Local Authority Members

Ceisteanna (653, 656)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

653. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the Moorhead report will be published; and when he plans to address the issue of the remuneration of councillors. [47353/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

656. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the Moorhead report will be published; when action will be taken to address issues of pay and conditions for local public representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47396/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 653 and 656 together.

As a result of feedback from local authority elected members and their representative bodies regarding their current remuneration regime, my colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, and I agreed that in June 2018 Ms Sara Moorhead SC would be invited to carry out a review of the role and remuneration of local authority elected members.

Ms Moorhead submitted an Interim Report to me at the end of November 2018, which is publicly available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current?query=Independent%20review%20of%20the%20role%20and%20remuneration%20of%20local%20authority%20elected%20members .

In conducting the review, Ms Moorhead surveyed all local authority elected members and sought financial information from all local authorities. In both cases, deadline extensions were granted to allow sufficient time for comprehensive responses to be made. I understand that the Review has also involved extensive consultation with individual councillors, councillor representative organisations, local authorities, political parties and other stakeholders. A desk based examination of the remuneration regimes of local representatives in other jurisdictions was also carried out.

Following the necessary drafting process Ms Moorhead is currently finalising her Report. I expect that the review will more comprehensively define the role of councillor and make recommendations for modernising the remuneration regime in order to ensure it is commensurate with the new role envisaged.

In accordance with the agreed terms of reference, Ms. Moorheads final Report will then be submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, for discussion and in order that it has regard to the wider public pay context.

Irish Water

Ceisteanna (654)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

654. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will provide a schedule of advices and-or meetings he has had with the water advisory body since it was established in 2018; the measures and-or advices it has issued to him in respect of the transparency and accountability of Irish Water in 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47354/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government I have responsibility for overall policy in relation to water services and Irish Water. The Water Advisory Body (WAB) is an independent body that was formally established on 1 June 2018 under the Water Services Act 2017 (Part 7) to provide oversight to Irish Water on measures needed to improve the transparency, accountability and confidence in relation to Irish Water; and to report, on a quarterly basis, to an Oireachtas Committee on the performance by Irish Water in the implementation of its Business Plan.

Members of the WAB are appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Water Services Act 2017 and consist of nominees from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), An Fórum Uisce, as well as two independent nominees appointed through the State Boards process (www.stateboards.ie), as managed by the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

My Department is in regular, ongoing contact with the Board and its Secretariat. While I have met with Mr Paul McGowan and other individual members of the WAB during my time as Minister, this was not in the context of meeting them in their official Board capacity but I intend to do so following publication of their first quarterly report.

To date there have been no advices received from the WAB. However, in fulfilment of its obligations under the Water Services Act, the WAB submitted its first quarterly report to the Oireachtas on 23 October this year. This report, which I also received and am currently reviewing, has been published by the WAB on its website (www.wateradvisorybody.ie) and is in relation to its function to review the implementation by Irish Water of its Business Plan. As part of this, a set of performance indicators has been selected to represent the activities of Irish Water in relation to the performance of its functions and from which the report draws conclusions and makes recommendations.

Legislative Measures

Question No. 656 answered with Question No. 653.

Ceisteanna (655)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

655. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the building control Bill; when he expects the Bill to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47388/19]

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 :

https://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. My Department is working with the Attorney General's Office with a view to achieving publication of the Bill in early 2020.

Question No. 656 answered with Question No. 653.

Local Government Fund

Ceisteanna (657)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

657. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the local government fund grant given to each local authority in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 by local authority in tabular form; the allocation for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47418/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local authorities derive their income from a variety of sources including commercial rates, charges for goods and services and funding from Central Government. Central Government funding of local authorities includes transfers, both current and capital, from a range of Departments and Offices for a variety of purposes. Some streams of funding are delivered directly from funding departments to local authorities, while others are routed through departmental agencies.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) publishes a report on the central government funding of local government. The most recent report refers to 2018 and is available at the following link:

https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/Report%20on%20the%20Accounts%20of%20the%20Public%20Services/Report%20on%20the%20Accounts%20of%20the%20Public%20Services%202018.html.

Details of local property tax allocations to local authorities for 2020 which are included in the Local Government Fund are available on my Department's website at the following link; 

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/final_2020_lpt_allocations_after_local_variation.pdf

An allocation of €156m was secured for the local government sector, as part of the national budgetary process for 2020. Of this, €109m is specifically to assist local authorities to meet additional costs in 2020 associated with the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) legislation and the cumulative effect of implementing National Pay Agreements up to and including the Public Sector Stability Agreement (PSSA). 

The details of funding to local authorities from the Local Government Fund, as it was configured, in each year from 2016 to 31 August 2019 are available at the following link..

LG Fund

Irish Water

Ceisteanna (658)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

658. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the Irish Water commercial rates replacement funding given to each local authority in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the allocation for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47419/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Section 12 of the Water Services Act 2014 provided that the property of the public water system was not rateable. Prior to this provision, some water assets were valued for rates purposes. Irish Water was therefore not liable to pay rates during the years referred to in the question.

This exemption was ended by section 61 of the Water Services Act 2017, which was commenced with effect from 18 October 2019, and Irish Water will therefore become rateable with effect from 1 January 2020.

In order to ensure that the local authorities were not at a loss as a result of the previous exemption my Department has been recouping local authorities in respect of rates income foregone relating to Irish Water's infrastructure. As Irish Water will become ratable from 1 January 2020 no allocation has been made in Budget 2020 for payment to local authorities in respect of rates income foregone.

The amounts paid to local authorities in respect of rates income foregone is set out in the following table.

Local Authority

2015€

2016€

2017€

2018€

2019€

Carlow County Council

48,862.00

49,077.00

51,281.00

51,281.00

51,281.00

Cavan County Council

27,614.34

30,286.29

30,739.13

33,587.46

33,587.46

Clare County Council

165,023.00

165,023.09

165,023.09

165,023.09

165,023.09

Cork City Council

711,651.00

711,650.85

720,587.76

720,587.76

720,587.76

Cork County Council

1,544,069.00

1,544,068.78

1,544,068.78

1,544,068.78

1,544,068.78

Donegal County Council

350,327.00

357,444.28

349,900.13

366,280.76

366,280.76

Dublin City Council

14,279,146.00

14,052,358.16

14,448,682.65

14,346,704.04

14,597,454.76

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

3,333,679.00

3,333,679.00

3,382,945.00

3,434,264.00

3,434,264.00

Fingal County Council

5,248,396.80

5,248,540.80

5,248,540.80

5,357,885.40

5,467,230.00

Galway City Council

98,909.00

101,840.74

98,909.41

98,909.41

98,909.41

Galway County Council

32,783.00

34,674.75

9,592.62

10,088.79

10,584.96

Kerry County Council

253,146.00

255,827.10

256,910.02

257,295.03

257,675.97

Kildare County Council

2,560,744.00

2,571,100.68

2,575,065.12

2,579,029.71

2,575,065.12

Kilkenny County Council

22,346.00

23,173.50

23,183.77

16,495.88

498.00

Laois County Council

75,690.84

77,413.23

79,735.85

79,735.85

79,735.83

Leitrim County Council

21,306.27

21,700.29

36,733.14

53,146.98

53,146.98

Limerick City and County Council

1,948,485.00

1,988,101.50

2,087,547.00

2,123,929.50

2,164,354.50

Longford County Council

78,307.61

78,307.63

78,307.63

78,307.63

78,307.63

Louth County Council

585,784.30

586,075.80

585,955.47

588,721.87

584,857.00

Mayo County Council

201,223.00

201,223.46

201,223.44

216,315.20

225,052.40

Meath County Council

307,713.00

308,316.17

308,911.97

308,911.97

308,911.97

Monaghan County Council

95,995.10

11,023.30

11,023.30

11,660.28

11,345.71

Offaly County Council

-

-

-

-

-

Roscommon County Council

-

-

-

-

-

Sligo County Council

132,440.66

132,440.66

132,922.76

138,325.19

138,325.19

South Dublin County Council

6,852,495.00

6,852,495.00

6,852,495.00

6,852,495.00

6,852,495.00

Tipperary County Council

426,232.69

427,133.63

427,133.63

427,133.63

427,133.63

Waterford City and County Council

4,503,996.00

4,478,796.00

4,478,796.00

4,590,765.90

4,590,767.00

Westmeath County Council

68,986.30

68,942.36

68,942.36

68,942.36

68,942.36

Wexford County Council

129,296.00

129,296.04

129,296.04

135,702.31

135,702.31

Wicklow County Council

2,240,402.00

2,182,361.34

2,182,361.34

2,156,529.33

2,138,070.23

Total

46,345,049.91

46,022,371.43

46,566,814.21

46,812,124.11

47,179,658.81

Commercial Rates Yield

Ceisteanna (659)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

659. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the communication he has had with each local authority in relation to changes to local government revenue due to changes to Irish Water commercial rates payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47420/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department works closely with the local government sector through the City and County Management Association (CCMA) in the preparation of a consistent and evidence based approach to the various funding challenges facing the sector. This work has helped inform the decision making process to ensure that a coherent and sector wide view of the particular issues are presented. Of course, all such issues have to be considered within the parameters of the national and fiscal budgetary situation and the competing priorities presenting themselves at the wider Governmental level.

On its establishment, Irish Water was initially subject to commercial rates for 2014. In November 2014, the Government announced a new package of measures related to the financing of Irish Water. As part of these measures, section 12 of Water Services Act 2014 provided that Irish Water would not be rateable for the purposes of the Valuation Act 2001. This decision to exempt Irish Water from commercial rates was made to ensure that households and businesses paying water charges at the time would not have to meet this cost. Local authorities were compensated for this loss of revenue through the Local Government Fund. It was always the case that this compensation measure would only remain in place for as long as Irish Water was exempt from commercial rates.

In July 2017 the CCMA submitted a report concerning rates on water infrastructure and the financial impact of the Irish Water rates exemption to my Department. Among other things, it recommended that the exemption for Irish water from rates in the Water Services Act 2014 be reversed and that Irish Water be valued as a global utility undertaking in a similar manner to other national utility networks.

A new funding model for water services was developed in 2017 following on from the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, which was approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas in April 2017. The Water Services Act 2017 was enacted on 17 November 2017 and implemented key features of this new funding model. Section 61 of the Act contained a provision to remove the Irish Water exemption from commercial rates. This was consistent with the general approach applicable to the infrastructure of public utilities.

On 20 February 2019 the Minister for Justice and Equality made the Valuation Act 2001 (Global Valuation) (Irish Water) Order 2019 (S.I. No. 60 of 2019) which provided for the Commissioner of Valuation to carry out a valuation of relevant properties occupied by Irish Water. The Order provided that the global valuation be made by reference to 31 March 2018 and entered in the Central Valuation List by 18 October 2019. Further to this Order, the independent Commissioner for Valuation issued his preliminary national valuation on 18 July 2019. Section 61 of the Water Services Act 2017 was commenced with effect 18 October 2019, when the valuation was then entered on the Central Valuation List.

Earlier this year the CCMA submitted a further report on this subject to my Department, which highlighted the local government sector's concerns in respect of the rating of water and waste water infrastructure and the distribution of the Irish water valuation and considered the financial impact on local authorities. Most recently, following the issue of the preliminary valuation certificate for Irish Water in July 2019, the CCMA submitted a report concerning rates income impacts and Irish Water.

In all engagement and communication on the rating of Irish Water and the cessation of compensation in lieu of rates from Irish Water, my Department indicated that it was actively monitoring the financial impact of this transition on individual local authorities in the context of their overall financial position. This is an ongoing process and engagement takes place on a bilateral basis between officials in my Department and individual local authorities. My Department has been in regular discussions with the nominated local authority representatives regarding the potential implications of the valuation of Irish Water from March 2019. These discussions took place during the Reval 2019 process and the development and passage of the Local Government Rates and Other Matters Bill, and had a particular focus on the financial implications for local authorities. I am satisfied that there was sustained and robust engagement with the local government sector on this matter.

Traveller Accommodation

Ceisteanna (660)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

660. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the Traveller accommodation allocations for each local authority for 2019; and the drawdown to date by each local authority in tabular form. [47471/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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

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

The amounts of funding allocated in 2019 and drawn down to-date by housing authorities, for Traveller-specific accommodation are set out in the following table.

LOCAL AUTHORITY

ALLOCATION 2019 €

Drawdown 2019 €

CARLOW

70,000

382,000

CAVAN

95,000

95,000

CLARE

635,000

326,000

CORK CITY

276,000

-

CORK COUNTY

258,000

180,000

DONEGAL

162,000

DUBLIN CITY

1,629,000

710,000

DUN LAOGHAIRE-R.DOWN

-

-

FINGAL

-

11,000

SOUTH DUBLIN

131,000

107,000

GALWAY CITY

-

-

GALWAY COUNTY

1,413,000

143,000

KERRY

77,200

-

KILDARE

1,000,000

20,000

KILKENNY

22,000

171,000

LAOIS

-

-

LEITRIM

178,000

-

LIMERICK CITY & COUNTY

1,015,000

691,000

LONGFORD

3,000

-

LOUTH

133,000

-

MAYO

-

-

MEATH

75,000

92,000

MONAGHAN

100,000

-

OFFALY

815,000

510,000

ROSCOMMON

253,000

74,000

SLIGO

1,436,000

446,000

TIPPERARY

26,000

-

WATERFORD CITY & COUNTY

170,000

77,000

WESTMEATH

100,000

-

WEXFORD

335,000

53,000

WICKLOW

105,000

-

TOTAL

10,511,000

4,088,000

RESERVE*

2,489,000

-

BUDGET

13,000,000

4,088,000

Housing Estates

Ceisteanna (661)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

661. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the persons or body with which liability stands for the upkeep of roads in cases in which a housing estate is not taken in charge by a local authority, does not have a management company and the builder is no longer in business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47507/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under normal circumstances the developer is responsible for the maintenance and operation of housing estates until the local authority agrees to take them in charge.   The progression of individual developments through the taking-in-charge process is a matter for the relevant housing developer, the residents in such developments and the relevant local authorities, following the procedures laid out in section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended).   Until an estate is taken in charge, legally the original developers are responsible for maintenance of roads and footpaths, water services, public lighting and open space but if a developer goes out of business, there can be difficulties in addressing maintenance issues arising. 

If, as I understand may be the case in this instance, the estate would had been eligible for taking in charge procedures in accordance with the grant of planning permission under section 34 of the 2000 Act except for the fact that the builder is no longer in business and the developer has not completed the estate to satisfactory levels, there are a number of options available to the planning authority and residents.  Firstly, the planning authority may draw down any security given under section 34(4)(g) of the 2000 Act for the satisfactory completion of the development.  Secondly, the planning authority can initiate enforcement proceedings against the developer.  However, where the authority considers that enforcement proceedings will not result in the satisfactory completion of the estate by the developer, the authority may, where requested by a majority of the owners of the houses in question, initiate the procedures set out in section 11 of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended) for the taking in charge of an estate. 

In short, the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 made amendments to the principal Act of 2000 with effect from 22 October 2018, essentially allowing for planning authorities where estates had not been satisfactorily completed and where enforcement proceedings had not been commenced within a four year period, to comply with section 11 of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended), where requested by the majority of owners of the houses involved. Planning authorities are now specifically empowered to take in charge part of an estate, or some but not all of the facilities in an estate.

The initiation of procedures under section 11 of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended) does not preclude a planning authority from pursuing a developer for costs incurred by the authority in respect of works undertaken on an estate, to enable it to be taken in charge by that authority.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (662)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

662. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the allocation to each local authority in 2019 from the local government fund and the equalisation fund of the LPT in 2019 and 2020 respectively; the method by which this allocation is calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47517/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local Property Tax (LPT) was introduced to provide a stable and sustainable funding base for local authorities to support the delivery of critical local services to communities. Every local authority receives a minimum amount of LPT funding for its own use; this is known as the baseline.  Local authorities with surplus LPT income i.e. income above the baseline, retain a portion of that surplus, up to 20% of the projected LPT yield for that area, also for their own use. Any remaining LPT above that is used to "self-fund" certain Housing and Roads services in their area. Local authorities that require "equalisation" funding are not required to self-fund.

Irrespective of baselines, each local authority retains 80% of the estimated LPT  yield to be collected in its own area.  The remaining 20% is used to support "equalisation" funding for those authorities with lower property bases.  Exchequer funding is also required to ensure every local authority receives at least its baseline funding. Two-thirds of authorities receive "equalisation" funding support to bring their funding levels up to their baselines.

In 2019, overall LPT allocations to local authorities amount to €503m. In 2020, I expect that LPT allocations will increase to €516.8m. The increase is largely accounted for by the decisions of 19 local authorities to increase LPT rates above the basic rate for 2020.  When a local authority decides to vary the LPT basic rate upwards (by up to 15%), it retains 100% of the resultant additional income collected in the local authority area. Likewise, when the rate is reduced, the authority forgoes the income that would have been otherwise collected. The 19 local authorities that voted to increase LPT above the basic rate are expected to increase LPT income by €19.7m, for their own use, in 2020.

Detailed information on LPT, broken down by local authority, including the allocations to each local authority in 2019 and 2020, are available at the following link on my Department's website:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current/category/housing/sub-topic/local-property-tax/sub-type/funding-allocation/topic/chargestaxes/type/publications?query

Residential Tenancies Board

Ceisteanna (663)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

663. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to change the legislation establishing the Residential Tenancies Board which only allows an appeal to the courts on a point of law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47524/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants.  The service provided by the RTB is quasi-judicial and all of their mediators, adjudicators and tribunal members have independent decision-making powers, in the same way as judges have within the Court system. To ensure impartiality, transparency and fairness, adjudicators are independently appointed and they undertake their functions in an autonomous capacity.

Section 123(3) of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 states that any of the parties concerned may appeal to the High Court, within the relevant time period, a determination of a Tribunal on a point of law.

The RTB replaces the Courts for the vast majority of landlord and tenant disputes. However, section 182 of the Act provides that if the damages sought in a dispute amount to more than €20,000 or, in the case of rent arrears more than €60,000, the dispute may be referred directly to the Courts.

Prior to 2004, where there was a dispute between a landlord and a tenant, there was no alternative but to go to Court for dispute resolution services. This was costly and time consuming for the parties involved, with the majority of cases taking years to resolve.

Accordingly, I have no plans to change the right of appeal under section 123 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

Local Authority Staff Remuneration

Ceisteanna (664)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

664. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funds being made available to local authorities to meet the costs of public sector pay increments in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47555/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

It is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities, including taking account of  payroll costs  in the context of the annual budgetary process, having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources. As a matter of course, a local authority's payroll costs may increase because of the awarding of pay increments in the course of a year.

An allocation of €156m was secured for the local government sector, as part of the national budgetary process. Of this, €109m is specifically to assist local authorities to meet additional costs in 2020 associated with the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) legislation and the cumulative effect of implementing National Pay Agreements up to and including the Public Sector Stability Agreement (PSSA). 

The overall aim of this contribution is to assist authorities in meeting the costs of increases in rates of pay for existing staff and changes to Public Sector Pension Reduction (PSPR) rates since the end of 2015 as a consequence of the unwinding of pay reductions introduced under FEMPI legislation.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (665, 666, 667)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

665. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there have been new affordable housing developments in County Kilkenny in the past ten years. [47574/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

666. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there are council-owned lands in County Kilkenny that could be identified as suitable for affordable housing. [47575/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

667. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to roll out affordable housing in County Kilkenny in the next two years; and the details of the plans. [47576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 665 to 667, inclusive, together.

In line with the commitments in Rebuilding Ireland to support the delivery of discounted homes to buy or rent, this Government has allocated €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), from 2019 to 2021, to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of some 6,200 affordable homes on local authority lands.  This funding is being made available in areas where local authorities have demonstrated a requirement for affordable housing and the viability to deliver such housing from their sites.

Local authority land utilisation and activation is, in the first instance, a matter for the local authority and its elected members including the development of its land for the delivery of affordable housing. Nevertheless, in order to target SSF funding interventions, in October 2018, local authorities were invited to undertake an economic assessment of their sites to assess whether the provision of affordable homes was necessary and economically viable.  As part of that assessment local authorities were also asked to consider the broader housing affordability within their area.  19 local authorities returned economic assessments, this included Kilkenny County Council, who carried out assessments on two of its sites around which it was indicated affordability issues existed.

To date, I have allocated SSF funding of €127 million, in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, for infrastructure works that will see the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes.  Of these 35 approved projects, one is located in Kilkenny City and was identified in the Council’s economic assessment.  This site at Crokers Hill has received approval in principle for SSF funding of almost €2m for infrastructure that will support the delivery of 26 affordable homes.  The overall cost and the timing of delivery for this project is contingent upon the completion of design, planning and procurement of the project in the first instance, and Kilkenny County Council and my Department are working to achieve delivery from this and other sites as quickly as possible.

I anticipate that a further call for proposals under the SSF will issue to local authorities in 2020.

Homes delivered under the SSF are subject to the provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 which was commenced in June 2018.  This legislation now provides the statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase in the State. 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 by local authorities to determine the order of priority to be accorded to eligible households where the demand for such affordable dwellings exceeds the number available.  I can confirm that Kilkenny County Council submitted their Scheme of Priority to my Department on 24 April 2019 which I subsequently approved on 29 April 2019.

In line with the legal requirements of the Affordable Dwelling Purchase Arrangements, further regulations will be put in place over the coming months regarding eligibility and other matters. When the operational procedures for the scheme 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.

In addition to SSF, funding of €200m has also been made available under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), which is also designed to activate housing supply by putting in place the enabling public infrastructure necessary to ensure that large scale development could take place on key sites in urban areas of high housing demand. 30 projects received final approval, at a total cost of €195.71 million, of which €146.69 million will be funded by the Exchequer with local authorities funding the balance.  These projects will stimulate development of approximately 20,000 housing units across 14 local authorities and approximately 7,800 of these homes will be offered at a discount on open market prices.  Kilkenny received approval for two projects; one in Western Environs and one in Ferrybank with a combined LIHAF funding of over €9m to deliver a total of 730 homes by 2021.  Infrastructure works commenced on 4th March 2019 in Western Environs and in Ferrybank on 1 October 2019. The Western Environs LIHAF site is expected to deliver 60 social housing units on the local authority site along with the delivery of 423 cost reduced homes on the private site, with planning for housing on this site due to be submitted shortly.

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 over 15,000 households nationally.

Details of affordable delivery by local authority and year are available at my Department’s website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/affordable-housing/affordable-housing-and-part-v-statistics.

Local Authority Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (668)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

668. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the reviews of income limits for social housing by local authorities will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47579/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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.

Social and Affordable Housing Expenditure

Ceisteanna (669)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

669. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the average cost per unit for social housing units under Part V in O'Devaney gardens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47590/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As the Deputy will be aware the development at O'Devaney Gardens is based on a tenure mix, which includes 30% of the homes on site to be designated as social homes. In relation to the cost of the social housing homes that will be developed under Part V, it is not possible at this juncture to provide that financial information at this time as it may have the effect of compromising the procurement process, which is still in train.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

Ceisteanna (670)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

670. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason the review requested by Louth County Council in relation to a funding application under the urban regeneration and development fund was unsuccessful; the details in relation to the assessment of the review under the criteria laid down by his Department under the scheme that is, the way in which the application and review was scored and measured against the criteria set down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47597/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) is a flagship element of Project Ireland 2040.  Under the stewardship of my Department, the Fund was established in 2018 to support more compact and sustainable development, through the regeneration and rejuvenation of Ireland’s five cities and other large towns, in line with the objectives of the National Planning Framework and National Development Plan (NDP).  This is to enable a greater proportion of residential and mixed-use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and towns and to ensure that more parts of our urban areas can become attractive and vibrant places in which people choose to live and work, as well as to invest and to visit.

€58 million is available to meet the funding requirements of approved URDF supported projects in 2019, and there is an Exchequer commitment of €550 million for the Fund to support these and other similar projects up to the end of 2022. The URDF has an allocation of €2 billion in the NDP to 2027. 

In July 2018 bids for URDF funding support were invited from public bodies, and as a result a total of 189 applications were received by my Department.

The application process was competitive and in the event, the call was oversubscribed in terms of potential value of proposals compared to the available annual URDF provisions.  In this context all proposals went through a rigorous assessment including consideration by a Project Advisory Board (PAB), which consisted of representatives from my Department, other relevant Government Departments, agency representation and independent national and international expert representatives.

Following this process, on 26 November 2018, I announced initial URDF support of €100m for a total of 88 projects throughout the country. 

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.

As a result, requests for a review were submitted in respect of seven proposals.  Each of the proposals involved was reviewed, having regard to the PAB's original evaluation and scoring of the proposal against the URDF programme criteria. 

In all cases, including the cases of the Northern Cross Route, Drogheda and Bridge Street, Dundalk , it was found there was nothing to support an outcome that would be materially different from that arrived at through the PAB process.

A second call for proposals under the URDF will be announced shortly.

In the context of the second call it will be a matter for Louth County Council to consider the projects it may wish to submit for consideration and whether, having regard to their previous assessments, the Council could consider submitting further proposals in respect of these areas.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (671, 674)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

671. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if financing in principle has been agreed for the proposal for an approved housing body to purchase 30% of the private units from a company (details supplied) at O Devaney Gardens. [47602/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Collins

Ceist:

674. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if an agreement (details supplied) with Dublin City Council regarding the disposal of the O'Devaney Gardens lands was reviewed and approved by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47622/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 671 and 674 together.

I welcome the resolution by the elected members of Dublin City Council on Monday 4 November to approve the redevelopment Council lands at O’Devaney Gardens. I understand that the advice of the Council executive to the Council members at the meeting was that an exhaustive process had been undertaken over the last number of years and the delivery model proposed was considered the most effective way to develop the site both in terms of mixed tenure and from a financial perspective.

This agreement will seethe development of 768 homes. This will include a tenure mix which is structured to ensure community sustainability and comprising 50% private housing (411 homes), 30% (192 homes) social housing with the final 20% (165 homes) set to become affordable housing. This is in line with the tenure mix previously agreed between the Council and my Department. This approach was also agreed by the previous Council in 2017.

I am aware that on 4 November a group of Councillors including representatives of Fianna Fáil, Labour, the Social Democrats and the Green Party, acting under the name of the 'Dublin Agreement Group', announced that an “agreement has been secured” to purchase of 30% of the total units available at O’Devaney Gardens from the developer. However, as I understand it, this agreement has no legal basis, and presumably relies upon any purchaser paying the full open market price for these units.

A number of weeks previously, I made myself available to meet with a delegation of Councillors in relation to O’Devaney Gardens, but this offer was not taken up. No information has been provided to me in relation to how it was envisaged such an approach would work in practice. More importantly the Councillors in question did not confirm from where the very significant capital funding required had been secured. My Department did not receive any request for funding in connection with this announcement. While I am pleased that this important project has received the formal approval by Councillors that will allow it to proceed to the next phase. I have written to the Lord Mayor on this matter.

My Department has worked consistently with the Council in support of efforts to advance its proposals for this site. It is anticipated that my Department will fund, in full, the development of the 247 social homes on the site. My Department is also funding another 56 social homes, which are currently under construction, as part of an associated development.

Separately, subject to the conditions of the scheme, approval in principle had already been confirmed for Serviced Sites Funding from the Department to support the delivery of the more affordable homes on this site. This grant funding is associated with the 165 more affordable homes for purchase that will be delivered on site at significantly below open market rates. These 1, 2 and 3 bedroomed homes will be made available to purchasers at an average price of €300,000 and in no circumstances will they cost more than €310,000.

Housing Adaptation Grant Eligibility

Ceisteanna (672)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

672. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a person is eligible to apply for the housing aid for older people scheme if they have lifetime right of residency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47612/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Aid for Older People scheme provides grants of up to €8,000 to assist older people, aged 66 or above, living in poor housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out.

The grant is available to eligible members of owner occupied private homes. However in cases where the applicant is not the registered owner, or the registered owner is not in residence, a right of residency is required for the grant applicant. The applicant must occupy the home as their primary place of residence upon completion of the grant aided works.

The detailed administration of the scheme, including the application, assessment, approval and payment of grants to applicants under the various measures, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Wastewater Treatment

Question No. 674 answered with Question No. 671.

Ceisteanna (673)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

673. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the grant aid available to support the construction of a wastewater treatment facility for group sewerage schemes; the results of the previous pilot scheme completed on group sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47621/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department’s Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2016-2018 included funding for six group sewerage schemes as demonstration or pilot projects for connection to the Irish Water waste water network, where clustering of households on individual septic tanks was not a viable option, particularly from an environment perspective.

An Expert Panel was convened by my Department to examine the 2016 bids from local authorities for support under the Programme and to make recommendations on approvals and funding allocations. The Panel recommended supporting six demonstration projects under measure 4(d) relating to group sewerage schemes.

The six demonstration projects selected consisted of two in Leitrim and one each in Clare, Kerry, Monaghan and Wexford. It was envisaged that the demonstration projects would be completed over the course of the programme. I understand that for various planning and organisational reasons outside the control of my Department and the local authorities none of these demonstrations were completed. 

As a result, the Expert Panel were unable to evaluate them. However, the Panel recommended a further six community wastewater connection schemes as demonstration projects for the 2019-2021 funding cycle. I accepted the Panel's recommendations when announcing approvals and funding allocations for the current programme in October. The demonstration projects approved under the 2016-2018 multi-annual programme will continue to be eligible for funding to proceed to completion under the 2019-2021 cycle.

Under the programme grants for these demonstration projects of up to 75% of cost are available subject to a maximum grant of €6,750 per house (this means that the effective cost limit per house for the project is €9,000). A supplementary grant in excess of these limits is only considered in exceptional circumstances where full justification is provided.

All of the demonstration projects consist of extensions to the existing public collection network in their areas - they do not involve any waste water treatment facilities.

Question No. 674 answered with Question No. 671.