Homelessness Strategy

Ceisteanna (50)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

50. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the new homeless policy initiatives he will introduce to prevent the rise in homelessness in and outside Dublin in view of the fact that outside Dublin the number of adults in private emergency accommodation has increased from 40 in June 2014 to 1,200 in July 2019; and if he is considering allocating additional funding to specifically focus on preventing homelessness in Budget 2020. [37636/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland is underpinned by over €6 billion in funding to support the delivery of 50,000 new social housing homes and 87,000 other social housing supports by 2021. In 2018, 8,000 new social homes were delivered nationally and this year, a further 10,000 new social homes will be delivered.

Within Rebuilding Ireland, supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is identified as a key priority for the Government. Increasing the level of overall housing supply, particularly in terms of social and affordable housing, and ensuring stability in the rental sector are essential to addressing fully the challenging situation in relation to homelessness, and very substantial progress continues to be made in those areas. In parallel, additional and improved emergency accommodation is being provided, including through additional supported emergency beds and family hubs, in order to ensure that the needs of those experiencing homelessness can be responded to in as comprehensive a manner as possible. To date, 28 family hubs have been developed in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Limerick, Louth and Meath.

The Implementation Plan for Housing First, published in September 2018, is delivering permanent housing solutions for rough sleepers and long-term users of emergency accommodation. The Plan contains targets for each local authority, with an overall national target of 663 tenancies to be delivered by 2021. All regions now either have a contract in place or are at an advanced stage of the tendering process and tenancies are now in place in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

Preventing homelessness continues to be a priority, and in this regard, the Government has introduced new legislation to strengthen the protections for tenants, including significantly extended tenancy termination notice periods. In addition, there are now Rent Pressure Zones in 42 areas nationally, in which rent increases are limited to 4 % p.a., and the operation of which has been strengthened further under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019.

The Government has also increased the funding available to local authorities to deliver homeless services. Budget 2019 provided an allocation of €146m, an increase of over 25% on the 2018 allocation. Funding for 2020 will be determined as part of the estimates process.

In 2018, the comprehensive programme of actions under Rebuilding Ireland supported 5,135 adults in exiting from homelessness, an increase of 8.6% on 2017. For the first 6 months of this year, 2,285 adults exited homelessness, a 21% increase on the comparable period last year. My Department will continue to work closely with the local authorities to ensure that comprehensive housing supports for all families and individuals experiencing homelessness are delivered as speedily as possible.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (51)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

51. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure that persons who pay their local property tax see an increase in the provision of local services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25569/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local Property Tax (LPT) is a vital source of funding for local authorities. Authorities use the funding in the provision, for example, of parks, libraries, leisure amenities, fire and emergency services and improvements to the public realm, all of which benefit citizens directly and improve the fabric of our communities and quality of life.

LPT allocations are based on estimated liability data from the Revenue Commissioners, with all of a local authority’s annual allocation used to provide services locally. Local authorities have the power to vary the rates of LPT, up or down, by up to 15%. Where an authority varies the rate upward, it retains the additional income and, likewise, where the rate is reduced, the income is foregone.

Every local authority retains 80% of the estimated LPT liability in their area, notwithstanding local variation decisions. All local authorities contribute the remaining 20% to assist national equalisation funding. Some 80% of the total LPT allocation in 2019 is being used at each local authority’s own discretion. In addition, some 20% of LPT is directly supporting the provision of vital Housing and Roads infrastructure and services.

I am satisfied that the current overall funding model enables local authorities to support an appropriate level of service provision across the State. However, the position will be kept under review in light of the outcome, in due course, of the LPT review being led by my colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, as well as my own Department's LPT Baselines review.

Housing Policy

Ceisteanna (52)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

52. 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. [37698/19]

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.

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.

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (53, 54)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

53. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the original policy on the land initiative of public lands will be revised in view of the fact that a site (details supplied) has been approved for cost rental and the disposal of the lands is on the Dublin City Council agenda for the October 2019 council meeting. [37701/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Collins

Ceist:

54. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason that, in the midst of a housing crisis, Dublin City Council management, under direction from land initiative policy, has allowed the privatisation of 70% of public lands at a location (details supplied) which leaves less public housing on the site than in the 1950s. [37638/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 54 together.

The development of publicly owned lands for housing is a priority for this Government and my Department is working closely with all local authorities to support the development of their sites. Decisions regarding individual developments and tenure mix for new housing on local authority land is, in the first instance, a matter for each local authority, including its elected members.

The sites referred to are two of three significant residential sites being brought forward by Dublin City Council under its Housing Land Initiative (HLI). The HLI's aim is to ensure the delivery of mixed-tenure homes within the City Council area. All sites under the HLI are identified as Strategic Development and Regeneration Areas (SDRA) within the Dublin City Development Plan 2016-2022.

Mixed-tenure developments are an important policy objective in Rebuilding Ireland and uphold the principle of sustainable mixed communities, where housing needs are not subject to rigid segregation, based on income levels. They also provide an opportunity to see major sites developed more quickly, and integrated into existing communities and areas.

With regard to the O’Devaney Gardens site, an exhaustive process has been undertaken over many years to allow the Council identify the current delivery model as the most effective to develop the site in a tenure sustainable and financially viable way. The intention is to provide 768 badly needed new homes (an additional 56 social housing homes are being built on the site separately), comprising a tenure mix of 411 private homes, 192 social homes and 165 homes offered for purchase at a discount from market rates of between 30%-40% under the affordable dwelling arrangements. I am informed that while 50% of the built homes will be sold by the developer at market prices, these will account for just 22% of the land.

In relation to the St Michael’s Estate site, this has been selected as a Cost Rental ‘pathfinder’ development. A core objective of Cost Rental is to offer more moderate income households the choice of a more affordable and stable form of rental tenure. Over the longer term, as homes are delivered at scale, it is envisaged that cost rental would have a stabilising effect on the broader private rented market. The current tenure mix proposed by Dublin City Council is 30% social housing and 70% cost rental. While the proposal for the site development has not been brought to a conclusion, it is envisaged that structures will be put in place to ensure the tenure would remain Cost Rental over the longer term.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (55, 71)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

55. 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. [37697/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

71. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he expects the planned review of income eligibility limits for social housing to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37388/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 71 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 Maintenance

Ceisteanna (56, 70)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

56. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of local authority homes that will be retrofitted in 2019 in order to protect tenants from high energy costs and to address climate change; if he has a monitoring process in place to ensure that the work is done and the funding allocated to local authorities is spent in a timely manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37495/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

70. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans for the retrofitting of council-owned dwellings; the grants and supports available for those that own their home to complete similar retrofitting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37389/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 70 together.

My Department has operated an Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme for local authority social housing since 2013, under which close to 70,000 social homes have been insulated to date with funding support of some €134 million. The programme improves the insulation standards and overall energy performance of local authority housing stock, which can benefit those at risk of fuel poverty, as well as contributing to Ireland’s carbon emissions reduction and energy reduction targets.

Support under this Programme is continuing in 2019, with €25 million available in grant aid to the local authorities. It is the local authorities' own responsibility to select properties for inclusion in the programme and to determine the level of works; accordingly, pending their decisions on 2019 activity, my Department does not have detailed information at this stage on the number of homes that will be retrofitted in all 31 Council areas.

The Programme is being implemented in two phases: Phase 1 is classed as a shallow retrofit and aims to ensure that the entire social housing stock has, as a minimum, cavity wall and attic insulation. Phase 2 focuses on the fabric upgrade works to those dwellings with solid/hollow block wall construction and includes the provision of heating upgrades; this is deemed to be a more deep retrofit. In transitioning to the deep retrofit implementation, my Department has requested local authorities to achieve a 'B2' or equivalent building energy rating for their housing stock.

In addition to the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme, energy efficiency improvements have also been incorporated into the approximately 11,000 vacant social housing homes that have been returned to productive use under the Voids Programme since 2014.

Policy and programmes in relation to supports for insulation of privately owned homes falls within the remit of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Tenancy Protection Scheme

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 38.

Ceisteanna (57, 66)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

57. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which tenants will be protected in co-living units if they are not to be given tenancy agreements; if he plans to update the regulations for co-living units to ensure that tenants have rights and protections under housing and tenancy legislation; his views on whether all tenants in the private rental sector should have rights and protections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36519/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Barry

Ceist:

66. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will legislate to ensure that those in co-living accommodation will have tenants’ rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37711/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 66 together.

The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 regulate the landlord-tenant relationship in the private rented sector, including tenancies in co-living dwellings, and set out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 apply to every dwelling that is the subject of a tenancy, subject to a limited number of exceptions. The dwellings to which the Act does not apply are set out in section 3(2) of the Act and include, for example, a dwelling within which the landlord also resides.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Act to operate a national tenancy registration system and to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. Where a dwelling is occupied by a person under a tenancy, arrangement or agreement to which the Act does not apply, such as instances where a bona fide licensing arrangement exists, the RTB does not have any function in relation to such agreements or arrangements.

If a dispute arises as to whether a purported licence in a co-living dwelling is in fact a tenancy, the RTB can determine the matter and if it is a tenancy, the Residential Tenancies Acts apply. Where the owner of a dwelling enters into an agreement with a person for the occupation of that dwelling, it is a private contractual matter between the parties as to whether that agreement is a licence or a tenancy.

Given the relatively new nature of this form of accommodation, my Department will monitor the emerging shared accommodation sector and is keeping all aspects under review.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 38.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (59)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

59. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the progress made on the delivery of serviced sites under national objective 18b to ensure the provision of affordable houses nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37676/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local authorities already have powers to make low-cost sites available to individuals, who are qualified for social housing support, and also to voluntary or co-operative not-for-profit housing associations.

More broadly, the provision of affordable housing, either to buy or rent, is being facilitated by the €310 million Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) that runs from 2019 to 2021. The fund is to provide facilitating infrastructure on local authority sites so that more affordable discounted homes can be delivered. I envisage a maximum amount of SSF funding of €50,000 per home and, on this basis, at least 6,200 affordable homes can be provided.

The affordable dwelling purchase arrangements under which homes will be made available will be based on the relevant provisions of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which were commenced in June 2018. Further regulations will be put in place over the coming months and when the operational procedures for the programme are finalised, and before dwellings are made available for purchase under the scheme, a programme of communication will be undertaken by my Department.

Two calls have been made under the Serviced Sites Fund to date, and approval in principle has been granted for funding of approximately €127 million, to support almost 3,200 homes. While more focused on urban areas, and building at scale on local authority sites, the fund remains in place for the provision of housing in all locations where there is a proven affordability challenge. It is anticipated that further calls under the Serviced Sites Fund will be made in due course.

It should be noted that in addition to these new homes being made available at a significant discount on market norms, households have also been supported through other key Government affordability initiatives. These include, for example, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan and the Help to Buy Scheme, which have helped address the housing needs of over 13,000 households.

Local Authority Housing Rents

Ceisteanna (60)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

60. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the additional interventions he is considering such as increased service site fund allocations and longer loan maturities to ensure entry level rents for a site (details supplied) are at affordable levels of between €700 and €900 per month. [37635/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Dublin City Council-owned St. Michael's site in Inchicore has been selected as one of two ‘pathfinder’ developments for Cost Rental homes in Ireland. It is estimated that this site can accommodate approximately 470 homes in a high quality mixed-tenure development, including approximately 330 Cost Rental homes.

Under the Cost Rental model, rents cover the cost of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes only, less both the profit margin seen in the private rental sector and any financial supports provided by the State/local authorities. With the resulting rents significantly below market levels, this would mean that many households on moderate incomes will have access to a more affordable and stable form of rental tenure than would otherwise have been the case.

The rents for Cost Rental units will obviously depend upon the overall cost of each development and will vary according to the site and design specifics. However, my Department has identified several factors that can put downward pressure on costs and make Cost Rental more affordable for tenants - these include low/zero land costs, a design approach with value engineering and long-term maintenance in mind, and subvention through the Serviced Site Fund, where €310 million is being made available to local authorities over three years, 2019 to 2021, to support the delivery of infrastructure for affordable housing.

More competitive rental levels under the model can also be supported by accessing low-cost, stable finance that is paid back over an extended period of time. This long-term financing has, for example, been accessed via the European Investment Bank (EIB) who have indicated a strong interest in the St. Michael’s project. My Department’s engagement with the EIB has facilitated a research project into the development of the broader Cost Rental sector in Ireland.

Plans regarding the development of the St. Michael's site are, in the first instance, a matter for Dublin City Council and my Department is engaging with the Council to support the process. Potential financing options for the project are under consideration, and long loan maturities may form part of the financial model. A working group is meanwhile working to develop a sustainable national approach to Cost Rental, so that the lessons from pathfinder projects like St Michael’s can be applied to future larger-scale projects.

Local Authority Housing Data

Ceisteanna (61)

John Curran

Ceist:

61. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of completions he expects for the full year in 2019 in view of the fact there were 2,022 local authority new build housing completions in 2018 and only 251 local authority new build housing completions in quarter 1 of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37678/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The total target for social housing build output under Rebuilding Ireland in 2018 was for 4,969 additional homes to be provided under a variety of mechanisms. By year-end, 4,811 had been delivered, representing 97% delivery against target. This included 4,251 new build homes, and 560 vacant local authority dwellings brought back into use following substantial remediation.

Focusing on one specific build delivery stream in isolation is failing to see that new build homes are delivered for households on social housing waiting lists through a range of build programmes and schemes. When setting targets for build activity, it is recognised that there will be a blend of delivery required to achieve the maximum, sustainable output and deliver the highest volume of homes with the available capital and current budgets.

Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) are a vital component of all build activity for social housing. The properties provided through AHBs under these mechanisms are allocated to households on waiting lists in the same manner as local authority properties. In addition, through Part V delivery, even more homes are available to local authorities for tenants.

Accelerating local authority build on local authority land is of course a very important focus of all stakeholders, and this Government wants to continue to drive further increased delivery in that regard. Progress to date has been very strong, with an almost doubling of local authority new build output between 2017 and 2018.

My Department continues to engage very intensively with all local authorities to keep momentum on new build output as high as possible. By nature of the construction cycle, a substantial volume of output is weighted towards year end, as seen in previous years.

When we examine the pipeline for new development, there are reasons to be optimistic in terms of meeting our ambitious delivery plans for 2019 and beyond. The Construction Status Report covering the period to June 2019 shows that there are now over 22,000 homes in the build pipeline, up more than 8% on quarter 1 of this year.

It should be noted that the number of homes on site at the end of June 2019 was 6,439. Given the healthy pipeline and expected delivery profile over the coming two quarters, I am confident that we are on track to meet our targets.

Homelessness Strategy

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 41.

Ceisteanna (62)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

62. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the strategy in place to stem the increase in the number of children in homeless services in view of evidence of the negative affect on their lives; if he will introduce a time limit on their stay in homeless services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37493/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland, the Government’s Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, is designed to increase the delivery of housing across all tenures to help individuals and families meet their housing needs and address homelessness. The plan focuses on increasing the delivery of social housing, with a target of delivering 50,000 social housing homes in the period to 2021, while also making the best use of existing stock and laying the foundations for a more vibrant housing sector.

Supporting families experiencing homelessness is an absolute priority for the Government and for my Department in particular. In 2019, the Government increased the budget available to local authorities to deliver homeless services by over 25% to €146m. This funding supports the delivery of services to prevent families having to enter emergency accommodation and to ensure that those families in emergency accommodation are supported to identify and secure an independent tenancy within the shortest possible timeframe. In 2018, the HAP Placefinder service was made available to all local authorities to support households experiencing homelessness to identify and secure a tenancy in the private rented sector. My Department has approved funding for 23 Placefinder officers nationally.

The Government is also supporting local authorities to develop family hubs, through the provision of capital and operational funding. Family hubs provide a more secure and stable placement for families than is possible in hotels and B&B's. Under the service level agreements in place with the operators of the family hubs, targets are in place for the operators to secure a tenancy for each family within a six-month period. In some cases, it is not possible to achieve a tenancy within this period, including because of the housing requirements or preferences of an individual family. While I have no immediate plans to introduce a limit on the time that families spend in homeless services, I and my Department will continue working with local authorities to ensure that housing solutions are delivered within the shortest possible timeframe for all households in emergency accommodation.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 41.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (64)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

64. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when further funding will be made available to local authorities to fund successful applications made under Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme in particular for local authorities in which the allocation has been spent to date and have many approved applicants waiting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25232/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan (RIHL) scheme was initially being developed, it was estimated that the drawdown of loans would be approximately €200 million over three years. However, the RIHL proved to be more successful than initially anticipated. My officials began engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 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 indicated that my Department was in discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance with regard to the allocation for 2019.

Following positive engagement with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department received correspondence in July conveying sanction to increase the funding for the scheme by €363 million for the remainder of 2019, bringing the total scheme funding to €563 million.

My Department wrote to all 31 local authorities on 15 August 2019, advising of their revised allocations for the RIHL, thereby giving them certainty regarding the amount they have available for mortgage lending.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 57.

Ceisteanna (65)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

65. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of wind farm planning regulations; when the new draft guidelines will be published; if there will be a public consultation on this issue; and when he plans to introduce new guidelines. [37634/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines in line with the “preferred draft approach” which was announced in June 2017 by the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.

As part of the overall review process, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised Guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of EU Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive. SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process.

While the revised draft guidelines had been expected to be published in Quarter 1 2019, some delays to the planned schedule arose, due to the publication of updated World Health Organisation (WHO) noise standards and the need to focus on certain Brexit-related planning issues.

As part of the SEA process, there will shortly be an eight-week public consultation on the revised draft Guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report. Finalised Guidelines will be prepared following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions received during the consultation phase, and the conclusion of the SEA process. My Department is aiming to commence the public consultation by the end of this month.

When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála, must have regard to guidelines issued under section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 57.

Commercial Rates Impact

Ceisteanna (67)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

67. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he is taking to support businesses concerned regarding the impact of commercial rates increases on the future of their businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26974/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local businesses play a vital role in supporting local authorities to deliver critical services to their communities. Commercial Rates, at c€1.5bn per annum, make up roughly one third of local government current income. The Local Government Rates and Other Matters Act 2019 was enacted earlier this year, in order to modernise and improve the rates system for ratepayers, local authorities and local communities.  

The rates paid by individual rate-payers is a factor of the valuation carried out by the independent Commissioner for Valuation and the Annual Rate of Valuation (ARV), decided by local authority members. The Government has consistently encouraged local authorities to show restraint in terms of ARV increases, in order to support local businesses, and local authority members have generally responded very positively.    

The Commissioner for Valuation is currently conducting a national programme of revaluation to provide consistent, up-to-date valuations so that rates are equitably distributed. The purpose of revaluation is not to increase the overall rates take and therefore after a revaluation of a local authority area the Minister may set a Rates Limitation Order to ensure that the overall rates collected in the area doesn’t increase beyond normal inflation.

To date, revaluations have been fully completed in 16 local authorities, a further 8 are being completed and the final tranche should be completed by 2021. At all stages of the process, ratepayers are consulted and informed and can bring relevant information to bear on the valuation. Ultimately ratepayers have a right of appeal to the independent Valuation Tribunal. Interestingly, in terms of revaluations to date, I understand that  the trend is that approximately 60% of ratepayers have experienced a decrease.

Where ratepayers have legitimate issues in paying their rates liability, local authorities will work with them to facilitate flexible payment options that reflect capacity to pay.  The 2019 Act will further facilitate this flexible approach once ratepayers engage with the local authority. Importantly, the 2019 Act also provides for new Rates Vacancy Abatement and Rates Alleviation schemes, to be decided by local authority members in order to promote national and/or local policy objectives.  This will add to the suite of options already available to local authorities to support local businesses and rate-payers.

Protection of Tenants in Receipt of Rental Supports

Ceisteanna (68)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

68. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will prohibit evictions of tenants in which a property has failed a HAP inspection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37710/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations. Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority.

Under sections 18A and 18B of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, a housing authority may issue an Improvement Notice or Prohibition Notice, respectively, where a property is found to be non-compliant. Under Section 34 of that Act, any person who by act or omission contravenes the Regulations, fails to comply with an improvement notice, or re-lets a house in breach of a prohibition notice, will be guilty of an offence and will be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. If an inspection identifies that a property has been found to be non-compliant with the regulations, it is a matter for the local authority to determine what action is necessary and appropriate, including the issuing of an Improvement Letter, Improvement Notice, Prohibition Notice or further legal recourse.

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is underpinned by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014. Under section 41 of the 2014 Act, local authorities are required to commence the inspection process within 8 months of the commencement of HAP support being provided in relation to a particular dwelling, if not already inspected within the previous 12 months. HAP may be provided on a property which is the subject of a subsisting improvement notice under section 18A of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. HAP shall not be, or shall cease to be, provided on a property which is the subject of proceedings or a prohibition notice under section 18B of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. Where a prohibition notice has come into effect, HAP may continue to be paid for 13 weeks from the date of HAP commencing or the notice coming into force, as appropriate.

Section 62 of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 - 2019 provides that a landlord must state a reason for the termination in any tenancy termination notice served, in accordance with the grounds for terminations set out in the table to section 34 of the Acts.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 enhances further the security of tenure for tenants by providing the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) with new powers to investigate and sanction improper conduct by a landlord who contravenes the tenancy termination provisions; and requiring landlords to copy a tenancy termination notice to the RTB.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 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 from 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.

My Department will continue to monitor the effectiveness and enforcement of the security of tenure provision in the Acts with a view to making any necessary and justifiable amendments.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 56.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 55.

Ceisteanna (69)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

69. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of Housing First tenancies that have been provided in 2017, 2018 and in the first half of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37494/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Housing First enables homeless individuals with high levels of complex needs to obtain permanent secure accommodation with the provision of intensive housing and health supports to help them maintain their tenancies. The National Implementation Plan for Housing First was published in September 2018 and contains targets for each local authority. The Plan includes an overall target of 663 tenancies to be delivered by 2021.

A total of 386 tenancies have been created to date. This includes 106 tenancies in 2017, 83 tenancies in 2018 and 96 tenancies in the first six months of 2019.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 56.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 55.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (72)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

72. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the provision of affordable homes and the eligibility criteria for such homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 was commenced in June 2018 to provide a statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase.

Regulations in respect of the making of Schemes of Priority were signed on 12 March 2019, and these were issued to local authorities on 22 March 2019. The purpose of a Scheme of Priority is to set out the affordable purchase arrangements at local authority level. This includes the methodology that will be applied to determine the order of priority to be accorded to eligible households where the demand for such affordable dwellings exceeds the number available. All 31 local authorities have submitted draft Schemes of Priority to my Department and, to date, I have approved 21, which were adopted by their respective Councils. My Department is currently engaging with the remaining local authorities to ensure that the remaining Schemes of Priority are finalised.

Further regulations will be put in place over the coming months regarding eligibility and other matters. When the operational procedures for the programme are finalised, and before dwellings are made available for purchase under the scheme, a programme of communication will be undertaken by my Department and local authorities.

To support the delivery of affordable homes to buy or rent the Government has committed €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), from 2019 to 2021 to provide infrastructure support for the delivery of over 6,000 dwellings. The first call for proposals under the SSF in June 2018 was specifically targeted at 11 local authorities, where the greatest affordability pressures exists. In December 2018, Approval in Principle was announced for funding for 10 infrastructure projects, in Dublin and Cork, with an allocated budget of €43 million. This will support the delivery of approximately 1,400 affordable homes.

A second call for proposals under the SSF issued in April 2019 to 19 local authorities. I announced Approval in Principle for 25 infrastructure projects across 13 local authority areas on the 6th August 2019. This significant funding commitment of €84 million will support the delivery of 1,770 affordable homes for purchase. This announcement means that, to date, funding support has been allocated to enable delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes for purchase under the 2 calls of the Serviced Sites Fund.

The overall cost and the timing of delivery for these projects is contingent upon the completion of planning and procurement in the first instance, and local authorities are working to achieve delivery, as quickly as possible.

The SSF will also play an important role in making cost rental projects as affordable as possible. My Department is developing a national policy approach to Cost Rental. This is being informed by the learning from two pilot cost rental projects, one of which, at Enniskerry Road in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, has commenced construction, with first homes anticipated to come on stream from 2021, with a second, at the former St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore, at an earlier stage.

My Department is also engaging with the Land Development Agency (LDA), which is examining the potential to deliver Cost Rental homes at scale from its land portfolio and the broader State land bank. The initial portfolio of sites that the Agency has access to will have the potential, over the short to medium term, to deliver 3,000 affordable homes in line with the Government policy of achieving 30% affordable housing on State lands generally.

There is also capacity to deliver up to 2,350 further affordable homes on mainly publicly owned lands supported through the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF). An additional c. 5,600 homes will benefit from a LIHAF-related cost reduction, some of which are already coming to market.

These schemes will complement other key Government affordability initiatives, such as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, and the Help to Buy Scheme, which have supported some 15,000 households.

Rental Sector Strategy

Ceisteanna (73)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

73. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the contact he has had with local authorities regarding the implementation of the short-term letting regulations since 1 July 2019; and his views on the level of exemptions and planning applications to date. [37637/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has been in regular contact with relevant planning authorities regarding the new short-term letting legislation, both before and subsequent to its commencement on 1 July 2019.

In order for the new legislation to have the desired effect and achieve its objective of returning much-needed accommodation to the long-term rental market, it is essential that relevant planning authorities adopt a pro-active approach to enforcement. This will add to the planning enforcement workload of the affected planning authorities, necessitating dedicated additional staffing and complementary resources.

In this regard, my Department wrote to planning authorities on 4 June 2019 seeking estimated resource funding requirements for the implementation and enforcement of the new provisions. My Department wrote again to planning authorities on 2 July 2019 seeking new or revised estimates following my designation of additional Rent Pressure Zones in certain parts of the country, which extended the application of the short-term letting provisions to the new areas.

Since then, further communication has taken place between my Department and all relevant planning authorities regarding the clarification and refinement of the resourcing requests, as well as in relation to the practical implementation of the short-term letting provisions. As an example, on 2 August last, my Department issued a detailed “Guidance Note for Planning Authorities on the Regulation of Short-Term Letting” to planning authorities to assist in this regard and to facilitate a consistent approach in the implementation of the provisions.

My Department will continue to engage with relevant planning authorities regarding the implementation and enforcement of the short-term letting legislation. The legislation does not require planning authorities to report statistical information to my Department regarding the receipt of notifications from concerned property owners of the letting of their properties on a home-sharing basis, thereby being eligible to avail of the exemption from the requirement to obtain planning permission, or the number of change of use planning applications that have been received further to the commencement of the provisions. However, as part of my Department’s provision of enforcement funding, planning authorities will be required to submit an initial progress report six months after the commencement of enforcement activity, and to submit further reports at subsequent appropriate intervals.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 41.

Ceisteanna (74)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

74. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of sites that are being considered for development of cost rental homes in each relevant local authority area; the specific sites under consideration in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37496/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The provision of Cost Rental homes will focus on areas where housing cost affordability is a challenge for moderate income households. As a result, this will see the initial emphasis on major urban areas. While two ‘pathfinder’ pilot projects are located in Dublin, it is intended that Cost Rental will become a national scheme, to be delivered at scale over the longer term.

The following table includes the two Cost Rental ‘pathfinder’ pilot projects at Enniskerry Road and St. Michael's Estate. Also included is a site at Shanganagh, where Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is currently working with the Land Development Agency (LDA) to explore the possibility of undertaking a Cost Rental development. The remaining sites comprise the initial portfolio of sites to which the LDA has access. The LDA is very committed to the concept of Cost Rental and it is likely that it will form a significant element of delivery at the majority of these locations.

Site Name

Location

Local AuthorityArea

Enniskerry Road

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

DLR County Council

St. Michael's Estate

Dublin City Council

Dublin City Council

Shanganagh Castle

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

DLR County Council

Skerries

Dublin- non local authority

Fingal County Council

Naas

Kildare- non local authority

Kildare County Council

Dundrum

Dublin - non local authority

DLR County Council

St Kevin's

Cork- non local authority

Cork County Council

Cherry Orchard

Dublin- non local authority

Dublin City Council

St Teresa’s Gardens

Dublin - non local authority

Dublin City Council

Poolbeg

Dublin - non local authority

Dublin City Council

In tandem with these pilot projects, my Department is developing a national policy approach to Cost Rental for Ireland. This requires that serious consideration is given to the many delivery options possible, and the challenges posed, in order to ensure that a coherent Cost Rental model can be delivered at a scale and in a manner that will have the desired positive impact on the Irish housing sector.

To this end, I have convened a working group within my Department, in conjunction with the Land Development Agency, the Housing Agency, and other expert bodies. This group is developing the policy framework for the broader Cost Rental model and to consider how a sustainable financing structure can be established to then commence delivery of units at the scale required to get this new category of housing off the ground. The work of this group is being assisted by a consultancy and research support that is being undertaken by the European Investment Bank on our behalf.

The selection of further sites for Cost Rental consideration will be informed largely by the financial and operational model that will emerge from this evidence building. Given the 30% affordability requirement that the Government has agreed must be met on State lands that are to be utilised for housing, I anticipate that Cost Rental will have an important role to play in the development of these lands.

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 41.