developers or local residents.

The SDZ Planning Scheme adoption and amendment processes include a period of public consultation, before the local elected members of the relevant planning authority decide on the draft Scheme. The outcome of the draft Planning Scheme process may be appealed to An Bord Pleanála, by any interested party who made a submission on the draft scheme.

If an appeal is lodged to An Bord Pleanála, the Board may decide to hold an oral hearing, at which local residents and community representatives, as well as local councillors, have an opportunity to contribute further to the process.

An adopted SDZ planning scheme provides certainty and consistency for all stakeholders, including residents and established communities, in relation to development within the designated area. This is because planning applications for development within an SDZ may be approved only on the basis of compliance with the approved Planning Scheme.

In recent years, since the introduction of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process for large scale residential development directly to An Bord Pleanála, there is the potential for some planning applications within an SDZ area to be made under the SHD process. This is a matter that is currently under review as part of an overall review of the SHD process in respect of which I will be reporting to the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.

In light of experience to date, I am satisfied that residents are given ample opportunity to express their views on proposed developments through the SDZ Planning Scheme process.

Private Rented Accommodation Evictions

Ceisteanna (46)

Richard Boyd Barrett


46. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will intervene in the latest eviction attempt of eight tenants at a location (details supplied) by the property owner in view of the fact this is the third attempt by the owners to mass evict these tenants over the past two years utilising different loopholes in the residential tenancies legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37391/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019, with one of its key functions being to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. Due to the quasi-judicial and independent role of the RTB, it would be inappropriate for me, as Minister, to intervene in specific disputes.

A number of measures have been introduced in recent years with the objective of improving security of tenure for tenants under the Residential Tenancies Acts. Section 34 of the 2004 Act provides that a landlord must state a reason for the termination in any notice served, in accordance with the allowable grounds for terminations. Through an amendment introduced in 2016, where a landlord proposes to sell 10 or more units within a single development at the same time, that sale is subject to the existing tenants remaining in situ, other than in exceptional circumstances. In addition, the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 provides that where a landlord terminates a tenancy because he/she intends to sell the property, he/she must enter into a contract for sale within 9 months of the termination date and, if not, must offer to re-let to a former tenant who provides their contact details.

The 2019 Act also provides that where a landlord terminates a tenancy because he/she needs vacant possession to substantially refurbish/renovate the property, that property must be offered back to the former tenant who provides their contact details, upon completion of the works. Also, such a termination notice must contain or be accompanied by a written certificate of a registered professional under the Building Control Act 2007, such as an architect or surveyor, stating that the proposed substantial refurbishment/renovation works would pose a health and safety risk necessitating vacation by the tenants and that such a risk would be likely to exist for at least 3 weeks.

The 2019 Act provides additional powers for the RTB to investigate and sanction landlords who engage in improper conduct, including non-compliance with the tenancy termination provisions. My Department will continue to keep the effectiveness and enforcement of the security of tenure provisions in the Acts under review.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

Ceisteanna (47)

Mary Butler


47. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a decision will be made on capital funding for the proposed North Quay development in Waterford city; if his attention has been drawn to the importance of commitment to the project and the necessity for commitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25231/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In 2016, the North Quays in Waterford was the subject of a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) order made by the Government, designating the area for mixed-use development, subject to preparation of an SDZ planning scheme, which has since been completed.

Waterford City and County Council submitted a bid for exchequer grant funding as part of the first call under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) in September 2018. On 26 November 2018, I announced initial support of €100m in provisional allocations to a total of 88 projects, including €6m of initial support for the Waterford North Quays Project. The letter confirming this initial support also outlined my agreement in principle to further URDF support for this project.

Under the first URDF call for proposals, the Council's bid included four very significant elements:

- Relocation of the City’s railway station;

- A new pedestrian/cyclist/public transport bridge and associated urban greenway;

- Site access roads and road realignment;

- Off-site roads in the wider north bank of the Suir area in Waterford/Kilkenny.

It is intended that the infrastructural works involved will open up the site, making it more accessible and supporting the achievement of the objectives of the SDZ planning scheme more generally.

While I have agreed in principle to provide further URDF support for the overall project, its complexity means that its proposed composition, costs and sequencing must be refined and further examined so that the precise level of URDF support can be established, and apportioned to the various individual project components.

While the advancement of this project is, in the first instance, a matter for Waterford City & County Council, my Department is engaging actively on an ongoing basis with the Council with a view to early resolution of these matters.

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (48)

Joan Collins


48. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which the choice base letting scheme works (details supplied); the way in which homes are allocated; and the grounds on which homes are allocated. [37709/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Choice Based Letting is a method whereby available social housing stock is let by being openly advertised by local authorities to persons on the social housing waiting list. This allows qualified applicants to 'register an interest' in available homes.

Applicants can act on their own initiative to respond to adverts and express an interest in dwellings that they would like to live in, rather than waiting for an authority to offer them a dwelling. This approach offers more choice and involvement for applicant households in selecting a new home, thereby reducing the likelihood of a refusal, and helping to build sustainable tenancies and stable communities.

The Social Housing Allocation (Amendment) Regulations 2016 required all local authorities, if they had not already done so, to provide for Choice Based Letting as a method of allocation for social housing in their allocation schemes. The way in which Choice Based Letting is implemented, including decisions on which properties are to be offered through it, is a matter for the individual authority concerned. However, it must be done in accordance with the relevant regulations and their own scheme of priority.

Given the clear benefits offered by Choice Based Letting, my Department will continue to liaise with the local authorities to ensure that it is implemented as widely as possible across the country. This will be progressed as part of the implementation of a wider package of social housing reforms in respect of which proposals will be brought to Government shortly.

Departmental Bodies

Ceisteanna (49)

Catherine Connolly


49. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 558 of 16 April 2019, the number of times the Galway social housing task force has met; if the minutes of the meetings will be provided; the work programme for the task force; the reports completed to date by the task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37722/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Galway Social Housing Taskforce, which I established earlier this year, has held two meeting to date and its third meeting is scheduled to take place in early October. The Taskforce is working to improve and accelerate housing delivery in both local authority areas. Its establishment mirrors a Taskforce established in Cork a number of years ago, which has provided a hugely successful framework through which new build social housing delivery across the 2 Cork local authority areas has increased more than tenfold in the 2 years to 2018.

Of the 50,000 social housing homes to be delivered nationally through build, acquisitions and leasing in the period to 2021, the Galway Councils have a combined target of just over 2,000. While good progress has been made to date nationally, I want to see this replicated uniformly across the country, particularly in key locations such as Galway.

The Chair of the Taskforce recently wrote to me and updated me on the work of the Taskforce. She confirmed that both local authorities were intensively involved in the Taskforce’s work and that it is providing them with an important opportunity for direct, roundtable dialogue with my Department, the Housing Agency and the Approved Housing Body sector, so that each Galway authority can be supported in building the momentum essential for expanded delivery. The Chair also advised that achieving the necessary levels of delivery will take focus, time and continuing prioritisation, but all participants in the Taskforce are committed to the Government’s housing targets.

In relation to the minutes of the Taskforce, the secretariat for the Taskforce is provided by Galway City Council and I have asked my Department to liaise with the Council in relation to the publication of those minutes.