Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (196)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

196. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39221/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13 August 2019. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 23 September 2019 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has also advised me that the documentation associated with this question will be added to this file and brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer dealing with this case.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Payments

Ceisteanna (197)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

197. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when arrears of a working family payment will be payable in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39233/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children.

A review of the Working Family Payment entitlement for the person concerned was carried out recently. A revised decision was issued to the person concerned on 05 September 2019 and Working Family Payment arrears were paid to the person concerned on the 12 September 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (198)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

198. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the most appropriate route to proceed in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39235/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Disability allowance (DA) is a means tested scheme and means are assessed in line with the provisions specified in the relevant social welfare legislation. In summary, any income, with some exceptions, belonging to the person is assessable as means for DA purposes.

The DA scheme is structured to encourage recipients to avail of opportunities to engage in work where this is appropriate, either in self-employment or in insurable employment. When an individual engages in or is already engaged in work, they can avail of an income disregard of €120 per week, and 50% of earnings between €120 and €350 are also disregarded, for the purpose of the means test. The person concerned would need to submit payslips in order for his entitlement to be reviewed.

People who have been in receipt of DA are entitled to retain their free travel for a period of 5 years after returning to work providing all other qualifying conditions for the free travel scheme are satisfied.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (199)

James Browne

Ceist:

199. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position regarding representation rights for former employees of companies that query matters related to their pensions and pension funds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39239/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Scheme trustees have a range of duties and responsibilities under trust law, under the Pensions Act 1990, as amended, and under other relevant legislation. The duties of pension scheme trustees include administering the scheme in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust deed and scheme rules as well as ensuring compliance with the requirements that apply to these schemes. Trustees must act in the best financial interest of all scheme members, whether active, deferred or retired, and must serve all beneficiaries of the scheme impartially. If there is a conflict of interest then a person’s duty as a trustee must take precedence over other interests.

Measures were introduced in 2015 to facilitate engagement between the trustees of a pension scheme and groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members. Changes to guidance issued by the Pensions Authority require the trustees of a pension scheme to notify groups representing the interest of scheme members of proposals to issue a direction under section 50 of the Pensions Act to restructure scheme benefits. This affords the representative group an opportunity to make a submission to the trustees of a pension scheme in relation to proposals to restructure scheme benefits. These changes facilitate engagement between groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members and the trustees of a pension scheme. Groups representing the interests of pensioners and deferred scheme members have a right to appeal a section 50 direction by the Pensions Authority to the High Court on a point of law.

The Pensions Authority is the regulatory body charged with the supervision of pension schemes and has the necessary powers under statute to investigate the conduct of a pension scheme should it become aware that a scheme is not in compliance with the provisions of the Pensions Act. Where a pension scheme member is of the view that the scheme is not in compliance with legislative requirements he or she may make a formal complaint to the Pensions Authority.

Any questions relating to access to the State's industrial relations machinery is a matter for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (200)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

200. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has examined the prospect of a major capital investment to provide affordable housing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39160/19]

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 new statutory basis for affordable dwelling purchase arrangements. Initial regulations in relation to schemes of priorities were made subsequently and further regulations will be put in place over the coming months regarding eligibility and other matters.

In order to support the delivery of discounted homes to buy or rent, this Government has committed €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund, from 2019 to 2021, to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of some 6,200 homes. To date, funding of €127 million, in support of 35 projects in 13 local authority areas, has been allocated for infrastructure works on sites that will support the delivery of almost 3,200 homes.

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

In addition to making discounted homes available for purchase, the Government is also committed to the development of a new ‘Cost Rental’ sector in Ireland. 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 capital subvention to individual developments through the Serviced Sites Fund.

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).

A pilot Cost rental project is currently on site in Enniskerry Road, Stepaside, Co. Dublin. It involves a collaboration between the Department, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the Housing Agency, Approved Housing Bodies, Respond and Túath, and the Housing Finance Agency.

I officially launched the Enniskerry Road development earlier this month. It comprises of 155 homes, a community facility, along with green spaces and car parking (including underground car parking). The 155 homes include 50 cost rental units, all of which will be 2-bedroom apartments. It is anticipated that at €1,200, rents for these units will be significantly below the market rates for the area.

While the cost rental element of this project is relatively small in scale (50 units), it will act as the first example of how this model can work in an Irish context, and will provide us with invaluable lessons when designing a larger-scale system. It will help to shape the contractual model and specifications for future larger-scale projects.

The second Cost Rental pilot project will be delivered on a Dublin City Council-owned site at St. Michael’s Estate, Emmet Road, Inchicore. It is estimated that this site can accommodate over 470 homes in a high quality mixed tenure development. The current tenure mix as agreed with the Department will be 70% Cost Rental and 30% Social.

These new schemes are set in the context of significant moderation in the growth in house prices and complement other key Government affordability initiatives. Included among these are the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, under which over 1,000 loans had been drawn down by end June this year, and the Help to Buy Scheme, under which some 14,000 applications have been approved. In addition, the Land Development Agency's initial portfolio of sites will have the potential to deliver 3,000 affordable homes and the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund ( LIHAF) will support more than 2,300 affordable homes on mainly publicly owned lands, while 5,600 further homes will benefit from a LIHAF-related cost reduction, some of which have already come on stream. Details of all SSF and LIHAF funded infrastructure projects can be found on the www.rebuildingireland.ie website at

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-10-local-authority-sites-affordable-housing-serviced-sites-fund/.

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-funding-of-e84m-to-support-delivery-of-1770-affordable-homes-under-the-ssf/.

https://rebuildingireland.ie/lihaf/.

In overall terms, programmes are in place under which some 18,000 affordable homes or homes with a LIHAF-related reduction will be delivered, with 15,000 households already supported under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan or the Help to Buy Scheme.

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (201)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

201. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether the lack of adequate local authority housing might be considered an infrastructural deficit, with a view to prioritising capital investment and thereby reducing the number on the local authority housing list or the Rebuilding Ireland programme and having particular regard for the need to make a serious impact on the local authority housing list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39161/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The delivery of new social housing is a priority for the Government as can be seen in the targeted delivery, this year, of 10,000 new social homes through build, acquisition and lease, under the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness. In addition, the Government's commitment to the delivery of social housing homes is evident from the National Development Plan 2018-2027, which provides for the delivery of 112,000 new social homes over the next decade, supported by capital funding of €11.6 billion.

All local authorities are being funded to significantly increase their delivery of social housing under Rebuilding Ireland and a strong social housing construction pipeline is in place for local authorities and approved housing bodies. National social housing delivery targets have been set under Rebuilding Ireland to 2021 and are publicly available on a local authority basis, on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/social-housing-targets-2019/. Progress against these targets is tracked on a quarterly basis and details are published on my Department's website at https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision.

The social housing delivery targets set for each local authority are in proportion to their waiting lists. Accordingly, as progress is made by each authority against their delivery targets, this will proportionally benefit those on individual waiting lists. The most recently available Summary of Social Housing Assessments relates to 2018 and, at national level, the number of households on the waiting list had decreased by 13,941 (-16.2%), compared to the previous assessment in June 2017, with 29 of the 31 local authorities reporting a decrease.

A strong social housing construction pipeline is in place and a detailed breakdown of this is contained in the Social Housing Construction Status Report which is updated and published on a quarterly basis. The report covering the period up to end Quarter 2 2019 is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q2-2019-2/, providing project details of the social housing construction pipeline in place at that stage for all local authorities.

The Quarter 2 report reflected an increase in the scale of the social housing build programme, with over 1,500 schemes (or phases of schemes) in place, delivering over 22,000 new social housing homes. Of this total, over 7,300 new homes have already been delivered up to Quarter 2 of 2019, while over 6,400 additional new homes were under construction. Over 2,700 further homes were at the final pre-construction stage and the remainder were progressing through the various stages of planning, design and procurement.

The timing, delivery and tenanting of schemes is a matter in the first place for each local authority. I am pleased to see the progress being made on projects, building on what has been already delivered, but I am keen that all local authorities further accelerate their programmes and I have assured them that the necessary funding is available to support their work in this regard.

Local Authority Staff

Ceisteanna (202)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

202. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason local authority outdoor employees who are now retired are not linked to the cohort of outdoor employees in respect of their pension entitlements in view of the fact that they do not receive an increase in their pension when the wages of the local authority employees increase; if same will be reviewed with a view to addressing the anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39210/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform determines central public service pensions policy. The most recent position in relation to Public Service Pensions is set out in Circular 19/2019 which is available at the following link:

www.gov.ie/en/circular/b5d982-circular-192019-further-instruction-on-the-pension-increase-policy-i/.

The determination of pension entitlements in individual cases is a matter for each local authority.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (203)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

203. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a Brexit impact assessment has been undertaken to assess the impact that a no-deal Brexit will have on the construction of residential property and the credit environment for both buyers and developers in a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Since my Department started its Brexit planning, the question of the impact on the housing sector has been under consideration and has also been the subject of discussions at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government.

The Government has indicated clearly, on foot of analysis undertaken, that the UK's exit from the European Union will have a detrimental impact on our economy and public finances, whatever form it takes. This may result in a lowering in the demand for housing. However, it is also possible that Brexit may impact net migration to Ireland in the short-term, particularly if a slow-down in the UK economy diverts a proportion of UK based-enterprises and employees as well as EU migrants who might otherwise have migrated to the UK, to Ireland.

Short-term phenomena, both immediately prior to and after a UK withdrawal from the EU, must be distinguished from the likely long-term picture. The National Planning Framework is based on long-term, mid-range demographic and econometric projections over the period to 2040. If a significant trend becomes apparent that is likely to continue in the long-run, national strategy would need to be reviewed accordingly. In the meantime, the Rebuilding Ireland housing delivery target of 25,000 homes per annum by 2020 will be met, with the National Planning Framework, published in 2018, identifying a need for this number to increase to 30-35,000 homes in the years to 2027. Any post-Brexit impact will be closely monitored and factored in accordingly.

In December 2018, the Government published its Contingency Action Plan which outlined the many risks of a no deal scenario, and the work underway at national and EU level to mitigate these risks as much as possible. My Department contributed to the process and identified the areas within its remit. On 9 July the Government published the Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update which reflects the extensive work that has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis. The Action Plan emphasises the need for stepped up preparedness measures, by exposed businesses in particular. In that regard, approximately one third of the Irish construction industry's inputs are imported, a significant proportion of which comes from the UK.

The preparedness measures for the construction sector span across a number of Government Department and Offices. These include the Department of Education and Skills (construction workers/professional qualifications), the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation & NSAI (the trade of goods and services) and the Revenue Commissioners (customs, duties and levies) and each is engaging on the issues in their areas.

One of the key areas under my Department's remit is the implementation of the Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (CPR), which sets the rules for placing certain construction products on the EU market and the requirement for a CE Marking. On the date of withdrawal, the UK becomes a third country. This has implications for the certification of certain construction products, for manufacturers, importers, distributors and authorised representatives when placing products on the Irish/EU Market and builders, building professionals and others when specifying and using certain construction products.

Since January 2018, my Department has been engaging with the construction sector in relation to the impact of Brexit for the CPR and the actions that should be taken before the UK leaves the EU. In collaboration with the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and NSAI, my Department set up a working group with key stakeholders (including the Construction Industry Federation, IBEC/Building Materials Federation, Hardware Association of Ireland, Irish Concrete Federation, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, Engineers Ireland and others) to further raise awareness of the business continuity requirements and provide clarity where necessary. The Department is also engaged in presenting at industry events, providing information on its website and disseminating updates to registered users of the Building Control Management System (over 100,000 users).

Issues in relation to the credit environment are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

Ceisteanna (204)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

204. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 988 of 11 June 2019, the progress being made in 2019 in delivering the project which received URDF funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39104/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As part of this first tranche of approvals under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, Kildare County Council was allocated URDF support of €400,000 towards its Category B proposal to progress the technical and preparatory element of the Celbridge Southern Relief Road & Second Liffey Crossing.

The advancement and completion of this project is, in the first instance, a matter for Kildare County Council.

Notwithstanding this, I am advised by the Council that they have recently completed the preliminary appraisal stage of the project in accordance with Transport Infrastructure Ireland's Project Management Guidelines 2019. This is the first of eight phases in the overall project. The Council are currently in the process of engaging an Engineering Consultancy to assist with the progression of the scheme through the next four phases of the project.

Construction Industry Register Ireland

Ceisteanna (205)

Frank O'Rourke

Ceist:

205. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the general scheme of the building control (construction industry register Ireland) Bill; if a register (details supplied) has been placed on a statutory footing; if so, if it is a legal requirement for all builders and contractors; if the registration fee of an organisation will be included in the subscription fee of a federation; if not, if it will it be an additional payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39108/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Government has committed to placing the Construction Industry Register Ireland, or CIRI, on a statutory footing. CIRI was established on a voluntary basis in 2014 and over 850 building and contracting entities are currently included on the register.

The Government approved the draft heads of a Bill to place the CIRI on a statutory footing and the Bill was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Committee’s report has since been received and my Department is currently working through the Committee’s recommendations. The General Scheme is available on my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/legislations/general_scheme_of_the_building_control_construction_industry_register_ireland_bill_2017.pdf.

The main objective of the legislation is to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with Building Regulations within the builder community of the construction sector. The establishment of a robust, mandatory, statutory register of builders and specialist contractors is an essential consumer protection measure giving those who engage a registered builder the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator. In addition, it will complement the reforms made through the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and contribute to the development of an enhanced culture of competence and compliance in the construction sector.

It is proposed that the operation of CIRI will be vested in the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) in the same way that statutory registration of Architects was vested in the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), pursuant to the Building Control Act 2007. The independence and objectivity of the registration board will be critical to the success of CIRI and a number of provisions are included in the draft Bill to uphold the independence of the registration system, including in relation to fees. My Department is working with the Attorney General's Office with a view to achieving publication of the Bill in early 2020.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

Ceisteanna (206)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

206. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a decision will be made on an appeal or review relating to the refusal by his Department to fund a project applied for under the urban regeneration and development fund (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39140/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) launched last year has an overall provision of €2 billion to 2027. Under the stewardship of DHPLG the URDF has funding available in 2019 to provide initial support for the 88 projects announced last November on foot of the first call for proposals. A first call for proposals from public bodies issued in July 2018

As part of the original application process a rigorous assessment was undertaken and all applicants both successful and unsuccessful received a detailed breakdown of the assessment of their proposal. Where the decision in respect of a proposal was unfavourable, applicants were offered the opportunity to request a review of the Departments decision. Requests for a review were submitted in respect of seven proposals. Those reviews have now been completed and the outcome of that process will be notified to the lead authority in respect of those seven proposals shortly.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (207)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

207. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of Rebuilding Ireland home loan applications by local authority; the number of such loans approved by each local authority; and the number of loans drawn down by each local authority to date in 2019, in tabular form. [39158/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Agency provides a central support service which assesses applications for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan on behalf of local authorities and makes recommendations to the authorities to approve or refuse applications.

I have asked the Agency to compile figures on the numbers of valid applications that it has assessed and recommended to approve for this year. From 1st January 2019 to the end of August 2019, the Housing Agency had assessed 1,864 applications. Of these, it had recommended 940 for approval.

Local Authority

Applications Underwritten

Recommended to Approve

Carlow County Council

19

8

Cavan County Council

6

2

Clare County Council

31

14

Cork City Council

102

41

Cork County Council

154

68

Donegal County Council

20

4

Dublin City Council

219

127

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council

53

26

Fingal County Council

257

164

Galway City Council

40

25

Galway County Council

66

19

Kerry County Council

45

15

Kildare County Council

8

3

Kilkenny County Council

24

11

Laois County Council

42

22

Leitrim County Council

6

2

Limerick City & County Council

51

32

Longford County Council

21

8

Louth County Council

52

14

Mayo County Council

33

13

Meath County Council

121

85

Monaghan County Council

32

12

Offaly County Council

12

5

Roscommon County Council

27

9

Sligo County Council

18

7

South Dublin County Council

149

78

Tipperary County Council

54

31

Waterford City & County Council

58

22

Westmeath County Council

20

11

Wexford County Council

65

31

Wicklow County Council

59

31

Total

1,864

940

My Department publishes information on the overall number and value of (i) local authority loan approvals and (ii) local authority loan drawdowns. Information for Quarter 1 2019, including in relation to the number and value of mortgage drawdowns, is available on the Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-prices-loans-and-profile-borrowers/local-authority-loan-activity.