Fire Service Staff

Ceisteanna (667)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

667. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of fire personnel stationed in County Louth. [51302/19]

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 Services Act, 1981. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy and progressing legislation, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding support for equipment and priority infrastructural projects.

The prioritisation and effective management of all resources is, in the first instance, a matter for each of the fire authorities based on their assessment of local needs and requirements.

Louth Fire Service has five fire stations at Ardee, Carlingford, Drogheda, Dundalk, and Dunleer which are staffed by five Senior Fire Officers, 55 full-time firefighters and 30 retained firefighters.

Planning Appeals

Ceisteanna (668)

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

668. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of decisions to grant permission to construct one-off houses that were subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanála by county in 2016, in tabular form; when the decision to grant was subsequently withdrawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51367/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department does not collate planning statistics regarding the number of decisions to grant permission for one-off houses that were subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanála; or when decisions to grant permission were subsequently determined by the Board.

Regulations provide for a weekly list of appeals and referrals received by the Board and appeals or referrals determined or otherwise disposed of by the Board. These weekly lists are available on the Board's website at www.pleanala.ie/.

Arrangements have been put in place by all bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas. This provides a speedy, efficient and cost effective system to address queries directly to the relevant bodies. The contact email address for An Bord Pleanála is Oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (669)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

669. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the original targets for housing schemes (details supplied) from the €70 million rolling fund; and the number of units delivered under each scheme to date in tabular form. [51373/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

A key priority in the Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is to provide direct capital funding to the Housing Agency to facilitate the acquisition of suitable portfolios of properties for social housing from financial institutions and investors (Actions 1.1, 2.5 and 5.6).

An acquisitions fund of €70 million, which is a revolving fund, was established with effect from 1 January 2017 with the objective of acquiring some 1,600 units over the period to 2020 for social housing use. This has enabled the Housing Agency to actively engage with banks and investment companies in relation to the acquisitions of properties. The fund is replenished by the Agency through the sale of units primarily to the Approved Housing Body (AHB) sector and the funds received will then be recycled back into the fund for future acquisitions. AHBs utilise private finance as well as Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF) and Payment and Availability (P&A) funding available from my Department to purchase these units.

Up to end Q2 2019, a total of 645 properties had been purchased by the Agency using the Fund and placed on caretaker leases with AHBs. The onward sale of 322 of these units to AHBs has been completed in full. In addition, a further 63 properties are in the process of proceeding to purchase close or being placed on caretaker leases, or transferred to Local Authorities. Overall, this activity represents close to 50% of the original target of the Fund which is intended to be achieved over the six year period of Rebuilding Ireland.

New homes acquired though the Fund and made available to AHBs under Caretaker Lease are included in my Department's overall quarterly reporting which is available at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision.

The year by year breakdown specifically relating to the Fund and included in the overall reporting for Rebuilding Ireland is as follows:

Year

No. of units

2017

36

2018

481

2019 (up to end Q2)

128

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Ceisteanna (670)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

670. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the advertising campaigns, promotional events and launches planned by his Department for the first six months of 2020; the budgeted costs of these campaigns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51413/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department incurs expenditure on campaigns, events and launches to ensure the public, elected representatives, stakeholders, interested parties and media are and informed of policies and legislation, schemes and other initiatives. Communications campaigns for public consultations is an important activity for raising awareness of draft policies and legislation so the public and interested parties can provide input and enhance the policy-making process.

My Department aims to limit external expenditure on campaigns, events and launches through the use of staff and Departmental resources to produce communications resources such as digital content.

My Department currently has the following planned advertising campaigns, promotional events and launches for the first six months of 2020:

Policy/scheme/event

Planned campaigns/events/launches

Budgeted costs

Marine Planning and Development Management Bill public consultation

Advertising, promotional resources and information sessions for the consultation, and post-consultation promotional activities

Approximately €20,000

Vacant Homes Campaign

Print and social media advertising

Approximately €25,000

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

Launch and associated workshops for second call for proposals

Approximately €25,000

Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition

Met Éireann outreach

Approximately €13,000

European Maritime Day

Promotional stall for marine planning in Ireland

Approximately €2,000

Draft National Marine Planning Framework public consultation

Roadshow events

Approximately €6,000

Other campaigns, events and launches will arise during the first six months of 2020, including openings and launches for housing schemes. The costs of housing schemes’ openings are usually borne by local authorities. Any costs for such events in the first half of 2020 are not known at this time.

Data Sharing Arrangements

Ceisteanna (671)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

671. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the data sharing agreements his Department has in place with organisations that are not other Departments or State agencies; the purpose of these data sharing agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51430/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Data sharing agreements are typically in place when an organisation is disclosing information to another organisation in compliance with data protection legislation and with the principles relating to the processing of personal data.

My Department does not have any data sharing agreements in place with commercial operators or service providers.

However, Government Departments, as Data Controllers, do often have contracts in place with service providers that process data on their behalf. These Data Processors process the personal data provided to them only on instruction from the Data Controller and, under Article 28 of the General Data Protection Regulation, a binding contract (or other legal act) must exist between the Controller and the Processor to govern the processing of personal data.

My Department has a number of such Processor contracts in place with companies providing services in areas such as ICT, website support, printing, online training, research, consultancy, audit management and support and maintenance of the Department’s Financial Management System.

Freedom of Information Data

Ceisteanna (672)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

672. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of freedom of information requests in which his Department made a decision to deny; and the number in which the Information Commissioner overturned the decision of his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [51464/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The table below shows the number of Freedom of Information requests received and the number of such requests refused by my Department for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 (to end November).

My Department does not routinely collate the information sought in respect of the Information Commissioner's decisions in the format requested, but details on decisions made by the Information Commissioner in respect of my Department can be found on the website of the Office of the Information Commissioner at https://www.oic.ie/decisions/, which can be searched by Department name. The Commissioner's website shows that seven of the Department's decisions were either varied or annulled during the relevant period. It should be noted that the Department's name changed from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to its current title during 2016.

Total number of FOI Requests Received

FOI Requests Refused

2019 (to end Nov)

294

64

2018

455

121

2017

351

86

2016

393

82

Departmental Agencies Data

Ceisteanna (673)

James Browne

Ceist:

673. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the agencies or organisations under the remit of his Department; the number that have boards; the number of positions on each board; the number of vacant positions; and the agencies or organisations that have boards whose members have an obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas. [51498/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The State bodies under the aegis of my Department, together with the requested information, are as set out in tabular form below.

Body

Number of Positions on Board

Number of

Vacant Positions on Board

An Bord Pleanála

11

1

An Fóram Uisce (the Water Forum)

N/A

N/A

Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum

N/A

N/A

Ervia

11

1

Gas Networks Ireland

6

0

Housing Finance Agency

12

1

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

9

0

Irish Water

12

6

Land Development Agency

9

0

Local Government Management Agency

11

0

National Oversight and Audit Commission

8

2

National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee

N/A

N/A

Office of the Planning Regulator

N/A

N/A

Ordnance Survey Ireland

9

0

Property Registration Authority

11

2

Pyrite Resolution Board

5

0

Residential Tenancies Board

12

1

Valuation Office

N/A

N/A

Valuation Tribunal

N/A

N/A

Water Advisory Board

5

0

The bodies would appear before Committees of the Oireachtas annually or as requested by the Committee normally represented by the chief executive and/or his or her team.

In accordance with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards, all persons being proposed for appointment as a chairperson of a State body are required to make themselves available to the appropriate Oireachtas Committee to discuss the approach which they will take to their role as chairperson and their views about the future contribution of the body or Board in question.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (674)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

674. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the budget and number of staff working in his Department in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51569/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The information requested is set out for the end of each year in the table below.

Year

Payroll Budget

Staff - Whole Time Equivalent

2014

€48.300m

720.51

2015

€47.291m

721.32

2016

€42.610m

647.22

2017

€43.136m

655.52

2018

€46.771m

719.35

2019

€49.449m

778.85 (at 30 November 2019)

It should be noted that the Department was subject to four transfers of functions in this period of time, with 124.68 members of staff transferring to other Departments between 2016 and 2018.

Ground Rents

Ceisteanna (675)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

675. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to claims for ground rent that are being pursued against residents of a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51687/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006 replacing the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the State registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland.

The PRA deals with applications under Part III of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978, whereby owners of leasehold properties can purchase their ground rent (freehold interest).

The PRA is independent in the performance of its functions.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (676)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

676. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has visited the North Lotts strategic development zone, SDZ, area to observe the impact that major large-scale developments are having on long-established residential properties in the area; the way in which he can address the lack of affordability of new builds in the SDZ, which is effectively pricing long-established communities out of the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51706/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In the Dublin Docklands, the North Lotts and Grand Canal Dock area has been designated as a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ), for which Dublin City Council is implementing the associated Planning Scheme. Accordingly, it is a matter for the Council to manage large-scale developments in the area in accordance with the approved SDZ Planning Scheme. Notwithstanding this, I am aware that significant residential development has been and continues to be undertaken, pursuant to the implementation of the Planning Scheme.

More generally in the Dublin Docklands area, the Poolbeg West SDZ Planning Scheme will deliver up to 3,500 homes in close proximity to Dublin City Centre. To improve access to this strategically important site, €15.75 million of Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) funding has already been allocated by my Department. In particular, it should be noted that the Planning Scheme requires the delivery of 15% of homes for social and affordable housing purposes, which is in addition to the statutory 10% requirement. I understand that NAMA is currently procuring a development partner for the wider site.

LIHAF is a key element of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan. The objective of the Fund is to provide public off-site infrastructure to relieve critical infrastructure blockages. This will enable the accelerated delivery of housing on key development sites in Dublin and in urban areas of high demand for housing. The LIHAF supports the delivery of up to 20,000 homes, 40% of which will be delivered through an affordable or cost reduced schemes.

The question of affordability is a broader issue and does not arise by virtue of an SDZ designation. To address this, my Department is focusing on continued increases in overall supply, with a mix of house types and tenure to meet the local demand, supplemented by specific targeted measures to enhance the delivery of social and affordable housing for those who cannot afford to purchase or rent at market prices. The Government is taking a multi-stranded approach in this regard.

The combination of investment, access to finance, fast track planning and changes to apartment and height guidance has resulted in significant increases in housing supply. Social housing output next year will be the highest at any time this century.

Affordable housing output will steadily increase, with the commencement of the relevant provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 last year, to provide a statutory basis for affordable housing for purchase. The new Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan introduced in February 2018, has seen a drawdown of 1,253 loans, with a further 979 loans awaiting drawdown and the total scheme funding has reached €563 million.

Also in relation to affordability, €310 million has been made available from 2019 until 2021 under the Serviced Site Fund (SSF). The SSF was established to provide key infrastructure, on public lands, to support the delivery of affordable homes to purchase or rent. At a maximum funding rate of €50,000 per affordable home, at least 6,200 homes will be facilitated in total for affordable purchase or cost rental.

The Help to Buy (HTB) scheme is designed to assist first-time buyers with the deposit required to purchase or self-build a new house or apartment to live in as their home. To date, 15,957 Help to Buy claims have been made, of which 15,255 are approved. The estimated total value of the approved HTB claims to date is in the order of €226.3 million.

The Land Development Agency (LDA), which was established by the Government in support of Project Ireland 2040, is advancing a number of projects on State lands, with a minimum requirement of 40% of the housing to be provided as affordable housing in addition to Part V affordable housing.

I am satisfied that real progress is being made and through the measures outlined, the overall supply of housing is increasing, with a particular emphasis being placed on affordable housing.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (677)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

677. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a social housing development (details supplied) will be approved to award a contract to construct following the furnishing of a tender report to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51712/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has received a Stage 4 (post-tender) proposal from Limerick City and County Council, which is now being examined and a response will issue to the Council, as soon as possible.

Building Regulations Compliance

Ceisteanna (678)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

678. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there is a remedy available for a person who is the victim of substandard building work relating to the construction of a new home; if a channel of recourse is open to the homeowner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51781/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Stronger compliance with building standards has been a key priority for Government and has manifested in the Building Control Reform Agenda, which was initiated in 2011, when, a high level working group reviewed the existing building control regulatory framework. The key deficits identified in the regulatory regime were the lack of involvement of construction professionals on site and lack of accountability in relation to compliance with the Building Regulations.

It was through the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 9 of 2014), known within the industry as BCAR, that the key deficits of the system were first addressed. The roles and responsibilities of owners, designers, builders, assigned certifiers, etc. during building works are set out in the Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works (September 2016). This has brought clarity and accountability, a focus on compliance and a new order to bear on construction projects. In relation to the deputy’s query regarding the construction of a new home, it should be clear as to who held the designated roles and who is responsible for compliance with the building regulations.

Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities, who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts, and may take enforcement action within five years of building completion. In relation to the Deputy’s query, the relevant local authority should be contacted.

The Construction Industry Register Ireland, or CIRI, was established on a voluntary basis in 2014 and over 850 building and contracting entities are currently included on the register. If the builder of the new home referred to in the Deputy’s question is a registered builder on the CIRI voluntary scheme, there is a complaints procedure, which the homeowner may pursue.

Finally, the homeowner, in question, should check his/her insurance policies.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme Review

Ceisteanna (679)

John Brady

Ceist:

679. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans in place for reforms to the fair deal scheme and vacant homes as outlined in a statement (details supplied). [51812/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS), also known as the Fair Deal Scheme, was published by the Minister for Health in July 2015. A Working Group is overseeing the implementation of its recommendations, including any legislative changes that may be required.

Action 17 of the Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, undertakes to examine the treatment under the NHSS’s financial assessment of income from the rental of a person’s principal private residence (PPR), where they move into long-term residential care. This examination aims to explore the potential to encourage vacant accommodation to be brought into active use.

Action 3D of the National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy 2018-2021 also commits my Department to work in close partnership with the Department of Health to examine possible measures to address vacant homes when an owner moves to nursing home care under the Nursing Home Support Scheme.

My Department is currently engaging with the Department of Health in relation to these actions. The Department of Health has received legal advice that changes to the treatment of rental income in the Fair Deal Scheme would require primary legislation. Both Departments are exploring proposals to enable vacant properties owned by patients in long-term nursing home care to be brought back into early use, through adjustments to the treatment of rental income and house sale proceeds derived from a PPR in the financial assessment of income for the purposes of the Fair Deal Scheme.

Legislative amendments to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009, under the remit of the Minister for Health, are required to remove any disincentive in the financial assessment under the Nursing Home Support Scheme (Fair Deal Scheme) to both the renting out and the selling of the homes of participants in or applicants for the Scheme. Discussions are ongoing between Department officials in this regard in the context of progressing any appropriate amendments through the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill, being developed by the Department of Health.

It will remain a personal choice for any individual as to whether or not they wish to sell or rent out their home upon taking up residence in a nursing home.

An Bord Pleanála

Ceisteanna (680)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

680. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he is satisfied with the staffing levels of An Bord Pleanála in order to deal effectively with the large number of planning applications and planning appeals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51847/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department engages with An Bord Pleanála on an ongoing basis to ensure that it has the appropriate resources to perform its broad range of functions which includes planning appeals, strategic infrastructure and strategic housing development planning applications, vacant site levy appeals and other matters which are submitted for determination under Planning and Development, Water Pollution, and Building Control legislation.

Further to the introduction of the strategic housing development functions under the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, which the Board took on in 2017, a new Strategic Housing Division of the Board was established to decide on these applications, involving the recruitment of an additional dedicated 10 professional and administrative staff members in 2017. Two additional Board members were also sanctioned to serve this Division, with the appointments being made in 2018.

The Board currently has a complement of 10 members and has over 160 other staff employed. I am satisfied that the Board has the necessary resources to deliver effectively and efficiently on its important statutory mandate and functions. I and my Department will continue to engage with the Board in this regard in the years ahead.

Vacant Properties

Ceisteanna (681)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

681. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he is taking to encourage the use of vacant housing in villages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51108/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland sets out a range of measures to assist in meeting Ireland’s housing needs by ensuring that Ireland’s existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible. An overarching action within that Pillar is a commitment to develop a National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy. This Strategy, which I published July 2018, strives to provide a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland and draws together all of the strands of ongoing work in one document with a clear vision for moving forward in the next few years.

The strategy acts as an overarching roadmap and a focal point for the co-ordination and implementation of initiatives right across Government to ensure that we are utilising our existing housing stock to the fullest extent possible. Specifically with regard to potentially vacant space above retail space, my Department launched the Bringing Back Homes – Manual for the reuse of existing buildings in April of this year, to help property owners, the public, local authorities and the construction industry to developing vacant buildings and space over commercial property. Bringing Back Homes aims to help increase housing supply as well as rejuvenate town centres and city streets.

My Department and local authorities have already been proactive in dealing with vacant properties and there are a number of schemes available to incentivise reactivating suitable dwellings into the liveable housing stock. One such example is the innovative website vacanthomes.ie was developed by Mayo County Council in July 2017 on behalf of the local government sector to serve as a central portal for individuals to anonymously log possible vacant homes and to alert local authorities so that they can then follow up with the registered owners.

It is a key tool in the effort to identify and bring long-term vacant homes back into use, and this source of locally generated information is proving useful in supplementing the country-wide analysis on vacancy and in mobilising communities to assist local authorities in developing and implementing a targeted approach. The website provides useful information for property owners on how to bring their vacant properties back into use and on available financial supports.

The latest statistics indicate that some 3,422 properties have been registered to date. The breakdown by province is Leinster 48%, Munster 34%. Connacht 15%, and Ulster 3%.

The Action Plan for Rural Development also included a commitment to develop a pilot initiative to encourage increased residential occupancy in town and village centres. A Steering Group chaired by the Department of Rural and Community Development and involving number of other key Departments and agencies, including my Department, was established in early 2018. The pilot scheme was launched in 6 rural towns and villages. Funding of up to €100,000 is being made available to each of these towns to assist in developing innovative proposals to encourage town centre living. It is envisaged that the lessons learned through this pilot can help to inform the approach to supporting and investing in rural towns and villages in the future, and lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

In addition, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, which is administered by the Department of Rural and Community Development, seeks to support ambitious and strategic projects which have the potential to transform rural economies and communities. The Government has committed €1 billion over 10 years to the Fund and €315 million is allocated to the Fund for the period 2019-2022.

Homeless Persons Data

Ceisteanna (682)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

682. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of children that have spent time in homeless services over the past five years by age groups of zero to five, five to ten and ten to 16 years of age; the length of time each child has spent in homeless services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51879/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department currently publishes data on a monthly basis outlining the number of homeless persons accommodated in emergency accommodation funded and overseen by housing authorities. These reports are based on data provided by housing authorities, produced through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS). The reports are collated on a regional basis and are published on my Department's website. The most recent figures currently available are for October 2019. These figures show that 6,688 adults and 3,826 associated dependents accessed emergency accommodation nationwide during the relevant count week.

My Department does not have the specific data sought in relation to the time spent in emergency accommodation by age group. Quarterly performance reports prepared by the local authorities on a regional basis provide information on the duration of time spent by adult individuals in emergency accommodation. The most recent reports available are for Quarter 3 2019, which show that 38% of adult individuals had been accessing emergency accommodation for less than 6 months, while 62% had been accessing emergency accommodation for more than six months.

My Department has financed the upgrade of PASS, the case management and reporting system used by local authorities, which is due to take place early in 2020, and which will provide for more detailed reporting in this and other areas.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (683)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

683. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the €20 million allocation for retrofitting homes in the midlands under the just transition plan is funding from the SEAI or from other sources; the amount that will be spent in 2020 and thereafter; the counties to which the allocation will be targeted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49389/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As part of the Just Transition proposals for the midlands region, Budget 2020 has made provision for an additional €20 million to fund energy efficiency upgrades to local authority houses in the affected midland counties. This funding is in addition to the €25million, which my Department is making available in 2020 for energy efficiency upgrades to the existing local authority housing stock nationwide.

The budget for 2021 and beyond is not yet decided and will be subject to the annual estimates process.

In relation to the additional €20 million, my Department is currently working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in relation to the roll out of a targeted programme for the midlands region. A sub-group of the Retrofit Taskforce is working to determine the parameters of the scheme, including finalising the counties to be included. This process will take into consideration the counties that are most affected by reductions in peat harvesting, the location and numbers of local authority housing stock in the midlands that could benefit from the programme.

My Department recently met with some of the midland local authorities in relation to this initiative to get an understanding of the level of social housing stock available for retrofitting. It is envisaged that the scheme will be rolled out to the relevant local authorities in early 2020.

Fire Safety Regulations

Ceisteanna (684)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

684. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if assistance is available for persons residing in a housing estate (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51799/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In July 2015, it was decided that a review be undertaken by an independent fire expert to develop a framework for general application, in the interest of supporting owners and residents living in developments where concerns regarding non-compliance with fire safety requirements arise. It included a case study based on the housing estate that the Deputy refers to.

The Framework was published in August 2017 and contains the following;

- an explanation of the statutory provisions in respect of fire safety, namely the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014 and the Fire Services Acts 1981 & 2003, and the respective responsibilities of owners, designers, builders, occupants, local authorities;

- a range of actions that may reduce risk and improve the level of fire safety where deficiencies arise in dwelling houses, apartments and /or the common areas of apartment buildings; and

- a fire risk assessment methodology for professional advisors to prioritise the remedial actions, if any, that may need to be carried out on a dwelling.

The Framework is intended to be used as a guide by the owners and occupants of dwellings where fire safety deficiencies have been identified, or are a cause for concern. In addition to owners and occupants, the Framework will also be of assistance to professional advisors both in developing strategies to improve fire safety and in developing strategies to enable the continued occupation in advance of undertaking the necessary works to ensure compliance with the relevant Building Regulations.

The framework is available on my Department's website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/framework_for_enhancing_fire_safety_in_dwellings.pdf.

It is important to note that while my Department has overall responsibility for establishing and maintaining an effective regulatory framework for building standards and building control, it has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters. It is not possible for the State to take on responsibility/liability for all legacy issues, nor would it send the right message to the industry regarding their responsibility for compliance.

In response to the many building failures that emerged in the last decade, my Department has been advancing a building control reform agenda in order to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with the building regulations in the construction sector. This agenda includes:

1. Reform of the Building Control process

2. Establishment of a National Building Control Management Project

3. Putting the Construction Industry Register Ireland on a statutory footing.

My focus will remain firmly on ensuring the full roll out of the Building Control reform agenda, to ensure that all those that engaged in the construction sector take their responsibilities seriously and are appropriately held to account.

Vacant Sites Levy

Ceisteanna (685)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

685. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether, in view of the severity of the current housing crisis, a more aggressive vacant site tax is needed to prevent hoarding and speculation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46680/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under the vacant site levy provisions of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, planning authorities are empowered to apply a vacant site levy of 3% of the market value of relevant vacant sites. These arrangements commenced in respect of vacant sites included on local authority vacant site registers prior to 1 January 2018 with payment of the levy due in January 2019.

The Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 (the 2018 Act), introduced amendments to the vacant site levy provisions which collectively aim to further strengthen these provisions. In line with the commitment in Budget 2018, the principal amendment was to increase the rate of levy from 3% to 7% for sites on the vacant site register for the year 2019 onwards. The possibility of applying reduced or zero rates of levy for sites on registers that are subject to a site loan was also removed, reflecting the improved economic circumstances and higher property prices since the levy measure was originally introduced. I have no plans to further amend the vacant site levy provisions at this time.

While application of the levy provisions is a matter for individual local authorities, my Department continues to monitor implementation of the levy to ensure that it is being effectively applied, in line with its intended purpose of incentivising the development of vacant or under-utilised sites in urban areas. To support this work, progress reports were requested from local authorities and the responses received are currently being examined by my Department to see what further implementation supports may be required.

With a view to further addressing the broader issue of land hoarding, the 2018 Act also amends existing provisions in the planning code relating to the extension of duration of planning permission with the aim of ensuring that planning permissions are activated earlier and that the development works are completed earlier.

Furthermore, the recent review of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) provisions noted the lower than anticipated activation rates on foot of SHD permissions granted to date. Given the benefits for developers with regard to time savings and consistency in decision making, and taking into account the significant public resources invested in the SHD arrangements, I consider it appropriate that developers should be sufficiently motivated to commence development on foot of an SHD permission, in order to ensure the objectives of the SHD arrangements are more clearly met.

Taking account of the relatively lower than expected activation rate of SHD permissions to date, and with a view to reducing the scope for the potential hoarding of sites with SHD permissions for the purpose of increasing site values, and notwithstanding the Review Group’s recommendation to continue monitoring the activation rate for a further period, I consider that it would be timely to introduce a “use it or lose it” measure now. Arising from the introduction of such measure, developers in receipt of an SHD planning permission will be required to commence a certain level of development works within 18 months of the grant of permission, otherwise the permission will lapse. I intend bringing forward the necessary legislation to address this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.

Property Tax

Ceisteanna (686)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

686. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether the local property tax has failed to generate additional funding for local government and services since its introduction; his further views on whether an alternative method of funding local government is now needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46681/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local Property Tax (LPT) was introduced to provide an alternative, stable and sustainable funding base for the local authority sector, providing greater levels of connection between local revenue raising and associated expenditure decisions and making the taxation system less dependent on other taxes.

LPT accounts for approximately 9% of the local government sector’s current income, amounting to allocations of €503m in 2019. It supplements income from commercial rates, from the provision of goods and services and from government grants.

In 2019, 80% or €393.8m of the overall LPT allocation is being used at the discretion of local authorities to support the provision of local services which benefit citizens directly such as parks, libraries, leisure amenities, fire and emergency services, street lighting, maintenance and cleaning of streets. In addition, 20% or €109.3m of LPT is supporting Housing and Roads services in 2019, supplementing the considerable exchequer funding also provided for these important services.

In 2020, I expect that LPT allocations will increase to €516.8m. The increase is accounted for, in the most part, by the decisions of 19 local authorities to increase their LPT rates above the basic rate for 2020. The 19 local authorities that voted to increase their LPT above the basic rate are expected to increase LPT income by €19.7m, for their own use in 2020. The equivalent increase in LPT income over the basic rate for the same authorities in 2019 was €3.4m.

Taxation policy, including in respect of LPT, is in the first instance a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. In this regard, a ‘Review of Local Property Tax’ was published by the Department of Finance in March of this year and referred by Minister Donohoe to the Budgetary Oversight Committee for its consideration. Chapter 2 and Appendix B of the LPT Review provide a more detailed outline of LPT as a funding source for local authorities. The full Report is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/1e5c76-review-of-local-property-tax/