Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Ceisteanna (40)

Jan O'Sullivan


40. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extra funding allocated to improve the energy ratings of local authority homes in addition to that already provided under schemes that have been ongoing in recent years; the monitoring that takes place to ensure local authority tenants are protected from fuel poverty due to the condition of their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52086/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Housing)

My question relates to the energy rating of local authority homes, many of which have very low energy ratings. This is in the context of climate change and fuel poverty, from which many tenants of local authority homes are at risk. I want to find out what moneys are made available to improve the quality of the homes and what monitoring is there to ensure that when works are carried out, they improve the rating.

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. There is €5 million in the initial tranche. This funding is in addition to the €25 million, which my Department is making available in 2020 for energy efficiency upgrades to the existing local authority housing stock nationwide.

With the additional €20 million, my Department is currently working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the development of a targeted programme for the midlands region. My Department has also recently met the relevant local authorities in relation to this initiative, which it is envisaged will be rolled out in early 2020.

The Department's energy efficiency programme has been running since 2013. By the end of 2019, approximately 71,000 homes - or just over half of the local authority social housing stock - will have benefited from retrofit works under this programme, supported by a total spend of some €144 million. To date, the programme has largely been focused on phase 1 works, primarily attic and wall insulation. While the energy efficiency improvements arising from these works will have had an obvious positive impact in terms of fuel poverty, we expect these benefits to increase as we move on into phase 2 of the programme. Phase 2 commenced in all local authorities this year and is focusing on upgrades to the fabric of dwellings, including external wall insulation and upgrades to windows, doors and heating. That should also make a significant difference.

While I appreciate the work being done in the midlands, it largely relates to a just transition for the workers. This is welcome for people living in the area but I am trying to find out how much additional money, on top of the ongoing schemes that have been in place since 2013, is being provided for people living in low energy efficiency homes in other parts of the country. Will the Minister of State specifically tell me how much is being provided for phase 2, to which he referred and which is to start this year? Where insulation is being installed in local authority homes, is an independent building energy rating, BER, survey carried out in each home after the works are completed to ensure that they have improved the energy rating?

A BER certificate is issued both before and after the works to capture what has been achieved. That is an EU requirement. Some €25 million has been allocated for phase 2 of the scheme next year. A call for submissions is issued to all local authorities every year seeking applications for funding under the energy efficiency retrofit programme. It is natural and positive that there are always more requests than can be funded each year. This means that there is an ongoing demand. In 2019, the local authority funding request was approximately €40 million. Approximately €25 million of this has been spent so far this year. The same will be spent next year. We recognise that this is an area into which we will need to put more money in the coming years. The initial projection of the cost to retrofit all existing social housing stock is anywhere between €1 billion and €2 billion. We are committed to doing that over the coming years through a roll-out organised by our Department in conjunction with the Department of the Minister, Deputy Bruton. There is a bit of work to be done there.

The aim is to get homes to a BER of B2, which is the cost-optimal rating. This involves initial work to clarify the state of a home and then seeing what is achieved after works are completed. On top of that, the best way to achieve our overall aims is to survey the condition of our stock right across the counties. Such work is being done in Clare and other counties to develop a picture of where we are. We will then be able to budget correctly for the years ahead.

Some of these homes are in a bad state and funding must be stepped up to protect people from fuel poverty. This additional money is a relatively small amount. For clarity, does the Minister of State's Department gather the information arising from the BER surveys carried out before and after works from the local authorities? Is such information centrally gathered by the Department?

It is a condition of receiving resources. The Deputy raised issues with regard to certain local authorities not having spent money allocated for voids programmes and so on previously. They are often combined. The BER certificates are required and we do gather the data. It is gathered locally and then made available to us. I do not know whether we take it in every week but it is available to us because we have to have the data showing the difference in BER rating achieved to pay out under these schemes. The Deputy argues that we need more money. We know that but, to be fair, it is a big step in the right direction to have upgraded more than half the housing stock. This programme has been ongoing since 2013. We are committed to it. We will put funding in place in the years ahead to ensure it is completed. It has to happen but it will not all happen in one year. It certainly will happen over the coming years because it is very important. We depend on local authorities to prioritise the houses that need earlier work and intervention. Some counties have done great work in this regard. In the Deputy's own county of Limerick, more than 1,000 houses have been retrofitted. Tipperary is probably leading the charge in that close to 4,000 properties have been retrofitted in the county. There is a lot of movement in some local authorities. That is what we are trying to do. Naturally, we want to be able to respond to their requests as quickly as we possibly can. It will mean additional resources. That is work to which we are also committed under the climate action plan.