Local Authority Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (511)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

511. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a decision on an application for a long-term leasing scheme (details supplied) will issue. [48712/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Over the course of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan, the Government is committed to meeting the housing needs of over 138,000 households. This will be achieved through blended delivery, involving increasing the social housing stock by 50,000 homes, through build, acquisition and leasing programmes, and supporting some 88,000 further households through the Housing Assistance Payment and the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Of the 50,000 social housing homes to be delivered under Rebuilding Ireland, over 10,000 homes will be leased by local authorities and approved housing bodies under leasing arrangements and availability agreements from a range of different sources, including direct leasing by local authorities and approved housing bodies, the Repair and Leasing Scheme, the Mortgage to Rent Scheme and Enhanced Leasing. In that regard, I can confirm that my Department issued approval to Westmeath County Council to enter into an availability agreement for 17 homes on a phased basis, in respect of the Moate Retirement Village, Moate, Co. Westmeath on 25 November 2019. This scheme will be used to accommodate households from Westmeath County Council's waiting list in accordance with the local authority's allocation scheme.

European Court of Justice Rulings

Ceisteanna (512)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

512. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which he plans to respond to the imposition of a €5 million fine on Ireland by the European Court of Justice in respect of a wind farm in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48795/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In the judgment delivered on 12 November 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union in case C-261/18 (the Derrybrien Wind farm case) ruled against Ireland and imposed the lump sum fine of €5m referred to in the question.

While detailed payment instructions are awaited from the EU Commission, the lump sum fine of €5m will likely be payable before end 2019. It is understood the Commission will be in contact with Ireland over the coming weeks regarding the payment procedures involved for the lump sum fine and the separate daily fines.

Local Authority Staff Data

Ceisteanna (513)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

513. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of staff employed in South Tipperary County Council and North Tipperary County Council in each of the years 2013 to 2018 and to date in Tipperary County Council in 2019; if they were full or part-time positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48821/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.

My Department oversees workforce planning for the local government sector, including the monitoring of local government sector employment levels. To this end, my Department gathers aggregate quarterly data on staff numbers in each local authority on a whole time equivalent basis. However, granular data, in terms of the detailed breakdown of all full time and part time positions, is not collected and consequently is not available in my Department.

Staffing numbers for the local authority sector are available on the Public Service Numbers databank which is hosted and maintained by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and is available at the following link:

http://databank.per.gov.ie/Public_Service_Numbers.aspx?rep=LA.

The information sought is available broken down on a quarterly basis. In 2013, individual staffing returns were provided for Tipperary North County Council and Tipperary South County Council and from 2014 onwards a single return for Tipperary County Council.

The staffing numbers for the end of Quarter 3, 2019 are currently being collated and will then be published on the DPER databank.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (514)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

514. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider amending the criteria of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme to allow for those who have declared bankruptcy previously to be allowed to be considered for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48859/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Applicants for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan must be of good credit standing and have a satisfactory credit record. The Housing Agency provides a central credit assessment service to local authorities and credit checks are undertaken as part of the credit assessment process. The final decision on loan approval is a matter for the relevant local authority and its credit committee on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure prudence and consistency in approaches in the best interests of both borrowers and the lending local authorities.

A person who has been discharged from bankruptcy and is eligible in all other respects, including being a first-time buyer, for a Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan may apply for a loan and will be subject to the same credit assessment process that applies to all applicants.

Irish Water Funding

Ceisteanna (515)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

515. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the Irish Water budget figure for 2019; the balance as of 1 September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48911/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

A voted provision of €1.2 billion is included in the 2019 Estimates in respect of Irish Water’s domestic water services operational and capital expenditure in 2019. At the end of September 2019 €806m of this provision had been provided to Irish Water.

I expect to be providing the full €1.2 billion to Irish Water in 2019 in respect of Irish Water’s domestic water services operational and capital expenditure as provided for in the 2019 Estimates.

Vacant Sites Levy

Ceisteanna (516)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

516. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the circumstances in which a derelict sites levy can be waived; his plans to review the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48940/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department oversees a number of legislative provisions aimed at addressing dereliction and vacancy in our cities and towns, including the derelict sites levy.

The only circumstances under the Derelict Sites Act 1990 where the derelict sites levy may be waived is on hardship grounds. In this connection, section 26 of the Act provides as follows:

26.-'Where, in the opinion of a local authority, payment of the derelict sites levy or of interest payable under this Act at a particular time by a particular person would cause undue hardship to the person, the local authority may, by notice in writing sent by post or given to the person, suspend action or further action under this Part to secure payment of the whole or part of the amount of the levy due for such period as may be specified in the notice...'.

Section 23(6) of the Act also provides that a local authority may allow for payment of the levy due by instalments.

I have no plans to amend the legislation in this regard at this point in time.

Mica Redress Scheme

Ceisteanna (517)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

517. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the implementation of the mica redress scheme in County Donegal; the way in which he plans to address the confusion and uncertainty in relation to the implementation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48999/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Last year, the Government agreed in principle to introduce a scheme to support affected homeowners in the counties of Donegal and Mayo to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been significantly damaged due to defective concrete blocks.

Budget 2020 provides funding of €40 million to fund the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme and this new scheme to address the issues identified in Donegal and Mayo.

Funding for future years will be agreed on an annual basis as part of the normal Estimates process and additional funding can be provided should it be required.

The full terms and conditions of the scheme are currently being finalised in consultation with the Attorney General's Office and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, including the development of the necessary regulations.

This process takes account of the engagement that my Department is currently having with both Donegal and Mayo County Councils, who will operate and administer the scheme.

In this regard, my Department continues to meet with both local authority teams to conclude implementation arrangements for the scheme, including the communication of the scheme. Further engagement will take place over the coming weeks.

The aim will be to complete the outstanding work without delay in order to ensure that the scheme can get underway as early as possible.

Fire Stations Provision

Ceisteanna (518)

Frank O'Rourke

Ceist:

518. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will include an application for a new fire station (details supplied) in the fire services capital expenditure programme for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49015/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Service Act, 1981. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding support for equipment and priority infrastructural projects.

In February 2016, my Department announced a five-year Fire Services Capital Programme with an allocation of €40 million, based on an annual €8 million allocation, to be used for the purchase of fire appliances and specialist equipment, building or upgrading of prioritised Fire Stations, an upgrade of the Communications and Mobilisation system and improvements to Training Centres. The five-year programme proposed the construction or refurbishment of twenty six fire stations. This included sixteen new builds and ten upgrade or refurbishment projects.

The Fire Services Capital Programme forms an important part of my Department’s strategy to support fire authorities in the development and maintenance of a quality fire-fighting and rescue service. The prioritisation and effective management of these resources is, in the first instance, a matter for each of the fire authorities based on their assessment of local needs and requirements. My Department works closely with fire services around the country to progress priority projects.

In order to maximise the Capital Programme funding available, my Department re-assesses the status of projects in the capital programme on an annual basis and priority can be adjusted to bring forward more advanced projects offering best value-for-money taking account of the state of readiness of projects in the programme more generally.

While a fire station project for Maynooth is not included in the five year programme referred to above, Kildare County Council wrote to my Department in 2017 requesting that a station in Maynooth be considered in any future capital programmes. I understand that the Council was in the process of identifying a suitable site at that time.

All requests for funding from my Department’s Fire Services Capital Programme are considered in the context of the available resources, local authorities’ priorities, the value for money offered by proposals and the totality of requests from fire authorities. My Department will liaise further with Kildare County Council regarding this project.

Traveller Accommodation

Ceisteanna (519)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

519. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the measures he will take to ensure that local authorities spend funds allocated to them for Traveller housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49084/19]

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.

In line with the commitment in Rebuilding Ireland, and reflecting the disappointing level of overall funding drawdown in recent years, the Housing Agency, in 2017, commissioned a review of funding for Traveller-specific accommodation. This review had regard to targets contained in local authority Traveller Accommodation Plans (TAPs) and actual delivery, the current status of accommodation funded and funding provided for accommodation maintenance and other supports.

Following its consideration of the review, the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee recommended the establishment of an independent expert group to review the effectiveness, implementation and operation of relevant legislation and to put forward proposals to improve delivery of Traveller accommodation nationally. The Expert Group submitted its report in July 2019.

The 32 recommendations made by the Expert Group to accelerate the delivery of Traveller accommodation are comprehensive and wide ranging, and include proposals aimed at:

- addressing research deficiencies, including how information is gathered and used;

- removing any potential delays and obstacles in the planning system in terms of delivery;

- increasing resources and delivery capacity; and

- strengthening governance arrangements.

I am currently considering the report and recommendations of the Expert Group, with a view to implementing appropriate actions and policies that will improve the delivery of Traveller accommodation nationally. The priority is to ensure that full use is made of the increasing level of funding available for investment in Traveller accommodation. The report has been published and is available on my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/2019_july_expert_review_group_traveller_accommodation-final_reportrt_00.pdf.

In the context of the 32 recommendations, my Department is also liaising with key stakeholders on issues arising. The Expert Group’s report has also been shared with the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee and members of the Committee are considering the report and will provide submissions to my Department, as appropriate.

I am working to complete this process as soon as possible and set out a road map for implementation of agreed recommendations, with a view to accelerating and increasing the delivery of much needed Traveller accommodation, drawing on the increasing funding available.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (520)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

520. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider enabling housing bodies to transfer some of their social units to affordable units to ensure a greater mix; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49088/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness recognises the key contribution that Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) make to the delivery of social housing. Approximately 34,000 homes are managed by AHBs, meeting the housing needs of families on low income, older persons, persons with disabilities and households experiencing homelessness.

AHBs are committed to delivering a third of the 50,000 new social housing units that are to be provided over the period of the Plan through a blended delivery of build, acquisition and leasing.

My Department has in place three schemes available to AHBs to support the provision of social housing,

These are:

- CAS - Capital Assistance Scheme

- CALF - Capital Advance Leasing Facility

- SHCEP - Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme.

These schemes enable AHBs to source units for the provision of social housing through construction or acquisition of units and leasing units from the private sector. In 2018 AHBs delivered a total of 3.219 homes (38% of the delivery of social homes) and have delivered 1,009 homes up to Q2 2019.

The AHB Sector is playing a central role in contributing to the delivery of social housing under Rebuilding Ireland, as well as meeting the need of existing tenants, and I am committed to using these schemes to ensure that momentum towards meeting the ambitious 50,000 social housing target under the Action Plan is maintained. Accordingly, there are currently no proposals to enable AHBs to transfer units in the manner suggested.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (521)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

521. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has received an application from Westmeath County Council to provide affordable housing as part of the housing development on the Orchard, Ballymahon Road. [49089/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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.

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 more 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.

The first call for proposals under the SSF in June 2018 was specifically aimed at providing funding opportunities to 11 local authorities, where it was identified that the greatest affordability pressures existed. Approval in principle was issued in December 2018 for funding for 10 infrastructure projects in Dublin and Cork with €43 million funding, which will support the delivery of 1,400 affordable homes. Details of these projects can be found on the Rebuilding Ireland website at https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-10-local-authority-sites-affordable-housing-serviced-sites-fund/.

Following the first call under the SSF, and in order to target affordable interventions, local authorities were asked to complete financial/economic assessments of each of their sites to assess whether the provision of affordable homes was economically viable. Local authorities were also asked to assess the broader housing affordability within their area.

A second call for proposals under the SSF issued to 19 local authorities (including Westmeath County Council) in April 2019 and was based on the aforementioned economic assessments. 31 submissions were received from 15 local authorities. Westmeath County Council elected not to make a submission under this SSF call. Approval in Principle was issued in August 2019 for the funding of 25 infrastructure projects in 13 local authorities across 9 counties with €84 million funding. This will support the delivery of 1,770 affordable homes. Details of these projects can be found on the Rebuilding Ireland website at https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-funding-of-e84m-to-support-delivery-of-1770-affordable-homes-under-the-ssf/.

The primary focus of the SSF scheme is to support the provision of affordable homes on lands in local authority ownership. It is my intention to issue a further SSF all for Proposals in 2020 and Westmeath County Council will have the opportunity at that stage to submit an application, which would be assessed against the relevant criteria along with any other applications received.

My Department is currently not in receipt of any funding application in respect of a social or affordable housing development project on the Orchard, Ballymahon Road. It is my understanding, however, that my Department has recently funded the purchase of two homes by Westmeath County Council for social housing in the Orchard area.

Those wishing to purchase new homes off the open market may also qualify for other Government supports such as the ‘Help to Buy Scheme’ or the ‘Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan’.

Local Authority Housing Data

Ceisteanna (522, 523, 524)

John Curran

Ceist:

522. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of housing units purchased by each local authority, excluding Part V, to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49098/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Curran

Ceist:

523. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of local authority housing units completed by each local authority to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49099/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Curran

Ceist:

524. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of housing units acquired by each local authority under Part V to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49100/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 522 to 524, inclusive, together.

Details of the number of homes constructed and acquired in each local authority area, are available on my Department's website at the following link www.housing.gov.ie/node/6338.

I also publish details on the outputs under Part V arrangements and these are also available on the website at the following link:

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

The most recent published information sets out the position to the end of Quarter 2 of 2019. Details relating to delivery in Quarter 3 of 2019, will be published shortly.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Status

Ceisteanna (525)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

525. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of a public water supply scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo; if his Department is in receipt of an application for funding from the local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49110/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 8 February this year, I announced details of the measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. In parallel to the announcement local authorities were invited to submit their bids for the funding schemes or projects in their functional areas, with the deadline for receipt of proposals set as 14 March 2019.

The new multi-annual programme includes Measure 6 – Community Connection (Water and Wastewater) Networks. This new measure facilitates the continued expansion of the coverage of piped water supplies and central wastewater collection systems by extension off the public (Irish Water) network where it is technically and economically viable to do so.

Mayo County Council made a number of bids under Measure 6, including a proposal for the Downpatrick Head Group Water Scheme.

An Expert Panel was put in place to support the evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brought independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which was done on a national prioritised basis. The Expert Panel’s membership included Departmental, stakeholder and independent representations.

The Expert Panel made recommendations to the Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria, which are set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. Nationally local authorities made bids for funding for 41 Community Water Connection projects under measure 6 (a). The Expert Panel concluded that 24 of these bids fulfilled the objective criteria set out in the Framework document and recommended them for funding under the programme.

The Panel, in considering the Downpatrick Head Group Water Scheme bid, concluded that:

'... based on collectively considering the bid for this scheme, against the criteria for the measure in the Framework including the number of houses benefiting (with a low density of houses involved), estimated cost and unit cost per house, this proposed scheme is unviable. The Panel recommends that the local authority engages with the promoters to consider alternative lower cost solutions (e.g. private wells for which, subject to terms and conditions, a separate grant is available)'.

In considering the recommendations of the Expert Panel the Minister accepted these in full when announcing the approvals and allocations under the multi-annual rural water programme on 15 October 2019.

I understand at present, that officials from Mayo County Council are considering alternative options that may assist the Downpatrick Head Group Water Scheme with a substitute solution.

National Raised Bog Management Plan

Ceisteanna (526)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

526. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her further plans regarding the repatriation of bogs in view of the €5 million promised in budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

A key element of the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, approved by the Government and published by my Department in December 2017, is to maintain active raised bog habitat and restore degraded raised bog habitat to active raised bog habitat.

The national restoration programme for Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas is contained within this Plan. It was intended to restore all designated raised bogs within 3 cycles, with the first cycle operating for the duration of the Management Plan.

This programme can now be accelerated due to the announcement in Budget 2020 of €5m for peatlands restoration. This funding will allow for restoration measures to be undertaken on approximately 1,800 hectares in 2020 on up to 9 raised bog designated sites across 7 counties and the installation of an Eddy Covariance Flux tower on a bog to measure surface to atmospheric fluxes (CO2, Methane, turbulent energy, moisture etc.). 23 other raised bog designated sites have been identified for restoration works over the next 5 years or so under the programme.

Special Protection Areas Designation

Ceisteanna (527)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

527. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will consider a geographical extension to a special protection area (details supplied) to include additional lands in view of the fact the lands could be considered a buffer zone for the Dublin Bay biosphere and having regard to the EU Bird and Habitats Directives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48557/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

My Department is responsible for implementing the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, the primary legislation underpinning the protection of biodiversity and nature in Ireland. The Wildlife Acts afford protection to a range of habitats and species and provide for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity, such as hunting and trade.

The legislative framework in place to protect our natural heritage is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 SI No 477/2011, which also fall under the remit of my Department. These Regulations transpose the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive into national law, and provide for protection of certain habitats and species across the European Union, giving a framework for specific measures to be taken to target areas of concern in each Member State.

The main instruments provided for are the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPA), aimed at the protection of threatened species of birds, and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), aimed at protecting other animal species and habitats. Ireland is required under the terms of the EU Birds Directive to designate Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the protection of endangered species of wild birds.

A programme to identify and designate SPA sites in Ireland commenced in 1985 and a review of the Irish network of SPA sites identified at that time a number of sites that required re-notification. The necessary SPA survey work was undertaken and all of Ireland’s list of over 150 SPAs have been notified to landowners and published in a fashion that is consistent with the requirements of the Birds Directive.

The SPA referred to in the question was selected for designation as it met a number of conditions relating to protection of listed species. Sites can only be designated on solid scientific grounds, where there is evidence-based justification for doing so.

There are no plans in my Department, at this time, to undertake further scientific surveys in the SPA concerned.